Blackfriars Conference 2015 – Wake-Up Workshop: ROADS to Rhetoric

Morning!  Whitney Egbert here to live blog the start of our second full day here at the Blackfriars Conference.  Our session is being run by Cass Morris, the ASC Academic Resources Manager.  The session runs from 8:00 to 8:45 on the stage in the theatre.

Cass will be introducing us to the way that the ASC teaches rhetoric.  She starts by giving us her background on rhetoric, coming from her background in Latin and then learning in college that we do it in English too.  She points out the need to start this much early to help students see the pattern of what is going on and how we can use language.

ROADS is the ASC’s methods stands for:

Repetition – it is built into our brains, we cling to it as it feels natural to us.  The most basic repetition is that of sound.  She gives us an example from Midsummer with the repetition of the “b” sound that sounds like a baby or a brooke or a sheep.  The actor can then make a decision of what it means – nerves or brilliance in this example – to color the character.  The next type of repetition is the repetition of a set of words – the first time we hear it, we don’t know; the second one we recognize it and anticipate the third (which is our natural preference as well).  Again actor choice of where the repetition comes from motivating the choice.  A third kind of repetition is structural – using a piece from Julius Caesar, Morris identifies how we start to see a character that understands and uses rhetoric on both other characters and the audience.

Omission – Morris points out first that this can sometimes be the hardest to wrap your hands around.  Omission is the idea where a word is left out but your brain fills in the gap.  Or, as in an example from Othello, where antecedents are left out by one character (Iago in this example) to get another character (Othello) to fill in something on their own.  The advanced version of this is paralipsis where a layer of meaning is left out.  The final version of omission is figurative where Morris uses an example from Romeo and Juliet when Mercutio dies and speaks of the stab wound as “a scratch.”

Addition – The first kind Morris speaks about is the descriptive addition, where a character adds in an abundance of words instead of the simplest version.  Morris uses an example from Macbeth where the horses break out but the description tell us more and more about the horses themselves as well as the situation at hand.  Unnecessary but descriptive.  The second kind of addition is the corrective – “ladies, or fair ladies” from Midsummer.  Really allows for character choice with the actor.

Direction – Morris starts by saying that this is what trips students up the most about Shakespeare.  By direction she means the syntax of Shakespeare, the ways in which the words are put together.  Using an example from Henry V where Henry saves his verb until the end.  Morris mentions that Dr. Cohen has a theory that many of the upper class characters might do this because they would have spoken Latin as well and fall into the habit of that syntax.  Or in this example, how Henry might be doing it on purpose to mess with the French ambassador.  Morris moves on to mention that direction is not just accidental disorder but can also be purposeful – Claudius’ open speech is potentially not meant to be understood.  Direction can also be purposeful to build emotion for the audience.  Morris uses the opening prologue from Henry V to show how a build up or a build down can change the emotion that the actor gives to the audience. Another kind of direction is contrast – the two choices that an actor poses.

Substitution – The first kind of substitution is figurative – the most common form is the metaphor: “share the crown,” “oh this accursed hand that did this deed,” etc.  Often it creates a removal of agency from the character.  The next kind of substitution is one kind of grammar for another – a noun for a verb or vie versa.  This is a natural phenomenon that is prevalent in our language today – I’m going to text someone, I’m going to google something, etc.  In Shakespeare, often the characters that do this are verbally intelligent – Cleopatra for example.  The next kind of substitution is a form of sentence for another – a statement becomes a question for example.  Questions are used to engage characters and the audience.  Malapropism is the final form of substitution – where a word that sounds like the correct word is said instead.

We wrap up with a handout describing all the things Morris spoke about and giving resources for furthering what you know about rhetoric.  Or you can buy the flashcards that Morris developed and are sold in the gift shop or online from the ASC.

And we are off to the rest of the day!

One thought on “Blackfriars Conference 2015 – Wake-Up Workshop: ROADS to Rhetoric

  1. Pingback: Blackfriars Conference 2015 — Liveblogging Masterlist | ASC Education

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