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Game of Rhetoric: A rhetorical commentary on Cersei Lannister’s speech

This rhetorical commentary of Cersei Lannister’s speech is written purely as an exercise for identifying uses of classical rhetoric in modern popular culture. Rhetoric is used in discourse all the time; it is used in speeches, movies, books, articles and even TV shows about dragons!

If you haven’t watched Game of Thrones, it will still make sense as I have quoted the script and you don’t need much context. If you are currently watching Game of Thrones and haven’t watched up to Season 7 Episode 2 then I suggest you stop reading now (spoiler alert)!

This speech is an example of a philippic which is an aggressive attack on someone’s ethos (this is also known as ad hominem).

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Defence Against the Dark Arts: Poisonous Pathos

Out of all the rhetorical tropes stocked in our arsenal of persuasion, pathos is certainly the most powerful. Logos is like a castle, well-founded, sturdy and strong, however pathos is the wave of water which sinks it with overwhelming force.

Pathos is an appeal to the emotions. Whether that is sadness, pity, happiness or anger; whenever someone is trying to inspire any sort of emotion from the audience they are using pathos.

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Defence Against the Dark Arts: Lying Logos

The term Logos refers to logic which can be seen as the pursuit of proof. There are two different types of logic, formal logic (also known as mathematical logic) and informal logic. Informal logic is the sort we use in speeches and it is what this blogpost will focus on. If you want to know more about formal logic, we have a blogpost about that too!

Logos is the term used when you try to persuade someone with evidence or a logical argument. A logical argument can be anything that is loosely based on logical principles. You can think of a logical argument like a wall. You get some walls that are impressively tall, however in reality, it doesn’t take much to knock them over. You get some made out of sticks and mud whilst others are made out of solid rock. You even get some badly built walls that have gaping holes letting in the foul winds of manipulation and deceit.

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Logic Part 1: Fun, fallacies and a dead flamingo

Logos (logic) is known to many people but understood by few. The danger with logic is that all it takes is a subtle distortion to produce a flawed, but very convincing argument. To understand logic properly we have to go back to the very basics.

Basic logical syllogisms

An argument using logic is often called a logical syllogism. Basic logical syllogisms will have a major premise, a minor premise, and a conclusion…

Major premise: All A is B

Minor premise: X is A

Conclusion: Therefore, X is B

Continue reading Logic Part 1: Fun, fallacies and a dead flamingo

Defence Against the Dark Arts: Elusive Ethos

Ethos, logos and pathos are often celebrated as the Three Musketeers of Rhetoric. However, they can be much more menacing than people realise. They distort logic, they cloud reason and they manipulate judgment.

Ethos is probably one of the most commonly used and least commonly detected forms of rhetoric. Ethos is when a speaker attempts to invoke authority or credibility (either over themselves or someone else) to persuade an audience.

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The Dirty Rhetorician; The Glib and Oily Art

”If for I want that glib and oily art,

To speak and purpose not…”

This is a quote from Shakespeare’s King Lear. It refers of course to rhetoric – that dangerous dark art of manipulating words to speak and purpose not! Rhetoric is still today seen as a dirty word that is often used to accuse adversaries of possessing a questionable disposition. For example, the media only really uses the word ‘rhetoric’ when they are talking about Donald Trump or North Korea (when they are talking of Obama they tend to use the word oratory).

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I hereby declare, today, for the world to hear, that this blogpost is published

Some people are saying that President Donald Trump’s speech in Poland last week was actually quite good. Even Donald Trump himself sent out a photo (of himself) with an excerpt from the speech reading: “I declare today for the world to hear that the West will never, ever be broken. Our values will prevail. Our people will thrive. And our civilization will triumph”. It is quite the rhetorical bubble. It sounds a lot more dramatic than simply saying ‘the West will never be broken’. But why?

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