An analysis of the Aristotelian rhetorical appeals of ethos, logos, and pathos in selected musical plays of Rodgers and Hammerstein
Rodgers and Hammerstein began their partnership in 1942. Their history changed the history of musical theatre. This dissertation is a rhetorical analysis of the scripts and scores of three of Rodgers and Hammerstein's musicals, Oklahoma!, Carousel and South Pacific. These texts are particularly well suited to this rhetorical study because of the recognized social messages that they assert and the prominence of Rodgers and Hammerstein in the history of the genre.
Oklahoma!, Carousel and South Pacific exemplify the modern book musical in which "the songs and dances are fully integrated into a well-made story with serious dramatic goals that are able to evoke genuine emotions other than laughter" (Riis 137). This analysis identifies examples of ethos, pathos, and logos as argued in Aristotle's text, On Rhetoric, and illustrates how these concepts were used throughout Rodgers and Hammerstein's content.
On Rhetoric is Aristotle's text on the theory of rhetoric, the art of persuasion, and the ability to recognize how people have been and can be persuaded. It is essentially the first text on the theory of communication. Improving communication is the foundation of what makes rhetoric right. Aristotle argues that man must understand human nature in order to communicate.
Rodgers and Hammerstein's use of these Aristotelian persuasive devices not only helps to cement the other aspects of integration, but also serves to communicate the persuasive messages that reflect beliefs commonly held by Americans of the World War II and subsequent eras and provides arguments exemplifying both how and why those beliefs should shift. Lovensheimer notes that although society continues to evolve in "issues of race, gender, and colonialism," the fact remains that [Oklahoma!, Carousel, and] South Pacific [were] forward thinking and bold for their day"(Forward xvi).
The works of Rodgers and Hammerstein merit serious academic study. This work unites Aristotelian rhetoric and Rodgers and Hammerstein's musical plays in a scholarly fashion that will bring youth to an ancient art and respect to a youthful art.