Good morning! We are jump-starting our Friday morning in the playhouse with a Wake-Up Workshop in rhetoric led by Sarah Blackwell, a member of the education department at the American Shakespeare Center. 

After everyone gets their coffee, Blackwell starts the workshop and invites attendees to join her closer to the stage. She begins with sharing information about how to teach rhetoric in a classroom setting using the tools from the ASC education department. Teaching in elementary school is a particular point of interest. Her aim is to teach the basics for an elementary schools setting that can be further adapted for advanced students. Blackwell begins with the basics of rhetoric for elementary students: metaphor, simile, personification, antithesis, alliteration, etc. 

The ASC uses a methodology called “ROADS to rhetoric”, a pattern of five categories that rhetorical terms fit into. “ROADS” stands for repetition, omission, addition, direction, and substitution. To introduce the attendees to this methodology, Blackwell brings audience members onstage and creates sentences about them that follow each of the basic tenets of ROADS. She says that most students most get confused in the “direction” tenet of roads, when rhetorical devices such as hyperbaton, or “Yoda speak”, occurs. The American Shakespeare Center sells ROADS to rhetoric cards in their gift shop. The are colored blue for repetition, red for omission, green for addition, purple for direction, and orange for substitution. Each cards gives a name and definition for the rhetorical devices and provides an example from Shakespeare’s cannon. Get yours for your students at our lobby gift shop!

Blackwell invites the audience to participate in reading quotes from Shakespeare’s cannon to provide examples of the rhetorical devices in use. She has the attendees break up into groups of 3-4 and gives them one line with each word printed on a different card. She instructs the audience to put the sentence together in the correct order. (They have a cheat sheet if needed.)

Blackwell begins by focusing on the different forms of repetition in their lines. She first asks if they found any instances of alliteration in their quote. “Fair is foul, and foul is fair” is the first mention of alliteration brought up by a group. Blackwell challenges the audience and asks them to determine what the function of that alliteration is. The alliteration in “foul” and “fair” connects the two words despite their antithesis. Conversation turns, and the attendees consider whether or not alliteration and assonance can be present within the same line. They further speculate upon the definition of “assonance” and “alliteration” citing incidents in which the definition of these words has changed. Blackwell agrees that rhetoric is a shifting practice. Blackwell then asks the groups to find repetition of words. For one group, she finds the repetition of syntactical structure (isocolon) and an immediate repetition of words (epizeuxis). She moves on to more advanced form of repetition such as the same word repeating but changing meaning. 

Blackwell switches to omission, and claims that it is one of the hardest patterns to identify because it is not there. For example, Mercutio’s line in Romeo and Juliet 3.1, “Ay, a scratch!” is an understatement and omission of information. She moves on to give an example of “zeugma” which is the omission of a verb in a line or sentence. For example, Don Armado in Love’s Labours Lost 5.2 says, “You this way, we that way” omitting the word “go.” Blackwell points out that this device is used frequently in dialogue between Othello and Iago. “Asyndeton” is the omission of conjunctions that cause the line to move quickly. After providing examples of omission, Blackwell asks the attendees if they have any instances of omission in their lines. 

Blackwell begins discussing addition with “polysyndeton,” the addition of conjunctions. The opposite of asyndeton, she speculates how the use of additive thoughts function for the character in the moment. To teach “auxesis,” she uses Malcom from Macbeth 4.3 to showcase the addition of superfluous words. Why does Malcom think he needs to be this thorough? Finally, Blackwell uses Bottom’s ideas for a prologue in 1.2 to prove that his addition by correction reveals a Bottom that is speaking faster than he is thinking and editing his ideas trying to grasp more specific words and phrases. 

Blackwell again asserts that the most difficult pattern for students to identify is direction. Direction is a pattern that focuses on the arrangement of words or phrases within a line or sentence. She first identifies that lines and sentences have the ability to give lists in ascending or descending order of importance. This gives the actor clues to who or what is most important in relation to their character. There is no definitive “right” or “wrong” way to interpret the order, but choosing a direction means choosing an acting choice. Blackwell moves on to “aposiopesis” and jokes that it sounds like a disease. “Aposiopesis” is the device of suddenly breaking off in speech. Due to time constraints, Sarah quickly moves on to cover two more definitions: “chiasmus”, the repetition of ideas in reverted order, and “hyperbaton”, the inverted order of syntax or “Yoda speak”. 

Unfortunately, Blackwell has to end the workshop there due to time constraints, but she encourages the attendees to look for the patterns of ROADS in the text and invites the audience to find her with any further questions they may have. 

–Tiffany Waters
MLitt Candidate