Rhetoric is essential to the development of advanced learning and higher education. Rhetoric devices are used as a way to think logically, access weak arguments, and build a case to support a claim. Rhetoric is used in all types of literature, including public speaking, speeches, advertisements, persuasive essays, etc. Traditional rhetoric was first developed in the Classical period of ancient Greece in order to teach the art of public speaking to their fellow citizens in the Greek republics and the children of the wealthy under the Roman Empire. Throughout history rhetoric devices have always been used to prove arguments and persuade people’s thoughts due to the effectiveness of logos, pathos, and ethos. Logos is the appeal to logic, pathos is the appeal to emotions, and ethos is the appeal to ethics. These methods of appeal can be seen in Elizabethan era plays. Shakespeare demonstrates the use of many different rhetoric devices such as ethos, pathos, and logos in his play, Hamlet.
Ethos is a method of appeal that focuses on the ethical aspect of persuasion that focuses on ethics and appears in many instances throughout Hamlet. In the play, Hamlet says, “we are arrant knaves all- believe none of us” (3.1.129-130). Back in the Elizabethan era, men were superior and dominant over women. They were higher standing in the social hierarchy and were thought to have the more correct judgement over women. Hamlet, knowing this, is saying that all men are unpleasant, and that Ophelia should not trust them when, however, Hamlet himself is a man. This shows Ophelia that Hamlet is credible because he can admit that men deserve to be hated even if that includes himself. Typically, people in power attempt to appeal to others with the use of ethos since people in power are supposed to make the most fair and just decisions. Other methods of appeal, such as pathos, were seen more in Hamlet.
Pathos is a method of appeal that attempts to persuade individuals by invoking an emotional response in them. This can be done through sentimental imagery or a graphic that invokes pity or fear. One example of pathos in Hamlet was done by Claudius when he said, “To be contracted in one brow of woe” (1.2.4). In this excerpt, Claudius attempts to invoke an emotional response in the audience by creating a sentimental image. This makes the audience feel a sense of pity for Claudius which gives him validation the audience’s eyes. Pathos is prominent throughout the course of Hamlet. In Claudius’s case, he uses pathos to his advantage for his ill intentions. The other characters agree with Claudius throughout much of the play simply because he employs his understanding of emotions to his actions.
Logos focuses on convincing others with the implementation of logic. These appeals focus on realistic reasoning to prove or disprove a claim. This method of persuasion is more straight forward than the other methods and seemingly more effective. Claudius states in Hamlet, “Holding a weak supposal of our worth- Or thinking by our late dear brother’s death- Our state to be disjoint and out of frame” (1.2.18-20). In this scene, Claudius seems to be making a realization that the country will be disadvantaged because their king had just recently died. Claudius makes this statement to draw attention to the possibility of him taking over as king. This indirect persuasion method is a representation of logos because Claudius is showing the people that an assertive king will be necessary for the survival of Denmark soon. Claudius is such an effective character in most of the play because of his constant use of logos, pathos, and ethos.
Today, television and radio advertisements thrive off the use of ethos, pathos, and logos. Society is based around these different types of appeal to prove claims with evidence. People are constantly exposed to these advertisements that cause them to buy a product or service. As witnessed in Hamlet, pathos, ethos, and logos have been proven to be the most superior methods of persuasion. These uses of rhetoric have turned out to be significant in both the Elizabethan era and in today’s era. In the play, rhetoric is used to display a common trend of conflict within the characters. The universal message of Shakespeare’s work, specifically Hamlet, is revenge and justice. These themes of revenge and justice are present from start to finish throughout the whole play.