Good morning everyone and happy Friday! My name is Amy Ippolito and I will be blogging this morning’s Wake Up Workshop on Rhetoric, hosted by Aubrey Whitlock from ASC Education.

On this chilly Friday morning, while waiting for stragglers to come find us downstairs in Tyson the guests and Aubrey we talked about how wonderful the ASC production of Julius Caesar is. If you haven’t seen it yet, delay not but get your tickets instantly!

Aubrey then went on to talk about how Shakespeare would have learned rhetoric in school when he was a student — more so than we do in school today, though we speak more rhetorically  than we may realize. Aubrey’s goal is to outline the ASC’s methodology for teaching students rhetoric, which underscores why rhetoric is important to recognize in working Shakespeare’s text as well as how to use it to your advantage as an actor.

The ASC’s methodolgy consolidates a few hundred rhetorical devices (with Greek names like “epizeuxis” and “polyptoton”) into five thematic categories, called “the ROADS to Rhetoric”:

R- repetition

O- omission

A- addition

D- direction

S- substitution


We begin with the “R”: repetition. Reading through Coriolanus speeches between Coriolanus and Aufidius (Aubrey’s favorite), we are able to work through both speeches finding rhetoric terms. Finding repetition with sounds building up to words, or repetition of structure, in Coriolanus we find repetition of a lot of hard “c” sounds as well as repetition of enjambment. In Aufidius’ speech we found repetition in him saying “Martius, Martius, Martius” and like Coriolanus a lot of enjambment, which we see frequently in Shakespeare’s later plays.


We then moved on to the “O” in “ROADS”: omission. Aubrey then explained it in Othello, when Iago says “I like not that” leaving Othello to fill in the blanks which leads him to (spoiler alert) eventually kill his wife. We then talked about paralepsis and how it’s a very effective and passive aggressive thing to do, for example don’t think about the color red… I bet you’re now thinking about the color red. (Yay rhetoric!) Now we’ve essentially talked about the thing we don’t want to talk about, extremely effective. Going back to the Coriolanus speeches we looked for omissions in the speeches. Sometimes we learned that characters are too direct to omit anything, though not the case we found for Coriolanus and Aufidius. Coriolanus tended to omit any information about his family in this speech as well as the fact they he mentions what their armies have done to each other not what they have done to each other. Aufidius tends to omit any moral judgement, he knows what he is going to do.


Moving on to the “A” in “ROADS”: addition. Figures of addition tend to slow down the characters speech by adding more words to convey the same amount of information, like Bottom in A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Or like Malcom in Macbeth adding all of these adjectives to explain how awful Macbeth is. We went back to the Coriolanus text to see how and where we can find additions between Coriolanus and Aufidius. Coriolanus lists all the wonderful things he did and still they kicked him out.


Next up is the “D”: direction. Figures of direction tend to be the ones that make students go, “…huh?” because they tend to feature disordered (and therefore confusing) syntax. For example, Shakespeare often employs a device Aubrey affectionately calls “Yoda Speech,” (or, if you like the official term, hyperbaton) which is just inversion of words in a sentence. Figures of direction can also move text forwards by using lists (auxesis) like in Henry V in “O for a muse of fire…”. We talked about antithesis — holding up two ideas in comparison to one another — is the most used rhetorical device in Shakespeare.


Running out of time, we quickly looked at the “S” in “ROADS”: substitution, where one thing stands in for something else. These devices include metaphors and similes, as well as rhetorical questions (standing in for an interrogative statement) and a device called anthimeria, or changing the part of speech of a word, like when Cleopatra turns the noun “word” into a verb: “…he words me, girls, he words me.”

And just like that it’s on to the next Plenary Paper Session! Have a great conference day!