Definition of Harangue

Harangue means a long and angry speech filled with criticism. The word harangue is of Germanic origin and is stated to have come from a French term, arenge which is a derivative of a medieval Latin term, harenga. Later, it evolved into harangue or haranguer in French and entered the late medieval English language with the same spellings.

Semantically, it means a lengthy speech having some type of stricture on somebody, or some person, or having some features of attack. It also could be just a spoken long attack or a lecture. Therefore, public speeches could be categorized as harangues.

Examples of Harangue in Literature

Example #1

From Braveheart by Mel Gibson

Wallace: Sons of Scotland, I am William Wallace.
Young soldier: William Wallace is 7 feet tall.
Wallace: Yes, I’ve heard. Kills men by the hundreds, and if he were here he’d consume the English with fireballs from his eyes and bolts of lightning from his arse. I AM William Wallace. And I see a whole army of my countrymen here in defiance of tyranny. You have come to fight as free men, and free men you are. What would you do without freedom? Will you fight?
Veteran soldier: Fight? Against that? No, we will run; and we will live.
Wallace: Aye, fight and you may die. Run and you’ll live — at least a while. And dying in your beds many years from now, would you be willing to trade all the days from this day to that for one chance, just one chance to come back here and tell our enemies that they may take our lives, but they’ll never take our freedom!!!
Wallace and Soldiers: Alba gu bra! (Scotland forever!)

This speech occurs in the movie, Braveheart, directed by Mel Gibson. The tour de force of Mel Gibson presents a commoner Scottish, William Wallace, delivering a harangue to arouse patriotism among his countrymen to fight against the English army. Occasionally interspersed with some conversation from some veteran soldiers, the speech is a classic example of a harangue against the English army of that time, demonstrating a fully verbal attack prior to a physical attack.

Example #2

From Animal Farm by George Orwell

“I have little more to say. I merely repeat, remember always your duty of enmity towards Man and all his ways. Whatever goes upon two legs is an enemy. Whatever goes upon four legs, or has wings, is a friend. And remember also that in fighting against Man, we must not come to resemble him. Even when you have conquered him, do not adopt his vices. No animal must ever live in a house, or sleep in a bed, or wear clothes, or drink alcohol, or smoke tobacco, or touch money, or engage in trade. All the habits of Man are evil. And, above all, no animal must ever tyrannise over his own kind. Weak or strong, clever or simple, we are all brothers. No animal must ever kill any other animal. All animals are equal.”

This passage occurs in the speech of Old Major in Animal Farm, a popular novel by George Orwell. This is also a classic piece of harangue as John Major claims that he is a little more to say yet he continues berating the man for all the evils befalling upon the animals disregard of their categories. He appeals to the animals to become equal in one go, creating the persona of the man as their common enemy. This harangue continues to show how people often deliver such speeches against tyranny and oppression.

Example #3

From “Inaugural Address” by John F. Kennedy

We dare not forget today that we are the heirs of that first revolution. Let the word go forth from this time and place, to friend and foe alike, that the torch has been passed to a new generation of Americans — born in this century, tempered by war, disciplined by a hard and bitter peace, proud of our ancient heritage — and unwilling to witness or permit the slow undoing of those human rights to which this Nation has always been committed, and to which we are committed today at home and around the world.

This passage occurs in the popular speech of John F. Kennedy in his Inaugural Address. He reminds the people that they are heir to a revolution that has not occurred without sacrifices and that now the new generations have taken the reins of the country into their hands. However, it seems that the main objective of this harangue is an implicit attack on the countries violating the western value of human rights.

Example #4

From “Patrick Henry 1775”

The battle, sir, is not to the strong alone; it is to the vigilant, the active, the brave. Besides, sir, we have no election. If we were base enough to desire it, it is now too late to retire from the contest. There is no retreat but in submission and slavery! Our chains are forged! Their clanking may be heard on the plains of Boston! The war is inevitable — and let it come! I repeat it, sir, let it come!

This extract occurs in the speech of Patrick Henry delivered in 1775. He seems to propagate the values of democracy and local government instead of a foreign-imposed rule. Therefore, this harangue is against the common enemy of the people as the final words of “The war…” suggest. It is the same speech in which he said his famous words “Give me liberty or give me death.”

Functions of Harangue

A harangue is usually delivered to the public in extreme anger against oppression, tyranny, dictatorship, or injustice. The speech that becomes a harangue is often fiery and fierce. It makes people become highly emotional and even in some cases sentimental to the point of dying for a cause. Therefore, harangues often function as a piece intended to raise the temperature of the public sentiments against common injustice. In literature, such harangues are used in long and short fiction to create patriotism among the common readers.


Post navigation