What the Speech?! Analyzing and Comparing Rhetoric in Julius Caesar and Two Commencement Addresses

9 teachers like this lesson
Print Lesson


SWBAT identify and analyze rhetorical purposes and audience engagement techniques in three speeches by comparing the opening of Antony's speech to the opening lines of J.K. Rowling and Bono's Commencement addresses.

Big Idea

Setting up a rapport with an audience is a key ethos move for speakers who then make the turn toward a serious point.

Wait...what? We need to review!

10 minutes

Since yesterday's lesson with a sub did not get as far as I would have liked, we need to actually view the clip of Antony's speech in class today (start link at 8:15).  I know this because I viewed the sub's notes and adjusted today's plan accordingly.  I'm ok with this decision because viewing the clip will allow us to review some key rhetorical elements of Antony's speech (RI.9-10.6) as well as the actor's means for activating them (SL.9-10.3). 



Setting up the Whole-Group Rehearsal of Antony's Speech

15 minutes

Rehearsal/Basics.  After viewing the film clip, our class will do a group rehearsal of Antony's Speech and recitation of 10 lines with motions.  The idea here is to make sure that we not only know what he says in a very basic and literal sense, but why he says what he says as well (RI.9-10.6). Too often, Shakespeare studies remain at a literal level, but particularly at this point in the school year, the students should be able to go a bit deeper into the material. This close look at language (RL.9-10.4) and rhetoric (RI.9-10.6) through performance and close reading will help to delve deeper into the speech.  

Activate Prior Knowledge.  I did not run this particular activity because we were behind from yesterday's lesson with a sub.  We viewed the movie clip instead.  However, I am offering it here as an option for you, if you have interest or need to reinforce the  speaker's role in delivering a particular message (SL.9-10.3).  This activity might also help get the students excited to do their recitations. 

1.) I show  the image, Charlton_Heston_as_Antony_in_Julius_Caesar, by Chalmers_Butterfield, playing Antony in the classic version of the film.

2.) I  Ask:

What is this? 

Who is playing the part of Antony?  What effect do you think he is going for? (SL.9-10.3)

What is Antony's purpose in delivering this speech, and how could an actor bring that out?

How did the film yesterday do that?

How can we try to do that in our group recital?



Group Rehearsal of Antony's Speech

15 minutes

So whether you set up the rehearsal here by showing a clip (as I actually did) or by using the photo elicitation (as I had planned to do!), the students should be thinking about the message and exciting ways to portray it.  We've been doing some large-group rehearsal during previous lessons, so today's rehearsal should add additional motions, lines, and interpretive insights from the students.  

Group Recital.  The purpose here is to continue to develop familiarity with the text by memorizing it with motions.  Today, we will focus on the bold lines in Antony's speech:

Friends, Romans, countrymen, lend me your ears;
I come to bury Caesar, not to praise him.
The evil that men do lives after them;
The good is oft interred with their bones;
So let it be with Caesar. The noble Brutus
Hath told you Caesar was ambitious:
If it were so, it was a grievous fault,
And grievously hath Caesar answer'd it.
 Here, under leave of Brutus and the rest--
For Brutus is an honourable man;
So are they all, all honourable men--
Come I to speak in Caesar's funeral.
He was my friend, faithful and just to me:
But Brutus says he was ambitious;
And Brutus is an honourable man

We will recite the opening eight lines of the speech with motions, and I will assign four students, each to come up with a motion for each of the next four lines.  In the past, there has been resistance from some students on this, but others have loved it.  It's somewhat creative and out of the box, but hopefully it will garner some enthusiasm!


Clarification of Vocab: 

We spend a few minutes clarifying the following terms (RL.9-10.4 and L.9-10.4)

"under leave"

"Come I..."



Rhetorical Flourish:

Why do you think he keeps repeating the words "honorable" so much?  How about "ambitious"?   Why did he repeat the word "grievous"?   What do you think is Antony's purpose?  (RI.9-10.6)



Groups Compare Across Three Speeches' Opening Lines

30 minutes

Why these three for this Standard?  Students will meet in groups of four to write their responses guiding them to compare the rhetorical purpose of each of the three speakers that we have studied this week: Antony, J.K. Rowling, and Bono from U2 (the latter two were commencement speeches), as this work will drive our discussion a bit deeper into the standards of analyzing non-fiction (RI.9-10.6), and we will determine an author's point of view or purpose in a text and analyze how an author uses rhetoric to advance that point of view or purpose.  

It's interesting to note that I am lifting Antony's speech out of the play and treating it as a non-fiction oratory, which is taking for granted that the fictional context operating in the play has the kind of verisimilitude that allows us to compare it to speeches given by contemporary/real-world figures.  By the  same token, we could read J.K. Rowling's and Bono's  speeches to analyze the literary qualities (e.g. RL.9-10.4), even though we did not do that.  The point is, one can take varying points of entry and interpretive frames to respond to the genres available in English/Language Arts.  I am going to defend this choice on the grounds that the standard operates much the same way across the three speech texts, and making the comparison should be a valid exploration of a writer's purpose (RI.9-10.6) and rhetoric.  


Groups Task.  Since our class has some some preparatory work on each of these three examples already, comparing three speeches should be feasible for the students with only the help of their group, but I want to hold them accountable, so I will ask them to  make sure that each member of the group knows and can understand and explain the responses, noting what each speech says (RI.9-10.1) as well as how the use of rapport/ethos creates a starter to the purpose and sets the stage for the development of the message (RI.9-10.6).  As I circulate, I will differentiate per group and student to ask if they are understanding the three texts and then if they can compare across the three. 


VIDEO CLIP (up to 2:25)

Discussion of Rhetorical Purpose and real-life scenarios

10 minutes

VIDEO CLIP (start at 2:25)

I will engage the class in a wrap up discussion by asking (SL.9-10.1): 

What types of speaking might you have to do that might require you to connect with your audience and to generate a strong sense of purpose and express it (SL.9-10.3)? Here are some examples:

- As a captain of your basketball team, you are down by five  points late in the fourth quarter, and the coach has asked you to say something when he calls a time out.  What is the first thing that you say?

- The school board is contemplating outlawing "hoodies" in school and moving toward a strict dress code.  You visit the school board meeting to make a speech voicing your opinion; how do you begin your speech in order to set up a strong rapport with your audience as well as purpose?

- You are organizing a service  project at your youth group, but many of your classmates seem too busy to give it their full attention.  You have been asked  to give a motivational speech to the group... how do you begin? 

And in general:

- What can be learned from the three speeches we have studied? 

- Which do you think is the most effective?  

- How can you use repetitions, questions, and rapport/ethos to make yourself heard?