A Treatise of Schemes and Tropes

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Richard Sherry's _A Treatise of Schemes and Tropes_ (1550), a familiar work of the Renaissance, is primarily thought of as a sixteenth-century English textbook on the figures. Yet it is also a mirror of one variation of rhetoric which came to be called the rhetoric of style. As a representative of this stylistic school, it offers little that is new to the third part of classical rhetoric. Instead, it carries forward the medieval concept that ornateness in communication is desirable; it suggests that figures are tools for achieving this ornateness; it supplies examples of ornateness to be imitated in writing and speaking; it supports knowing the figures in order to understand both secular and religious writings; it proposes that clarity is found in the figures. In short, the work assisted Englishmen to understand eloquence as well as to create it.Four-fifths of ancient rhetoric is omitted in the _Treatise_. The nod is given to elocution. Invention is discussed, but only as a tool to assist the communicator in amplifying his ideas, as a means to spin out his thoughts to extreme lengths. Arrangement, memory, and delivery are overlooked. Accordingly, the _Treatise_ neatly fits into the category of a Renaissance rhetoric on style. It is this school which recognized the traditional five Ciceronian parts of rhetoric, but considered style to be the most significant precept. The _Treatise_ is not the first to support an emphasis wholly on style, nor the foremost. We know that Aristotle's _Rhetoric_, Cicero's works on rhetoric, and Quintilian's _Institutes_ discussed the significance of style, but they had a broad view. However, in England, about the time of Bede, arose a limited concept that rhetoric is mainly style, particularly that of the figures. It is this latter truncated version of rhetoric that the _Treatise_ continues in the Renaissance. Rhetoric in Sherry's work has lost its ancient meaning.
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