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Lesson 14: Vox Populi: Brutus's Speech and the Response of the Plebeians  

Teachers' Rating:
  7 ratings

Thomaso Pocacchi. Funerali antichi di diversi popoli, et nationi. Venice, 1574

June 2007
Matt Patterson teaches English at Bishop Seabury Academy in Lawrence, Kansas.

Plays/Scenes Covered
Julius Caesar, 3.2.14-57
What's On for Today and Why

This exercise will teach students to identify two rhetorical strategies (ethos and audience appeals) and to analyze their effects in Brutus's speech in 3.2. It will give students a chance to participate as members of Brutus's audience by assuming the roles of plebeians. Finally, it will give them a means of assessing the effects of this pivotal speech so they can determine how it contributes to the ultimate outcome of the play.


This lesson will take one class period.


What You Need

Folger edition of Julius Caesar
Available in Folger print edition and Folger Digital Texts

Optional: Julius Caesar audio cd

Handout Part One: The Plebeians Respond
Handout Part Two: What Does Brutus Understand?
Optional Definitions Handout
What To Do

1. Ask students what kinds of appeals, commercial or otherwise, work on them. You may wish to discuss examples from recent political speeches or from other sources they might know.


2. Ask the students to define, or define for them, the terms "ethos" and "audience appeals." You may wish to use the optional Definitions Handout, below.


3. Pair up each student in class with a partner. Distribute the Part One handout and review the instructions.


4. Optional: play the Sourcebooks Shakespeare audio CD for Julius Caesar, tracks 27-29. Pause at the breaks in Brutus's speech indicated on the handout and give students a few minutes to come up with their responses before starting again. You may want to let them hear the speech all the way through once before playing it with the pauses. If you are not using a CD, you may want to have a student read the speech instead.


5. After students write their responses, ask them to post their work on the walls around the room so that others can read their responses.


6. Discuss the results. How does Brutus use these rhetorical devices? You may ask students to summarize in writing the values Brutus appeals to in his speech.


7. Distribute the Part Two Handout. You may want to have students read the plebeians' responses out loud. Discuss how the actual response of the plebeians compares with the contents of Brutus's speech and with your students' responses for Part One. How effective has Brutus been? How do they feel the rest of this scene will unfold?

How Did It Go?
Were students able to see that Brutus carefully considered the use of rhetoric in his speech? Were they able to make meaningful comments on specific elements of Brutus's language? Were they able to note the discrepancy between Brutus's understanding of his audience's values and what that audience truly values? Were they able to see how this could affect the outcome of the play?

If you used this lesson, we would like to hear how it went and about any adaptations you made to suit the needs of YOUR students.

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1 Comment

Blog is very good, I like it! Thank you for you sharing festa barney
Sheila October 13, 2014 7:00 PM
  Common Core State Standards

There are no standards associated with this Lesson Plan.
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