It is, in all of Shakespeare’s plays, one of the most famous speeches. It is the one that, I’ll admit it, I wanted to read the most when the Bard Brawl went through Julius Caesar.
The lines are those after the dictator of Rome has been murdered and second billing on the funeral oration speakers’ list is that favourite buddy of JC, Marc Antony. Note to all Brutuses (Bruti?) our there: never go first.
The speech is great for a number of reasons – language, moment in play, setting, crescendo like movement in the words – but my theory is that it stands out and is remembered so well simply because one actor, once, nailed it perfectly.
I’ve seen the play a number of times since (on stage mostly), and am always waiting for Act III, scene ii, and the speech that brings the house down. I’m always wondering if someone, somewhere, somehow can compare to the one perfect rendition of this speech among speeches in a play with a whole shwack of dudes standing and talking for long periods of time.
The Guardian recently posted this video of that guy from Homeland and Band of Brothers giving it a swirl, and it is… Alright.
Not bad Damian Lewis, not bad.
I asked an actor once who played the role how it was, and he said every time he does the speech it’s stressful. Audience members are sitting eagerly, sometimes with texts in their hands, mouthing the words or giving that knowing ‘I hear a famous line’ face.
Ok. Enough build up.
We all know that when speaking about Antony there is one gold standard, one that stands above them all, and one that you will always be compared to.
All yours Marlon.
So powerful, so scary, so perfect. There’s really nothing much else to be said about Brando’s delivery, emotion, energy and poise.
Must suck to get cast as the role knowing that you will always be compared. His “cry havoc” speech is equally impressive. (I may actually prefer it in some ways).
To show how much this speech can be blown, let’s take a look at that gun loving nut Charlton Heston, and see how he does with the lines.
Ugh. Not great. There’s something about how pompous Heston is, and how he’s trying too hard to be that wardog Antony that it leaves the speech uninspiring. Then again, it is Charlton Heston, so are we really that surprised. Rest in peace.
OK. One more.
Let’s check out this very earnest young man, who really, really wants to nail this speech.
What do you think? Pick your fav on the poll or leave a comment below if there’s a performance that we missed.
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Marlon Brando was a force of nature. No one has ever come close. Listen to the tremulous quality to his Cry Havoc speech and weep. Where comes such another?