In The Merchant of Venice Shakespeare draws on several aspects of the classical rhetorical tradition so widely studied in Renaissance England. The main characters have distinctive rhetorical styles: Launcelot and the would-be witty courtiers are rhetorically characterized by vices of language, Shylock by rhetorical questions and figures of repetition, and Portia by figures of thought. A close examination of the characters' rhetorical traits reveals significant similarities between Shylock's language and that of Declamation 95 in Sylvain's The Orator, and between Portia's forensic strategy and the classical theory of status. Written in the mid-1590s, The Merchant of Venice illustrates the very uses and abuses of rhetoric described in Henry Peacham's revised version of The Garden of Eloquence (1593).
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