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Rhetoric. LC I. rhetoric.

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In its simplest form is the art of persuasive speech or writing. For thousands of years, politicians and orators have been known for their use of rhetoric to influence and persuade an audience to their side or way of thinking. One of the most famous speeches in literature is Atticus’s speech in Chapter 20. Atticus is able to make a great argument on Tom Robinson’s behalf – enough to mak the jury (and the reader) think hard about the injustices that have been transpired.

review of epl
Review of epl

There are different ways a speaker or writer can appeal to his or her audience:

  • Logic or reasons (logos)
  • Emotion (pathos)
  • Ethics and morals (ethos)
review of epl1
Review of epl
  • Logos:

By appealing to an audience’s sense of logic and reason, the speaker/writer intends to make the audience think clearly about the sensible and/or obvious answer to a problem

  • Pathos:

By appealing to the audience’s emotions, the speaker/writer can make the audience feel sorrow, shame, sympathy, embarrassment, responsibility, anger, fear, excitement, etc.

  • Ethos:

The overall appeal of the speaker/writer himself or herself; it is important that this person have impressive credentials, a notable knowledge of the subject, and/or appear to be a likeable and moral person.


It is not only important what a speaker/writer has to say, but how he or she actually says or presents it. There are literally hundreds of rhetorical devices, dating back to the famous orators Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle.

Besides usisng devices you may already be familiar with, such as figures of speech (metaphor, simile, personification) and sound devices (alliteration, assonance, consonance), writers/speakers use many other rhetorical devices to communicate their message. Let’s take a look at a short list:


Repetition of a word or phrase at the beginning of a successive phrases, clauses or lines.


“Mad world! Mad kings! Mad composition!” (King John, II, i)

“I have a dream that one day…” (Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” Speech)


Opposition or juxtaposition of ideas or words in a balanced or parallel construction.


“Not that I loved Caesar less, but that I loved Rome more.” (Julius Caesar, III, ii)

“My husband lives, that Tybalt be slain…” (Romeo and Juliet, III, ii)


Questioning oneself (rhetorically asking the audience), often pretending to be in doubt.


“The baptism of John, whence was it? From heaven, or of men?” (Matthew 21:25)

“Shall I speak ill of him who is my husband?” (Romeo and Juliet, III, ii)


A sudden turn form the general audience to address a specific group or person, either absent or present, real or imagined.

“Oh death, where is thy sting Oh grave, where is thy victory?” (1 Corinthians 15:55)

Juliet turns from nurse and remarks: “Poor ropes, you are beguiled/ Both you and I, for Romeo is exiled.” (Romeo and Juliet, III, iii)

asyndeton uh sin di ton
Asyndeton [uh-sin-di-ton]

The absence of conjunctions between coordinate phrases, clauses, or words.


“Are all they conquests, glories, triumphs, spoils/ Shrunk to this little measure?” (Julius Caesar, III, i)


A substitution of a more pleasant expression for one whose meaning may come across as rude or offensive.


“He passed away” rather than “He died.”

“Vertically challenged” rather than “short.”

“Cost effective” rather than “cheap deal.”


Exaggeration for emphasis or for rhetorical effect.


“I died laughing.”

“Is Romeo slaughtered and Tybalt is gone?...For who is living if these two are gone?” (Romeo and Juliet, III, ii)


Verbal expression in which words mean something contrary to what is actually being said.


“Come on! You can study all weekend! You don’t have anything better to do!”

“Sure, I’ll pay for dinner! We can celebrate my unemployment streak of six months.”


A reference to an object or person by naming only a part of the object or person.

Ex: “She stood in the driveway watching as the beards moved her furniture into her new house.”


Pretending to omit something by drawing attention to it.


A politician says, “I will not even mention the fact that my opponent was a poor student.”


Repetition of a key word over successive phrases or clauses.


“We will have difficult times. We’ve had difficult times in the past. And we will have difficult times in the future.” – Robert F. Kennedy’s Eulogy for Martin Luther King, Jr. (1968)


A part or quality of something which is used in substitution of the larger whole, or vice versa.


“The hospital worked for hours to revive him, “ referring to the staff of doctors and nurses inside the hospital.

“She took us outside to look at her new set of wheels,” referring to her new car.

rhetorical question
Rhetorical question

A question that is posed for emphasis, not requiring an answer.


“Art thou mad? Is not the truth the truth?” (Henry IV, Part I, II, iv)

“Are you kidding me???”


Deliberately de-emphasizing something in order to downplay its importance.


“The Internet has contributed somewhat to improving communication.”

“The men and women of this jury have a fairly important task – you determine the length of a man’s life.”

“What’s the secret of a happy and long marriage? Ummm…you just have to remember that there is no one exactly like you.”