Rhetorical Analysis of Macbeth's Use Of Persuasion

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Persuasion is a powerful and threatening tool used against those who are too weak. It can be used to manipulate others, and sway ones decision between right and wrong. Persuasion is an invisible danger in William Shakespeare’s Macbeth. Although Macbeth falls victim to persuasion and its powers many times in the play, he is also very adroit, using it to his own benefit. In this particular scene, Macbeth attempts to persuade the two murderers to kill Banquo and his son Fleance. He goes into lengthy speech of condemning Banquo and using effective tactics of persuasion to convince the murderers. At first, Macbeth uses logical appeal to sway the murderers into wanting revenge on Banquo for making their lives a living hell. Macbeth exclaims, “That it was he, in the times past, which held you so under fortunes…” (3.1.84-85). He also tells the murderers that Banquo is blameworthy for their tragic, unhappy lives. After angering the murderers, Macbeth switches to a more sarcastic tone and manipulates the murderers so they will feel like they need to prove themselves men, worthy of Macbeth’s presence. By asking questions, Macbeth leaves a gap between him and the murderers and waits for them to fill it. He asks “Are you so gospeled/ To pray for this good man and for his issue/ Whose heavy hand hath bowed you to the grave/ And beggared yours forever? (3.1.98-101). In doing this he is asking the murderers if they are willing to let this man off the hook, who has put their families in poverty forever. Macbeth is provoking the murderers to do what he wants. By posing many questions to the murderers, Macbeth is helping to persuade them. A question can substitute for a request, and while a listener is searching for an answer, the speakers can give his own answer to the question. The listener (the murderers) is more likely to accept it than if it were given as an assertion.

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