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Theater of StateParliament and Political Culture in Early Stuart England$
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Chris Kyle

Print publication date: 2012

Print ISBN-13: 9780804752886

Published to Stanford Scholarship Online: June 2013

DOI: 10.11126/stanford/9780804752886.001.0001

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‘Fittest Speech’: Rhetoric and Debate

‘Fittest Speech’: Rhetoric and Debate

(p.13) Chapter One ‘Fittest Speech’: Rhetoric and Debate
Theater of State
Stanford University Press

This chapter examines the communicative strategies within the Houses whereby success or failure was determined by how MPs and peers navigated the minefields of eloquence and rhetoric. Nowhere was the porous nature of Parliament activity more evident than in the ways reputations were made and lost on the center stage of Parliament, the debating chamber itself. Some members emerged with their reputations enhanced by the power of their oratory, commanding attention and the presence of the House, while others singularly failed and were booed off the stage. They failed through rambling speech, poor diction, and argument, but also because of politics. Presenting the government's position on unpopular topics (subsidies, monopolies, the Petition of Right, for example) required a mastery of rhetoric and the institutional awareness to read the mood of the Houses.

Keywords:   Parliament, speeches, Members of Parliament, eloquence, debates

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