AUWCL Professors Follow Shakespeare's Merchant of Venice with Interactive CLE Course 


Professors Spratt and Ridenour on stage.

On Thursday, March 16, Professors Heather Ridenour and David Spratt presented “Shakespeare and Rhetoric” at the American Shakespeare Center’s Blackfriars Playhouse in Staunton, Virginia. This unique, experiential CLE was sponsored by Virginia CLE, the Washington College of Law Legal Rhetoric Program, and the American Shakespeare Center. Attendees watched a live performance of Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice, which was followed by a three-hour live, interactive seminar with Professors Ridenour and Spratt, Dr. Ralph A. Cohen, the Co-Founder of the American Shakespeare Center, and Gonder Professor of Shakespeare and Performance at Mary Baldwin College, Sarah Enloe, Director of Education at the American Shakespeare Center, and actors from The Merchant of Venice. 

During the seminar, the faculty discussed Aristotle’s Rhetoric (ethos, logos, and pathos) and how lawyers utilize these three pillars of persuasion in legal argument. The faculty took participants through a rhetorical analysis of speeches from The Merchant of Venice to analyze the impact of rhetoric in persuading audiences. After discussing a particular scene, actors were redirected by the faculty and participants to perform scenes differently than the scenes were performed in the play and then the faculty analyzed how these differences were more or less persuasive. 

Topics covered included case theory, selecting a hero, oral argument, fact pairing, credibility in writing and speaking, analogical reasoning, persuasive fact and rule characterization, and numerous other aspects of legal argument and advocacy.  



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