Rhetorical Analysis of “Braveheart” Speech

Braveheart is an epic film from 1995. If you haven’t watched it or heard of it before, I highly recommend it, especially if you’re a fan of epic war movies (think Gladiator, 300, Troy, etc.). It tells the story of the true events of William Wallace, a Scottish warrior who led his country in the first war of Scottish independence from England. Though the film has received criticism for its historical inaccuracies, William Wallace is not a fictional character, and one could imagine the heroics demonstrated in the film as actions he very well could have enacted in that time. Throughout the film William motivates his conspirators and army men with wise sayings that eventually inspire them to act to culminate in these heroics. Right before the climatic battle between the Scottish and the English for Wallace’s countrymen’s freedom, he gives a speech to them that ultimately inspires them to go into the battle not knowing whether they would live or die.

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This speech will now be broken down by rhetorical analysis—specifically, the ethos (what kind of image the character projects to his audience) and pathos (how the character moves the emotions of his audience) of the movie’s speech will be examined, as well as the tropes (figurative uses of words through various expressive devices) and schemes (how words are arranged in a sentence) interwoven together that helps make this speech rhetorically significant. Before I continue, it is also worth mentioning what kind of style this speech is given in. Roman rhetorician Cicero distinguished three levels of style a speaker can choose to speak in: a low style (used for teaching), a middle style (used for entertainment), and a high style (used to move an audience). For obvious reasons, the speech delivered by William Wallace is observed to be given in the high style, because, as a result of his speech, his audience was moved to action. The speech will now be broken down line by line with an analysis of each item mentioned before (ethos, pathos, tropes, schemes).


 

“I am William Wallace.”

It is worth noting that prior to William giving his speech, most of the Scottish army had never seen him before. In the film, many of the warriors in the crowd speculated and discussed who he was and how he looked before he even revealed himself. When William finally does, he says it in the most matter-of-fact way. In this simple sentence, he made his ethos known. As this average heighted person galloping about the crowd on his horse, he simply introduces himself. He doesn’t do it in a very majestic way, eliciting from the crowd some sort of reverence he deserves. He simply makes the statement. In this way, he projects an image to his audience, the Scottish army, as one who is just like them, one who isn’t a seven foot tall monster, as some in the crowd had speculated, but one who looked as Scottish as they did

“And I see a whole army of my countrymen, here in defiance of tyranny!”

A trope can be observed in this sentence. The use of a metonymic device (substituting a thing with a closely associated thing) is used in this exclamatory sentence. William states that he sees his Scottish people assembled in an army and they are assembled here in defiance to tyranny, which actually is a cruel and oppressive government. Tyranny substitutes what they are actually defying against—the English. The English have been ruling over the Scottish during this time period as depicted in the movie, and the way in which they ruled, the Scottish saw it as tyranny. William Wallace had just echoed what his countrymen have been sensing from their ruler. In this way, supporting the high style that Cicero defines, William Wallace moves his peoples’ oppressed hearts. On that note, the pathos in this statement can be observed. A term like tyranny has a negative connotation associated, therefore Wallace’s usage of the term as something they are going up against creates a sense of justification in their emotions, riling them up to take action for a “just” cause. After all, defiance against tyranny means righteousness.

“You have come to fight as free men. And free men you are!”

The scheme observed in this sentence is an antimetabole (a sentence arrangement in which items are repeated in reverse order). The sentences are essentially reversed. The object “free men” in the first sentence is seen as the subject in the second sentence. William, in phrasing it this way, tells the audience that they have come to fight as ones who are free, free from the tyranny mentioned earlier, free from the English, no longer under their rule, and repeating, in an unexpected manner, that they are in fact free. This adds onto the pathos, how the audience feels, because the meaning is conveyed that they are free men, not meant to be under the oppressive rule of the English. This also adds to William’s ethos, because he speaks as one who has seen this truth and declares this truth over his people. Most of his countrymen see that he speaks from his heart, speaking honesty.

“What will you do without freedom? Will you fight?”

After having built his audience up by declaring those last couple statements, William elicits this rhetorical question—“What will you do without freedom?” Essentially, what would they do if they were not free people? Would they fight for their freedom? By asking these questions, William gauges his countrymen’s commitment and willingness to act for their country.

“Two thousand against ten?” –a warrior in the crowd shouted, “No! We will run – and live!”

A hyperbolic (intentionally overstated) question made by one of the audience members that summarizes the situation at hand. There are not literally two thousand of the English opposition, neither are there only ten Scottish warriors, but the exaggeration is made to emphasize their fear, their lack of faith.

“Yes!” Wallace shouted back.

William shouts back an affirmative response immediately to the question raised by one of the warriors in the audience. This response of his also adds onto his ethos, that he is no coward, and that he is a man of faith. A man who believes that their “ten” are able to go up against the English’s “two thousand.”

“Fight and you may die. Run and you will live at least awhile.”

William answers the second part to that statement made by the warrior in the crowd. He tells the audience honestly what might happen if they fight, as well as what truthfully might happen if they don’t fight and run away. They would live, but not for long, but a while. An antithesis (contrasting items side by side) is observed in these sentences. Two options that contrast—fight or run—but both show essentially the same outcome—death. William conveys the meaning that would they rather die fighting for something of great weight, or run away and die later for something lacking in weight.

“And dying in your bed many years from now, would you be willing to trade all the days from this day to that for one chance, just one chance, to come back here as young men and tell our enemies that they may take our lives but they will never take our freedom!”

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In William’s concluding statement before the audience is literally moved to action in battle, he makes one last emotional appeal. First, he creates an image in the minds of his listeners, an image of death on a bed. Then he offers up a trade. This trade includes all the days in between that day of death on the bed and the day they could face their enemies and tell it to their face what they really want to say. “You can take our lives, but you will never take our freedom.” This last emotional appeal (pathos) stirs up the audience to cheer and move into battle in a unified spirit.

William Wallace’s purpose in delivering this speech was to give his audience the truth, that they are free men, that they are doing something right (opposing tyranny), and that they might die doing it. Granted it is a movie speech and was scripted, it is well executed in the context it’s given (Scottish independence) and does a good job depicting how warriors ought to be moved prior to giving their lives for the ideals of freedom. William’s ethos is clearly established, the pathos observed in his speech emotionally drew in his audience, and the stylistic devices (tropes and schemes) helped to tightly wrap up his message to be delivered rightfully.

Here’s the clip of the speech from the movie (start from 1:35):

Commonplace Entry #6

“Our Grill Masters expertly craft our new Signature Chicken Salads to deliver a variety of authentic Mexican-inspired flavors. Each salad is prepared with ingredients like savory black beans, hand-sliced avocados, fresh mango salsa, crispy bacon or crumbled Cotija cheese. And since there are four delicious salads to choose from, you might just have to try them all. Some say the lengths we go to are crazy. We say it’s Crazy You Can Taste.” –El Pollo Loco advertisement from the week of 5/5/14

I was eating lunch today and reading what came in the mail. I saw this El Pollo Loco advertisement for this week that included its coupon and promotional items for the month. This quote is from their description advertising their new “Signature Chicken Salads, Fire-Grilled.” I noticed a few things about the quote. Their food preparers are referred to as ‘Grill Masters,’ implying that there is a mastery of the grill (which I do not doubt). And the last two lines jumped out at me especially. ‘Crazy’ is a state of mind. When one is described as crazy it is the same as saying that person is mentally deranged. Here the fast food restaurant describes that you can taste this mentally deranged state, meaning that you taste it and you could very well be crazy afterwards. It’s a funny statement, because who wants to be crazy? But in today’s culture these types of meanings are double, and in this case, you very well will be crazy after eating their food…crazy for more…more chicken.

Commonplace Entry #5

“To this day, I prefer to believe that inside every television there lives a community of versatile, thumb-size actors trained to portray everything from a thoughtful newscaster to the wife of a millionaire stranded on a desert island. Fickle gnomes control the weather, and an air conditioner is powered by a team of squirrels, their cheeks packed with ice cubes.” –p.33 of “Me Talk Pretty One Day” by David Sedaris

Mr. Sedaris’s imagination is wildly described through this passage. He dissects how the inside of a television set really functions, that there are actually tiny little people who are able to fit any and all the roles that we have seen through programs before. He also goes on to explain how mythical creatures control whether it’s sunny or cloudy, if there’s rain or drought, and even speaks of squirrels being the reason why the air conditioner blows cold air–that is, because of the ice cubes inside their cheeks! For obvious reasons, this passage made itself known to me in many ways. The descriptions are clear enough that an image of each idea is readily made in my mind and helps me envision these strange and inspiring pictures.

A Review of the “PARKEZ Parking Stop Sign for Garages”

I never know how far to drive into my garage before hitting the cupboard at the back end and lightly scratching the front of my car’s body. I tried to troubleshoot my way around it by using my brother’s car, which is parked adjacent to mine, as a gauge. If my right hand side mirror surpasses by brother’s left hand side mirror (we have a two car parking garage and I park on the left) then I know that I have parked far enough into the garage where my backend would not be too close to the garage door and my front end would not be touching the cupboard. It’s the ideal parking situation. However, when my brother’s car isn’t there, I don’t have a gauge. I might seem a bit incompetent in my parking skills, especially in my own garage, and you might observe correctly, but I’ve thought my way in and around this too many times. It’s become a mental issue now whenever I come home. I experience a moment of stress landing my vehicle in its proper place. If you can sympathize with my testimony, then you must continue reading.

I just knew someone, somewhere out there, has experienced the same unnecessary frustrations I had. After a few minutes of googling my frustrations (to be specific, I googled “parking garage guidance”), it appeared before my eyes—the answer, the truth, the ParkEZ Flashing LED Light Parking Stop Sign for Garages. This was the answer to my inability to gracefully enter my garage.

Essentially, it’s an oversized (about the height of the average fourth grader in America) bobble-head that has a miniature stop sign as its head. This stand would be placed in the preferred ending point that you’d like your car to be parked. Once the stand is assembled and in place, you slowly drive your vehicle into the garage until the front end lightly taps the ParkEZ stand, causing it to flash (hence the “Flashing LED Light” descriptor). Once you observe the bobbing of the stand, and even the flashing, you know that you’ve landed. No more worries about scratching your front end, or damaging your dad’s makeshift cupboard, or wondering if your brother’s home so you could use his car as a gauge for yours, etc. Peace of mind can be bought, and it’s affordable at under twenty Washingtons, or one Jackson (he’s the president on the twenty dollar bill, if you didn’t know).

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I ordered one stand through Amazon after considering the reviews customers had. The stand has averaged a 3.5 star rating out of 42 reviewers on Amazon. I’m usually a four star snob when purchasing items on Amazon. If the product I’m looking to purchase doesn’t meet the 4 star requirement with at least over 30 reviewers, I’ll be highly cautious and hesitant about making the purchase. However, this product seemed too good to be true and seemed, as I said before, like the answer to my problem. After sifting through the reviews and seeing what kind of cons customers had brought forth about the stand, I made the decision to hit the kill switch and went in for the buy.

The product was delivered to me within a week, and I’ve been using it for almost three weeks now, and it’s served its purpose beautifully, so far. The important thing is, I now no longer need my brother’s car or his help in guiding me into the garage, nor do I fear more light scratches appearing on the front end of my car or my dad’s cupboard, which he complained about at times (sorry, dad). And now that I’ve had the experience of actually using the product, I can address some of the cons customers had discussed on Amazon. The main flaw I saw most people review about was how flimsy the stand’s pole could be. I didn’t have an issue with how flimsy the pole was, especially since I was more concerned about hitting things that would cause more dinges to appear on my car. Why would I want to hit something that’s hard? That would defeat the purpose of the stand. I can suggest a workaround though. Consider the thinnest and lightest PVC pipes from your local hardware store and slide this onto the pole. This might make the stand more sturdy and definitely less flimsy.

Overall, I recommend this product. If you sympathized with my story and want to be free of unnecessary frustrations when parking in any kind of garage, then this budget-friendly product will bring you comfort in ways you would have never imagined—fine, it’s not that comforting, but it’s definitely peace of mind!

This is a video of a similar product I found on YouTube. It’s literally the same product. Check it out if you’d like to see it in action! I suggest starting from 0:55.

Commonplace Entry #4

When a new disability arrives I look about to see if death has come, and I call quietly, “Death, is that you? Are you there?” So far the disability has answered, “Don’t be silly, it’s me.” -“The Measure of My Days” by Florida Scott-Maxwell

This is the beginning quote given in Chapter 6 of Ellen J. Langer’s “Mindfulness,” which is about aging. I like the entertaining use of words in this quote. The subject experiences a new disability and begins to talk to it, wondering if it’s death this time. The quote finishes with the disability answering back, as if ideas can speak for themselves, that it’s just disability. The subject shouldn’t be silly and question if it’s death, because it’s not–it’s just disability.

Commonplace Entry #3

” A borderline suffers from a kind of ‘emotional hemophilia’; she lacks the clotting mechanism needed to moderate her spurts of feeling.  Prick the delicate ‘skin’ of a borderline, and she will emotionally bleed to death.” -p. 12 of “I Hate You, Don’t Leave Me: Understanding the Borderline Personality by Jerold J. Kreisman and Hal Straus

I really like how the metaphor is used in this sentence to convey how a person suffering from borderline personality disorder suffers. Hemophilia, which is the condition in which an individual bleeds severely due to an inability of the blood to clot, explains how one with BPD can also emote severely and eventually bleed emotionally to the point of nearing death. Sometimes I struggle with using metaphors, so I don’t, but when I read a cleverly used metaphor I take notice of it. This is one of them.

Commonplace Entry #2

“We were all in a circle. Kevin was the only one outside it. We had a fire. We had to look into the fire. It wasn’t dark yet. We had to hold hands. That meant that we had to lean forward nearly into the fire. My eyes were burning. It was forbidden to rub them. This was the third time we’d done it.” -p.127 of “Paddy Clarke Ha Ha Ha” by Roddy Doyle

Each of these sentences is a simple sentence, a single independent clause. Every sentence is read quickly in succession, causing our thoughts to shift quickly from one idea to another.