Rhetoric Analysis of Veronica Franco
Cari Vaughn, 2002
I picked Veronica Franco’s Letter 17 from the book Selected Poems and Letters to analyze. In order to understand her rhetoric, a brief biography is necessary so that the context might be understood. Veronica Franco was born in 1546 in Venice, Italy. When she was about 16 years old, her mother trained her in the ways of a courtesan. Though Veronica later married and had six children, three of whom died in infancy, she still continued her profession. Veronica was an educated woman, thought it is not clear how she became so. Because she was a courtesan she was not restricted from the libraries or from the academic salons at the time. In 1575 her book of poetry, Terze Rime, was published. And then in 1859, a volume containing her letters was published.
In Letter 17 Veronica is addressing a young man to tell him that it is intellect that wins her affections. She opens by speaking of fate and chance, saying that one does have some control over their life. Then she uses military metaphors, which many women writers do when speaking to men. She says that wealth and beauty can be used for good or bad, just as a sword can, and she urges him to use his influence for good. She uses her education and knowledge of the classics to argue and quote one of Socrates’ arguments in demonstration. “The wise man said that to assemble an army that would be undefeated and always victorious, it should be made of men who are respectful and loving and be loved by each other.” This not only appeals to logos, but to ethos and pathos as well. This quote then leads her to talk about how the fault is the misuse of love and not love itself.
She speaks with great authority on the matter of love, drawing from her experience as a courtesan and a woman, as well as her knowledge of literature and history. This way of gathering authority to herself is an unusual one, for most women were shunned and shamed if they spoke so frankly. It is clear that she does not see herself inferior or unequal. She uses her experience not only as a source of authority, but as a way to use pathos without seeming overly sentimental. Her sensuality and intimacy come through on paper, and give the reader a great sense of her personality and that draws them in.
The letter goes on to say that it is the academics and intellectuals that she admires and that win her affections. It appears as if this young man that she is addressing has been trying to impress her with great stories of bravery and demonstrations of his wealth, but it matters not to her. The very fact that she has written him to tell him this says a great deal because it says to the reader that she has a voice and a choice who she lets close to her. Most women at this time were not in a position to choose.
She closes the letter by saying if he is really in love with her, as he says he is, he will follow her advice. If he chooses to ignore the advice or chooses to leave her, then his claim of love is false. This is a very logical argument and is a clear statement, which is to the point and yet not aggressive or offensive. Though classically trained, there is a bit of a Rogerian approach in her writing. In this letter, as well as her others, Veronica Franco demonstrates a charming, polite and polished style and yet it does not diminish her strong, assertive voice.