The Soul-Reforming Rhetoric of Thomas More's Dialogue of Comfort

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How does Antony comfort Vincent in Thomas Moreâ s Dialogue of Comfort Against Tribulation? While other critics focus on specific aspects of Antonyâ s comfort and their reforming effect on a specific power of Vincentâ s soul, I attempt to show in this paper the effect of the whole of Antonyâ s comfort on the whole of Vincentâ s soul. First, I define the three appeals of persuasion, since comfort is a reforming kind of rhetoric through appeals. Then, I analyze how Antony discovers, organizes, and stylizes those appeals: he discovers the appeals in Vincentâ s responses, organizes them according to what Vincent is ready for, and stylizes them so that Vincent will enduringly remember his counsel. Lastly, I look at the reforming effect of Antonyâ s appeals on Vincentâ s soul: Antony helps to instruct Vincentâ s intellect through logical appeals that draw from reason and faith, refashion his memory and imagination through passionate appeals that are humorous and serious, and redirect his heart (his will and affections) through ethical appeals that move him to trust in Christ alone. The work as a whole is Moreâ s vision of a comprehensive attempt to reform the soul so as to pursue freedom and trust in the grace of God. By explicating Antonyâ s rhetorical appeals and Vincentâ s soul-responses, this paper relates the powers of rhetoric with the powers of the soul. Although grace reforms the soul in the supernatural order, rhetoric helps to reform the soul to a great degree in the order of nature.