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Esther Cunningham
Dr. Chase
Comm 302
4 May 2015
Only One Gifted by Nature Can Use Art Supremely
Thank you so much for coming today. Now, we are almost out of time but does anyone
have any questions for our distinguished guest?
I have one.
Yes, Esther? Go ahead.
Well I was just wondering, Mr. Shakespeare,1 how do you begin to write a play that will
capture and convict audiences for hundreds of years? Did you even have any idea that your
works would be read, performed, analyzed, and discussed for so many years?
Unfortunately, Fate and Time have conspired against us all for, according to the clock on
your wall, I have only one minute to answer your questions. So in my briefest possible answer:
one never knows that ones works will reign in mens hearts longer than our beloved Queen
Elizabeth, but one hopes that ones works will become loved and treasured. To be honest, many
of my plays were written merely to draw a bigger audience and more money for my company. I
thought less about effective rhetoric and more about entertaining.
Well, then, I guess a better question would be: How can you best use rhetoric to
captivate an audience and in turn make a profit?
Ahh, again, I express my deepest sorrow that we are now past time and I must leave you
with this brief but unsatisfactory answer: art and genius.

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Thank you again, Shakespeare, for agreeing to teach our class for a morning. Its always
wonderful to have you visit.
Thank you, Dr. Chase for inviting me here today.
Mr. Shakespeare, I would really, really love a more through answer to my questionIm
sure you get this a lot, but Im a huge fan of your works and I would love to understand how you
wrote your beautiful plays.
Well, my dear, I am actually taking the Metra into the city now so that I can return to my
kind hosts at the Chicago Shakespeare Theatre, but if you are willing to travel, you can
accompany me and as we ride the train we can discuss how to write an effective play.
Sounds good to me!
Wonderful. To the station.
Okay, so you said that art and genius in rhetoric were the best ways to capture an
audience. But what exactly does that mean? That you can only be rhetorically effective if you
happen to be a naturally amazing writer or speaker?
Certainly it is easier for one who has been gifted by Fortune with the gift of words to
move the hearts of men than it is for those who have not been so gifted. But this gifting merely
makes it easier for the man to use the art of rhetoric. As Richard Rainolde says, Nature hath
indued every man, with a certain eloquence, and also subtilitee to reason and discusse, of any
question or proposicion propounded, as Aristotle the Philosopher, in his Booke of Rhetorike
dooeth sheweNature itself beying well framed, and afterward by arte and order of science,
instructed and adorned, must be singularly furtheredbothe in Logike and Rhetorike.2 Logic
and rhetoric provide the artificial structure that allows poets and writers to create their powerful

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works.3
Wait artificial structures? What do you mean by that? Artificial today means
something that is fake or synthetic, not something that is natural.
Gods bodkins language constantly changes. Artificial means something very different
to writers of my time. Artificial is a term of high praise since it means that the work follows
the rules and precepts or teaching of schoolmasters.4
Oh that makes much more sense. And heres the train! Shall we board? So you and
Marlowe, Jonson and all the other notable playwrights of your time actually were more respected
because you all followed the strict rules?
Yes indeed. These artificial rules are seen as being directly derived from Nature. As Sir
Philip Sidney wrote in his Apologie for Poetrie: There is no Arte delivered to mankinde that
hath not the works of Nature for his principal objectthey become Actors and Players, as it
were, of what Nature will have set forthThe Grammarian speaketh only of the rules of speech;
and the Rhetorician and Logitian, considering what in Nature will soonest prove and perswade,
thereon give artificial rules.5 Because the arts are based in Nature, they are essential to the
writer. The best poets are those who are the most skilled in applying the rules and structures
throughout their works.
Rules and structure? That sounds so restricting. Why wasnt there space for freedom
and personal exploration and expression?
In my Elizabethan England, the measure of creativity was what a poet or a writer could
do within the structure and rules provided. So there was great emphasis throughout the country
on the importance of knowing rhetoric well. The Queen herself encouraged the students at

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Cambridge to learn well their writing because there was no path more direct none shorter, none
more adapted to win the good things of fortune or the good-will of your Prince, than the pursuit
of Good Letters.6 In the age preceding mine, there was a discovery of many Classical texts,
especially those of Cicero and Quintilian.7 There was quite the interest in Humanistic rhetoric.
It allowed rhetoric to be a peaceful alternative to the violent decision making currently in vogue.
The Classical writings on rhetoric allowed the leaders of the English Renaissance to be able to
cope with the vast uncertainty of this world without too much violence. By exploring topics in a
certain structure, there was now an established form to analyze a subject and come to a
conclusion.8
Well thats kind of like the structure of your monologues! Juliets most famous one is
actually a perfect example of this whole peaceful-alternative-to-a-violent-world thing. Juliet
comes on stage to ask the Romeo-she-doesnt-know-is-listening: Wherefore art thou
Romeo? (2.2.33) because her family is at was with his. The whole rest of her speech is her
trying to figure out a way that she and Romeo can be together without either of their families
killing anyone. All that Juliet wants is a peaceful way that she can enjoy life with the boy she
just fell in love with. The world of Romeo and Juliet is a violent and bloody world, much like
Europe in the Renaissance if Im hearing you correctly. You truly are a Renaissance Humanistic
Rhetorician!
It is certainly true that my writing was shaped by my education. But my education was
more than just Cicero. It also included many of the Ancient Greek and Roman playwrights. But
really our whole system was modeled after the curriculum that Erasmus prepared for St. Pauls in
London around 1510. The molders of English Renaissance Rhetoric were those who taught in

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grammar schoolsmen like Erasmus, Agricola, Vives, Melanchthon, and Stern.9 They
implemented the rule that all students must be able to read, write, and speak in Latin. This not
only better enabled us to see and understand the Rhetoric of the Romans but also to have better
mastery over our own native tongues.
Is that why so many of your plays are modeled after Roman and Greek dramas? I mean
you basically stole the plot of Comedy of Errors right from Plautus. And Romeo and Juliet was
an Ancient Roman text, as was the story of Pyramus and Thisbe, which you embedded in A
Midsummer Nights Dream. Oh and of course the whole story of Julius Caesar was ripped right
out of Roman history. And all the different references to all the different Greek and Roman
mythologies in all of the different plays
Yes, yes, of course, my writing was shaped by my education. You today have a phrase
that goes something like write what you know and what I knew was what I was taught in
school. But I wrote that way not only because it was the material I knew, but also because the
best artists were the ones that used the preexisting foundations and tweaked and expanded them
until the new product was even more glorious than the original. The leading Tudor rhetoricians
drew so much from their Latin predecessor that their works often seemed like mere translations
of the Ancient Romans. So the creativity of the English was expressed through their positing of
new examples of Roman theories.10 This was reinforced in our early years in school. We were
first taught to know and understand the rules of a subject and which was by copying the writings
of those before us and better than us. It was the Grammar portion of the Trivium.11
Wait, can you explain more about the trivium? I went to a Classical Christian school, so
I know that the Trivium is this Classical Greek and Roman educational idea that involves

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grammar, logic, and rhetoric. From what I can remember, Grammar deals with the words and
sentences, Logic deals with arguments, and Rhetoric deals with persuasive effects.
Well yes that is true in the bare essentials. The trivium that was used in the Stratfordupon-Avon grammar school that I attended was, like yours, divided into Grammar, Rhetoric and
Logic.12 Students began their education in studying Grammar then moved to studying Logic and
Rhetoric, often together. Grammar focused on the structures of languages, specifically Latin.
Much of an English boys youth was spent translating Aesops fables from Latin into English and
then translating the Psalms and Proverbs from English into Latin. Once we were advanced
enough, we began studying the Roman playwrights in their native Latin, including Plautus, as
you have already mentioned. We often even performed in school the Roman plays, diligently
memorizing our Latin, afraid of the punishment from our School Master if we failed to recite it
perfectly. It was also in the Grammar stage where we were first introduced to poetry, careful to
imitate the proper line and meter divisions for each form.13
Wow. There are so many references in your works that are coming to my mind. All the
plays-within-a-play; the part of the Seven Ages of a Man speech where Jacques describes the
boy dragging his books, moving like a snail on the way to school; the scene in Merry Wives of
Windsor where a boy is being punished for incorrectly doing his workYour education really
left an impact on your work. But anyways. So after you were proficient in the forms and
structures, what came next?
The Grammar stage was followed by the Logic and Rhetoric stages which were helpful
in studying literature and composition. Logic was essential to allow the reader to understand

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how arguments work and what is valid and defendable and what is weak and defeatable. Ciceros
Topica was our primary text for this area.14 It was when we were studying Logic and Rhetoric
that Ciceros five step approach to Rhetoric became the guiding principle for our own
compositions. There was much debate among the scholars of my time over which of the five
sections was the most important to study or which sections actually belonged in Logic instead of
Rhetoric, but most of that conversation took place in the Universities and not in the Grammar
schools such as the one I attended. As Im sure you know, I myself did not attend a university.
My contemporaries Ben Jonson and many other of the playwrights around me were bitter at the
success of my theater troupe and liked to remind everyone that I had little Latin and less
Greek.15 But even without studying at a university, I lived in London which was the cultural
center of England so I was aware of the Rhetorical debates. But despite all the differences
between the Traditionalists, the Ramists, and the Figurists, they all base their theories off of
Aristotles work.16
As we understood Aristotle, Rhetoric was divided into Pathos, Ethos and Logos. Logos
dealt with syllogisms, laying out premises and constructing arguments. Pathos and Ethos, on the
other hand, dealt with enthymemes, trying to persuade an audience on a matter that is more
subjective.17 Rhetoric requires the speaker to analyze the situation and determine based off of
his Logos, Pathos, and Ethos what the best way to persuade his audience would be.18
Wait, isnt this when the Rhetorician Peter Ramus kind of completely changed the
understanding of Rhetoric? I mean he claimed that the discipline of Logic contained the primary
weight of any argument while the discipline of Rhetoric focused on the presentation of the

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argument. Because of Ramus, Rhetoric became focused primarily on the stylistic elements.
With Plato and Cicero and the majority of the Classicists, Rhetoric contained all the power. I
mean, sophists like Gorgias took it to the extreme by claiming that Rhetoric actually creates
truth. There was a huge shift in the power of Rhetoric right before you started writing!
That is true. However Ramus was not the only Rhetorician of my time who proposed
this new separation of Logic and Rhetoric. In The Art of Rhetorique, which actually was so
popular in my time that it went through eight different publications, Thomas Wilson cannot stress
enough to his readers his perceived importance of Logic using phrases such as I think these of
Logicke must first be minded, ere the other can well be had or In affirming it to bee possible, I
shall not better knowe it than by searching the ende, and learning by Logicke, what is the finall
cause of every thing.19 But even though Logic and Rhetoric were separated, the three forms still
were seen as essentially united. As the educator William Kempe wrote, let him take in his hand
the exercise of all these three Artes at once in making somewhat of his owne, first by
imitation.20 And so we learned the arts of Rhetoric by imitating all of the different figures of
speech, the same ones that are described in the anonymous work Rhetorica Ad Herennium.21
Oh my word, we studied those at my school too. We had this sheet of like sixty or so
different Rhetorical devices and we had to memorize an example for each one. Honestly, half of
the examples were from your plays. But Dr. Chase is adamant that things like these devices
should not be separated from the things that Ramus assigned to Logic instead.
Well even Cicero recognized that the ornamentation of beautiful Rhetoric should not be
divided from the rest of the speech writing or giving. He said It is impossible to achieve an

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ornate style without first procuring ideas and putting them into shape.22
Whoa that totally reminds me of a quote I read from Sister Miriam Joseph who wrote a
bunch on your use of language and Rhetoric in your plays. She said that Elizabethan literature
was produced by a technique which, while giving attention to patterns of sound and movement
and heaping up a rich profusion of imagery, was deeply rooted in thought and emotion.23 So I
get that this is the Rhetorical tradition that you studied while you were a boy in Grammar School.
But what I really want to know is how did you use all the patterns of sound and movement and
imagery to woo your audiences and write plays that would keep audiences coming back for
more?
What I imitated as a school boy, I imitated as a playwright. I still drew on the same
sources that I had studied when I was younger. Only I was able to push them forward and
become even more creative with the texts that I inherited. The things that Cicero was talking
about the Tudor Rhetoricians divided into three main categories: Grammar, Logic studied
through Logos, and Rhetoric studied through Pathos and Ethos. And those are the shapes that I
used to make my characters speak, to make them persuade the audiences that our shows were
worth coming back for. As you have already noted, the Elizabethan crowds did not come for a
new and innovative plot. If they had, they would have been sorely disappointed in nearly all of
my plays and my troupe would have been forced, by lack of monetary support, to disband. No,
what I did to maintain my audiences was to argue and persuade anyone who could hear the actor
speak. That is the form of the soliloquies. They are verbalized arguments persuading that the
character uses to explain his or her reasoning for pursuing a course of action. And I did not just
argue with the audience. The characters would argue and persuade each other to do things. They

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would spew out Logic and Rhetoric that would make my schoolmaster proud even in the shortest
dialogue. Even the half lines of exchange had rhetorical purpose.24
Wait, wait, thats like the scene where Lady Macbeth yells at Macbeth to screw his
courage to the sticking place and then goes through a couple different tactics to re-convince him
to murder the king.25 I mean thats an impressive feat. She goes from calling him a coward to
questioning his manhood all in order to convince him that what she wants to do is actually what
he really wants to do too! So youre saying that throughout all the speeches and conversations
you were creating arguments?
Precisely. It was through mastering the Grammar, devising the material and the
argument structure, and styling the words to communicate Pathos and Ethos that my characters
and the plays became appealing to the audiences.
Alright, this is beginning to make some more sense to me. So lets go through each of
these things and break them down so that I can better understand them, beginning with Grammar.
Now, what is the Tudor definition of Grammar? Because Grammar today deals with sentence
structure and comma placement and things like that
Well, in my school, Grammar dealt more with the stylistic elements, or showmanship
decorations that an author would incorporate in his work to display his great artistic skill and to
elevate the writing from the daily dialogue of the people.26 But yes, Grammar in Tudor England
also deals with word formation and sentence construction. However, the linguistic structure then
was much more fluid than it is for you today. You have published dictionaries codifying spelling
and pronunciation. The first English dictionaries were just beginning to be consolidated and
published in my time. So I enjoyed great freedom in what I could do with my words and

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spellings and even to some extent placement so that I could use the Iambic Pentameter to my
advantage.
Oh my gosh. I cant tell you how many times Ive pranced around the theater room
chanting da DUM da DUM da DUM da DUM da DUM to ensure that we all understood
precisely what an iamb was.
Yes, Iambic Pentameter was the fixed structure for how the dialogue of a play should be
written. Of course, sometimes I purposely chose not to use the iambic structure. Sometimes I
would use other forms of stress to either emphasize specific words or show the heightened
emotions of a character. Sometimes, when I would write for fairies or other magical creatures I
would not use the pentameter structure and I would write them little sing-song ditties that were
only six or eight syllables per line instead. And sometimes I would eschew the poetic form all
together and write entire speeches, dialogues, or even characters in prose.
Yeah, Hamlet speaks in prose and some critics think that Prose is like a representation of
madness since Ophelia also speaks in prose. Or when Malvolio from Twelfth Night also turns his
speech pattern from poetry into prose when he is reasoning through the letter that he thinks his
mistress Olivia has sent him to confess her love. But I think that all of those are just exceptions
that prove the predominance of Iambic Pentameter as the structure for a play.
Very true. I would purposefully break the rules of form in order to create a more full
and developed character and to distinguish my characters from each other. As I continued to
write plays, I became better and better at it. In my first few works such as Titus Andronicus, my
characters all speak in heightened Iambic Pentameter with neat phrases that end with the line.
But by the time I wrote my last play The Tempest, my characters were stretching phrases across

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lines and I was better at playing within the rigid Iambic form. I had become so acquainted with
it through writing my 154 sonnets and thirty-seven plays that I could manipulate it to do
whatever I wanted.
That was also true with other forms of Grammar. Even in my early works, I would
intentionally break certain established rules of style and composition as a means to further
develop a character. I did this most often with my lowest class characters like Bottom the
Weaver from A Midsummer Nights Dream. In an attempt to recount the strange experience that
Bottom just went through, he misquotes a passage from 1 Corinthians saying The eye of man
hath not heard, the ear of man hath not seen, mans hand is not able to taste, his tongue to
conceive, not his heart to report what my dream was.27 I wrote Bottom so that he is consistently
misusing words. He does it again during the play within the play saying things like I see a
voice. Bottom is endearingly pompous to the audience. He thinks the world of himselfhe
tries to play all the parts in Pyramus and Thisbeand yet, obvious to the audience, Bottom is not
quite as good at everything as he thinks he is.
Well that kind of ties into the Pathos and Ethos of a speaker then, right?
Yes, of course. Pathos is the speaker ensuring that his or her audience is in the best
emotional state possible to receive the message.28 Ethos is the attitude that the audience has
towards the speaker.29 So with Bottom, he tries to put his on stage audience in a mood of awe
and wonder at his moving performance when he says I see a voice. But his Ethos is quite
different. For the noblemen and their new brides who are watching his performance do not
respond with oohs and ahhs. Instead the men gently tease him saying The best in this kind
are but shadows and the worst are no worse, if imagination mend them (5.1.215) and Hippolyta,
the new duchess of Athens, scorns in reply, it must be your imagination then, and not

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theirs (5.1.217). And yet, something in Bottoms performance must be compelling to her
because after his suicide over his lost lover, Hippolyte shushes the men who are again gently
teasing the untrained actor saying, Beshrew my heart, but I pity the man (5.1.286). Clearly
Bottoms style of speaking his Grammar, while bombastic at times and almost incomprehensible
at others, is not his only means of persuasion. He is also able to persuade his audience through
his passionate performance and genuine emotion. He is able to create Pathos in his audience and
establish Ethos for himself.
Wow, all of these things tie into each other. It gets harder and harder to classify whether
your use of a certain technique is a beautiful adornment or a means of enhancing a characters
depth. I mean it makes sense that all of these elements are interconnected because they all
should be functioning seamlessly in the play.
Very true. While the Tudor writers wanted the audiences to notice their clever and
innovative use of Grammar, there were also times that these devices were meant to be
subconsciously recognized without the audience being able to say, Oh what a clever use of
synecdoche there! Often the Grammatical functions best aid the Pathos and Ethos of a character
when they slide unnoticed through the audiences ears.30
Thats so very true. But how did you even come up with the material that you wanted to
write about?
That was part of the Invention portion of Logic and Rhetoric. For Tudor Rhetoricians,
Invention was deciding what to write about. The author was not necessarily trying to create a
new story. Instead he was trying to develop new and better forms of argumentation, Aristotles
view of Logos. This comes through in the characters monologues, the arguments they present to
explain the problem they are facing, and what they are going to do to overcome that problem. In

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Tudor English Rhetoric, there were a few preferred methods of doing this. One was appealing to
higher authorities, such as gods. One was by clarifying through a definition what the speaker
was discussing. Another was by distinguishing what the speaker was discussing by contrasting it
to what he wasnt. And there were many more forms of Invention. It was not until the character
had clarified what the topic was that he or she could continue on to the other part of Logos to
develop the argument further.
So what did that development look like?
Here I must again refer you to our Tudor understanding of Aristotles works on the
subject. The main form of argumentation was syllogisms.31 Of course, as with Grammar, I
delighted in taking the traditional forms and subverting them when I was trying to shape and
mold a character that was of a lesser class than the others.
Now approaching Ogilvie Transportation Center. Please make sure to take all tickets
and all other personal belongings before exiting the train.
Wow. That was perfect timing. Thank you so much for letting me follow you along on
your train ride and pester you with all my questions. I appreciate you taking the time to help me
understand your approach to writing an effective play.
Ahh my dear it was my pleasure. And now as Juliet said to her fair Romeo, Parting is
such sweet sorrow. I hope that you continue to pursue your interests and never stop asking
questions.
And with a wave from the Bard as he walked off the train and disappeared into the
crowd, Esther woke up to discover she was not standing on a train in Ogilvie but rather lying in
her bed in Wheaton.

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Notes
1

It should be noted that this essay assumes the historical existence of William Shakespeare as the primary
author of the plays, sonnets, and long poems commonly attributed to him. This is not a debate over the
authorship of the Shakespearean canon but rather an examination of the rhetorical theory behind it. In
this paper, Shakespeare will comment on rhetorical theories of his contemporaries and before, even
though he may have never interacted with them while he was actually alive. True to how he wrote his
plays, Shakespeare may create some words of his own in this dialogue that should be fairly easy to
understand based on context.
2

Richard Rainolde as quoted in Joseph, Sister Miriam. Rhetoric in Shakespeare's Time. New York:
Harcourt Brace, 1962. 6. Print.
3

ibid. 5-8.

ibid. 5.

Sir Philip Sidney as quoted in Joseph, Sister Miriam. Rhetoric in Shakespeare's Time. New York:
Harcourt Brace, 1962. 6. Print.
6

Trousdale, Marion. Shakespeare and the Rhetoricians. Chapel Hill: U of North Carolina, 1982. Print.

Conley, Thomas M. Rhetoric in the European Tradition. Chicago: U of Chicago, 1994. 109. Print.

ibid. 110.

Joseph, Sister Miriam. Shakespeare's Use of the Arts of Language. Connecticut: Martino, 2013. 8. Print.

10

Joseph, Sister Miriam. Rhetoric in Shakespeare's Time. New York: Harcourt Brace, 1962. 16. Print.

11

ibid. 4.

12

There is no external proof that Shakespeare attended grammar school. It may be presumed, however,
that he did. Joseph, Sister Miriam. Shakespeare's Use of the Arts of Language. Connecticut: Martino,
2013. 8. Print.
13

Joseph, Sister Miriam. Rhetoric in Shakespeare's Time. New York: Harcourt Brace, 1962. 9. Print.

14

ibid. 9.

15

Ben Jonson wrote this in a tribute to William Shakespeare found in the introduction to the First Folio

16

Joseph, Sister Miriam. Rhetoric in Shakespeare's Time. New York: Harcourt Brace, 1962. 18. Print.

17

Joseph, Sister Miriam. "Logos: The Topic of Invention Logos: Argumentation Pathos and Ethos."
Shakespeare's Use of the Arts of Language. Connecticut: Martino, 2013. 90-292. Print.
18

ibid, 19.

19

ibid. 24.

20

ibid. 28.

21 Anonymous.

Rheotorica Ad Herennium." The Rhetorical Tradition: Readings from Classical times to


the Present. Ed. Patricia Bizzell and Bruce Herzberg. 2nd ed. Boston: Bedford of St. Martin's, 1990.
243-282. Print

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22

Cicero as quoted in ibid. 40.

23

ibid. 40.

24

Joseph, Sister Miriam. Shakespeare's Use of the Arts of Language. Connecticut: Martino, 2013. 243.
Print.
25

Shakespeare, William. "Macbeth." The Applause First Folio of Shakespeare in Modern Type. Ed. Neil
Freeman. New York: Applause, 2001. Print. (1.7)
26

Joseph, Sister Miriam. Shakespeare's Use of the Arts of Language. Connecticut: Martino, 2013. 48.
Print.
27

Shakespeare, William. A Midsummer Night's Dream. Ed. Jonathan Bate. 2008 Modern Library Pbk. ed.
New York: Modern Library, 2008. Print. (4.1)
28

Joseph, Sister Miriam. Shakespeare's Use of the Arts of Language. Connecticut: Martino, 2013. 242.
Print.
29

ibid. 272. Print.

30

ibid. 54. Print.

31

ibid. 176.