.Professor Gary Watt’s workshop was erudite, entertaining and inspiring. (Gary dwelt on the power and musicality of lists comprising three items) . A wrapt audience was treated to a brief history of rhetoric encompassing Demosthenes, Cicero, Shakespeare and topical British and American examples; Winston Churchill, Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama and the peerless Michelle Obama.
The focus of the workshop was Brutus’ and Mark Antony’s use of rhetorical devices as each sought to persuade the people that Caesar’s assassination was either a necessary act to save the republic or the unjustifiable murder of a a great Roman general and friend of the people. The textual analysis was utterly absorbing and enlivened with plenty of humorous asides.
Professor Watt asked us to consider the young Shakespeare, well versed in rhetoric since his schooldays in Stratford, thinking about what Mark Antony could have said to persuade the Roman people to accept the destruction of a revered republic and support the gradual but inevitable birth of an empire and by so doing fundamentally change their world.
Shakespeare presents us with a masterclass in the art of persuasion. Brutus, the patrician, fails to engage his audience, fails to ‘sweeten’ his words and so fails to persuade. Conversely, Mark Antony is a master of rhetoric and wins the people’s hearts and minds.
The hour long workshop flew by, it could have been twice as long for Gary Watt is no mean rhetorician himself and his closing words; ‘ ….because Shakespeare is the best’ rang true with his audience.