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Rhetorical Subversion in Early English Drama

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Douglas W. Hayes

This book centers on the uses and abuses of language in early English drama. It examines a number of plays alongside classical and sixteenth-century rhetorical treatises and focuses on the appearances of one stock character, the Vice figure, to determine how he uses language to dupe, implicate, and control others in the plays. The Vice figure is usually very skilled in the use of rhetoric and, in many cases, seems to be so persuasive and entertaining that the moral aims of the drama appear to be jeopardized. Douglas W. Hayes investigates the moral and rhetorical ambivalence of the Vice figure not only in Medieval morality plays and Tudor interludes, but also in the language of later characters related to the Vice such as Marlowe’s Mephastophilis and Shakespeare’s Falstaff and Iago.