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Counter Turne

Updated Jan 21, 2023

Understanding the Rhetorical Device of Counterturn


In the realm of rhetoric, various techniques are employed to captivate and persuade an audience. One such technique that can add depth and nuance to a speech or piece of writing is the counterturn. This rhetorical device, also known as a turn of argument, involves presenting an unexpected or contrasting viewpoint or argument to challenge or undermine an established belief or position. In this article, we will explore the counterturn in rhetoric and provide some illustrative examples.

The Essence of the Counterturn

The counterturn is a strategic move employed by speakers or writers to introduce a contrasting perspective that challenges the prevailing notion. It serves as a shift in argumentation, often catching the audience off-guard and encouraging them to reconsider their own beliefs or assumptions. By presenting an unexpected counterpoint, the speaker aims to provoke thought, engage the audience, and strengthen their own argument.

Examples of the Counterturn in Action

To better comprehend the counterturn as a rhetorical device, let us examine a few examples where this technique has been effectively utilized:

Example 1: Shakespeare's "Julius Caesar"

In William Shakespeare's play "Julius Caesar," Marc Antony delivers a powerful speech at Caesar's funeral. Initially, the crowd is sympathetic towards Brutus, who has justified Caesar's assassination for the good of Rome. However, Antony cleverly employs a counterturn in his speech by praising Brutus and the conspirators before subtly undermining their motives. Through the use of rhetoric, Antony gradually turns the crowd against Brutus by highlighting Caesar's virtues and the injustice of his murder. This counterturn allows Antony to sway public opinion and ultimately seek revenge for Caesar's death.

Example 2: Abraham Lincoln's Gettysburg Address

In his iconic Gettysburg Address, President Abraham Lincoln delivered a speech to commemorate the soldiers who had fought in the American Civil War. Lincoln opens his speech by acknowledging the significance of the location and the purpose of the event. However, midway through his address, he employs a counterturn by stating, "The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here." This unexpected shift challenges the audience's expectations and redirects their attention to the sacrifices made by the soldiers. By using this counterturn, Lincoln highlights the importance of honoring the fallen rather than focusing solely on his own words.

Example 3: A Climate Change Debate

In a debate about climate change, a speaker supporting immediate action to combat global warming might employ a counterturn by acknowledging the concerns of those who oppose such action. Instead of dismissing their viewpoints outright, the speaker could incorporate elements of their argument into their own discourse. By doing so, they demonstrate a willingness to engage with opposing perspectives while still making a case for their own stance. This counterturn not only shows respect for differing opinions but also strengthens the speaker's credibility by presenting a nuanced understanding of the issue.


The counterturn is a powerful rhetorical device that adds depth and complexity to speeches and writing. By introducing a contrasting viewpoint or argument, speakers and writers can challenge prevailing beliefs, engage their audience, and create a more compelling case for their own position. From Shakespeare's plays to historical speeches and contemporary debates, the counterturn continues to be a valuable tool in the art of persuasion. So, the next time you find yourself crafting a persuasive piece or delivering a speech, consider employing the counterturn to captivate your audience and make a lasting impact.


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