About This Site

Figaro rips the innards out of things people say and reveals the rhetorical tricks and pratfalls. For terms and definitions, click here.
(What are figures of speech?)
Ask Figaro a question!

This form does not yet contain any fields.

    The Best Books on Rhetoric

    • Thank You for Arguing: What Aristotle, Lincoln, and Homer Simpson Can Teach Us About the Art of Persuasion
      by Jay Heinrichs

      Thank You for Arguing  renders the principles of argument clearly and simply — and keeps us laughing all the way. It’s like a complete course on the art of argument, taught by the funniest, most knowledgeable professor you ever had.  You’ll find a whole chapter devoted to figures of speech and how to use them.

    • A Handlist of Rhetorical Terms, Second edition
      by Richard A. Lanham

      As Strunk & White’s Elements of Style did for grammar, Lanham’s well-organized and entertaining Handlist does for rhetoric. If you lack room on the shelf near your desk, toss Strunk & White and keep the Handlist. You’ll find it infinitely more useful.

    • Encyclopedia of Rhetoric
      Oxford University Press, USA

      Worth perusing in any library clever enough to order it. It has a wealth of articles covering all aspects of ancient and modern rhetoric, and everything in between. The material on Shakespeare’s rhetoric is first-rate.

    • Classical Rhetoric for the Modern Student
      by Edward P. J. Corbett, Robert J. Connors

      The only thorough modern textbook extant. It suffers from the academic distaste for anything practical — Corbett wrote the book for composition students, and you will find little about rhetorical “delivery” or actual argument — but he dutifully leads you through the basic rhetorical principles.

    • The Art of Rhetoric (Penguin Classics)
      by Aristotle

      This is the rhetoric book that launched all the others, and it remains the art’s fundamental textbook. Whenever I go back and re-read passages that make no sense or seem irrelevant to modern life, I discover that the fault is mine, not Aristotle’s. This book was his masterpiece, written late in life as a culmination of all his political and psychological knowledge. The bad news is, you will not find it a page turner. Some scholars think that Aristotle’s Rhetoric is merely a collection of his lecture notes, and that’s how they read. But if you make the effort, you will uncover a truly uncanny work, one of the genuine classics.

    • Rhetorica ad Herennium
      by Marcus Tullius Cicero

      Actually Cicero probably didn’t write this seminal work on rhetoric, but it follows his teachings closely.  Ad Herrennium (it simply means “For Herrennium,” a dedication) was the standard textbook on the art right up through Shakespeare’s time.  The Bard undoubtedly studied it himself.


    • A Rhetoric of Motives
      by Kenneth Burke
      This brilliant, dense book is only for the rhetoric addict. Burke ranks as one of the leading philosophers and literary critics of the twentieth century. It is no exaggeration to call him the greatest rhetorical theorist since Augustine. But the book is slow going for the uninitiated.


    • The Founders and the Classics : Greece, Rome, and the American Enlightenment
      by Carl Richard
      Rhetoric influenced the Founders more than any other discipline.  They practically channeled Cicero, and believed their budding republic would succeed where Athens and Rome failed. Richard’s short, readable romp through the founders’ education shows their passion for the ancients better than any other book.


    • Cicero : The Life and Times of Rome's Greatest Politician
      by Anthony Everitt
      History’s greatest orator wouldn’t make a very good motion picture. At least, you would never see Russell Crowe playing him. For one thing, Cicero was a physical coward. His name meant “turnipseed” in Latin. And he failed to stop tyranny in Rome. But he was a central actor in some of the most interesting historical events of all time. Everitt has written the most readable biography. He evokes the troubled times in Rome with novelistic flair, and helps us understand why the Romans considered rhetoric the highest of the liberal arts.