Marc Antony Monologue: Julius Caesar Act 3 Scene 1 | Monologues Unpacked
marc antony Shakespeare

Marc Antony Monologue: Julius Caesar Act 3 Scene 1

We’re going to take a closer look at a brilliant Shakespeare monologue, the Marc Antony speech from Julius Caesar Act 3 Scene 1. This is a dramatic Shakespeare monologue that covers grief and revenge. Let’s break it down …

Julius Caesar has returned to Rome from war victorious and is greeted with adoration by the people of Rome. Sounds pretty good for Caesar right? Well unfortunately for him not everyone is too keen on him. Cassius, Brutus and a number of other conspirators plan to kill Caesar before he can be made King in order to quash his power. When they invite Caesar to the senate, they all take turns stabbing him one by one, even Brutus. After the assassination, the lead conspirators call on Marc Antony who has since run home. They want to quash any doubts that Antony will be on their side, and they strike a deal with him. He will be loyal to them, so long as they allow him to speak at Caesar’s funeral. So we’re all mates then yes? Well yes, but also, no. Cassius is afraid of what Antony will do at the funeral, and rightly so, as we find out in this speech that takes place the moment Antony is left alone with the corpse of what was once Julius Caesar.

 

Original Text

O, pardon me, thou bleeding piece of earth,
That I am meek and gentle with these butchers!
Thou art the ruins of the noblest man
That ever livèd in the tide of times.
Woe to the hand that shed this costly blood!
Over thy wounds now do I prophesy—
Which, like dumb mouths, do ope their ruby lips
To beg the voice and utterance of my tongue—
A curse shall light upon the limbs of men.
Domestic fury and fierce civil strife
Shall cumber all the parts of Italy.
Blood and destruction shall be so in use,
And dreadful objects so familiar,
That mothers shall but smile when they behold
Their infants quartered with the hands of war,
All pity choked with custom of fell deeds,
And Caesar’s spirit, ranging for revenge,
With Ate by his side come hot from hell,
Shall in these confines with a monarch’s voice
Cry “Havoc!” and let slip the dogs of war,
That this foul deed shall smell above the earth
With carrion men, groaning for burial.

Verse Breakdown

Bold = Stressed
Unbold = Unstressed
(F) = Feminine Ending

O, pardon me, thou bleeding piece of earth,
That I am meek and gentle with these butchers! (F)
Thou art the ruins of the noblest man
That ever livèd in the tide of times.
Woe to the hand that shed this costly blood!
Over thy wounds now do I prophesy
Which, like dumb mouths, do ope their ruby lips
To beg the voice and utterance of my tongue
A curse shall light upon the limbs of men.
Domestic fury and fierce civil strife
Shall cumber all the parts of Italy.
Blood and destruction shall be so in use,
And dreadful objects so familiar,
That mothers shall but smile when they behold
Their infants quartered with the hands of war,
All pity choked with custom of fell deeds,
And Caesar’s spirit, ranging for revenge,
With Ate by his side come hot from hell,
Shall in these confines with a monarch’s voice
Cry “Havoc!” and let slip the dogs of war,
That this foul deed shall smell above the earth
With carrion men, groaning for burial.

Modern Translation

Oh pardon me you bleeding corpse of this earth
That I am polite and calm with these murderers
You are the corpse of the most noble man
That ever lived, in all time
I hope woe comes to the hand that shed this valuable blood
Over your wounds now I see the future
Which do open and weep blood like speechless mouths
And beg me to speak
A curse shall come down upon the people
Fury and fierce civil war
Shall weigh down upon this all the parts of Italy
Blood and destruction will be so common
And weapons so familiar
That mothers will merely smile when they see
Their babies chopped to pieces by the hands of war
All pity will be choked out of people who are so used to horrible deeds
And Caesar’s spirit hunting for revenge
With Ate by his side coming fast from hell
Shall in this place and with the voice of a monarch
Cry “Havoc” and unleash the dogs of war
This horrible deed will stink all the way up to heaven
Of the bodies of the dead begging to be buried

 

Thought Breakdown & Analysis 

O, pardon me, thou bleeding piece of earth,
(Oh pardon me, you bleeding corpse of this earth)
Marc Antony is apologising to Caesar’s corpse. He cares so much for him that he’s apologising to his dead body as it lies bleeding on the floor.

That I am meek and gentle with these butchers!
(That I am polite and calm with these murderers!)
This is what he’s apologising to Caesar for. He has remained civil and diplomatic throughout this whole event and has even come to an agreement with the conspirators/assassins. It’s also worth noting that this line is eleven beats, which throws our ears of kilter. It’s a good insight for the actor into how Antony is feeling, just in case the words didn’t quite make it clear enough. However, clear or not, the rhythm of this line really does convey the sense of despair he feels. Eleven syllable lines generally tend to have a sense of trailing off and be unfinal. Which whether we realise it or not, gives us a sense of uncertainty too.

Thou art the ruins of the noblest man
(You are what remains of the most noble man.)
He’s telling the body of Caesar how noble he thought he was.

That ever livèd in the tide of times.
(That ever lived, throughout all time.)
Antony tells Caesar that he was the noblest man that ever lived throughout all time.

Woe to the hand that shed this costly blood!
(I wish woe upon the person that shed this valuable blood!)
Antony curses the murderers.

Over thy wounds now do I prophesy—
(Over your wounds now I’m seeing the future.)
Here’s our turning point in the soliloquy. Antony has mourned and grieved mostly throughout the first part of the speech and now we’re getting into the consequences of the actions.

Which, like dumb mouths, do ope their ruby lips
(Which like speechless mouths open their blood covered lips)
He sees the wounds like a pack of mouths about to say something. But what?

To beg the voice and utterance of my tongue—
(To be me to speak my voice.)
The ruby lips of the wounds have opened their mouths speechless and begged Marc Antony to speak (according to him).

A curse shall light upon the limbs of men.
(A curse shall come down upon the bodies of men.)
This is the prophecy he saw over the wounds of Caesar.

Domestic fury and fierce civil strife
(Fury and fierce civil war.)

Shall cumber all the parts of Italy.
(Shall weigh down every part of Italy.)
Fury, and civil war are coming for every part of Italy according to the prophecy so far.

Blood and destruction shall be so in use,
(Blood and destruction will be so common.)

And dreadful objects so familiar,
(And horrible weapons will be so familiar to the people of Italy.)
Okay so blood, destruction and horrible objects, or weapons will be so common so familiar that… what?

That mothers shall but smile when they behold
(That mother will merely smile when they see.)

Their infants quartered with the hands of war,
(Their babies cut into pieces by the hands of war.)
This is a long thought so let’s have a look at it. Blood destruction and weapons will be so familiar to the people of Italy that mothers will merely smile when they see their babies, their children cut to pieces, quartered by the hands of war. What a horrific, dark and grim prophecy Antony is seeing. This is how enraged, how horrified he is by what he considers to be regicide, the murder of his leader. And we’re not at the end yet.

All pity choked with custom of fell deeds,
(All pity will be choked out of people with familiarity with the horrid deeds.)
All of the people of Italy will have any pity, any compassion, any empathy choked out of them simply from the pure familiarity they will have with the horrific acts of war they will endure and commit.

And Caesar’s spirit, ranging for revenge,
(And Caesar’s ghost hunting for revenge,)

With Ate by his side come hot from hell,
(With Ate by his side coming up fast from hell)
So Caesar’s ghost is on the hunt for revenge with the goddess Ate coming up fast from hell. Ate is the ancient Greek Goddess of mischief, delusion, folly and RUIN.

Shall in these confines with a monarch’s voice
(Will in this place with the voice of a monarch)

Cry “Havoc!” and let slip the dogs of war,
(Cry ‘Havoc!’ and unleash the dogs of war)
So to recap, there will be blood destruction and civil war so horrific, so horrible, that the people will be unphased by it. Caesar will hunt for his revenge with the Goddess Ate and unleash the dogs of war. 

That this foul deed shall smell above the earth
(This horrible deed will be smelled all the way in heaven)
To cap this off Antony says this deed is so horrible that…

With carrion men, groaning for burial.
(With the bodies of men, groaning for burial)
This deed and what it will create, i.e the bodies of all those who will suffer and cry out to just let them die due to the consequences of these actions will be smelled in heaven, that’s just how bad this is, and will be.

 

Unfamiliar Language

Gentle (adj.)
courteous, friendly, kind

Time (n.)
past time, history

Tide (n.)
course, stream, passage

Ope (v.)
open

Domestic (adj.)
old form: Domesticke
internal, to do with home affairs, local

Cumber (v.)
distress, trouble, burden

Use (n.)
old form: vse
usual practice, habit, custom

Quarter (v.)
cut to pieces, hack, mutilate

Fell (adj.)
cruel, fierce, savage

Custom (n.)
old form: custome
habit, usual practice, customary use

Range (v.)
wander freely, roam, rove

Confine (n.)
territory, region, domain

Slip, let
let go, allow to leave, unleash

Havoc (n.)
old form: hauocke
[in fighting and hunting: calling for] total slaughter, general devastation

Carrion (adj.)
lean as carrion, skeleton-like; or: putrefying

About the Author

Jake Fryer-Hornsby

Jake Fryer-Hornsby is an actor, writer, and educator based in Sydney, and originally hailing from regional Western Australia. Jake graduated from WAAPA in 2017 and since then has gone on to work on and off stages around the country. You can find Jake taking shelter from the sun in any number of outdoor areas and/or on the hunt for his next caffeine fix.

About the Author

Jake Fryer-Hornsby

Jake Fryer-Hornsby is an actor, writer, and educator based in Sydney, and originally hailing from regional Western Australia. Jake graduated from WAAPA in 2017 and since then has gone on to work on and off stages around the country. You can find Jake taking shelter from the sun in any number of outdoor areas and/or on the hunt for his next caffeine fix.

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