In seventeenth-century France, the one context in which it was possible to publicly criticize the monarch was the pulpit. Yet, in delivering criticism, the court preacher had to avoid sounding too harsh not only for fear of giving offense but for fear the sovereign might cease listening altogether. This paper examines the rhetorical techniques by which the preacher could indirectly—and hence “safely”—criticize the king. As we see from Bossuet's “Sermon sur la prédication évangélique” (1662), far from being a simple means of cajoling, these techniques attempted to provide the preacher with the most effective means for delivering bold criticism.
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