Rhetorical devices


Allusions and references

In Churchill’s speech, “We Shall Fight on the Beaches”, we can find several references and allusions that help the speaker enhance and emphasise certain ideas. 

Churchill praises the Royal Air Force by comparing their deeds with the mythical deeds of the Knights of the Round Table and the Crusader knights: “The Knights of the Round Table, the Crusaders, all fall back into the past”. He enhances this idea by quoting a phrase from Le Morte d’Arthur, a reworking of the le…


Alliteration and assonance

Churchill uses alliteration (the use of the same letter or sound at the beginning of closely connected words) and assonance (resemblance of sound between closely connected words) to give rhythm to his speech and attract the audience’s attention to certain ideas, making them more memorable.

We can find a few examples of alliteration and an example of assonance in the following quotation:

The British Empire and the French …


Repetition and enumeration

The speaker uses enumeration and repetition in his speech to underline certain ideas and create a dramatic, memorable effect.

For example, Churchill states that he has full confidence that the British will defend themselves no matter how long and how difficult the fight might be. At the same time, he warns the audience that Britain might be in for a very difficult fight, even more so if France were defeated. To achieve this, he uses repetition: “if necessary for years, if necessary alone”.

The repetition of the phrases “we shall” and “we…


Rhetorical questions

In his “We Shall Fight on the Beaches” speech, Winston Churchill uses rhetorical questions to draw the audience’s attention and encourage them to contemplate his ideas.

For example, when speaking about the confrontation between the British and German Air Forces at Dunkirk, Churchill states:

Can you conceive a greater objective for the Germans in the air than to make evacuation f…

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