Rhetorical question

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A Rhetorical question is a statement that is phrased in the form of a question, but for which the speaker expects no answer. Either the speaker expects to answer the question himself, or believes that only one answer is possible. A true question engages the listener's attention by requiring listener to think of an answer. A rhetorical question is a manipulative technique which seeks to gain the listener's attention by posing as a question, even though the speaker is not interested in getting an answer and does not intend to conduct a dialog.

Examples of rhetorical questions:

  • "Would you like to swing on a star/Carry moonbeams home in a jar/And be better off than you are/Or would you rather be a mule?"[1]
  • "You all did see that on the Lupercal/I thrice presented him a kingly crown,/Which he did thrice refuse: was this ambition?"[2]
  • "Are you aware that the candidate is known all over Washington as a shameless extrovert?"[3]

Notes and references

  1. Jimmy Van Heusen and Johnny Burke, "Swinging on a Star," 1944
  2. Shakespeare, William, The Life and Death of Julius Caesar", Act III, Scene 2
  3. George Smathers, campaigning against Claude Pepper in the 1950s (attributed)