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Throughout history, key speeches have been able to inspire people to acts of bravery or self-sacrifice, or prepare them for periods of pain and endurance.

In these activities, you will listen to King George Vl’s speech to the nation in 1939 and three other significant speeches from the past. By listening closely and reading the speech transcripts, you will learn how rhetorical devices can transform an ordinary speech into something gripping. Find transcripts of speeches on the PDF below:

Transcripts of speeches(PDF)

What is rhetoric?

Influential speeches demonstrate speakers’ grasp of the art of rhetoric. Rhetoric is the collective term for the devices or techniques that can make the difference between a speech being ordinary and it being inspiring or transforming.

Rhetoric can mean the art of composing and delivering a speech and can be described as the art of using language effectively to please or persuade.

Listen to the BBC archive of King George Vl’s speech in 1939 via the below link. Do you find the use of language pleasing? How do you react to this speech? Explain your reasons.

Listen: King George Vl’s speech