Public Speaking: Let Shakespeare show you how!

"Friends, Romans, Countrymen, lend me your ears,

I come to bury Caesar, not to praise him"


This is William Shakespeare's Mark Antony speaking to the Roman citizens after the assassination of Julius Caesar. Mark Antony stands over Caesar's body and delivers his funeral oration for Rome's beloved Consul who has been murdered for his overreaching ambition, by those closest to him. With this speech, one of the greatest pieces ever written in theatrical history, Shakespeare has Mark Antony stir up the Roman mob to anger and vengeance.


Public speakers, who seek to excel, may find that they can revisit this speech for the finest examples of their craft. And if you find that you have to speak in public and are a little tongue tied.just think Shakespeare.and this article will show you how! 


What do you want to say and to whom?


"A curse shall light the limbs of men

Domestic fury and fierce civil strife

Shall cumber all parts of Italy"


This is Mark Antony's promise to the dead Caesar before he begins his speech. Like all good speakers, he starts out with a clear idea of what he wants to achieve - in this case, to stir up the mob to avenge Caesar's death. By virtue of being a Roman, he understands his audience - the fickle Roman mob - and he knows what he must say to move them.


And while legend has it that Antony's speech was extempore, Shakespeare definitely spent hours working on and rewriting the version that has come down to us.


It's personal


"Friends, Roman, Countrymen"


Mark Antony did not know the names of the people in the mob, but this was as close to personal life as he could get. This is a tactic that people speaking in public often use. Watch Colin Powell at a press conference. You will see that (when he can!) he always refers to reporters by their names. Another way of doing this is by maintaining eye contact.


At attention!


"Lend me your ears"


Mark Antony knows that he wants his audience on his side from the word "go" and he asks for their attention. Contemporary speakers have more sophisticated ways of doing this. A joke or a humorous anecdote is a great way of producing the same effect. But, if you are a more serious person you could begin with something thought provoking that has both depth and intensity.


Build it up


The most notable thing about Antony's speech is the logical progression of his argument. He slowly and carefully builds up the momentum, taking the speech to a crescendo, a mark of an excellent public speaker.


Is your audience with you?


"You all did see that on the Lupercal

I thrice presented him a kingly crown,

Which he did thrice refuse: was this ambition?"


Repeatedly throughout his speech, you will find Antony appealing to the audience's memory and even asking them questions. The examples he uses are always simple ones that the audience is familiar with.


Teachers often do something similar in the classroom. Just when you are dozing off, there comes the question.


What do they see?


"Look, in this place ran Cassius' dagger through:

See what a rent the envious Casca made:

Through this the well-beloved Brutus stabb'd;

And as he pluck'd his cursed steel away,

Mark how the blood of Caesar follow'd it"


Besides listening to you, your audience is also watching you. Antony points to the wounds in Caesar's cloak - a powerful stimulus.


Public speakers today use their expressions and actions to create involvement. But remember that waving your hands too frequently could be distracting. 


Apart from this, your clothing should add, not detract from you. And finally, get rid of that paper. Public speaking is about practiced eloquence.




Watch a performance of Julius Caesar to understand this point. Text by itself is dead. Delivery makes the difference. Aspects like tone, intonation (the rise and fall of your voice), pronunciation and punctuation are important here.


The other critical thing about delivery is how you throw your voice. Public speakers never speak from their throats, they throw their voice from their diaphragm.


It's about involvemento


What stands out in the greatest orators of all time from Mark Antony to Adolf Hitler to John F Kennedy is their involvement in what they are trying to say. In fact, their involvement is so powerful that it carries their audience along with them. In Mark Antony's case he has the Roman mob on his side - not because of their passion, but because of his passion.


Finally, public speaking is all about having something to say and then saying it in a way that is unique to yourself. Don't try to be someone else. Your audience can see through you. As with other things in life, it's all about being true to your message and who you are.