Rhetoric Review Questions

Classical Rhetoric for Contemporary Students: 15 Study Questions

Plato and Aristotle
Detail of Plato and Aristotle from The School of Athens by Italian Renaissance artist Raphael. (Ted Spiegel/Corbis via Getty Images)

If you have been studying classical rhetoric, these 15 study questions will help you review some key concepts introduced by major figures in rhetorical history. The tips following each question direct you to articles and glossary entries that provide background information.
 

  1. What new technology was becoming increasingly popular in Athens during the time of Socrates, and why (as expressed in Phaedrus, by way of the legend of Theuth) did Socrates disapprove of this “elixir”?
    TIP: See the excerpts from Plato's Phaedrus at Parable and Writing.

     
  1. In chapter three of Orality and Literacy, Walter J. Ong discusses several of the distinctive ways in which people in a "primary oral culture" (such as Homer's Greece) think and express themselves through narrative. Clearly and specifically list any three of these distinctive characteristics.
    TIP: See Orality and Narrative.

     
  2. Define dialectic, and briefly describe Socrates’ commanding use of this communicative strategy in Plato’s Gorgias.
    TIP: See Dialectic and Syllogism.

     
  3. In ancient Greece, who were the Sophists, and how did the characteristics of Athenian law courts contribute to the popularity of the Sophists?
    TIP: See Sophist, Rhetorician, and Definitions of Rhetoric in Ancient Greece and Rome.

     
  4. Beginning with Aristotle, classical rhetoricians distinguished three kinds of orations, each of which is (at least broadly) concerned with a distinctive period of time: past, present, or future. Identify these three types of discourse and the time period associated with each.
    TIP: See What Are the Three Branches of Rhetoric?

     
  1. According to Aristotle in his Rhetoric, how do enthymemes, examples, and maxims each contribute to the art of logical persuasion (logos)?
    TIP: See Logos, Enthymeme, Example, and Maxim.

     
  2. By the time Cicero came to write his rhetorical treatises, the study of rhetoric was divided (mainly for pedagogical convenience) into five parts. Using either the Latin terms or their more common English equivalents, identify these five parts or “canons” or “stages of composition,” and briefly explain the primary subject and/or purpose of each part.
    TIP: See What Are the Five Canons of Rhetoric?

     
  1. Cicero’s rhetorical works played a part in mediating the controversy between the "Asiatics" and the "Atticists." What contrasting stylistic habits and conventions were espoused by the Asiatics and the Atticists in Cicero’s day, and in what ways did Cicero’s recommendations and writings suggest a compromise of sorts between the two groups?
    TIP: See Asiatic, Attic, and Decorum.

     
  2. Like earlier rhetoricians, the author of the Institutio Oratoria (translated as The Institutes of Oratory) regarded the broadly educated individual as the best candidate for a course in rhetoric. Identify the author of the Institutio Oratoria, and explain what additional qualification he thought the orator should possess—a qualification that earlier rhetoricians had hinted at but did not examine at length.
    TIP: See Situated Ethos and page two of Definitions of Rhetoric in Ancient Greece and Rome.
     
  3. Who was Saint Augustine, why is he studied in histories of rhetoric, and what was his contribution to the field of homiletics?
    TIP: See Homiletics and page two of Definitions of Rhetoric in Ancient Greece and Rome.

     
  4. In his widely used textbook, the 16th-century rhetorician Erasmus did something rather remarkable with the sentence “Tuae literae me magnopere delectarunt” (“Your letter pleased me greatly”). After identifying the title of Erasmus’s famous textbook, explain what Erasmus did with this sentence and what his purpose was for doing it.
    TIP: See Copia and Commonplace Book.

     
  1. The rhetorical terms euphemism and euphuism may sound alike, but their meanings differ significantly. Define each of these terms, and name the 16th-century English author whose prose work served to christen one of these terms.
    TIP: See Euphemism and Euphuism.

     
  2. Define the rhetorical concept of kairos, and briefly explain how, in Act III of Shakespeare's Julius Caesar, Mark Antony employs the concept both in his first appearance before the crowd (bearing the corpse of Julius Caesar) and in his calculated hesitation to read aloud Caesar’s will.
    TIP: See Kairos and Paralepsis.

     
  3. In his speech before the Roman crowd in Act III of Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar, Mark Antony practices what Jay Heinrich’s calls "Quintilian's useful doubt" (or dubitatio). Specifically, explain how Antony does this and what effect he achieves by doing it.
    TIP: See Dubitatio and Aporia.

     
  1. Define and distinguish between the concepts of invented ethos and situated ethos, and briefly explain how each form of ethos comes into play in this excerpt from a Publishers Clearing House testimonial from Father Michael Berner (reprinted on the reverend’s letterhead):
    As the priest at our small church in Earling, Iowa, I’ve always dreamed of helping anyone who needed it. So being a Publishers Clearing House customer has been perfect for me: I’ve picked up some wonderful products—and always had a chance to win a lot of money and fulfill my dream. . . . To me and all the people that money will help, winning a million dollars was nothing less than a miracle. The same kind of miracle that can happen to you, if you enter—and have faith!
    TIP: See Ethos, Invented Ethos, and Situated Ethos.

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Nordquist, Richard. "Rhetoric Review Questions." ThoughtCo, Oct. 29, 2016, thoughtco.com/rhetoric-review-questions-1691763. Nordquist, Richard. (2016, October 29). Rhetoric Review Questions. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/rhetoric-review-questions-1691763 Nordquist, Richard. "Rhetoric Review Questions." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/rhetoric-review-questions-1691763 (accessed December 11, 2017).