An exploration of the qualities needed for an effective speech (using Henry V and MLK)

Essay by Ippala101College, Undergraduate December 2004

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Three elements are needed for one to perform an effective speech: speaker, audience, and, most importantly, the gift of rhetoric. The speaker must know what his audience wants to hear. The speaker must play off the audience's emotions to inspire and convince the audience of his words. Not only does the speaker have to know about his audience, he must also have the ability of great rhetoric. According to the Oxford English Dictionary, rhetoric is "the art of using language so as to persuade or influence others; the body of rules to be observed by a speaker or writer in order that he may express himself with eloquence." It is imperative that the eloquence of the speaker comes across when making a speech. To have eloquence with language, the speaker must choose the right words to say at the right time. It is only then that the audience can be swayed in the speaker's favor.

In William Shakespeare's Henry V, the title character of Henry is one such person who might be considered a great rhetorician. Henry became king of England when his father died. Suddenly, Henry, forced out of his immaturity as a prince, became a respected king. Henry decided to lead his army into battle against the French because he felt he had a claim to the French crown. Throughout the war against the French, Henry uses his power of words, not necessarily power of the sword, to rouse his troops. As a result of Henry's extreme ability with language, the English win the war.

Martin Luther King, Jr. is another person who uses his rhetorical ability to inspire.

On August 28, 1963, Martin Luther King stepped up to the podium in Washington D. C. to deliver one of the most well-known and influential speeches of all time:...