What is the definition of rhetorical question?

The definition of rhetorical question is a question posed for poetic or argumentative effect, rather than to elicit an answer.

Rhetorical question

Download PDF Print Page Citation Share Link

Last Updated on December 7, 2021, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 155

Rhetorical question - one asked solely to produce an effect or to make a statement, but not expected to receive an answer. The purpose to such a question, whose answer is obvious, is usually to make a deeper impression upon the hearer or reader than a direct statement would.

The...

(The entire section contains 155 words.)

Unlock This Study Guide Now

Start your 48-hour free trial to unlock this Guide to Literary Terms study guide. You'll get access to all of the Guide to Literary Terms content, as well as access to more than 30,000 additional guides and more than 350,000 Homework Help questions answered by our experts.

  • Introduction
  • Complete Index
Start your 48-Hour Free Trial

Rhetorical question - one asked solely to produce an effect or to make a statement, but not expected to receive an answer. The purpose to such a question, whose answer is obvious, is usually to make a deeper impression upon the hearer or reader than a direct statement would.

The etymology of rhetorical is the same as that of rhetoric, as discussed above. The second word of the term, “question,” is from the Latin quaestio derived from quarere, meaning “to seek or ask.”

In Shakespeare’s The Merchant of Venice, Shylock uses rhetorical questions in his famous speech:

Hath not a Jew eyes? hath not a Jew hands, organs, dimensions, senses, affections, passions? . . . If you prick us, do we not bleed? if you tickle us, do we not laugh? if you poison us, do we not die? And if you wrong us, shall we not revenge?

Act III, scene i : lines 55 – 63

Explore all literary terms.

Illustration of PDF document

Download Guide to Literary Terms Study Guide

Subscribe Now
Previous

Rhetoric

Next

Rhyme