the rhetorical strategy Norfolk employs is not an expression of his individual

The rhetorical strategy norfolk employs is not an

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the rhetorical strategy Norfolk employs is not an expression of his individual personality but is instead determined by the immediate social context of his utterance, or his social positioning. One can, of course, assert that Norfolk’s rhetorical strategy is deter- mined by Shakespeare’s verbal artistry. But Shakespeare’s artistry is itself a ff ected by this social poetic of maintenance and repair, the social rhetoric of politeness. Brown and Levinson’s politeness model can permit us to examine complex features of normal social discourse, usually neglected in the study of Shakespeare’s style, which are embed- ded in all of his plays just as they are embedded in such other written texts of his culture as letters, even though their main showplace is face-to-face conversation. While these politeness strategies commonly operate apart from the controlling artistry of speakers and writers, they can also be deliberately manipulated. In Shakespeare’s plays they can be placed in the foreground of our attention, and so treated as theme. This occurs in particular when Shakespeare represents breakdowns in the e ff ective practice of verbal maintenance, as at the beginning of King Lear or The Winter’s Tale . Indeed, in everyday conversation it is also in such circumstances of breakdown that these social strategies become visible; in more normal circumstances the strategies are generally ex- changed among people without attention being turned to them. In Henry VIII , while politeness strategies contribute signi fi cantly to the discourse of the characters, I shall not argue that they are foregrounded as theme. Instead I shall illustrate how Brown and Levinson’s model is predictive of the social language of characters in the play, and I shall demonstrate in very speci fi c ways how gender and class are caught up in the social positioning that a ff ects speech patterns. I shall also argue that an analysis of politeness forms, speci fi cally in the speeches of Katherine and  The rhetoric of politeness
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Wolsey, can help to articulate a new understanding of the social con- struction in language of dramatic character. In the introduction I suggested that our current resources for analyzing social discourse are uncoordinated – that we do not have at our com- mand the practical procedures for testing in close reading the richly suggestive observations of discourse theoreticians like Bakhtin and Volos ˇinov. In this chapter, I am less concerned to provide an overall interpretation of Henry VIII or even a comprehensive overview of its language techniques than to show how Brown and Levinson’s polite- ness model can provide Shakespeare scholars with a practical inventory of distinctions that will permit analysis of characters’ concrete utteran- ces as products of social intercourse. The politeness model can open up a way to analyze and test, for example, Volos ˇinov’s claims that an utterance is ‘‘the product of the reciprocal relationship between speaker
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