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REVIEW
Burke, Kenneth. "Antony in Behalf of the Play."
Southern Review, 1 (1935): 308-319. Rpt. in The Philosophy of Literary Form: Studies in Symbolic Action. N.P.: Louisiana State UP, 1941. 329-43.


Thesis: Burke's general aim is to "consider literature . . . as a communicative relationship between writer and audience, with both parties actively participating" (329). In this case,
This reader-writer relationship is emphasized in the following article, which is an imaginary speech by Antony. Instead of addressing the mob, as he is pictured in the third act of Julius Caesar, he turns to the audience. And instead of being a dramatic character within the play, he is here made to speak as a critical commentator upon the play, explaining its mechanism and its virtues. Thus we have a tale from Shakespeare, retold, not as a plot but from the standpoint of the rhetorician, who is concerned with a work's processes of appeal.  (329-30)
Burke's method makes summary difficult, but I believe that his main point is that Shakespeare keeps his audience in "as vacillating a condition as this very Roman mob you have been watching with so little respect" (331), inviting both sympathy for and doubts about Brutus, Caesar, and Antony. Burke's method also gives him the freedom to simply assert major points, such as the idea that Antony is "no mere Caesar-adjunct, but the very vessel of the Caesar-principle" (334). Antony doesn't explain just what the "Caesar-principle" is, or why he embodies it, rather than Octavius, who becomes the next Caesar.

Bottom Line: Cloudy, and only mildly interesting.


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   Author: Philip Weller
   Last Modified: 27 April 2005