The Use of the Rhetorical Exordium in Middle English Drama

The Use of the Rhetorical Exordium in Middle English Drama

St.-Jacques, Raymond C.

Florilegium, Vol. 3 (1981)


When R.B. McKerrow wrote his now classic paper “Form and Matter in the Publication of Research,” he recommended that the following main di­ visions precede the actual body or demonstration:

1. The introduction, in which the author briefly states the present position of research on his subject and the views cur­ rently held on it.

2. The proposal, in which he describes in outline what he hopes to prove.

3. The boost, in which he proceeds to magnify the importance of his discovery or argument and to explain what a revolution it will create in the views generally held on the whole period with which he is dealing. This is, as it were, a taste of sauce to stimulate the reader’s appetite.

In this he was of course, reflecting one of the oldest divisions of discourse, the exordium, meant to provide the audience with a brief, lucid, and interest-arousing summary of the oration to come.

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