In Stand Up! Speak Out!: A Social Action Curriculum for Building 21st Century Skills, Troy Drayton does a phenomenal job of integrating rhetorical devices with social social justice issues.
I wanted to look at extending this idea of expressing perspective by purposely using certain rhetorical devices.
My question, as I was reading Troy's chapter, morphed into how might I use his ideas on teaching rhetorical devices to also teach perspective using the literary archetype of the Shadow or Villain?
One of the epiphanies my students experience in reading and writing during the school year is no Hero is all good and no Villain is all evil.
After using Troy's in-depth lessons on rhetorical devices, I want to let students loose on creating monologues for their favorite villains, composing persuasive, dramatic monologues from the perspectives of fictional villains.
Their goal is to convince the audience that the fictional, villainous actions committed were justified or, at the very least, sympathetic. This assignment focuses on voice, audience, and various rhetorical techniques studied in class.
If you would like students to research the concept of the villain monologue a little more, or want to brush up on the different purposes of villain monologues visit TV Tropes/Gloating.In preparation for their performance of their argumentative essay, students will practice developing a monologue. Writing from the perspective of an “unlikable” or unsympathetic figure will force students to exercise more awareness when composing a particular tone and choosing various rhetorical devices.
I love beginning with this quote about the reason so many villains feel they have to pontificate on their plans. I think you will find it also does a great job of continuing to show how the Shadow works from selfish ideals where as the Hero is growing to be more altruistic.
If you have to look along the shaft of an arrow from the wrong end, if a man has you entirely at his mercy, then hope like hell that man is an evil man. Because the evil like power, power over people, and they want to see you in fear. They want you to know you're going to die. So they'll talk. They'll gloat. They'll watch you squirm. They'll put off the moment of murder like another man will put off a good cigar. So hope like hell your captor is an evil man. A good man will kill you with hardly a word.
— Terry Pratchett, Men at Arms
With the analysis of rhetorical devices finished, have your students watch or read a villainous speech you’ve found to be an extraordinary example.
I have five that I feel comfortable showing to middle schoolers and are excellent examples of monologues, all with different purposes. Please preview all monologues before using them in class to make sure they are appropriate for your students.
The Incredibles: Syndrome and Mr. Incredible
The Matrix: Agent Smith and Morpheus
Empire Strikes Back: Darth Vader and Luke
Blade Runner: Roy Batty
The Fifth Element: Zorg
Literary Bonus: Screenwriter Luc Besson based this speech on the 1850 work of Frederic Bastiat, That Which is Seen and That Which is Unseen and more specifically the parable of the broken window. After watching this video, students could analyze the parable to see the flaws in Zorg's argument.
It is always helpful for students to have copies of the speech so that students can follow along. After viewing the clips, students break down the rhetorical elements used in the monologues. Ask the students, what patterns of persuasion or rhetorical appeal does the speaker use to show the audience that their immoral actions were justifiable?
After analysis, comparison and discussion, students may work independently or in groups up to three to choose a villain from fiction (TV, music, graphic novels, movies, video games, etc.) everyone in the group knows.
Differentiation might occur in many various forms from here. But here is a basic outline that can be modified by teachers for learners at any level.
“Write a dramatic monologue of at least ___ paragraphs from that villain’s perspective, justifying a major villainous action or story arc. Be sure to make use of _____________________ (how many and which rhetorical devices)."
Students will then present their monologues. You might have students make audio recordings, video recordings or have students dress in character and present the monologues live in class.
Students should have opportunities to practice their speeches for feedback before final performances. This will build the iterative process in your classroom and give students a chance to fail faster.
Student excitement for portraying a villain should be high, the assignment is filled with student choice and understanding the perspective of others is a lesson in understanding why we believe what we believe.
Clips for Older Audiences (please preview for language and content):
Wall Street: Gordon Gekko
Inglorious Basterds: Hans Landa
Ratatouille: Anton Ego (confession of change)
8 Amazing Villainous Movie Monologues