Rhetorical Figures in the Iliad

Your purpose in this essay is to explore the use of rhetorical figures in the Iliad. Poets like Homer used rhetorical figures to effect meaning by stirring emotions, appealing to sensibilities, eliciting specific sounds and rhythms, etc. Your thesis, or “argument,” should make some statement about what effect a specific rhetorical figure creates in regards to a specific passage. This essay should be 500 words in length, so one of the challenges will be to limit your topic to specific, concrete elements. A good essay will present a manageable topic with adequate focus, supported by precise detail and quotations. We will take some time to address specific rhetorical figures in class as they arise. I encourage you to look for them in the course of your reading. Familiarize yourself with the list at the following website: http://rhetoric.byu.edu/. The website provides nearly every rhetorical figure with at least one example; some offer several examples. Consider the following Rhetorical Figure, anaphora: “Repetition of the same word or group of words at the beginning of successive clauses, sentences, or lines.” The website provides the following example from Shakespeare’s Richard II: This royal throne of kings, this sceptred isle, This earth of majesty, this seat of Mars, This other Eden, demi-paradise, This fortress built by Nature for herself Against infection and the hand of war, This happy breed of men, this little world, This precious stone set in the silver sea, Which serves it in the office of a wall, Or as [a] moat defensive to a house, Against the envy of less happier lands; This blessed plot, this earth, this realm, this England, This nurse, this teeming womb of royal kings [. . .] This land of such dear souls, this dear dear land, Dear for her reputation through the world, Is now leas’d out — I die pronouncing it — Like to a tenement or pelting farm. —John of Gaunt in Shakespeare’s Richard II (2.1.40-51; 57-60) Gaunt’s speech appeals to the emotion of Shakespeare’s audience (or Pathos, a persuasive appeal in rhetoric). As an example, here, you would want to consider how the rhetorical figure (anaphora) makes his appeal effective. Such a thought process naturally leads to a thesis or focus for an essay.

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