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Rhetorical Analysis: Patrick Henry's Speech

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Dennis Kohut

on 30 September 2013

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Transcript of Rhetorical Analysis: Patrick Henry's Speech

Rhetorical Analysis: Patrick Henry's Speech
Rhetorical Situation
In 1775, Patrick Henry introduced a resolution to the Virginia Convention to form a local militia in order to fight the British.
Paragraph One
"Mr. President, no man thinks more highly than I do..."

Here, Henry defends his position as a patriot just as those with opposing views call themselves patriots. Could be considered a concession and a refutation.

Demonstrates a respect for the opposing view (rhetorical shift with the conjunction "but"

Paragraph One
"Different men often see the same subject in different lights"

Denotative meaning: we see the world in different ways.

Connotative meaning: light=illumination. Helps build his ethos (reinforces the religious ideas of the speech"
Call to Action
"The call to action, we must fight" is part of a periodic sentence. Henry builds up to this important call to action. What other "moves" help create pathos here? How does this sentence create urgency?
"Give me liberty or give me death!"
Rhetorical Analysis of Patrick Henry's Speech
Paragraph one:pathos
"Freedom or slavery"

Establishes an either or fallacy. Not entirely accurate, but the phrase helps create pathos. Slavery connotes human bondage. Creates fear.
More Ethos:
Invokes God once again to help create ethos: "It is only in this way..."
Paragraph One: Rhetorical device: Juxtaposition

Juxtaposing "Majesty" with "king" helps create ethos by emphasizing that a king, in this case George III, is powerless when compared to God.

"Majesty" connotes character
King merely connotes authority

Paragraph Two:
Concession and refutation

Mr. President, it is natural to man to indulge
in the illusions of hope.”
Illusion suggests?

Allusions in Paragraph Two
"Listen to that song of the Siren'

The British are compared with Circe, an allusion to Greek mythology. Circe wooed sailors with her song and then transformed them into pigs. This allusion helps to build pathos.
More Allusion
“Are we disposed to be of the number of those who having eyes see not, and
having ears hear not, the things which so nearly concern their temporal salvation.”

Biblical allusion: the book of Ezekiel. Here, Henry helps build ethos by comparing Americans who cannot see or hear the British threat to those who are unable to see or hear God. Therefore, those who are not saved will not survive, and for Henry's purposes those who do not recognize the British threat will perish.

Paragraph Three: Rhetorical Device
Metaphor: “I have but one lamp by which by
feet are guided, and that is the lamp of experience.”

Effect: Experience will show the way. Continues earlier motif of light/illumination. Appeals to pathos
Could also be a biblical allusion: http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Psalm+119%3A105&version=KJV
Rhetorical Device: Connotative Diction
He says that the colonists’ petition have been met with “an insidious smile.” The use of the words
“insidious smile” creates appeal to pathos because it implies that the British are fooling the
colonists into believing that they will act on these petitions in a positive manner, but it is really
only a trap to keep them under their rule. He also metaphorically calls the British response “a
snare to your feet” also connoting the image of a trap which will ensnare them. He again employs
Biblical allusion to metaphorically compare the positive reception of the colonists’ petition to the
kiss which Judas gave to Jesus in his betrayal of him in saying,” Suffer yourselves not to be
betrayed with a kiss.” The kiss of Judas, which appeared to be positive, is, in effect, what
ultimately led to Jesus’ betrayal and death. In using this metaphor, Henry is saying that the
positive reception of the colonists’ petition will fool the colonists into thinking that the British will
work for their good, but in effect, it will only lead to their betrayal and slavery which he has
equated with death through this metaphor and also earlier in the passage.
More evidence which he gives are the fleets and armies which the British have sent. He creates
an appeal to pathos in presenting this evidence because he calls them “warlike preparations
which cover our waters and darken our land.” The use of the words “cover” and “darken” connote
an image of suffocation (death) and total imprisonment.
Paragraph Four
Rhetorical device: rhetorical question
"Has Great Britain any enemy in this quarter of the world..."
"No sir, she has none."
This passage helps build pathos by evoking fear.
"to bind and rivet upon us those chains which the British ministry have long been forging." The imagery here continues the slave/freedom motif and helps develop pathos.
Paragraph Four:
Paragraph Five:
Opposing Arguments and refutation
Here, Henry responds to opposing arguments in favor of continuing to argue with the British. His response (refutation) is that they have already tried these strategies and they have not worked.
Paragraph Six
Henry uses a long compound sentence which presents his evidence using anaphora "we have" The balance here suggests that all options are important. Pay attention to how the diction shifts here--from "petitioning" to "prostrating." Helps appeal to pathos
Paragraph Seven
Refutation of opposing argument
How does Henry concede and refute here? What do "they say? What does "he say?"
Full transcript