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The Analysis of the Rhetoric in Film “Henry V”

Rhetoric – originally a science about oratory, subsequently sometimes was understood more widely, as the theory of prose or the argument theory in general. The rhetoric is the scientific discipline studying the laws of origination, the transfer and the perception of good speech and the qualitative text. The rhetoric in the broad sense of the word is a certain type of philological outlook which makes a part of spiritual culture of a human civilization.

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The rhetoric is a cultural basis of knowledge and social activity, which allows the person to be the citizen of a legal society and to define the form of thoughts and a direction of actions in the future. Simultaneously it connects mankind to a cultural history. Rhetoric can be considered as a practice of persuasion, where some forms could be identified as less rhetorical than others based on “the degree to which the persuasive rhetorical stands out.” (Jasinski)

A form of such practice can be considered the rhetoric in films. Analyzing the rhetoric in films, this paper is addressing the film “Henry V” (1944) directed by Laurence Olivier, who also was starring in the film, in terms of its relation to rhetoric.

The image of the orator in the main character Henry V was based on factors such as the audience, the subject of the speech and the type of the speech. In that sense, the audience in Henry V is his people and troops, so Henry is using his rhetorical skill as a weapon, to inspire his followers, frighten his enemies, and the most important persuade the listeners.

Taking as an example of the speech on the St. Crispin’s Day, the tools of rhetoric can named as passion and menace. In that sense the scene in St. Crispin day can be considered as a claim of policy, which is answering the questions, “What should we do?” or “What course of action should we take?”(Jasinski 27)

Shakespearean’s words, in that sense, which did not comment in an obvious way Henry’s motives in his actions, were compensated by the rhetoric tools of Olivier. The Shakespearean text alone is an example of leadership, where his rhetoric shows him as an authoritative king who is not afraid of challenges. If in general, rhetoric can be described as the art of persuasion, in the Henry V this meaning can be amplified, where Henry is using rhetoric as a leader to emotionally intensify his followers for the fulfillment of his goals.

In that sense, Henry’s emotional appeal, “makes an implicit claim to being an appropriate justification for a specific line of action”, where “emotional emotional persuasion works by inducing a reasonable emotional response in an audience that also is an appropriate warrant for action”(Jasinski 425)

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It can be seen that rhetoric and oratory, can be used as an instrument for leadership, where this instrument is used to control the followers. The example of the St. Crispin’s day speech is an example of the emotional appeal in rhetoric that interacts with the masses rather than individuals. Thus, the factors that play a role in good rhetoric cannot be limited to the audience and the speech alone, adding the emotional appeal as an additional factor for successful persuasion.

Works Cited

Henry V. Dir. Olivier, Laurence. Perf. Laurence Olivier and Jean Simmons. DVD. Alexander Korda. 2006.

Jasinski, James. Sourcebook on Rhetoric : Key Concepts in Contemporary Rhetorical Studies. Rhetoric & Society. Thousand Oaks, Calif.: Sage Publications, 2001.

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StudyCorgi. (2021, November 11). The Analysis of the Rhetoric in Film “Henry V”.

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