William Wallace’s Speech In The Braveheart

Braveheart is a highly rated and extremely popular film from May 19, 1995.

It tells the true story of the events of William Wallace. William Wallace was a famous Scottish warrior shrouded in rumors and legends who bravely led his country in the first war of Scottish rebellion from England. William Wallace was, in fact, a real-life person, and very well could have demonstrated the amazing heroics in the film. Throughout the film, William motivates his countrymen with wise sayings that seemingly inspire them to fight a war even when it seems to already be lost. Just before the battle between the Scots and English, William Wallace gives a speech to them that ultimately inspires them to go into the battle not knowing whether they would live or die.

The scene starts with a small force of Scottish countrymen up against what appears to be insurmountable odds, the English army the Scottish enemy comes, over the hillside and shows a large force ready to decimate the Scottish army. The Scotts talk amongst themselves with doubt and fear. Many of the men start to leave the battle and few remain. Just as the Scottish army is about to break up entirely another force is brought into the battle. Lead by a single normal-looking man, that no one can identify for sure. Some men speak amongst themselves, saying it is William Wallace as others deny the claim. The uncertainty is immediately put to rest as Wallace makes note that he is, in fact, Wallace, the man the rumors are about. Instead of simply standing in one idle spot and speaking to the army before him as a general whole. He rode his horse back and forth multiple times in front of his men, doing so it is apparent that by doing this he is talking to each man on their own. This causes Wallace and his army to have more of a personal connection. This personal connection is created out of strong emotions is an example of Pathos, and causes his listeners to relate and come that much closer to his point. He then rallies the countrymen with a speech full of emotion and credibility but lacking true logic pertinent to the current situation. William Wallace’s speech shows all the key points of a good rhetorical argument.

Ethos is an argument that appeals to the audience by emphasizing the speaker’s credibility and authority. Wallace makes use of ethos quite often throughout his speech, he introduces himself almost immediately, most likely so the army relates him to his reputation. Someone immediately calls him out, claiming that Wallace is actually “7 feet tall”, implying he is not William Wallace. He uses this opportunity to downplay himself. Wallace pokes fun at the legends about himself “Kills men by the hundreds, and if he were here, he’d destroy the English with fireballs from his eyes and bolts of lightning from his arse”. The simple fact that Wallace downplays his rumors in an attempt to in a way humanize himself, helps his fellow countrymen can relate more closely to Wallace and in turn be able to fight alongside Wallace as he has many times before.

Pathos is a rhetorical device that can be used in an argument to draw the audience in and to help it connect with the argument through strong emotion. It is quite obvious to the listener of the speech that Wallace is using mostly pathos, which is understandably the most important of the three rhetorical appeals in this situation. He needs the men to be incredibly inspired by his words, so inspired as to lead them to a possible death for some if not most men. He uses the words such as “freedom” and “free” numerous times throughout his speech this is to make a connection between them and the enemy, as the English would seek to take the freedom from the Scottish. Wallace uses another extremely effective technique in his speech he mentions the consequences of those that don’t fight. He paints the viewers a picture of themselves as old men lying in a bed dying of old age with the thought of their cowardice weighing heavy on their shoulders. He uses Pathos here to appeal directly to their inner pride.

Logos appeals to the ideation of logic and logical thinking. Wallace fails to use adequate amounts of logic in his argument, there are subtle signs of this in his sarcastic deflection near the beginning of his speech. It is obvious that his army is outnumbered heavily and that success is not immediately in their favor but as long as he has the hearts of his men then he believes in success.

William Wallace’s purpose in delivering his speech was to give his army the honest, blunt truth; that they are free men, that they are doing what they know to be right and that they may very well die doing it. The rhetoric appeals used in William Wallace’s speech of freedom are extremely strong since he was able to make his army fight their oppressors when they lacked the courage to do so themselves. The primary rhetorical appeal used in his speech was pathos. Pathos is an appeal to the audience’s emotions and is used to create an emotional attachment, therefore, creating an emotional response. Pathos is used because the men would no have fought for their freedom alone without Wallace’s speech. In Wallace’s closing statement just before the army is moved to the action of battle, he makes one last emotional appeal. He creates an image in the minds of the army, an image of death on a bed, death from old age after a life of ease. Then he offers up another way. This other way includes facing their enemies head-on at the moment and telling them what they want to say. “You can take our lives, but you will never take our freedom.” This last emotional appeal stirs up the army to cheer and move into battle with a different perspective.