Exhortation in Speech

Glossary of Grammatical and Rhetorical Terms

Abolitionist and orator Henry H. Garnet
Abolitionist and orator Henry H. Garnet (1815-1882). James U. Stead/Wikimedia Commons

An exhortation is a speech that attempts to encourage, motivate or incite an audience through strong emotional appeals. Here are some examples from famous works.

Henry Garnet's "Address to the Slaves"​

"Look around you, and behold the bosoms of your loving wives heaving with untold agonies! Hear the cries of your poor children! Remember the stripes your fathers bore. Think of the torture and disgrace of your noble mothers.

Think of your wretched sisters, loving virtue and purity, as they are driven into concubinage and are exposed to the unbridled lusts of incarnate devils. Think of the undying glory that hangs around the ancient name of Africa--and forget not that you are native-born American citizens, and as such, you are justly entitled to all the rights that are granted to the freest. Think how many tears you have poured out upon the soil which you have cultivated with unrequited toil and enriched with your blood; and then go to your lordly enslavers and tell them plainly, that you are determined to be free. . . .

"[Y]ou are a patient people. You act as though you were made for the special use of these devils. You act as though your daughters were born to pamper the lusts of your masters and overseers. And worse than all, you tamely submit while your lords tear your wives from your embraces and defile them before your eyes.

In the name of God, we ask, are you men? Where is the blood of your fathers? Has it all run out of your veins? Awake, awake; millions of voices are calling you! Your dead fathers speak to you from their graves. Heaven, as with a voice of thunder, calls on you to arise from the dust.

"Let your motto be resistance!

resistance! resistance! No oppressed people have ever secured their liberty without resistance. What kind of resistance you had better make, you must decide by the circumstances that surround you, and according to the suggestion of expediency. Brethren, adieu! Trust in the living God. Labor for the peace of the human race, and remember that you are four millions!"
(Henry Highland Garnet, speech before the National Negro Convention in Buffalo, N.Y., August 1843)

Henry V's Exhortation at Harfleur

"Once more unto the breach, dear friends, once more;
Or close the wall up with our English dead!
In peace, there's nothing so becomes a man,
As modest stillness and humility;
But when the blast of war blows in our ears,
Then imitate the action of the tiger;
Stiffen the sinews, summon up the blood,
Disguise fair nature with hard-favored rage. Then lend the eye a terrible aspect;
Let it pry through the portage of the head,
Like the brass cannon; let the brow o'erwhelm it
As fearfully as doth a galled rock
O'er hang and jutty his confounded base,
Swilled with the wild and wasteful ocean.
Now set the teeth, and stretch the nostril wide;
Hold hard the breath, and bend up every spirit
To his full height! On, on, you noble English,
Whose blood is fet from fathers of war-proof!


Fathers, that, like so many Alexanders,
Have, in these parts, from morn till even fought,
And sheathed their swords for lack of argument;
Dishonor not your mothers; now attest,
That those, whom you called fathers, did beget you!
Be copy now to men of grosser blood,
And teach them how to war! And you, good yeomen,
Whose limbs were made in England, show us here
The mettle of your pasture: let us swear
That you are worth your breeding; which I doubt not;
For there is none of you so mean and base,
That hath not noble lustre in your eyes.
I see you stand like greyhounds in the slips,
Straining upon the start. The game's afoot;
Follow your spirit: and, upon this charge,
Cry--God for Harry! England! and Saint George!"
(William Shakespeare, Henry V, Act 3, scene 1. 1599)

Coach Tony D'Amato's Half-time Address to the Players

"The inches we need are everywhere around us.


"They’re in every break of the game, every minute, every second.

"On this team, we fight for that inch. On this team, we tear ourselves and everyone else around us to pieces for that inch. We claw with our fingernails for that inch, because we know when we add up all those inches that’s gonna make the . . . difference between winning and losing! Between livin' and dyin'!

"I’ll tell you this: In any fight, it’s the guy who’s willing to die who’s gonna win that inch. And I know if I’m gonna have any life anymore, it’s because I’m still willin' to fight and die for that inch. Because that’s what livin' is! The six inches in front of your face!

"Now I can’t make you do it. You got to look at the guy next to you. Look into his eyes! Now I think you’re gonna see a guy who will go that inch with you. You're gonna see a guy who will sacrifice himself for this team because he knows, when it comes down to it, you’re gonna do the same for him!

"That’s a team, gentleman! And, either we heal, now, as a team, or we will die as individuals. That’s football guys. That's all it is."
(Al Pacino as Coach Tony D'amato in Any Given Sunday, 1999)

Parody of Exhortation in Stripes

"We're all very different people. We're not Watusi. We're not Spartans. We're Americans, with a capital. A, huh? You know what that means? Do ya? That means that our forefathers were kicked out of every decent country in the world. We are the wretched refuse. We're the underdog. We're mutts! Here's proof: his nose is cold! But there's no animal that's more faithful, that's more loyal, more loveable than the mutt. Who saw Old Yeller? Who cried when Old Yeller got shot at the end? . . .

"I cried my eyes out. So we're all dogfaces, we're all very, very different, but there is one thing that we all have in common: we were all stupid enough to enlist in the Army. We're mutants. There's something wrong with us, something very, very wrong with us. Something seriously wrong with us--we're soldiers. But we're American soldiers! We've been kicking ass for 200 years!

We're ten and one.

"Now we don't have to worry about whether or not we've practiced. We don't have to worry about whether Captain Stillman wants to have us hung. All we have to do is to be the great American fighting soldier that is inside each one of us. Now do what I do, and say what I say. And make me proud."
(Bill Murray as John Winger in Stripes, 1981)