Brief Excerpts Exemplifying Rhetorical Styles


  1. Laconic rhetoric (from Sparta)
  2. Unknown Soldier Funeral speech – Don Watson
  3. A Call to Arms (from Henry V) and High Poetic Style
  4. Subcomandante Marcos – example of allusion
  5. Example of Anaphora, repetition, and rhythm
  6. Example of Metaphor or Analogy
  7. Example of Imagery
  8. Example of Narrative style
  9. Samuel Clemens – Example of Satire and Irony


Laconic rhetoric

Brief – terse – and to the point.

‘Not How Many But Where.’

From Plutarch

King Philip of Macedon, wrote to the Spartans, asking whether they wished that he should come as a friend or as a foe; and they returned the answer. The Macedonias took the advice and didn’t go


Philip II proclaims: “You are advised to submit without further delay, for if I bring my army and conquer your land, I will destroy your farms, slay your people, and raze your city.


Unknown Soldier Funeral speech of Paul Keating (by Don Watson)

We do not know this Australian’s name and we never will. We do not know his rank or his battalion. We do not know where he was born, or precisely how and when he died. We do not know where in Australia he had made his home or when he left it for the battlefields of Europe. We do not know his age or his circumstances: whether he was from the city or the bush; what occupation he left to become a soldier; what religion, if he had a religion; if he was married or single. We do not know who loved him or whom he loved. If he had children, we do not know who they are. His family is lost to us as he was lost to them. We will never know who this Australian was.

…  out of the war came a lesson which transcended the horror and tragedy and the inexcusable folly. It was a lesson about ordinary people – and the lesson was that they were not ordinary. On all sides they were the heroes of that war; not the generals and the politicians, but the soldiers and sailors and nurses – those who taught us to endure hardship, show courage, to be bold as well as resilient, to believe in ourselves, to stick together. The Unknown Australian Soldier we inter today was one of those who by his deeds proved that real nobility and grandeur belong not to empires and nations, but to the people on whom they, in the last resort, always depend.



The Call to Arms and the Poetic Style –  Henry V – by Shakespeare


WESTMORELAND:  O that we now had here
But one ten thousand of those men in England
That do no work to-day!

HENRY: What’s he that wishes so?

My cousin Westmoreland? No, my fair cousin:
If we are mark’d to die, we are enow
To do our country loss; and if to live,
The fewer men, the greater share of honour.
God’s will! I pray thee, wish not one man more.

We few, we happy few, we band of brothers;
For he to-day that sheds his blood with me
Shall be my brother; be he ne’er so vile,
This day shall gentle his condition:
And gentlemen in England now a-bed
Shall think themselves accursed they were not here,
And hold their manhoods cheap whiles any speaks
That fought with us upon Saint Crispin’s day.



Example of Allusion

Subcomandante Marcos of the Zapatistas

Samuel Taylor Coleridge, the English poet of the cusp of the 18th and 19th centuries, wrote: “If a man were to cross through Paradise in a dream, and they gave him a flower as proof that he had been there, and if, upon awakening, he were to find that flower in his hand…what then?”

From the mountains of the Mexican Southeast to the Zo’calo of Mexico City, the zapatistas have crossed a territory of rebellion which has given us a flower of dark dignity as proof that we were there. We have reached the center of Power, and we find that we have that flower in our hands, and the question, as in Coleridge, is “what then?”


Example of Anaphora and rhythm


Our fight is for knowledge, and the government distributes ignorance and disdain.

Our fight is for the land, and the government gives us cementaries.

Our fight is for a job which is just and dignified, and the government buys and sells our bodies and our shames.

Our fight is for life, and the government offers death as our future.

Our fight is for respect for our right to sovereignty and self-government, and the government imposes laws of the few on the many.

Our fight is for liberty of thought and walk, and the government builds jails and graves.

Our fight is for justice, and the government consists of criminals and assassins.

Our fight is for history and the government proposes to erase history.

Our fight is for the homeland, and the government dreams with the flag and the language of foreigners.

Our fight is for peace, and the government announces war and destruction.


Insurgent Subcomandante Marcos


October, 1994.


Example of Analogy/Metaphor

P.S. – Ana Maria tells me that “the water is rising in the mountain streams.” I look worriedly at the greyness that is stretched across the horizon. She adds, “If it doesn’t stop raining, those streams are going to run as they never have before.” She goes off to check the guards. “As they never have before,” I mutter. I light my pipe. The elder Antonio approaches me and asks for a light for his cigarette. I shelter the lighter’s flame with my hands. I can just see, in that brief light, that Antonio is crying. Ana Maria returns. She comes to attention and reports. Then she asks, “The troops are ready. What are we going to do?” I look once again at the greyness that is spreading across the sky and dominating the night. I answer her with a sigh, “We wait. We wait…”


Example of imagery

P.S – One of the mysteries of Ezeelen is uncovered. A lively and violent wind, sweet and bitter, blows a paper to the feet of an indigenous peasant. On the paper one can read: “Declaration of Principles of the EZLN”


Example of narrative style

Suppose that you decide to take a left and head towards Chiapas. Several kilometers further on you will leave the state of Oaxaca and you will see a big sign that reads, “WELCOME TO CHIAPAS.” Have you found it? Good, suppose you have. You have entered by one of the three existing roads into Chiapas: The road into the northern part of the state, the road along the Pacific coast, and the road you entered by are the three ways to get to this Southeastern corner of the country by land. But the state’s natural wealth doesn’t leave only by way of these three roads. Chiapas loses blood through many veins: Through oil and gas ducts, electric lines, railways, through bank accounts, trucks, vans, boats and planes, through clandestine paths, gaps, and forest trails. This land continues to pay tribute to the imperialists: petroleum, electricity, cattle, money, coffee, banana, honey, corn, cacao, tobacco, sugar, soy, melon, sorghum, mamey, mango, tamarind, avocado, and Chiapaneco blood flows as a result of the thousand teeth sunk into the throat of the Mexican Southeast. These raw materials, thousands of millions of tons of them, flow to Mexican ports and railroads, air and truck transportation centers. From there they are sent to different parts of the world: The United States, Canada, Holland, Germany, Italy, Japan, but with the same fate–to feed imperialism. The fee that capitalism imposes on the Southeastern part of this country oozes, as it has since from the beginning, blood and mud.

What does the beast leave behind in exchange for all it takes away?


Chiapas has a total area of 75,634.4 square kilometers, some 7.5 million hectares. It is the eighth largest state and is divided into 111 townships organized, for the purposes of looting, into nine economic regions. Forty percent of the nation’s plant varieties, 36% of its mammal species, 34% of its reptiles and amphibians, 66% of its bird species, 20% of its fresh-water fish, and 80% of its butterfly species are found in Chiapas. Seven percent of the total national rainfall falls in Chiapas. But its greatest wealth is the 3.5 million people of Chiapas, two-thirds of whom live and die in rural communities. Half of them don’t have potable water and two-thirds have no sewage service. Ninety percent of the rural population pay little or no taxes.


Welcome! You have arrived in the poorest state in the country: Chiapas.


Example of satire and irony

Samuel Clemens

Extending the Blessings of Civilization to our Brother who Sits in Darkness has been a good trade and has paid well, on the whole; and there is money in it yet, if carefully worked–but not enough, in my judgement, to make any considerable risk advisable. The People that Sit in Darkness are getting to be too scarce–too scarce and too shy. And such darkness as is now left is really of but an indifferent quality, and not dark enough for the game. The most of those People that Sit in Darkness have been furnished with more light than was good for them or profitable for us. We have been injudicious.

The Blessings-of-Civilization Trust, wisely and cautiously administered, is a Daisy. There is more money in it, more territory, more sovereignty, and other kinds of emolument, than there is in any other game that is played. But Christendom has been playing it badly of late years, and must certainly suffer by it, in my opinion. She has been so eager to get every stake that appeared on the green cloth, that the People who Sit in Darkness have noticed it–they have noticed it, and have begun to show alarm. They have become suspicious of the Blessings of Civilization. More–they have begun to examine them. This is not well. The Blessings of Civilization are all right, and a good commercial property; there could not be a better, in a dim light. In the right kind of a light, and at a proper distance, with the goods a little out of focus, they furnish this desirable exhibit to the Gentlemen who Sit in Darkness:


–and so on.

There. Is it good? Sir, it is pie. It will bring into camp any idiot that sits in darkness anywhere. But not if we adulterate it. It is proper to be emphatic upon that point. This brand is strictly for Export–apparently. Apparently. Privately and confidentially, it is nothing of the kind. Privately and confidentially, it is merely an outside cover, gay and pretty and attractive, displaying the special patterns of our Civilization which we reserve for Home Consumption, while inside the bale is the Actual Thing that the Customer Sitting in Darkness buys with his blood and tears and land and liberty. That Actual Thing is, indeed, Civilization, but it is only for Export. Is there a difference between the two brands? In some of the details, yes.




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