Themes: Part 5

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(1) Repetition At The Beginning – Eloquent and rhythmic effects can be achieved by repeating a word or phrase at the beginning of consecutive clauses or sentences in order to form a rhythmic pattern which will capture the juror’s attention, stir their emotions, and persuasively deliver the message. Consider the following phrases of Martin Luther King in his Lincoln Memorial speech in 1963 wherein he uses the repetitive phrase “one hundred years later” in referring back to the signing of the Emancipation Proclamation:

But one hundred years later, we must face the tragic fact that the Negro is still not free.

One hundred years later, the life of a Negro is still sadly crippled by the manacles of segregation and the chains of discrimination.

One hundred years later, the Negro lives on a lonely island of poverty in the midst of a vast ocean of material prosperity.

One hundred years later the Negro is still languishing in the corners of American society and finds himself in exile in his own land.

This repetition at the beginning of the sentence creates a refrain.

(2) Refrain – A review of Martin Luther King’s “I Have A Dream” speech shows the brilliant use of refrain as he moves from the repetition of “one hundred years later” to repeating “I have a dream” which sequels into the refrain of “let freedom ring” which culminates in the climax of “free at last! free at last! thank God Almighty, we are free at last!”

Applying the triad/refrain technique to a summation may be illustrated as follows:

They gambled with our public safety.

They gambled with our judicial system.

They gambled with young David’s life.

We know that David lost their gamble.

We know that his parents lost their gamble.

We know that they must never, never, never be allowed to win their treacherous gamble.

Abraham Lincoln, in the Gettysburg Address, utilized the Rule of Three “of the people, by the people and for the people” as well as refrain “We shall not desecrate, we shall not consecrate, we shall not hallow this ground.”

(3) Echo Effect – The echo effect of repetition is achieved through the repetition at the beginning of successive sentences of one word or phrase which repeats the speaker’s theme. This may be a declarative statement such as the “I have a dream” which was used eight times consecutively by Martin Luther King or it may be in the form of a rhetorical question which reminds the jurors of their power, such as “what is this child’s life worth in our community?”

Politicians have understood the effectiveness of refrain in the echo effect by repeating phrases at the beginning of sentences for centuries. Consider the following example of repetition by Franklin D. Roosevelt:

Whoever seeks to set one nationality against another, seeks to degrade all nationalities. Whoever seeks to set one race against another, seeks to enslave all races. Whoever seeks to set one religion against another, seeks to destroy all religion.

(4) Augmentative Repetition – Daniel Webster coined the phrase “augmentative repetition” in order to identify and encourage the use of either the same word or a form of the same word for cumulative effect in conveying a message.

It has been the practice of English teachers to encourage the use of synonyms rather than repeating the same word. In fact, the standard rule in English has been promulgated to “never use the same word in a sentence – or within twenty lines”. H.W. Fowler in Modern English Usage refers to this as a fatal influence. Consider the use of augmentative repetition by John F. Kennedy: “We will neglect our cities to our peril for in neglecting them we neglect the nation.”

As was so often true with respect to the effective use of rhetorical devices it was accomplished brilliantly by Winston Churchill in his first speech as Prime Minister before Parliament in 1940. Note the use of sequel from war to victory to survival:

You ask, what is our policy? I say it is to wage war by land, sea and air. War with all our might and with all the strength God has given us, and to wage war against a monstrous tyranny never surpassed in the dark and lamentable catalog of human crime. That is our policy.

You ask, what is our aim? I can answer in one word. Victory. Victory at all cost, victory in spite of all terrors, victory, however long and hard the road may be, for without victory there is no survival. Let that be realized. No survival for the British Empire, no survival for all that the British Empire has stood for, no survival for the urge, the impulse of the ages, that mankind shall move forward towards its goal.

Napoleon, who was a great orator as well as a military genius, said “In speech making you need only one technique, and that is repetition, repetition and repetition”.

(5) Repetition of the Central Theme – In addition to the repetition of a word or phrase, the most effective means for conveying a message to the jury is through the repetition of a central theme throughout the case. After voir dire is complete, your theme should be clear to the jury. Certainly by the time you’ve completed opening statement, your theme should be crystal clear to the jury. Repeat the theme effectively by approaching the same basic theme from several different positions in your proof. By the time the evidence is complete, summation should simply be a review of what each juror has heard and seen several times during the course of the trial. Every member of the jury should know precisely what your theme is before you rise for summation.

e. Thematic Reversal – In keeping with Aristotle’s first principle of persuasion, i.e., to well dispose your audience to you and ill dispose them to your enemy, we use careful theme development in order to simply, forcefully and persuasively well dispose the jury to our case. However, the second half of the rule is equally important, i.e. to ill dispose them to your enemy. One of the most effective methods for accomplishing this is through the use of thematic reversal. This is accomplished by reviewing very carefully your opponent’s theme and in addition to simple rebuttal of their theme, reverse it and use their own theme against them. One of the most eloquent example of thematic reversal emerges from the colloquy between Brutus and Mark Antony in Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar.

Brutus, in his summation before the people of Rome immediately following Caesar’s death, brilliantly stated the theme of the slayers that Caesar had to be slain for the good of Rome because he was ambitious. Mark Antony rebutting Brutus without either criticizing or directly disputing him accomplishes this in a brilliant display of thematic reversal by examining carefully the slayers theme that Caesar was ambitious. While constantly praising the slayers as “honorable men” and without directly attacking their motives or their actions, Mark Antony reverses the theme of ambition, demonstrating Caesar’s lack of ambition, while speaking in positive terms about Caesar’s slayers throughout the summation. As Mark Antony reverses the theme, he reverses the minds of his jurors also. In analyzing the comparative speeches of Brutus and Mark Antony, consider Shakespeare’s use of the rhetorical devices which we are discussing herein. There is a reason why we are still watching, reading and enjoying his plays four hundred years after they were written. Consider the following “Summations”:

Brutus: Be patient till the last.

Romans, countrymen, and lovers! Hear me for my cause, and be silent, that you may hear. Believe me for mine honor, and have respect to mine honor, that you may believe. Censure me in your wisdom, and awake your senses, that you may the better judge. If there be any in this assembly, any dear friend of Caesar’s, to him I say that Brutus’ love to Caesar was no less than his. If then that friend demand why Brutus rose against Caesar, this is my answer: Not that I loved Caesar less, but that I loved Rome more. Had you rather Caesar were living and die all slaves, than that Caesar were dead to live all freemen? As Caesar loved me, I weep for him; as he was fortunate, I rejoice at it; as he was valiant, I honor him; but as he was ambitious, I slew him. There is tears for his love, joy for his fortune, honor for his valor, and death for his ambition. Who is here so base that would be a bondman? If any, speak, for him have I offended. Who is here so rude that would not be a Roman? If any, speak, for him have I offended. Who is here so vile that will not love his country? If any, speak, for him have I offended. I pause for a reply.

All: None, Brutus, none.

Brutus: Then none have I offended. I have done no more to Caesar than you shall do to Brutus. The question of his death is enrolled in the Capitol, his glory not extenuated, wherein he was worthy, nor his offenses enforced, for which he suffered death.

* * *

Brutus: Good countrymen, let me depart alone, And for my sake, stay here with Antony. Do grace to Caesar’s course, and grace his speech tending to Caesar’s glories, which Mark Antony, by our permission, is allowed to make. I do entreat you, not a man depart, save I alone, till Antony have spoke.

* * *

Antony: Friends, Romans, countrymen, lend me your ears! I come to bury Caesar, not to praise him. The evil that men do lives after them, the good is oft interred with their bones; so let it be with Caesar. The noble Brutus hath told you Caesar was ambitious; if it were so, it was a grievous fault, and grievously hath Caesar answered it. Here, under leave of Brutus and the rest-for Brutus is an honorable man; so are they all, all honorable men–come I to speak in Caesar’s funeral. He was my friend, faithful and just to me; but Brutus says he was ambitious, and Brutus is an honorable man. He hath brought many captives home to Rome, whose ransoms did the general coffers fill. Did this in Caesar seem ambitious? When that the poor have cried, Caesar hath wept; ambition should be made of sterner stuff: yet Brutus says he was ambitious, and Brutus is an honorable man. You all did see that on the Lupercal I thrice presented him a kingly crown, which he did thrice refuse. Was this ambition? Yet Brutus says he was ambitious, and sure he is an honorable man. I speak not to disprove what Brutus spoke, but here I am to speak what I do know. You all did love him once, not without cause; what cause withholds you then to mourn for him? O judgement, thou art fled to brutish beasts, and men have lost their reason. Bear with me; my heart is in the coffin there with Caesar, and I must pause till it come back to me.

First Citizen: Methinks there is much reason in his sayings.

Second Citizen: If thou consider rightly of the matter, Caesar has had great wrong.

* * *

Fourth Citizen: Marked ye his words? He would not take the crown; therefore ’tis certain he was not ambitious.

* * *

Antony: But yesterday the word of Caesar might have stood against the world. Now lies he there, and none so poor to do him reverence. O masters! If I were disposed to stir your hearts and minds to mutiny and rage, I should do Brutus wrong and Cassius wrong, who, you all know, are honorable men. I will not do them wrong; I rather choose to wrong the dead, to wrong myself and you, than I will wrong such honorable men. But here’s a parchment with the seal of Caesar; I found it in his closet, ’tis his will. Let but the commons hear this testament–which, pardon me, I do not mean to read–and they would go and kiss dead Caesar’s wounds and dip their napkins in his sacred blood, yea, beg a hair of him for memory, and, dying, mention it within their wills, bequeathing it as a rich legacy unto their issue.

* * *

Antony: Good friends, sweet friends, let me not stir you up to such a sudden flood of mutiny. They that have done this deed are honorable. What private griefs they have, alas, I know not, that made them do it. They are wise and honorable, and will, no doubt, with reasons answer you. I come not, friends, to steal away your hearts. I am no orator, as Brutus is; but, as you know me all, a plain blunt man, that love my friend, and that they know full well that gave me public leave to speak of him. For I have neither wit, nor words, nor worth, action, nor utterance, nor the power of speech, to stir men’s blood. I only speak right on; I tell you that which you yourselves do know; show you sweet Caesar’s wounds, poor poor, dumb mouths, and bid them speak for me. But were I Brutus, and Brutus Antony, there were an Antony would ruffle up your spirits and put a tongue in every wound of Caesar that should move the stones of Rome to rise and mutiny.

* * *

Antony: Now let it work. Mischief, thou art afoot, take thou what course thou wilt.

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