Classical Rhetoric and its Influence
The influence that classical rhetoric has had on very famous modern-day speeches can be accredited to Cicero, the greatest Roman orator of all time. The same rhetorical devices and the elements of style that Cicero incorporated in his compelling oration against Catiline are still utilized today. One such powerful speech that included Cicero s style and rhetoric was John F. Kennedy s inaugural address.
Cicero s In Catilinam, is full of rhetorical devices. One such device that Cicero often utilizes is an anaphora, the repetition of a word or phrase. When skillfully placed within an oration, an anaphora can enhance the effectiveness of a speech. An example of increased effectiveness by using an anaphora is shown when Cicero tells Catiline Nihil agis, nihil moliris, nihil cogitas, quod non ego non modo audiam, sed etiam videam planeque sentiam (III.8.19-20). John F. Kennedy also uses a similar tactic in his speech when he says ..we shall pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe to assure the survival and success of liberty.
Like Cicero, Kennedy also incorporates the use of tricolons. help them help themselves, for whatever period is required not because the Communists may be doing it, nor because we seek their votes, but because it is right. Using a tricolon while speaking in reference to the impoverished, Kennedy s form seemed to reflect a genuine intention to help the citizens of the world.
Both Kennedy and Cicero captivated their audience with their statements. One such literary device that made that possible is a chiasmus, which consists of two corresponding pairs arranged not in parallels (a-b-a-b) but in inverted order (a-b-b-a). For example, when Cicero says castrorum impedatorem ducemque hostium (II.5.16). The use of a chiasmus helps to make a memorable statement. The most famous line within Kennedy s speech is proof of that. And so, my fellow Americans, ask not what your country can do for you ask what you can do for your country. It was this kind of emphasis and unity that made the speech so effective.
John F. Kennedy s inauguration address is a prime example of a speech that incorporates classical rhetoric to fulfill its function of persuading, teaching and beautifying ideas. He was enthused, poised, and confident. His tone and diction created an aura that eveloped everyone around him. The literary devices and elements of style that Cicreo used in his speech against Catiline contributed to make Kennedy s speech a complete success.