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Influencing The Crowd. Part 3

Even at the base of Pompey's statue, Which all the while ran blood, great Caesar fell. Oh what a fall was there, my countrymen! Then I and you, and all of us, fell down, Whilst bloody treason flourish'd over us. Oh! now you weep; and I perceive you feel . The dint of pity; these are gracious drops. Kind souls! what, weep you, when you but behold Our Caesar's vesture wounded? Look you here! Here is himself, mar'd, as you see, by traitors.

1 Ple. Oh, piteous spectacle!

2 Ple. Oh, noble Caesar!

3 Ple. Oh, woful day!

4 Ple. Oh, traitors, villains!

1 Ple. Oh, most bloody sight!

2 Ple. We will be reveng'd!

All. Revenge; about - seek - burn - fire - kill - slay! - Let not a traitor live! Ant. Stay, countrymen.

1 Ple. Peace there! Hear the noble Antony.

2 Ple. We'll hear him, we'll follow him, we'll die with him. Ant. Good friends, sweet friends, let me not stir you up

To such a sudden flood of mutiny:

They that have done this deed are honorable:

What private griefs they have, alas! I know not,

That made them do it; they are wise, and honorable,

And will, no doubt, with reasons answer you.

I come not, friends, to steal away your hearts;

I am no orator, as Brutus is;

But as you know me all, a plain blunt man,

That love my friend, and that they know full well

That gave me public leave to speak of him:

For I have neither wit, nor words, nor worth,

Action, nor utterance, nor the power of speech,

To stir men's blood. I only speak right on:

I tell you that which you yourselves do know;

Show your sweet Caesar's wounds, poor, poor, dumb mouths,

And bid them speak for me. But were I Brutus,

And Brutus Antony, there were an Antony

Would ruffle up your spirits, and put a tongue

In every wound of Caesar, that should move

The stones of Rome to rise and mutiny.

All. We'll mutiny!

1 Ple. We'll burn the house of Brutus.

3 Ple. Away, then! Come, seek the conspirators. Ant. Yet hear me, countrymen; yet hear me speak. All. Peace, ho! Hear Antony, most noble Antony. Ant. Why, friends, you go to do you know not what.

Wherein hath Caesar thus deserv'd your loves? Alas! you know not! - I must tell you then. You have forgot the will I told you of.

Ple. Most true; - the will! - let's stay, and hear the will.

Ant. Here is the will, and under Caesar's seal. To every Roman citizen he gives, To every several man, seventy-five drachmas.

2 Ple. Most noble Caesar! - we'll revenge his death.

3 Ple. O royal Caesar!

Ant. Hear me with patience.

All. Peace, ho!

Ant. Moreover, he hath left you all his walks, His private arbours, and new-planted orchards, On this side Tiber; he hath left them you, And to your heirs forever, common pleasures, To walk abroad, and recreate yourselves. Here was a Caesar! When comes such another?

1 Ple. Never, never! - Come, away, away! Well burn his body in the holy place,

And with the brands fire the traitors' houses. Take up the body.

2 Ple. Go, fetch fire.

3 Ple. Pluck down benches.

4 Ple. Pluck down forms, windows, anything.

[Exeunt Citizens, with the body.

Ant. Now let it work. Mischief, thou art afoot, Take thou what course thou wilt!

To unify single auditors into a crowd, express their common needs, aspirations, dangers, and emotions, deliver your message so that the interests of one shall appear to be the interests of all. The conviction of one man is intensified in proportion as he finds others sharing his belief - and feeling. Antony does not stop with telling the Roman populace that Caesar fell - he makes the tragedy universal:

Then I, and you, and all of us fell down, Whilst bloody treason flourished over us.

Applause, generally a sign of feeling, helps to unify an audience. The nature of the crowd is illustrated by the contagion of applause. Recently a throng in a New York moving-picture and vaudeville house had been applauding several songs, and when an advertisement for tailored skirts was thrown on the screen some one started the applause, and the crowd, like sheep, blindly imitated - until someone saw the joke and laughed; then the crowd again followed a leader and laughed at and applauded its own stupidity.

Actors sometimes start applause for their lines by snapping their fingers. Some one in the first few rows will mistake it for faint applause, and the whole theatre will chime in.

An observant auditor will be interested in noticing the various devices a monologist will use to get the first round of laughter and applause. He works so hard because he knows an audience of units is an audience of indifferent critics, but once get them to laughing together and each single laugher sweeps a number of others with him, until the whole theatre is aroar and the entertainer has scored. These are meretricious schemes, to be sure, and do not savor in the least of inspiration, but crowds have not changed in their nature in a thousand years and the one law holds for the greatest preacher and the pettiest stump-speaker - you must fuse your audience or they will not warm to your message. The devices of the great orator may not be so obvious as those of the vaudeville monologist, but the principle is the same: he tries to strike some universal note that will have all his hearers feeling alike at the same time.

The evangelist knows this when he has the soloist sing some touching song just before the address. Or he will have the entire congregation sing, and that is the psychology of "Now everybody sing!" for he knows that they who will not join in the song are as yet outside the crowd. Many a time has the popular evangelist stopped in the middle of his talk, when he felt that his hearers were units instead of a molten mass (and a sensitive speaker can feel that condition most depressingly) and suddenly demanded that everyone arise and sing, or repeat aloud a familiar passage, or read in unison; or perhaps he has subtly left the thread of his discourse to tell a story that, from long experience, he knew would not fail to bring his hearers to a common feeling.

These things are important resources for the speaker, and happy is he who uses them worthily and not as a despicable charlatan. The difference between a demagogue and a leader is not so much a matter of method as of principle. Even the most dignified speaker must recognize the eternal laws of human nature. You are by no means urged to become a trickster on the platform - far from it! - but don't kill your speech with dignity. To be icily correct is as silly as to rant. Do neither, but appeal to those world-old elements in your audience that have been recognized by all great speakers from Demosthenes to Sam Small, and see to it that you never debase your powers by arousing your hearers unworthily.

It is as hard to kindle enthusiasm in a scattered audience as to build a fire with scattered sticks. An audience to be converted into a crowd must be made to appear as a crowd. This cannot be done when they are widely scattered over a large seating space or when many empty benches separate the speaker from his hearers. Have your audience seated compactly. How many a preacher has bemoaned the enormous edifice over which what would normally be a large congregation has scattered in chilled and chilling solitude Sunday after Sunday! Bishop Brooks himself could not have inspired a congregation of one thousand souls seated in the vastness of St. Peter's at Rome. In that colossal sanctuary it is only on great occasions which bring out the multitudes that the service is before the high altar - at other times the smaller side-chapels are used.

Universal ideas surcharged with feeling help to create the crowd-atmosphere. Examples: liberty, character, righteousness, courage, fraternity, altruism, country, and national heroes. George Cohan was making psychology practical and profitable when he introduced the flag and flag-songs into his musical comedies. Cromwell's regiments prayed before the battle and went into the fight singing hymns. The French corps, singing the Marseillaise in 1914, charged the Germans as one man. Such unifying devices arouse the feelings, make soldiers fanatical mobs - and, alas, more efficent murderers.


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