Thursday, March 12, 2020: Rhetorical Appeals in “Speech to the Virginia Convention”


I hope you had a great early release day yesterday! Today, we will continue with Patrick Henry’s “Speech to the Virginia Convention.” Please also wish your first period classmate, Madison, a very happy birthday! 🙂 

Rhetorical Analysis of “Speech to the Virginia Convention”

Today, you will move on to identifying Henry’s use of ethos, pathos, and logos in the speech. Luckily, this should be fairly easy if you kept up with the annotations!

It’s much easier to identify the use of rhetorical appeals when they stand alone, such as in a review worksheet. However, for this assignment’s purposes, you will have to consider the audience’s perspective and decode Henry’s words to analyze the rhetorical appeals used.

Consider: Who is Patrick Henry’s audience? Think about the historical context we built yesterday – how do you think these men are feeling? Thinking? Worried about? They’re about to go against one of the most powerful military forces of this time!

When identifying rhetorical appeals, you must put yourself in the place of the audience. For example, a piece of text is not pathos necessarily because YOU felt “some type of way” about it – consider how Henry’s AUDIENCE would feel. What would scare them? Inspire them to fight?

Use the following information to guide your thinking as you complete the assignment:

ETHOS: Appeal to credibility, ethics, character

The ongoing establishment of a writer’s or speaker’s authority, credibility, and believability as he/she speaks or writes. Ethos appeals to ethics and character. Ethos seeks to persuade the reader that the writer/speaker can be trusted and believed due to his/her noble character or ethical ways in which he/she is presenting ideas.

Some Examples of Ethos:

  • Appeal to the writer’s/speaker’s believability, qualifications, character; relevant biographical information
  • Use of credible sources (experts, scholars)
  • Accurate citation of sources: gives credit where credit is due
  • Experience and authority: person knows the issues and has experience in the field
  • Appropriate language: uses language of the discipline
  • Appropriate tone: knows the audience and context of situation
  • Humility: is not arrogant
  • Uses tentative yet authoritative language; avoids sweeping statements like “Everyone is doing this,” “This is the only way,” “This will always work.” Instead says, “The research suggests that,” “Some experts believe,” “In my experience,” etc.

PATHOS: Appeal to emotion

The use of emotion and affect to persuade. Pathos appeals to the heart and to one’s emotions. Pathos seeks to persuade the reader emotionally. (Note that this can be ANY emotion.)

Some Examples of Pathos:

  • Appeal to the heart/emotion
  • Stories or testimonials
  • Personal anecdotes or stories
  • Personal connections
  • Imagery and figurative language that provokes an emotional response
  • Powerful words, phrases, or images that stir up emotion

LOGOS: Appeal to logic

The use of logic, rationality, and critical reasoning to persuade. Logos appeals to the mind and seeks to persuade the reader intellectually.

Some Examples of Logos:

  • Appeal to the mind/intellect
  • Draw from philosophy and logic
  • Facts
  • Statistics
  • If, then… statements
  • Definitions of terms
  • Explanation of ideas
  • Cause and effect
  • Logical reasons and explanations

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