Rhetorical Strategies in Speech at the Virginia Convention

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Rhetorical Strategies in Speech in the Virginia Convention

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Activity Overview


In high school, the ELA Common Core Standards require students to develop formal writing skills, creating essays and arguments that are well-thought-out and syntactically varied. They also require students to effectively use persuasive writing strategies to defend a claim or point of view. The ability to dissect and validate, or debunk, other arguments is key to strong persuasive writing. This requires a basic working knowledge of rhetoric. A great way to enhance students' understanding of effective arguments is to teach the Aristotelian concepts of Ethos, Pathos, and Logos. Students can then identify and analyze the effectiveness of these strategies in a work of literature, a speech, or a letter.

Patrick Henry’s “Speech in the Virginia Convention” was delivered to advocate a complete break with England, not just a compromise. Henry needed to ensure that he established credibility, made logical arguments, and showed his audience that there was no other option but to forge a new path, away from England. Have students examine the text and come up with quotes from throughout the speech of Ethos, Logos, and Pathos rhetoric. Have students illustrate these examples in a storyboard. The following storyboard shows two examples of each strategy.


ETHOS (ETHICS / CREDIBILITY)


Should I keep back my opinions at such a time, through fear of giving offense, I should consider myself as guilty of treason toward my country, and of an act of disloyalty toward the Majesty of Heaven, which I revere above all earthly kings.



I have but one lamp by which my feet are guided, and that is the lamp of experience. I know of no way of judging of the future but by the past. I wish to know what there has been in the conduct of the British ministry for the last ten years to justify those hopes with which gentlemen have been pleased to solace themselves and the house?

LOGOS (LOGIC)


I ask gentlemen, sir, what means this martial array, if its purpose be not to force us to submission? Can gentlemen assign any other possible motive for it? Has Great Britain any enemy in this quarter of the world, to call for all this accumulation of natives and armies? No, sir, she has none. They are meant for us: they can be meant for no other.



And what have we to oppose them? Shall we try argument? Sir, we have been trying that for the last ten years. Have anything new to offer upon the subject? Nothing. We have held the subject up in every light of which it is capable; but it has been all in vain.


PATHOS (EMOTIONS)


They tell us, sir, that we are weak - unable to cope with so formidable an adversary. But when shall we be stronger? Will it be the next week, or the next year? Will it be when we are totally disarmed, and when a British guard shall be stationed in every house?



Besides, sir, we shall not fight our battles alone. There is a just God who presides over the destinies of nations and who will raise up friends to fight our battles for us. The battle, sir, is not to the strong alone; it is to the vigilant, the active, the brave.


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Student Instructions

Create a storyboard that shows examples of ethos, pathos, and logos from the text.


  1. Identify two examples for each rhetorical strategy: ethos, pathos, and logos.
  2. Type the examples into the description box under the cell.
  3. Illustrate the examples using any combination of scenes, characters, and items.
Ethos Pathos Logos Template 2

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