Pragma-Rhetoric and Henry's 'Rabbit-Duck' Effect in Shakespeare's Henry V

Jelena Marelj


Adopting a pragma-rhetorical approach to Henry’s speech, I show that Henry’s ambiguity as a Christian king and Machiavel stems from what he pragmatically does with his rhetoric—conceived as a mode of persuasive argumentation. Examining Henry’s exchanges with his bishops, lords, and soldiers, I argue that Henry’s moral ambiguity is a linguistic effect produced by the discrepancy between his ethos and his logos: Henry’s attempt to persuade his audience of his ethos as a virtuous Christian monarch is undercut by his argumentative use of rhetoric, which exposes his intention to invade France.


Shakespeare; character criticism; linguistic pragmatics; rhetoric; Henry V; rabbit/duck

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