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Rhetorical Devices in Winston Churchill's Speeches: "Blood, Toil, Tears and Sweat" and "Their Finest Hour"

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Table of contents

  1. Introduction
  2. “Blood, Toil, Tears, and Sweat” analysis
  3. “Their Finest Hour”
  4. Churchill's similarity with Shakespeare’s Henry V
  5. Conclusion


With exuberant passion, Winston Churchill delivered many speeches during the 1940’s while World War II was happening. The British citizens of London had very limited food and material rations and were forced to live in the underground subway systems due to the continuous bombing in London. The limited rations and unsuitable living conditions led to low morale and loss of hope. Because of these conditions the rhetoric that Churchill used in his speeches was influential in raising the morale of the country. The people wanting something to believe is what made them so affected by Churchill’s powerful rhetoric. Two of Churchill’s speeches that really raised morale in the country were “Blood, Toil, Tears, and Sweat”, Churchill’s first speech as Prime Minister, and “Their Finest Hour”. Both of these speeches were directed at the House of Commons and the British government and were made just months before the Battle of Britain. The people of great Britain did not want the country to suffer through another battle and were willing to have the government make a deal with Hitler. Conversely, Churchill believed that Britain could push through and hold off the Germans. Using many rhetorical skills, he used his speeches “Blood, Toil, Tears, and Sweat” and “Their Finest Hour” to convince the soldiers, the citizens, and the government to rally behind him and to maintain morale as his speeches inspired it.

“Blood, Toil, Tears, and Sweat” analysis

In Winston Churchill’s “Blood, Toil, Tears, and Sweat” he uses rhetorical devices such as repetition, ethos (appeal to credibility), and pathos (appeal to emotion) to boost morale and inspire his listeners. Churchill uses repetition of the word victory in the quote: “It is victory, victory at all costs, victory in spite of all terror, victory, however long and hard the road may be; for without victory, there is no survival” (“Blood, Toil, Tears, and Sweat”, Churchill). The purpose of this is to convey to the audience that, yes, continuing with the war is going to be an incredible challenge, but it will ultimately end in victory. Churchill also uses the repetition of the phrase “no survival” in the quote: “no survival for the British Empire, no survival for all that the British Empire has stood for, no survival for the urge and impulse of the ages, that mankind will move forward towards its goal” (“Blood, Toil, Tears, and Sweat”, Churchill). The point of repeating this phrase is to emphasize to the British citizens and the British Government that if the British surrender, the British Empire will be taken over. This emphasized to the government that giving up was not a choice. In “Blood, Toil, Tears, and Sweat”, Winston Churchill uses pathos to cause the audience to feel emotions such as fear. Using the same quote, Churchill is able to instill fear into his audience. The quote “no survival for the British Empire, no survival for all that the British Empire has stood for, no survival for the urge and impulse of the ages, that mankind will move forward towards its goal,” (“Blood, Toil, Tears, and Sweat”, Churchill) makes the British fear that the country will be overrun by the Germans if they do not continue the war. The people and government of Great Britain want to keep control of their country and the fear of losing this control to the Germans motivates them to want to win the war and, therefore, continue with the battles. Lastly, Winston Churchill uses ethos to allow the audience to see him as one of them. His quote “I have nothing to offer but blood, toil, tears, and sweat” (“Blood, Toil, Tears, and Sweat”, Churchill) shows that he has to work hard to win this war, just as everyone else will. This quote allows him to create a characteristic spirit of unity here by allowing the British citizens and soldiers to see him as one of them and to show that they are not alone. While there are numerous examples of rhetorical devices used in this speech, ethos, pathos, and repetition really allowed Winston Churchill to convey that the people must choose the difficult path. The people of Britain knew the war was important but Churchill wanted them to know that there is to much to lose if they give up on the war. He wanted them to understand that the outcome of the war is only worth the time or effort you put in and that they were fighting for their survival. If you put in the effort and win, you will reap the benefits, if you just back out to end the war, there is no glory or meaning in your actions. Winston Churchill also meant for this quote to inspire the people to want to continue the war despite the harsh living conditions that it caused.

“Their Finest Hour”

“Their Finest Hour” was very similar in purpose to “Blood, Toil, Tears, and Sweat.” With the same passion seen in his deliverance of “Blood, Toil, Tears, and Sweat,” Winston Churchill delivered “Their Finest Hour” after the French were defeated and the citizens of Great Britain were lacking hope. Churchill, again, used rhetorical devices such as ethos, logos (appeal to logic), and pathos, to build morale and unity. Knowing that the British trust him, Winston Churchill creates an atmosphere filled with fear when saying, “What General Weygand called the Battle of France is over. I expect that the Battle of Britain is about to begin” (“Their Finest Hour”, Churchill). The mention of France’s defeat brings fear to the British as the same could happen to them. Because they trust Churchill, they trust what he will tell them what they need to do. The fear brought about by this statement leads to knowledge that the British need to do something to keep them from losing the eminent Battle of Britain. This statement gives them a reason to rally on into the war. Winston Churchill uses logos in the quote “Hitler knows that he will have to break us in this Island or lose the war. If we can stand up to him, all Europe may be free and the life of the world may move forward into broad, sunlit uplands” (“The Finest Hour”, Churchill). This part of the speech demands that the audience understands the logic in fighting back. This line lets them know that Hitler has to defeat the British to win the war and knowing that gives them an advantage over him by knowing what he is going to do.

Winston Churchill again uses pathos to create an evocation of hope. His quote “But if we fail, then the whole world, including the United States, including all that we have known and cared for…” (“The Finest Hour”, Churchill) conveys to the people that they are not alone. This quote shows that not only do the people of Britain have each other, but also the entire country of Britain has the United States. The mention of the United States brings a newfound hope to the British because they knew that Winston Churchill was using this part of his speech reach out to the United States. The citizens and government were aware that the United States could provide help with war materials and hoped that the US would respond to Churchill’s message and provide them with what they needed to succeed in the war. The mention of the United States also provided a sense of unity. The British citizens and government felt that they had an ally that wanted them to succeed and was willing to help them. This new sense of unity along with all of the other rhetorical devices used by Churchill brings a second wave a unity and moral to the citizens of Britain, which allowed Britain to go on to defeat Germany. Lastly, because of Winston Churchill’s position as Prime Minister gave him and his speeches credibility, he was easily able to appeal to ethos. Because the British population saw Churchill as a credible source, they listened to and took to heart what he had to say. Without this credibility, Churchill’s speeches would not have been taken as seriously and people would not have as easily taken his word for everything he said concerning the war. This speech, like the one analyzed before it, is just another example of how Winston Churchill was able to inspire his country to continue with World War II and go on to defeat the Germans.

Churchill’s similarity with Shakespeare’s Henry V

A character with very similar wartime rhetorical strategies as Winston Churchill is Shakespeare’s King Henry V. Before the famous battle of Agincourt, Henry V’s men were tired, cold, and hungry. They knew they were outnumbered by the French and, even thought they didn’t have the option of quitting, they saw no point in continuing the war. Because of the low morale and low motivation of the soldiers, they would have gone into the battle and lost. King Henry, who was very passionate about winning the war, gave an emotion evoking speech that completely transformed the morale of his men. Henry V accomplished this transformation of motivation by using rhetorical devices such as logos, ethos, and contrast. Logos, being Henry V’s strongest rhetorical device used in his speech, played a huge part in encouraging and inspiring the Englishmen to continue fighting. First, to show the logic in continuing to fight, Henry V uses the quote “This day is called the feast of Crispian: He that outlives this day, and comes safe home, Will stand a tip-toe when the day is named, And rouse him at the name of Crispian,” (Act 4 Scene 3, 40-43) to convey to his men that they will be proud. When the war is over and the English win, they will be proud to have fought on Saint Crispian’s day and proud that they decided to keep fighting. The second quote he uses to convey the logic to his men was “He that shall live this day, and see old age, Will yearly on the vigil feast his neighbours, And say ‘To-morrow is Saint Crispian:’Then will he strip his sleeve and show his scars. And say ‘These wounds I had on Crispian’s day‘” (Act 4 Scene 3, 43-48). Similar to the previous quote, this quote also tells the audience that there will be pride in fighting this battle. Henry V knew these men and knew what they did in their daily lives and using this information, he was able to target the men by telling them that when they go to a bar for a drink they can pull up their sleeves, and with pride, show off their battle scars. The third and last example of King Henry V using logos in his speech is the quote “then shall our names, Familiar in his mouth as household words Harry the King, Bedford and Exeter, Warwick and Talbot, Salisbury and Gloucester, Be in their flowing cups freshly remember‘d” (Act 4 Scene 3, 51-55).

Essentially, this quote is saying that if you fight in this battle, you will be famous and your name will be as well known as the names of royal people such as Harry the King, Bedford, and Exeter. Henry V wants them to see that because of the rewards that will come from fighting, it is more than logical to go through with it. After appealing to logos, King Henry V was able to easily transition to the appeal to his men’s ethos because he was a man of power and respect. His men were the ones willing to follow him into battle in the first place. While Henry V was appealing to his men’s ethos long before giving his speech, he strengthens it through a variety of different quotes. After Westmoreland expresses his wish for the English that weren’t working to be at the battle so that they weren’t outnumbered, Henry V says “No, faith, my coz, wish not a man from England: God’s peace! I would not lose so great an honour. As one man more, methinks, would share from me For the best hope I have. O, do not wish one more!” (Act 4 Scene 3, 30-33). This quote establishes his right to speak and demands that his audience listens and takes him seriously. Finally, Henry V used a lot of contrast to convince and rally his men. He uses contrast to tell his men exactly the opposite of what he wants them to do. In the quote “…That he which hath no stomach to this fight, Let him depart; his passport shall be made, And crowns for convoy put into his purse; We would not die in that man’s company” (Act 4 Scene 3, 35-38) is Henry V’s way of telling his men that they can leave and they don’t have to fight, but it will cost them their honor. No man wants to give up his honor, so this rhetorical device works perfectly to get Henry V’s men to stay. Similarly, Henry V says “the fewer the men, the greater share of honor” (Act 4 Scene 3, 22) to, again, tell his men that they can leave because it means more honor to go around for the others. As previously stated, no man wants to give up their honor and no man wants to admit that they have “no stomach to fight” so it can be inferred that none of the men leave. Overall, this speech and all of the rhetorical devices used by Henry V before the battle of Agincourt was key to England’s victory.

Winston Churchill was quite familiar with Shakespeare as evidenced by his government partially funding the Olivier film version of Henry V. This makes it very un surprising that King Henry V and Winston Churchill were very similar when it came to wartime rhetoric. Both Henry V and Churchill were fighting a war that others had very little confidence in to begin with. They were both passionate about what they were fighting for and needed a way to boost motivation and morale. Seeing as they were both in a situation of war and low moral, it is logical that they were both speaking to the people that were needed inspiration. Both Henry and Churchill delivered. The main rhetorical similarity between the two was the use of ethos and logos. As political and powerful figures, Henry V and Winston Churchill were immediately respected and listened to making their ability to appeal to ethos almost effortless. Similarly, they both used an appeal to logic to blatantly tell their people: This is what we need to do and this is why.


In “Blood, toil, tears, and sweat” and “Their Finest Hour” Winston Churchill was speaking to a very diverse audience. Not only was he speaking to the average British citizen, but he was also speaking to highly respected government officials. King Henry V was speaking to people he knew did not have as much power as him, which allowed him to stray away from the professional rhetoric that Churchill used. While, both Henry V and Winston Churchill were extremely successful in their use of war rhetoric, I believe that Winston Churchill did a much better job. WWII was important to Britain because losing would have meant being taken over by Germany and losing the country. It took a lot for him to get the country to take the risk of continuing the war. On the other hand, King Henry V was not at risk for losing his country. If he lost the battle, he would have ended up with no less than he had started. Churchill took a risk, used his words, and won the war.

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The Speeches of Winston Churchill: Rhetorical Devices in “Blood, Toil, Tears and Sweat”. (2018, November 15). GradesFixer. Retrieved March 22, 2023, from
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