Gorgias' "Encomium of Helen" Speech and How Powerful Speech Can Bean

Paper Type:  Essay
Pages:  8
Wordcount:  1987 Words
Date:  2022-05-12


Speeches are not only ways through which an individual shares personal ideas and feelings about issues but also a way of influencing others to buy into them. Depending on the acuity and rhetoric that an individual speaker employs n delivering the talk, he or she can succeed in imparting incredible information as well as appealing to the audience. Gorgias utilizes his "Encomium of Helen" speech to convey his skill and influence of rhetoric. Conceivably, Gorgias greatly invokes similar aspects as in his other arguments including love, violence, and fate as approaches towards determining Helen's innocence. The persuaded should not be blameless but rather pitied because the power of speech blinded them. I will utilize the example of a cult in the fact that they actively leave their "normal" lives behind to follow a leader to a different life because of speech. In some instances, it is this ability to persuade by speech that compels those who subscribe to an ideology conveyed through speech to even commit heinous acts of violence. Otherwise, law-abiding citizens would not have committed any wrongful acts if it were not for the power of speech by a person so skilled in building a strong and convincing case around an issue, even if flawed. The influence of speech should be viewed in the same realm as that of violence, love or fate because it is a "powerful lord" as Gorgias states. Socrates believes that rhetoric is only a tool used for personal motivations. However, it can be utilized for both positive and negative gains. Therefore, it is not always a bad thing, just as a drug could have both helpful and harmful effects. Overall, persuasive speech is highly powerful, but not something that should always be viewed negatively.

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In the "Encomium of Helen," Gorgias skillfully utilizes his abilities in a speech to portray Helen as being expressly innocent. In the speech, he makes four arguments to prove Helens' perceived innocence, including fate, violence, speech, and love. Gorgias explains that the power of persuasive speech as a point of argument in support of Helen's innocence as he states, "Helen similarly, against her will, might have come under the influence of speech, just as if ravished by the force of the mighty (pg. 32)." In making this assumptive yet persuasive assertion, the speaker subscribes to the notion that persuasion by speech has extreme power to influence outcomes just as threats of violence or fate of the gods. Gorgias further uses typical comparisons between a speech and contemporary issues that the audience closely understand. This makes the arguments even more practical. For instance, he underscores that speech has the same effects on the soul as a drug would have on the body (Gorgias & MacDowell, 2003). He not only makes absurd generalities but also undertakes to make various follow up statements to demonstrate his stance. This is evident when Gorgias posits that just like an individual can choose to take a drug but lose control over it once in the body, so is speech. According to this analogy, one listens to the speech; they do not necessarily realize the incredible effects because persuasion can be blinding to the actual reality. In this case, the persuaded become the victims of the persuader. The skilled persuader knows their ability to manipulate. Therefore, drugs are like speech since others bring joy, pain, stir the boldness of audience, or bewitch an individual's soul with evil persuasion.

Gorgias tries to use fate, violence, and love in "Encomium of Helen" to explain Hellen's innocence as she is held responsible for the source of Trojan War. He is using rhetoric in persuading the audience to believe that there are four reasons which can explain the reason Helen drove to Troy. Gorgias argue that all the four reasons including fate, violence, love, and focus were not Helen's fault. Gorgias mostly focused on Lagos's words or power. He argues that Helen might have been bounded with love. Although Gorgias did not mention force as a great deal, he claims that if she were taken forcefully, then it would be the fault of abductors and not hers (Gorgias & MacDowell, 2003). He says that the abductor who committed the act could get the punishment and blame. In the end, Helen is robbed of her friends and home, and thus, she should get sympathy and not blames. "But if she was seized by force and illegally assaulted and unjustly insulted, it is clear that the assailant as insulter did the wrong, and the assailed as insulted suffered wrongly. It is right for the barbarian who laid barbarous hands on her by word and law and deed to meet with blame in a word, disenfranchisement in law, and punishment indeed, while she who was seized and deprived of her country and bereft of her friends, how should she not be pitied rather than pilloried? (Gorgias & MacDowell, 2003)" Hellen could have been bounded with love and fate is also explanatory. Gorgias argues that individuals do not have the capability of obstructing God's will or destiny since human beings are weak while God is strong. He said, "If love, a god, prevails over the divine power of the gods, how could a lesser one be able to reject and refuse it?" Helen is just a mere human being; thus, she could not stand the way of fortune.

The effect of speech is the same as others utilizing example of a cult. The impact of speech on an individual can be compared to the way people use the cult to explain what befall them. Cult has both positive and negative influences on people. It can make one be wealthy but engage in violent things like killing. The potential members can be influenced by a leader because of speech to leave their normal lives and join a group that is divergent from their regular world without a threat or possible influence of fate or love. A person may be forced to join a cult because of love for money. Cult also relates to a speech as it can have seductive powers of convincing an individual about a given issue. Additionally, one can find that he or she has joined cult due to some supernatural powers that cannot be controlled. Therefore, rhetoric and cult are connected as one can join it through the persuasion of a speech.

People affected by speech are not blameless and should be pitied. Gorgias said, "Speech is a powerful lord that with the smallest and most invisible body accomplishes most god-like works. It can banish fear and remove grief and instill pleasure and enhance pity" (Gorgias & MacDowell, 2003). It means that a speech is essential and it can be used to accomplish remarkable things. A speech can be utilized in removing fear, improve pity, and impart pleasure on an individual. In this case, Gorgias used rhetoric as a powerful tool to prove that Helen is innocent by compelling the mind of the persuaded in approving all the things that happened. Furthermore, Helen has the potential of leading most bodies in a rivalry utilizing her body as the only weapon. Gorgias also argues that Hellen should not be blamed for the misfortunes. Instead, the audience should pity her because the things might have come under the influence of fate, love, and violence. Furthermore, the effects of speech are strong to the cult members willing to commit heinous acts despite never being violent individuals. Cult members may change their behaviors by engaging in vicious activities although they were known to be nice people in the past. Cult members can also resolve to participate in any activity irrespective of their impacts on the society or families.

Persuasive speech is a skill techne that is most convincing in front of an ignorant audience. I agree with Gorgias because only a few skilled speakers can persuade using rhetoric, prey upon the audience according to their weaknesses, and thus they become victims. Gorgias speech has a narcotic and incantatory impact on the audience due to the language used. Even though rhetoric exists in every Sophist's curriculum, Gorgias puts more prominence as compared to the others. Plato also tries to explain what rhetoric can do in meeting the requirements which are considered a techne instead of a dangerous knack to have to have both the audience and orator. While Gorgias was having a conversation with Socrates about the matter of health in which a rhetorician can be more convincing than the doctor, he said, "Yes, indeed, I was-meaning, to the crowd." Socrates responded, "to the crowd" means "to the ignorant? For surely, to those who know, he will not be more convincing than the doctor (Plato & Waterfield, 1998)." Speech is regarded as a powerful techne since it subordinates the other technai. In the 459C of Plato's Gorgias quote, Socrates makes Gorgias approve that rhetorician can convince an ignorant audience than an expert since mastering the persuasion tools convinces a person more than little facts (Plato & Waterfield, 1998). Gorgias accepted this criticism and proclaimed that it is advantageous to his profession since an individual can be regarded to be above experts without learning anything substantial. He said, "how many men on how many subjects have persuaded and do persuade how many others by shaping a false speech (Plato & Waterfield, 1998)?" Socrates also refers to rhetoric as a type of pandering and associates it to beatification and baking. Furthermore, persuasive speech can convince ignorant audience because they do not possess the skill of rhetoric or they are naive. Furthermore, they do not have much knowledge about the speech, and this makes them agree with everything that is being said in a speech

Persuasive speech is a tool for both evil and good just as a drug can do be both helpful and harmful to a body. A speech can make a person positive about something, or it may have negative impacts on an individual. For instance, it made Gorgias not treat Helen as the primary cause of Trojan War; instead, he praises Helen by depicting her as the target of unfortunate situations. He said, "it is impossible to prevent a god's predetermination by human premeditation since by nature the stronger force is not prevented by the weaker, but the weaker is ruled and drive by the stronger; the stronger leads, the weaker follows. But god is stronger than a man in force and wisdom and other ways" (Gorgias & MacDowell, 2003). Gorgias claims that factors which were beyond the control of Hellen made her be involved the Trojan conflict. The four defenses he used include persuaded with speech, falling in love, the necessity of divine, and being apprehended using violent ways. The persuasive speech also explains the fact that despite Socrates' view of rhetoric as being negative, it can garner positive effects. For instance, the case of MLK speech. The Martin Luther King speech of 'I have a dream' is positive as it brought much attention to Civil Rights Movement that initially existed for several years. The speech made the Congress be fast in passing the Civil Rights Act. Although the speech made him be killed, it achieved its aim of people being treated equally irrespective of their race or color. The American dream MLK had in his last speech was achieved. On the other hand, Jonestown's speech had a negative impact on the audience. In his speech, he persuaded the audience to commit revolutionary suicide. Jones also used speech in distorting the perceptions of people. He needed his followers to offer him daily thanks for excellent work and food even though his followers were starving and they worked for long hours. Through his last speech, Jones and his audience committed suicide in which a few individuals survived. He used speech as coercion to kill his followers.


In conclusion, speech has a powerful influence over issues such as fate, violence, or love. It also affects an individual just like a...

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Gorgias' "Encomium of Helen" Speech and How Powerful Speech Can Bean. (2022, May 12). Retrieved from https://proessays.net/essays/gorgias-encomium-of-helen-speech-and-how-powerful-speech-can-bean

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