Five Fingers or Six? Pentad or Hexad?

Floyd D. Anderson, The College at Brockport: State University of New York and Matthew T. Althouse. The College at Brockport: State University of New York.


Is Kenneth Burke's pentad actually a hexad? The answer is complicated. Early in his career, Burke favors just five terms—act, scene, agent, agency, and purpose—in his dramatistic vocabulary. In fact, he compares these concepts with fingers on a hand. However, as Burke’s thinking evolves, this hand sprouts a sixth digit—attitude. The present study investigates the ambiguity surrounding the pentad and the hexad, and it yields two conclusions. First, the pentad is already a hexad, with attitude classed under the headings of act, agent, and agency. Second, despite the adequacy of the pentad, Burke and others have demonstrated the efficacy, if not the necessity, of hexadic analysis in fully discerning the sources of human motivation. Our survey of relevant literature clarifies ambiguities about the pentad and explores whether or not attitude should be treated as the sixth term of a hexad.
KB:     You see the original formula I used, the medieval formula: quis? quid? ubi? quibus auxillis? cur? quo modo? quando? is a hexameter line.1 Dick McKeon had not noticed that himself. If the terms are put in exactly that order, they make a line of verse in classical Latin prosody. I cheated in a way when I worked with it as a pentad, and I always think that I did it as a pentad because I only had five children. If I’d had six….
FG2:    If you’d had nine!
KB:     Oh God!
--Kenneth Burke ("Counter-Gridlock" 366)


IS KENNETH BURKE'S pentad actually a hexad? The answer is complicated. In the original edition of A Grammar of Motives, Burke discusses just five terms—act, scene, agent, agency, and purpose—as part of his dramatistic vocabulary for discerning human motivation. In fact, Burke likens these terms to five fingers on a hand (xxii; “The Study of Symbolic Action” 13-14). When elaborating the interrelationships of these concepts, Burke explores a separate term—“attitude”—that refers to one’s disposition to respond in a particular way to his or her circumstances. However, he classes attitude under either act, agent, or agency, rather than as a separate sixth term. Attitude, he says in Grammar, may be “the preparation for an act, which would make it a kind of symbolic act, or incipient act.”3 As it may also be a “state of mind,” attitude may “be classed under the head of agent” (Grammar 20). Additionally, Burke occasionally refers to attitude as a variation of agency (Grammar 443; “Counter-Gridlock” 367; Attitudes 394; “Questions and Answers” 332). He reinforces his preference for a pentad in at least two other works. In The International Encyclopedia of the Social Sciences, he calls the pentad “incipiently a hexad” (446). In Dramatism and Development, he expresses some regret that he "had not turned the pentad into a hexad, with attitude as the sixth term. However, the Grammar contains a chapter that implicitly performs this very function. It is entitled ‘Incipient’ and ‘Delayed’ Action” (23). Despite these assertions, Burke's "hand" sprouts a sixth digit. In the 1969 edition of Grammar, he states, “I have sometimes added the term ‘attitude’ to the…five major terms” (443), thereby making the pentad a hexad. In 1984, he admits that, had his view of attitude been “clear” years ago, the “Pentad would have been a Hexad from the start” (Attitudes 393-394). Burke’s oscillation has undoubtedly contributed to differing views of the hexad. For example, Trevor Melia embraces six terms, pointing out that attitude “was implicit in the pentad from the beginning” and maintaining further that, “were Burke writing the Grammar today [in 1989], he would treat the pentad as a hexad” (72, note 21). However, other scholars—among them Dana Anderson, Debra Hawhee, and Cheryl Tatano Beck—have performed significant scholarship highlighting attitude while working with only five terms, with attitudinal considerations being adequately included under act, agent, or agency.

Pentad or hexad—does it matter? Is the question significant? The answer is "yes" to both questions because the pentad plays an essential role in the "grounding" or "foundation" of dramatism's claims to be an ontological system that centers "on the substantiality of the act" (Burke, "Linguistic Approaches" 259). As such, dramatism makes literal statements about the nature of human symbolic action. Of course, some scholars contend that dramatism is instead an epistemological system that merely offers metaphoric statements.4 However, we take Burke at his word when he calls logology the epistemological counterpart of dramatism ("Dramatism and Logology” 91). We also take note of Burke’s “literal” definition of human beings as "animals characterized by their aptitude for 'symbolic action,' which is itself a literal term" ("Dramatism" 448). A person "literally is a symbol using animal" ("Linguistic Approaches" 259-260). Drama, Burke's representative anecdote, is "implicit in the key term 'act'…from which a whole universe of terms is derived" ("Dramatism" 445). For this reason, "a 'dramatistic approach,' as so conceived is literal, not figurative" ("Linguistic Approaches" 259-260). The five pentadic terms, then, constitute the necessary and literal conditions of symbolic action. "For there to be an act," Burke says, "there must be an agent. Similarly, there must be a scene in which the agent acts. To act in a scene, the agent must employ some means, or agency. And there cannot be an act, in the full sense of the term, unless there is a purpose" ("Dramatism" 446). As literal descriptions, the pentadic terms are grounded "in the nature of the world," as all persons "necessarily experience it" (Grammar xv); they constitute no less than "the necessary 'forms of talk about experience'"; and they are "transcendental categories" insofar as all human thought and speech "necessarily exemplifies them" (317). For such reasons, Rountree calls the pentad "a universal heuristic of motives" (“Coming to Terms,” par 1).

Another essential role of the pentadic terms is to establish the dramatistic perspective as "not just one way" of studying human motives but as "the most complete approach" (Crable, “Burke's Perspective" 329). As is well known, Burke correlates each of the five pentadic terms with one of the seven modern philosophical schools: scene correlates with materialism; agent correlates with idealism; agency correlates with pragmatism; purpose correlates with mysticism; and act correlates with realism. Nominalism and rationalism do not pair with any one particular school but can be a characteristic of, and thus correlate with, any one of them (Grammar 128-129). Francis Fergusson points out that the dramatistic perspective, by featuring act as its key term, enables Burke "to account for the analogous schools of his time without dismissing any of them," to read them "at once sympathetically and critically," to see them "in relation to each other," and to see them "in a wider context than any of them recognizes" (178). What Fergusson calls dramatism's "wider context" establishes it as the most complete approach to motives. Its "point of departure," as Bryan Crable notes, "can account for all competing philosophical approaches, in a way that they cannot account for dramatism" ("Burke's Perspective" 329). Thus, dramatism can "claim a privileged (literal) status" (Crable, "Defending Dramatism" 324). In light of the ontological importance of the pentadic terms, the question of whether the structure of the symbolic act contains six rather than five necessary terms is of obvious significance. Should the ontological foundation for the "house" of dramatism be designed to accommodate five rooms or six?

This essay undertakes a comprehensive investigation of the aforementioned ambiguities about the pentad and the hexad. It proceeds mindful of Burke’s admonition that the critic’s job is not to “dispose of” ambiguity but to “study and clarify the resources of ambiguity” (Grammar xix). Our analysis is divided into two sections. In the first, we make a case that a careful reading of Burke’s relevant writings suggests that the pentad—for all intents and purposes—is already incipiently a hexad.5 The term that Burke excludes from the “mediaeval Latin hexameter” (“Questions and Answers” 332; “Dramatism” 447), attitude (quo modo), is adequately included in the pentad by either the terms act or agent (Grammar 20). In the second section, which functions in part as a counter-statement to the first section, we make a case that several critics have demonstrated the efficacy, and perhaps even the necessity, of hexadic analysis in fully discerning sources of human motivation. Burke himself is reported to have likened the addition of a sixth term to the pentad to gaining “another soul” or an “extra existence” (King, par. 2).6 However, he does not fully and systematically explicate hexadic analysis. We will survey Burke’s later writings as well as relevant literature by other scholars and critics to show the utility of the hexad for accomplishing certain kinds of critical tasks.

Our dialactical juxtaposition of these two cases—one for and one against the transformation of the pentad into a hexad—is admittedly unconventional. At first glance, it may appear arbitrary. However, it resonates with Burke's notion of a "dialogue of many voices" in agreement and disagreement (Counter-Statement xi). Our approach, in fact, is patterned after Burke's description in Counter-Statement of his own method: "each principle it advocates is matched by an opposite…. Heresies and orthodoxies will always be changing places, but whatever the minority view happens to be at any given time, one must consider it 'counter'" (vii). Adoption of the dialectical format enables us to survey both positions at once, sympathetically and critically, and in relation to one another. The statement/counter-statement format also encourages a full and open exchange of ideas in which one "has maximum opportunity to modify [their] thesis, and so mature it, in the light of the antagonist's rejoinders" (Philosophy of Literary Form 444). The statement of each position serves as a rejoinder to the other, each perspective thus providing recalcitrance—a needed "corrective rationalization"—to the limitations of the other perspective (Permanence and Change 63). In the essay’s conclusion, we will summarize our "findings," the many points that have been advanced in our counter-statements, and explain how they clarify aspects of the ambiguities now surrounding the pentad/hexad. We will also show how our dialectical approach has achieved "transcendence," the reconciliation of opposite perspectives, by revealing that they have a common cause. Before developing our essay’s two main sections, however, we now must turn our attention to how previous literature treats the pentad and the hexad.

The Pentad And Its Sixth Term: Previous Interpretations And Understandings

To begin, a brief overview of pentadic analysis7 and of attitude is in order.  Burke sums up the critical goal of pentadic analysis with a single question: "What is involved, when we say what people are doing and why they are doing it?" Since pentadic analysis "is concerned with the basic forms of thought which . . .are exemplified in the attributing of motives" (Grammar xv), it can assist critics as a "generating principle" in finding answers to Burke's question ("Questions and Answers" 332). The five terms of the pentad, as we have shown, constitute a "universal heuristic of motives" that is grounded in the necessary conditions of symbolic action. Further, Burke points out that, "whereas the terms may look positive," they are actually questions, telling the critic what to ask about a given text ("Questions and Answers" 332). Thus, "Any complete statement about motives will offer some kind of answers to these five questions: What was done (act), when or where it was done (scene), who did it (agent), how he did it (agency) and why (purpose)" (Grammar xv). An answer to any one of these questions has implications for answers to all of the other questions; after all, terms share "certain formal interrelationships…by reason of their role as attributes of a common ground or substance" (xix). Given that one term necessarily affects understandings of others, Burke advises critics to consider human motivations from all perspectives.

Because of their interrelationships, and because they seldom stand alone in actual human interactions, discourses and narratives, pentadic terms form a range of different word pairs, correlations, "analogies” (Grammar 440), or "ratios." The concept of “ratios” is especially important because motive is not imputed except in their presence. In Grammar, Burke initially distinguishes ten ratios: scene-act; scene-agent; scene-agency; scene-purpose; act-purpose; act-agency; act-agent; agent-purpose; agent-agency; and agency-purpose (15). Then, he points out that these pairs may be reversed, allowing 20 possible combinations that name forms necessarily exemplified in the imputing of human motives" (402). For example, a "scene-act" ratio grounds social action (e.g., "no other action was possible") in the scene (e.g., "under the circumstances"). An "act-scene" ratio allows one to ascertain how a certain action (e.g., wearing a bath robe) might transform the meaning of a scene (e.g., a formal church wedding). An "agency-act" ratio explains the means (e.g., "give a child a hammer") as the determinant of the act (e.g., "and everything will be treated as a nail").8 With the addition of attitude as a sixth term, the number of possible pentadic/hexadic ratios would further increase. In fact, Burke suggests the inclusion of "scene-attitude" and "agent-attitude" ratios (403). The reverse of these, as well as others, would also be possible.

Pentadic/hexadic analysis permits critics to be especially sensitive to matters of “circumference,” a term designating the ways that terminologies employ both scope and reduction to widen and/or narrow explanations of human motivation. A featuring of any one pentadic term leads to a resulting de-emphasis of all other terms. As Burke puts it, when a term becomes featured, we "treat all five in terms of one, by reducing them all to the one or (what amounts to the same thing) 'deducing' them all from the one as their common ancestor" (Grammar 127). De-emphasized terms are then "coordinates" for tracking transformations of meaning guided by the featured term (127-128). Thus, with pentadic analysis, critics may give special attention to the ways that a text both restricts and opens the range of interpretive possibilities.

As we previously noted, Burke occasionally adds attitude to his five terms, seemingly transforming the pentad into a hexad. In Grammar, Burke discusses attitude as incipient and delayed action, building upon the ideas of I. A. Richards, who points out that “Every perception probably includes a response in the form of incipient action. We constantly overlook the extent to which all the while we are making preliminary adjustments, getting ready to act in one way or another” (Principles 107-113). For this reason, Burke calls attitude the “how” of symbolic action: “To build something with a hammer would involve an instrument, or ‘agency’; to build with diligence would involve an ‘attitude,’ a ‘how’” (Grammar 443). In part, attitude refers to preparation for physical action (20); one may decide or somehow know how to swing the hammer before striking a nail. Attitude may also refer to an agent’s state of mind (242), which encompasses his or her orientation toward the world or “motivational properties,” like “drives” or “instincts” (20), and may also refer to the figurative dimension of agency (“Counter-Gridlock” 367; “Questions and Answers” 332). Unlike I. A. Richards and Alfred Korzyski, who “attempt to translate the problems of action into terms of motion” (Grammar 239), Burke agrees with George Herbert Mead, who describes attitude, “the beginnings of acts,” in terms of symbolic action rather than in strictly physicalistic terms (236-237). Attitude may be manifested outwardly or inwardly: “We have tried to show that the attitude is essentially ambiguous, as an attitude of sympathy may either lead to an act of sympathy or may serve as substitute for an act of sympathy” (242). In either case, the attitudinal “is the realm of ‘symbolic action’ par excellence’ for symbolic action has the same ambiguous potentialities of action…. Here is the area of thought wherein actual conflicts can be transcended, with results sometimes fatal, sometimes felicitous” (243). Clearly, attitude is an important component of Burke’s critical program. Yet, uncertainty remains. Is attitude implicit in the pentad? Or, is it best viewed as the sixth term of a hexad? To explore these questions, we survey two kinds of previous works. Although numerous previous works have effectively employed pentadic criticism, often with impressive results9, our survey is limited to those in which a preference is expressed either for pentadic or for hexadic analysis.

We first review previous works showing a preference for pentadic analysis. These suggest that attitude is already implicit in the pentad and that the pentad is, therefore, sufficient for the performance of critical tasks. For example, Dana Anderson, drawing on Burke's discussion in Grammar, says that “attitude refers to the conscious preparation” for an action and to “the product of an agent’s consciousness” (261). Although he refers to “six concepts” (262) and to the “pentad/hexad” (272), Anderson adequately accounts for all six within the five terms of the pentad. Sarah E. Mahan-Hays and Roger C. Aden, in a study designed to align rhetorical and cultural studies, ask if attitude is embedded in pentadic analysis (34). Unfortunately, since this question is not central to their purposes, a fully developed answer is not given. They do maintain, however, that “an attitudinal analysis may indeed be complementary to pentadic analysis, as Burke suggests, but it can also stand alone” (52). Finally, Debra Hawhee calls attitude a “pointed” addition to Burke’s dramatistic pentad (333) but does not view it as a co-equal to the other five terms. Because Burke locates attitude “pentadically near the ‘agent’ node” (346), Hawhee says that attitude “hangs in the balance” between other pentadic terms (347).

  Jerome Bruner makes a unique contribution to Burke's pentad by adding a new concept, "Trouble." However, Bruner does not see attitude as a separate term. In Acts of Meaning, he writes, "Well formed stories, Burke proposed, are composed of a pentad of an Actor, an Action, a Goal, a Scene, and an Instrument--plus Trouble" (50). "Trouble," as Bruner conceives of it, "consists of an imbalance between any of the five elements of the pentad" (50). As examples of "Trouble," he offers the following: "an action towards a goal is inappropriate"; "an actor does not fit the scene"; "there is a dual scene"; or "a confusion of goals" (50). "Trouble," then, is a "relationship" between various pentadic terms and ratios and does not constitute a separate sixth term to a hexad in the same way that attitude does. Bruner's influence is evident in the work of Cheryl Tatano Beck, who looks for "Trouble" in birth trauma narratives (456-457). In a path breaking study, Beck employed pentadic cartography to map the birth trauma narratives of 11 mothers. Her map enabled her to pinpoint the source of "Trouble," the cause of the mothers' birth traumas, in a problematic ratio imbalance between act and agency. Like Bruner, Beck does not view attitude as the sixth term of a hexad. "Attitude," says Bruner, "is encompassed by 'agency'" (Re: pentadic analysis).

Next, we review previous works which express a preference for hexadic analysis. These works maintain that the expansion of the pentad to a hexad is necessary to explore the full range of motivations for human action.10 For example, Clarke Rountree, like Trevor Melia (72, note 21), whose views we have previously described, favors hexadic analysis. Rountree maintains that all six terms should be treated as equals, as Burke “technically” made the pentad into a hexad with the addition of attitude in the addendum to the 1969 edition of Grammar (“Coming to Terms,” par. 5). Jeanne Y. Fisher exhibits the potential of hexadic analysis in revealing human motivations in “Rhetorical Dimensions of a Multiple Murder and Suicide.” Using the hexad, which she calls the “Pentad Plus One” (182), Fisher examines events in the perpetrator’s life and finds explanations for the homicides located in an agent-attitude ratio. Finally, Floyd D. Anderson and Lawrence J. Prelli suggest that the pentad may not fully account for all the philosophical schools of thought. They write, "close examination of relevant texts and practices might reveal that Buddhism features attitude rather than the original pentadic terms and, thus, requires revision into a hexad for full inclusion” (93, note 50).

The results of this literature review reveal a diversity of opinion but no consensus. While some scholars find sufficiency in the pentad, other scholars underscore the need for a hexad. There is an obvious need for the justifications for each position to be fully alembicated. Thus, our tasks ahead are to develop and amplify both perspectives, in the process, opening new interpretive possibilities for scholars who appropriate Burke’s dramatistic terminology. We begin by exploring how attitude may be viewed as already embedded in the pentad.

A Case For The Pentad As Incipient Hexad

To build a case that the pentad already incorporates attitude, we offer three points. First, we demonstrate that, in the bulk of his writings, Burke favors the pentad. Although both the later Burke and other scholars elected to expand the pentad into a hexad, in the process of developing dramatism, the earlier Burke found the use of just five terms to be sufficient to encompass human motivation. Second, we demonstrate that attitude is already implicit in ratios featuring agent and/or act. Within these ratios, attitude may be evidenced in an agent’s state of mind or in an act's performance. Third, we demonstrate that expanding the pentad into a hexad creates terminological and logological inconsistency that does not exist with the pentad.

Although Burke’s view and use of the pentad is his own, he derived it from other sources in addition to the medieval hexameter. Rountree rightly notes that “Burke does not claim any originality for his pentad” (“Coming to Terms,” par. 6). For instance, in his 1968 essay about “Dramatism,” Burke points to several inspirations for his work. He notes the efforts of Talcott Parsons, who describes social acts in relation to actors, ends, situations (including elements over which the actor has control and over which the actor has no control), and normative orientations of actions (447). Also, Burke acknowledges the influence of Aristotle, whose thinking about action became “fixed in the medieval questions” (447). With his awareness of a variety of prospective dramatistic vocabularies, Burke might have shaped a hexad with corresponding ratios and with six philosophical perspectives. Yet, he chose not to do so.

Of course, one could make the case that Burke, looking back on his career, wished he had developed a hexad rather than a pentad. In his 1978 essay “Questions And Answers About The Pentad,” Burke admits that he would have crafted a hexad if his thinking been somewhat different:

I could have cited, if I had known it, a related passage in Nicomachian Ethics11 where Aristotle says, “A man may be ignorant of who he is, what he is doing, what or whom he is acting on, and sometimes also what instrument he is doing it with, and to what end… how he is doing it (e.g. whether gently or violently)”—which would indicate why I would class “how” (quo modo) with “attitude.” (332)

In the passage from “Counter-Gridlock,” an interview conducted with Burke in the early 1980s, which we cite at the beginning of this essay, Burke confesses to his unsettled feelings about the pentad:

You see the original formula I used, the mediaeval formula…is a hexameter line…. I cheated in a way when I worked with it as a pentad, and I always think that I did it as a pentad because I only had five children. If I’d had six…. (366)

Burke explains that he "cheated" by conflating quibus auxillis (by what means) and quo modo (how) in the process of formulating his treatment of agency in Grammar. Actually, Burke cheated in at least two ways when he reduced the seven terms of the medieval formula to five. First, he combined ubi (where) and quando (when) into a single term, scene. Such a blending is reasonable because place and time jointly contain the act. Second, he combined quo modo and quibus auxiliis under a single term, agency, a move that produced noteworthy consequences. It became necessary for him to then make quo modo implicit in the pentad as either an “incipient” act or as a “state of mind” of the agent. Burke explains that the merging of the terms happened, at least in part, because, in the process of writing Grammar, he began “transforming those abstract terms into personalities," more specifically, into the personalities of his children. For example, as the family's "gadgeteer," "instrumentalist," and "fixer," his oldest son, Butchie, well represented agency. Burke even changed the ordering of the five terms, moving act from its original first place to third place, because he associated it with his third daughter, "the stage-struck one." So pronounced is Burke's "tendency toward the personalization of the terms" that he even referred to his children as "my five terms” ("Counter-Gridlock" 368). In all likelihood, Burke was speaking with candor when he said that he transformed the seven terms of the medieval formula into five terms because "I only had five children" (366).

Still, the fact remains that the treatment of the pentad in Grammar is far more thought out than Burke’s later, less than systematically developed comments about a hexad. The chapter entitled "'Incipient' and 'Delayed' Action" makes attitudinal considerations "implicit" in act and agent, thus negating any need for a hexad (235-247). Of course, in the addendum to the 1969 edition of Grammar, Burke suggests that the pentad’s expansion into a hexad as “sometimes useful” (443). However, these remarks should be taken as a supplement to, not a replacement for, his original, carefully developed explication of the five terms of the pentad, with attitude strategically classed under the headings of act and of agent. It seems clear that, as the pentad was developed, Burke thought five terms sufficient and appealing. Two decades later, in Dramatism and Development, Burke reveals that “Possible purely personal motives may have affected [his] original choice of pentad rather than an explicit hexad” (23). Among these personal motives, as we have previously pointed out, is the fact that he had five children whose personalities he associated with his five abstract terms. Burke also enumerates additional personal motives affecting his attraction to the pentad: “But we may recall that Sir Thomas Browne was fascinated by the quineunx—and a perfectly formed five-act play combines the magic of both quineunx and triad, for it is essentially a three-part structure (beginning, middle, and end) with intermediate steps from beginning to middle and from middle to end. And Coleridge sets up several five-term designs” (23). So, despite his knowledge of the medieval hexameter, Burke chose to develop a pentad instead.

Burke’s initial preference for the pentad is also shown by his choice of a descriptive metaphor. In “The Study of Symbolic Action,” Burke notes, “The terms [of the pentad] are like five fingers. Each is distinct, yet they all merge in the hand. Thus, though the terms can be seen as distinct, so also they merge into one another. And by reason of this overlap, we may connect one into another” (13-14). Burke further develops this metaphor in Grammar, when he writes that “[i]f you would go from one finger to another without a leap, you need but trace the tendon down into the palm of the hand, and then trace a new course along another tendon” (xxii). Given the thoughtfulness of this metaphor, Burke had clearly settled—for a time, at least—on a five-termed vocabulary.

Because Burke often couches quo modo in act and in agent, we suggest that all ratios featuring act and/or agent hold the promise to account for attitude. To support this claim, we first demonstrate how Burke draws distinctions between two types of attitude. He states in his Grammar that:

the notion of the attitude as an incipient or delayed action would seem to be a special application of the concept of “potentiality,” which in Aristotle’s use of the dramatist Grammar was the reciprocal of “actuality.” …In the traditional Aristotelian usage, potentiality is to actuality as the possibility of doing something is to the actual doing of it. (242)

We shall refer to one of the kinds of attitude found here as an "attitude of potentiality,” which corresponds to the state of mind of an agent, who may create a substitute for an act. This notion of potentiality finds support in Burke's A Rhetoric of Motives. There, he describes to "bend" (flectere) as a function of persuasion. Bending does not result in a tangible, outward act. Rather, it affects a change of a person’s "leaning or inclination" (50). The second kind of attitude is what we shall call an "attitude of actuality," which is made manifest in a tangible, outward act. This notion also finds support in Burke's Rhetoric. He describes traditional approaches to persuasion as keyed on inducing a "move" (movere) toward action (50), not as a tool for “ingratiation” or “delight” (52).

Agent and act appear to cover all the variations of attitude Burke discusses. It follows, then, that ratios featuring either or both pentadic terms adequately reveal the presence of attitude. To name just a few, examples include the scene-agent ratio (surroundings influence the agent’s opinions and beliefs), the agent-purpose ratio (one’s biases shape his or her goals), the purpose-agent ratio (the believer’s lifestyle reflects their understanding of the “will of God”), and the agency-agent ratio (the means, including the communicative medium, influences the nature or state of mind of a listener). Space dictates that we cannot present elaborate examples of each possible ratio. However, we can supply and elucidate examples offered by Burke.

We offer three instances of ratios containing attitudes of potentiality. First, at the beginning of his Rhetoric, Burke provides an analysis of John Milton’s Samson Agonistes that features an act-agent ratio. The play's self-destructive protagonist, Samson, who is blind and held captive by the Philistines, nevertheless finds his opportunity for revenge. While chained to the pillars of a temple, he pulls down the structure, killing his enemies and himself. Burke shows how Milton—by identifying himself with Samson, “who was identified with God,” and by “identifying Royalists with Philistines and Puritans with Israelites”—was able to “ritualistically conquer” his own enemies, the Royalists (16). Burke notes that, despite the striking motive behind Samson's death, "Milton's religion strongly forbade suicide." What is more, Milton could not confront his enemies directly. So, to mollify his state of mind, he finds a substitutive act: writing about Samson, a figure "ambivalently fit to symbolize both aggressive and inturning trends." Milton's identification with Samson enables him to slay his enemies “in effigy.” As Burke puts it, "In saying, with fervor, that a blind Biblical hero did conquer his enemies, the poet is 'substantially' saying that he in his blindness will conquer" (5).

Second, from Burke’s own life, we offer an example of an attitude of potentiality featuring an act-agent ratio. This example involves Burke's negative feelings toward his long-time nemesis, Sydney Hook. Lawrence Rosenfield points out that Hook, whom he fittingly describes as a "conservative N.Y.U. Marxist and professional anti-communist voice after WWII," wrote critical articles about Burke.12 He "characterized Burke as a visionary Stalinist categorizer who was neither a historian nor a powerful ideological thinker" (10). Burke believed that the double insult affected his opportunities for employment during the McCarthy era and enticed the F.B.I. to monitor his lectures. Consequently, he felt "long term disgust" toward Hook and referred to him thereafter as "Shitney" (9-10). Rosenfield reports that, as late as 1978, Burke wrote to his good friend since childhood, Malcolm Cowley, that he was "trying to hang on until 84. Maybe Shitney Hook will still be living by then. And I must at least hang on long enough to piss on his grave" (10). Calling Hook "Shitney" is an overt act motivated by the state of mind of the agent, and it exemplifies an attitude of actuality. Burke's wish to live long enough to urinate on Hook's grave, however, is an "incipient act" and a "substitute" for an act, and it exemplifies an attitude of potentiality. It allowed Burke to gain symbolic victory over his enemy, to "punish" him "in effigy," just as Milton symbolically triumphed over his enemies. After Hook died in 1989, Burke lived until his death at 96 in 1993. During those four years, there is no reason to believe that Burke actually dampened Hook's resting place. Had he done so, the attitude motivating his act would have exemplified an attitude of actuality rather than an attitude of potentiality. Either way, Burke's attitude—his long-term disgust toward Hook—can be adequately discussed using an act-agent ratio without need for recourse to a separate term.

Third, we offer an example that discloses how an attitude of potentiality may be fixed in an agent-agency ratio. In "The Tactics of Motivation," written a few years after Hook negatively characterized him, Burke used a passage by Hook to demonstrate how the attitudes of an agent have the potential to influence their own perceptions of tools, methods, and procedures. Burke says:

Mr. Hook's reference to “faith in intelligence” is interesting as a dialectical device that obliterates the distinction between “faith” and “knowledge” . . . . We might note that the “faith and knowledge” alignment could be read as “act and scene,” if “faith” were conceived in the spirit of the expression, an “act of faith,” and “knowledge” were a knowledge of the scenic conditions in which that act could be enacted. . . . Mr. Hook's expression . . . could similarly be classed as an attitude of the agent directed toward agency; for “intelligence,” like “scientific method,” can be interpreted as a means rather than as a substance. (26)

Here, Burke illustrates how Hook’s technological/scientific mindset predisposed him to value scientific methods more than other modes of inquiry, like literary criticism or religion. To the extent that Hook’s attitudes merely predispose him to favor certain agencies over others, his attitude is one of potentiality. To the extent that he actually favors one agency, his attitude becomes one of actuality. In both this example, featuring an agent-agency ratio, and in the previous two examples featuring act-agent ratios, attitude is sufficiently accounted for within the pentad as part of either agent or act.

For examples of ratios that illustrate attitudes of actuality, we turn again to Burke’s Rhetoric of Motives. In his discussion of identification, Burke exemplifies how an agent-act ratio can account for attitudinal matters. He refers to "the politician who, addressing an audience of farmers, says 'I was a farm boy myself'" (xiv). In this case, the politician is consciously seeking to affect, or to bend (flectere), the attitudes of constituents in a way favorable to himself. However, if the politician’s goal is to promote a specific act (movere) by voters at the ballot box, then the statement would demonstrate an attitude of actuality. In either case, an agent is consciously seeking to perform an act, namely influencing the attitudes of others. Considerations of the attitudes of the politician and/or the voters can be adequately discussed in the terms of agent-act ratios.

Another instance of an attitude of actuality, this one affixed in an agency-act ratio, comes from The Philosophy of Literary Form, in which Burke describes a hypothetical land, Psychoanalysia. There, popular elections captivate citizens. In fact, the natives and their politicians practice a doctrine of "electoral obscenity,” which promotes the "curative value of a landslide":

Psychoanalysian politicians of all parties are insistent that the full cathartic (or purifying) effect of an election is frustrated unless voters switch violently from one candidate to another. They maintain that this violence of reaction is all the more necessary because there is little real difference between the candidates…. Thus, you have a one-party government cunningly maintained by a paradox, a constant succession of coronations and depositions. (134-135)

To maintain this system, the use of polarizing slogans, statements, rituals, and other tools of political campaigns (agencies) are employed to ensure that voters acquire the necessary attitudes to act in the appropriate manner by violently switching support from one candidate to another. This fictional case illustrates how attitudinal considerations can be adequately explained by an agency-act ratio constructed from the original five terms of the pentad.

These examples demonstrate how pentadic ratios can sufficiently account for attitude. Therefore, they suggest that the incorporation of a sixth hexadic term is unnecessary. Attitudes of potentiality reflect an agent's state of mind and often serve as substitutes for action. Attitudes of actuality, on the other hand, refer to both the preparation for and the execution of an act. We have provided examples of both attitudes of potentiality and attitudes of actuality in which attitude is given full and appropriate consideration under the heading of either act or agent. Our examples have included different pentadic ratios that incorporate attitudinal considerations: act-agent, agent-agency, agent-act, agency-act. These four are illustrative, not exhaustive. Other ratios that incorporate attitude are possible. From these examples, we conclude that attitude is already embedded in Burke's pentad. We further conclude that there is no need to expand the pentad into a hexad. The five terms of the pentad are sufficient to account for the full panoply of human motives.

There is one final argument that can be made against expanding the pentad into a hexad—an argument that deals with terminological inconsistency. As noted, Burke maintains that each of the seven different philosophical schools of thought is distinguished by and features one of the five pentadic terms: act corresponds with realism, scene with materialism, agent with idealism, agency with pragmatism, and purpose with mysticism (Grammar 128). The two remaining, rationalism and nominalism, do not correspond with a single philosophical school but can be a characteristic of all of the others. All terms relate to nominalism, as "they have a collectivist or individualist ('nominalist') emphasis." All terms also relate to rationalism, as "it is [the] perfection, or logical conclusion" of all of them (129). Attitude, however, boasts no clear correspondence. Since attitude is an "incipient act," each of the seven philosophical schools can be read rhetorically as inducements to attitude. Furthermore, since all language use is the striking of attitudes (Rhetoric of Religion 288-289), each one of the philosophical schools strikes its own particular set of attitudes. It is hardly surprising that, in everyday speech, the various philosophies are frequently used rhetorically as inducements to attitude. For example, people are sometimes told that they are "too idealistic" and are advised to become "more pragmatic." They might be warned that their aspirations are "not realistic." Or, they might be characterized as "overly materialistic" and counseled to become "more spiritual." Given that attitude is implicit in and correlates with all seven philosophical schools, it does not fit neatly with the other five terms. Architectonically, attitude seems out of place. It stands out like an unwanted sixth finger. Certainly, terminological ambiguity and inconsistency are inevitable and ubiquitous in all complex symbolic systems, including dramatism. What is more, dramatism has great tolerance for terminological ambiguity and inconsistency. Still, their presence thwarts our "rationalist impulse" to "perfect" our terms. But, the solution is simple: if one declines to view attitude as the sixth term of a hexad, the problem ceases to exist.

A Case For Hexadic Analysis

Although we have made a case for the pentad’s sufficiency, we also concur with Burke and others that hexadic analysis has the potential to expand a critic’s ability to explore human motives. As Burke points out in The Philosophy of Literary Form, “The main ideal of criticism, as I conceive it, is to use all that there is to use" (23). Hexadic analysis is one of the tools available for critical use. Rejecting the use of Burke’s “sixth finger” as a legitimate critical tool would not only be ignoring Burke’s ideal, but would also seem to be downright “un-Burkeian.” Therefore, our task in this section is to provide an analysis that supports a six-termed dramatistic vocabulary. Toward that end, first, we describe Burke’s conversion of the pentad into a hexad in his later works. Second, we offer noteworthy examples of scholarship that provide benchmarks in the development of hexadic analysis. As we have already noted, this section of the essay provides a counter-statement to our analysis in the previous section; and our discussion in the first section provides a counterstatement to this section.

Burke's thinking about the pentad evolves during his lengthy career. The 1945 edition of the Grammar presents a pentad. However, in the 1969 edition, Burke says that the pentad's expansion into a hexad is "sometimes useful" (443), and he expresses optimism for the use of hexadic analysis in understanding human motives. In fact, he briefly offers examples of ratios that feature attitude: “Thus, one could also speak of a ‘scene-attitude ratio,’ or of an ‘agent-attitude ratio,’ etc” (443). Burke further develops his ideas about the need for a hexad in an interview conducted in the early 1980s in which, as we have already pointed out, he "confessed" that he "cheated" when he converted the medieval hexameter into a pentad:

If I say that “he did this,” for example, “He built with a hammer with alacrity, with good will,” I’ve used “agency” in two ways, one literal, one figurative. I put “how” and “by what means” together; and what I did in making it a hexad was to make a difference between the two. (“Counter-Gridlock” 367)
Burke adds that the transformation of the pentad into a hexad "really is an improvement. ‘How’ is your attitude, and ‘by what means’ is your instrument’” (367).

In the 1984 edition of Attitudes Toward History, Burke further elucidates his evolving view of attitude. He acknowledges that, in the pentad, attitude is “but a figurative variation on the theme of agency” (394). In accounting for this apparent shortcoming, he points out that, in one of his earliest works, Counter-Statement (141), he quoted the medieval Latin hexameter without “realizing all the implications it would have for me when, about fifteen years later, I hit upon turning those interrogatives into the categories of my ‘Dramatistic Pentad’” (Attitudes 393). What is more, he says that, when writing his chapter on "incipient" and "delayed" action in Grammar, “I forgot my earlier investment in the term” of attitude (394). Had his view of quo modo been more clear, he says that that pentad “would have been a Hexad from the start” (393-394).

In light of Burke’s transformation of the pentad into a hexad, what is its potential for criticism and analysis? Put simply, it expands a critic’s ability to explore motives. Burke illustrates this in his Rhetoric where he discusses how manifestations of a rhetor’s attitude often appear in the form of “tonalities” of expression. He gives the example of Mark Anthony’s use of eulogistic appellatives in a speech to a mob in Shakespeare's Julius Caesar (94-95). While they might seem like mere ingratiation, such tonalities suggest subtly—but influentially—“right things” and appropriate conclusions (98), thus explaining Anthony's success in changing the mob's attitude. Manifestations of a writer’s or a speaker’s attitudes are often revealed through the tonalities of style, what classical writers refer to as elocutio, or spoken presentation, what classical writers call pronuntiatio and actio. For example, use of a “grand” style expresses a different attitude than the use of a “middle” or “plain” style. Shouting expresses a different attitude than whispering. Use of hexadic analysis opens up possibilities for critics to explore how a rhetor’s attitude is conveyed in the performative acts of writing and speaking. Moreover, hexadic analysis can be useful in the criticism of visual rhetoric. In such visual arts as drawing, painting, photography, and film-making, artists express attitudes with tones and tonalities. Lawrence J. Prelli provides this example of the value of hexadic analysis in the criticism of visual works of art: “I was thinking that the hexad could help us get at the motivation behind a Monet or other impressionist painting in ways the pentad could not. One could examine the colors, composition, and other elements of a painting in relation to a viewer’s mood, thus illustrating the agency-attitude ratio” (“RE: hexad”). To further illustrate the potential of hexadic analysis, let us now turn our attention to relevant critical works.

William Haltom and Michael W. McCann use hexadic analysis to search for Bruce Springsteen’s attitudes, which they call “tones,” and his “character’s motivations,” which they call “purposes,” in his songs (par. 7). Maintaining that “complete, satisfactory and revealing” stories depend on purpose and tone more than other elements, it was important for Haltom and McCann to consider attitude as a separate, discreet term, rather than as implicit in act, agent, or agency. Hexadic analysis permits them to demonstrate how shifting tonalities in a song encourage a certain interpretation of its meaning. One of the songs they analyze is “Independence Day,” which is told from a son’s perspective and which explores his contentious relationship with his father. The lyrics begin with a rebellious tone (“Nothing we can say is gonna change anything now”), progress to an expository tone (“Now the rooms are all empty down at Frankie’s joint”), and then move to an apologetic tone (“I swear I never meant to take those things away”). The authors show how this progression stirs in listeners a particular attitude; as the young man matures, a feeling of “warmth” toward him is created through identification (par. 16). Hexadic analysis enables the authors to focus directly on the attitudes of the artist in reaching their conclusion that “Springsteen’s best stories constitute the highest art” (par. 5).

Jeanne Y. Fisher’s (1974) essay about “Rhetorical Dimensions of a Multiple Murder and Suicide” employs hexadic analysis to build a dramatistic bridge from Burkeian theory to intrapersonal communication. In 1970, the subject of her study, Joseph William White, shot and killed five coworkers at the New York State Department of Labor before claiming his own life. Officials who investigated the case struggled to find a motive for White’s actions. However, with her analysis, Fisher claims that the consideration of his attitude yields possible explanations. For example, she locates an agent-attitude ratio that links events in White’s life, like his hurt feelings that resulted from teasing by high-school peers (178), to a “hierarchical psychosis” (183). This, Fisher suggests, affected White's state of mind and, consequently, his attitude toward his work site, where he committed murders and his own suicide (185). Fisher’s use of hexadic criticism enables her to investigate how the formation of an agent's attitude precedes an act. In this case, the act links White and his victims in the consubstantiality of death.

Perhaps the most prolific use of hexadic analysis has been accomplished by Clarke Rountree. In addition to “Coming to Terms,” Rountree uses the hexad in at least three critical studies. First, he explores “attitude” in the Calvinistic sermons of Charles Haddon Spurgeon, who advocated the doctrine of election at a time when it was falling out of favor. Rountree employs attitude to chart Spurgeon's seemingly inconsistent characterizations of God. According to the preacher, God provides salvation “freely.” At the same time, humans are “unworthy” and deserve the creator's indignation (38). Despite this paradox, Rountree argues that Spurgeon provides a degree of encouragement to two kinds of listeners. Members of the elect find confirmation of their status by having an appropriate attitude, which includes boldness and being “too proud to sin” (41). Individuals who are uncertain of their election are urged to look for signs of their calling, which may include a “Christ-like attitude” (43-44). Use of hexadic analysis enables Rountree to discover, in both cases, how attitude provides a basis for identification.

Second, Rountree uses what he calls “multipentadic analysis” to examine the Supreme Court’s ruling in Korematsu v. United States. Following the bombing of Pearl Harbor, the American military implemented Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s Executive Order 9066, which sent Japanese Americans to detention centers and effectively excluded them from the nation’s west coast. Rountree’s “multipentadic analysis” of this decision “better accounts for the rhetorical work involved in many rhetorical acts” than would be possible with traditional pentadic analysis. It also “opens the way to a consideration of complex rhetorical strategies” (21), enabling Rountree to show how contemporaneous understandings of act, scene, agent, agency, purpose, and attitude provided the motivational factors of racism that enabled the detention of Japanese Americans as “potentially disloyal” (8) members of the American population.

Third, in Judging the Supreme Court, Rountree uses hexadic analysis to size up the aftermath the Court’s decision in Bush v. Gore, which effectively decided the 2000 presidential election. He concludes that the key to understanding the case is not “proper judicial concerns” or formal arguments presented by the justices. Rather, the key is “motives" involving “political and personal concerns of majority justices” (xv). Rountree’s focus on quo modo as a discreet term permits him to demonstrate that the majority constructed their attitude toward the case, which was thrust upon the Court, as one of reluctance. He is also able to show that others imputed different attitudes toward the Court; while defenders of the Court’s majority saw reason and boldness, critics saw arrogance, overconfidence, and recklessness.

In all three studies, Rountree's use of hexadic analysis reveals its usefulness in discovering motivations that are not fully apparent when revealed only in terms of the pentad. With traditional pentadic analysis, religious convictions, racist mind-sets, and institutional aloofness could be couched under the headings of act or agent. This results in only the individual dimensions of attitude being emphasized. For instance, a government’s discriminatory act may be interpreted according to its implications for fostering racism, or a government itself may be perceived as racist. However, as a sixth term in the hexad, attitude can directly point to and emphasize the broader social dimensions of motivation. Thus, racism may be viewed in a more nuanced and sophisticated way as a pool of shared symbolic resources from which individuals draw, rather than as merely an idea in an individual’s mind.  

All of the studies we have discussed both illuminate the utility and the critical potential of hexadic analysis. As Burke points out, the "how" of human action is a potent source of identification. “Tonalities" give meaning to symbolic acts, and "states of mind" inform perceptions and acts of agents. With attitude as the sixth term of a hexad, the number of pentadic/hexadic ratios increases. Burke’s suggestions of scene-attitude and agent-attitude (Grammar 443), plus their opposites, add four. Then, pairing attitude with act, agency, and purpose adds six more. Indeed, the development of ten new ratios opens a universe of new critical possibilities. For this reason, hexadic analysis may provide highly sophisticated explanations of rhetorical acts, and it facilitates the consideration of complex rhetorical events. Hexadic analysis, as Burke has observed, "really is an improvement" ("Counter-Gridlock" 367)

Summary And Transcendence

Pentad or hexad? Five terms or six? In this study, our use of a statement/counter-statement dialectical approach enabled us to survey both positions at once, sympathetically and critically, and in relation to each other. It also allowed the claims of each position to be "matured" and revised in light of the recalcitrance afforded by the opposite position. Although the dramatistic dialectic is not intended to yield culminating syntheses or final authoritative pronouncements, "the multiplicity of elements in the dialectic" do offer what Michael A. Overington calls "an accurate account" (137). In the presentation of its two counter-statements, our study clarified key aspects of the ambiguity surrounding the pentad/hexad. Our study’s “accurate accounts,” which we call our “findings,” provide useful “corrective rationalizations” to each side of the debate and are summarized below.

Burke Changed His Mind. In the 1940s, Burke transformed the seven terms of the medieval Latin hexameter into a pentad. He was motivated to do so, in part at least, by the fact that he associated his terms with his five children. In the 1945 edition of Grammar, he likened the five terms to fingers on a hand. However, ideas, like biological organisms, do evolve. Thus, in the 1969 edition of Grammar, Burke proposed expansion and refinement of hexadic analysis. In the 1980s, to justify the transformation of the pentad into a hexad, he stated that had his views on attitude been clearer earlier the pentad "would have been a hexad from the start.” Burke considered his six-fingered hand "an improvement” but never fully explicated hexadic analysis.

The Pentad Adequately Accounts for Attitude. Our analysis revealed that the five terms of the pentad—without the inclusion of attitude as a separate sixth term—sufficiently account for the full panoply of human motives. By making quo modo "implicit" in act and agent, Burke eliminated any need for a hexad. We found that, without the inclusion of a sixth term, the pentad enables one to account for and to discuss with a high degree of sophistication virtually all attitudes, both those of potentiality and actuality. We presented numerous illustrations in which attitudinal considerations were fully encompassed by act and agency ratios. Also, for more than half a century, Burke and others accomplished significant scholarship without impediment while working with only five terms. In short, expansion of the pentad into a hexad is unnecessary for either practical or theoretical reasons.

The Critical Value of Hexadic Analysis Has Been Demonstrated. To test Burke's claim that his later expansion of the pentad "really is an improvement," we surveyed several examples of hexadic criticism that illustrate the method's utility. We found that the incorporation of attitude allows critics to explore more directly how "tonalities" of expression convey the attitudes of the rhetor and how "states of mind" inform the action of listeners. Incorporation of attitude equips critics to investigate complex rhetorical events, and it frequently results in sophisticated, highly nuanced explanations of rhetorical acts. Without attitude as a discrete term, the resources available to critics may be unduly limited. A skeptic might argue that all of these critical tasks could have been accomplished using only the five terms of the pentad, and they would be right. However, the path would have been less focused, less direct, more complicated and more cumbersome. There can be no denying the value and efficacy of hexadic analysis for accomplishing certain kinds of critical tasks.

Attitude is Included Regardless of How One Configures the Ontological Structure of the Symbolic Act. Our analysis showed that considerations of attitude can be adequately taken into account whether there are five terms or six. With five terms, attitude can be discussed as "incipient act" or as "preparation for an act”; it can be considered as an agent’s "state of mind"; and, sometimes, it can be thought of as a variant of agency. Or, attitude can be considered as the separate sixth term of a hexad. In any case, quo modo is ontologically grounded as a condition of symbolic action.

Transforming the Pentad into a Hexad Would Increase the Possible Number of Ratios. In Grammar, Burke initially distinguished ten ratios, which he then claimed were reversible. Thus, he offered twenty pairings. When he later suggested ratios including attitude (i.e., “scene-attitude” and “agent-attitude”), these, and their reverses, increased the number of ratios to twenty four. We indicated in our essay that additional ratios are possible. For critics, this condition opens new possibilities by expanding the scope of their perspectives.

Transforming the Pentad into a Hexad Creates Terminological/Logological Inconsistency. In our analysis, we underscored that attitude does not "neatly" fit with the other five terms because, unlike each one of them, it does not correspond to a single philosophical school. Attitude correlates with all seven philosophical schools—each of which radiates its own cluster of related attitudes—rather than with a single one of them. Because attitude does not architectonically "fit" with the other five terms, its inclusion as the sixth term of a hexad produces terminological/logological inconsistency. If this seems problematic, it is; in our rationalistic quest for theoretical perfection, we resist terminological contradiction and ambiguity. Certainly, in all complex symbolic structures, dramatism included, ambiguities and inconsistencies are inevitable and ubiquitous. Dramatism as a system contains many devices designed to deal with such logological problems, including "discounting" (Attitudes 244), "casuistic stretching" (229), and "transcendence" (336). However, if one does not transform the pentad into a hexad in the first place, these terminological/logological problems do not exist.

Transcendence. Pentad or hexad? When posed this way, the question characterizes the two terms as opposites. Viewing them as such aided us in reading each perspective at the same time sympathetically and critically. Unfortunately, posing the question in an "either-or" way simultaneously reduced the circumference of our perspective. However, the juxtaposition of our two counter-statements suggests the desirability of widening the scope of our perspective by rephrasing our initial inquiry. Replacing "or" (which encourages division) with "and" (which encourages identification)—making the question "pentad and hexad?"—both widens our perspective and also makes possible a reconciliation of the two positions. For example, one can believe that there is no theoretic reason for expanding the pentad into a hexad and simultaneously believe that hexadic analysis is a legitimate and helpful critical tool.  It requires minimal, if any, "casuistic stretching" to regard hexadic analysis not as an opposite but as a useful "sixth finger." In reconciling these two seemingly conflicting positions, we have achieved what Burke calls "transcendence.” In so doing, we have employed a dramatistic dialectic that, in the words of Malcolm Cowley, "moves backwards from conflicting effects to harmonious causes" (19). Indeed, our dialectical understanding shifts attention from tensions about pentad and hexad to the "harmonious cause" that provoked Burke's thinking about the matter in the first place: adapting the medieval Latin hexameter to contemporary needs.


*Floyd D. Anderson is a Professor of Communication at The College at Brockport: State University of New York. Matthew T. Althouse is an Associate Professor of Communication at The College at Brockport: State University of New York. They gratefully acknowledge the thorough and invaluable commentaries on earlier drafts of this essay by Clarke Rountree, Lawrence J. Prelli, Andrew King, and four of this journal’s anonymous reviewers, and they gratefully acknowledge the assistance of Cheryl Tatano Beck and Lawrence W. Rosenfield. Finally, Althouse thanks the College at Brockport for generously providing a sabbatical leave that enabled him to work on this project and several others.

1. The formulaic medieval Latin septad that Burke recites originated in Hellenistic rhetorical theory. The earliest extant version is in Cicero's De Inventione, which discusses the "attributes of persons" and the "circumstances of actions" as the loci of arguments (De Inventione I. 34-43, II. 40-50; also see George Kennedy, 134-135). Quintilian also locates the loci argumentorum in the "circumstances that give rise to each kind of argument" (Institutio Oratoria. V. 20-52). These include "persons" and their attributes, "actions," and the "questions" that arise "in regard to every action," either "Why or Where or When or How or By what means the action is performed" (V. 32-33). In the sixth century, Boethius presents a similar list of seven "circumstances": quis, quid, cur, quomodo, ubi, quando, quibus auxiliis (De Topicis Differentis 1212D24-36; see also Michael C. Leff, 3-24). In the later middle ages, the seven terms were widely used for both religious and educational purposes and for textual exegesis. Thiery de Chartres, John of Salisbury, and Thomas Aquinas all discuss the formulaic seven terms (Robertson, 6-14; Burke, Counter-Statement 141). When placed in the order that Burke recites, the terms form a line of verse in classical Latin prosody that has sometimes been called "the medieval Latin hexameter." The hexametric structure and alliteration function as mnemonic devices that facilitate remembrance of the seven terms.

2. Burke's interviewer, is Frank Gillette. See "Counter-Gridlock," which contains material from a series of interviews with Burke in 1980-81. In conducting some of the interviews, Gillette was assisted by Monte Davis, Pellegrino D'Acierno, Roy Skodnick, and William H. Rueckert .

3. The notion that attitude is an “incipient act” originated with I. A. Richards (Principles 107-113), but Burke further developed and refined it for his own purposes in Grammar.

4. See, for instance, Bernard L. Brock, Kenneth Burke, Parke G. Burgess, and Herbert W. Simons, 18-22, 24-25, 26-27, 28-31; Brock, "Epistemology and Ontology" 94-104; Brock, "The Evolution of Kenneth Burke's Philosophy" 309-328; James W. Chesebro, "Epistemology and Ontology" 175-191. Although this view of dramatism as an epistemological system had some support in the 1980s and 1990s, it has largely been superseded by a growing scholarly consensus that Burke knew what he was talking about all along when he said that dramatism is an ontological system grounded in symbolic action. For examples of this perspective, see Bryan Crable, “Defending Dramatism”; Crable, “Burke’s Perspective”; Francis Fergusson, “Kenneth Burke’s ‘A Grammar of Motives’”; Clarke Rountree, “Coming to Terms”; Robert Wess, Kenneth Burke 234-240.

5. In Counter-Statement, see Burke’s earliest attempt at formulating the pentad from the mediaeval Latin hexameter (141), which includes seven terms: who, what, when, where, how, why, and by what means. It is thus a septad. However, in Grammar, Burke combined “where” and “when” into “scene,” and he conflated “how” and “by what means” in to “agency.” The result was the pentad.

6. According to Andrew King, Burke made this statement in an unpublished lecture titled “Walt Whitman’s Rhetoric,” presented as the Joseph Warren Beach Lecture at the University of Minnesota on April 2, 1976 (“RE: pentad”).

7. For useful commentaries on the pentad as a critical method see Francis Fergusson; Hugh Dalziel Duncan; Michael A. Overington; Charles W. Kneupper; Trevor Melia; Vito Signorile; and Floyd D. Anderson and Lawrence J. Prelli.

8. Some of the sample ratios cited here are borrowed from Charles W. Kneupper, 133.

9. See, for instance, studies by David A. Ling; Barry Brummett; Jane Blankenship, Marlene Fine, and Leslie K. Davis; David S. Birdsell; Mari Boor Tonn, Valerie A. Endress, and John N. Diamond; Richard Bello; and Andrew King (“Pentadic Criticism”).

10. In these studies, authors favor the terms “pentad” and “pentadic,” even if they actually employ a hexad. Clarke Rountree explains his use of terminology by stating, “although I do ‘hexadic’ criticism, ‘pentadic’ is the term of art” (“RE: Pentad/Hexad: Some Questions”).

11. The specific passage Burke cites here is Nicomachian Ethics, 1111a 3-5; see also Richard McKeon, ed., The Basic Works of Aristotle (966).

12. See Sidney Hook, “The Technique of Mystification” and “Is Mr. Burke Serious?”


Anderson, Dana. “Questioning the Motives of Habituated Action: Burke and Bourdieu on Practice.” Philosophy and Rhetoric 37.3 (2004): 255-274.

Anderson, Floyd D., and Prelli, Lawrence J. “Pentadic Cartography: Mapping the Universe of Discourse.” Quarterly Journal of Speech 87.1 (2001): 73-95.

Beck, Cheryl Tatano. “Pentadic Cartography: Mapping Birth Trauma Narratives.” Qualitative Health Research 16.4 (2006): 453-466.

---. "RE: pentadic analysis." E-mail to the authors. 19 Sept. 2008.

Bello, Richard. “A Burkeian Analysis of the ‘Political Correctness’ Confrontation in Higher Education.” Southern Communication Journal 61.3 (1996): 243-252.

Blankenship, Jane, Fine, Marlene, and Davis, Leslie K. “The 1980 Republican Primary Debates: The Transformation of Actor Into Scene.” Quarterly Journal of Speech 69.1 (1983): 25-36.

Birdsell, David S. “Ronald Reagan on Lebanon and Grenada: Flexibility and Application of Kenneth Burke’s Pentad.” Quarterly Journal of Speech 73 (1987): 267-279.

Brock, Bernard L. "Epistemology and Ontology in Kenneth Burke's Dramatism." Communication Quarterly 33 (1985): 94-104

Brock, Bernard L. "The Evolution of Kenneth Burke's Philosophy of Rhetoric: Dialectic Between Epistemology and Ontology." Extensions of the Burkeian System. Ed. James W. Chesebro. Tuscaloosa: University of Alabama Press, 1993. 309-328.

Brock, Bernard L, Burke, Kenneth, Burgess, Parke G., and Simons, Herbert W. "Dramatism as Ontology or Epistemology: A Symposium." Communication Quarterly 33 (1985): 17-33.

Brummett, Barry. “A Pentadic Analysis of Ideologies in Two Gay Rights Controversies.” Central States Speech Journal 30 (1979): 250-261.

Bruner, Jerome. Acts of Meaning. Cambridge and London: Harvard University Press, 1990.

---. Actual Minds, Possible Worlds. Cambridge and London: Harvard University Press, 1990. 

Burke, Kenneth. Attitudes Toward History. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1984.

---. “Counter-Gridlock: An Interview with Kenneth Burke, 1980.” On Human Nature: A Gathering While Everything Flows, 1967-1984. Kenneth Burke. Eds. William H. Rueckert, and Angelo Bonadonna. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2003. 336-389. This essay originally appeared in All Area 2 (Spring 1983): 443.

---. Counter-Statement. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1969.

---. "Dramatism." International Encyclopedia of the Social Sciences. Ed. David L. Sills.
New York: Macmillan and Free Press, 1968. 445-52.

---. Dramatism and Development. Barre, MA: Clark University Press, 1972.

---. "Dramatism and Logology." Communication Quarterly 33 (1985): 89-93.

---. A Grammar of Motives. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1969.

---. "Linguistic Approaches to Problems of Education.” Modern Philosophies and

Education. Ed. Nelson B. Henry. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1955. 259-303.

---. Permanence and Change: An Anatomy of Purpose. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1984.

---. The Philosophy of Literary Form: Studies in Symbolic Action. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1973.

---. "Questions and Answers About the Pentad." College Composition and Communication 29.4 (1978): 330-335.

---. A Rhetoric of Motives. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1969.

---. The Rhetoric of Religion: Studies in Logology. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1970.

---. “The Study of Symbolic Action.” Chimera 1 (Spring 1942): 7-16.

---. "The Tactics of Motivation." Chimera 1 (1943): 21-33 and Chimera 2 (1943): 37-53.

Chesebro, James W. "Epistemology and Ontology as Dialectical Modes in the Writings of Kenneth Burke." Communication Quarterly 36 (1988): 175-192.

Cicero. De Inventione, De Optimo Genere Oratorum, Topica. Trans. H. M. Hubbell. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1949.

Cowley, Malcolm. “Prolegomena to Kenneth Burke.” Review of A Rhetoric of Motives by Kenneth Burke. The New Republic 122 (5 June 1950): 18-19.

Crable, Bryan. "Burke's Perspective on Perspectives: Grounding Dramatism in the Representative Anecdote." Quarterly Journal of Speech 86 (2000): 318-333.

---. "Defending Dramatism as Ontological and Literal." Communication Quarterly 48.3 (2000): 323-342.

Duncan, Hugh Dalziel. Communication and Social Order London. Oxford University Press, 1962.

Fergusson, Francis. "Kenneth Burke's 'A Grammar of Motives.'" Critical Responses to Kenneth Burke: 1924-1926. Ed. William H. Reuckert. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1969. 173-182.

Fisher, Jeanne Y. "A Burkean Analysis of the Rhetorical Dimensions of Multiple Murder and Suicide." Quarterly Journal of Speech 60.2 (1974): 175-189.

Haltom, William, and McCann, Michael W. “From Badlands to Better Days: Bruce Springsteen Observes Law and Politics.” 1996. 7 September 2008.  <>.

Hawhee, Debra. “Language as Sensuous Action: Sir Richard Paget, Kenneth Burke, and Gesture-Speech Theory. Quarterly Journal of Speech 92.4 (2006): 331-354.

Hook, Sidney. “The Technique of Mystification.” Critical Responses to Kenneth Burke: 1924-1926. Ed. William H. Reuckert. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1969. 89-97.

---. “Is Mr. Burke Serious?” Critical Responses to Kenneth Burke: 1924-1926. Ed. William H. Reuckert. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1969. 97-101.

Kennedy, George. The Art of Rhetoric in the Roman World. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1972.

King, Andrew. “Editor’s Introduction.” K. B. Journal 5.2 (2009). 7 July 2009. <>.

---. “Pentadic Criticism: The Wheels of Creation.” Rhetorical Criticism: Perspectives in Action. Ed. Jim A. Kuypers. Lanham, MD: Lexington Books, 2009. 165-179.

---. “RE: pentad.” E-mail to the authors. 30 June 2009.

Kneupper, Charles W. "Dramatistic Invention: The Pentad as a Heuristic Device." Rhetoric Society Quarterly 9.3 (1979): 130-136.

Leff., Michael C. "Boethius' De Differentiis Topicis Book IV. " Medieval Eloquence: Studies in the Theory and Practice of Medieval Rhetoric. Ed. James J. Murphy. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1978.

Ling, David A. “A Pentadic Analysis of Senator Edward Kennedy’s Address to the People of Massachusetts, July 25, 1969.” Central States Speech Journal 21 (1970): 81-86.

Mahan-Hayes, Sarah, and Aden, Roger C. “Kenneth Burke's 'Attitude' at the Crossroads of Rhetorical and Cultural Studies: A Proposal and Case Study Illustration.” Western Journal of Communication 67.1 (2003): 32-55.

McKeon, Richard, ed. The Basic Works of Aristotle. New York: Random House, 1941.

Melia, Trevor. “Scientism and Dramatism: Some Quasi-Mathematical Motifs in the Work of Kenneth Burke.” The Legacy of Kenneth Burke. Eds. Herbert W. Simons and Trevor Melia. Madison: The University of Wisconsin Press, 1989. 55-73.

Morris, Charles. "The Strategy of Kenneth Burke." Review of A Grammar of Motives by Kenneth Burke. Nation 163.4 (1946): 106.

Overington, Michael A. “Kenneth Burke and the Method of Dramatism.” Theory and Society 4 (1977): 131-156.

Prelli, Lawrence J. “RE: hexad.” E-mail to the authors. 19 Sept. 2009.

Quintilian. The Institutio Oratoria. Trans. H. E. Butler. 4 vols. Cambridge: MA: Harvard University Press, 1921.

Richards, I. A. Principles of Literary Criticism. NY: Harcourt, Brace & World, 1925.

Robertson, Jr., D. W. "A Note on the Classical Origins of 'Circumstances' in the Medieval Confessional." Studies in Philology 43:1 (1946): 6-14.

Rosenfield, Lawrence W. “The Kenneth Burke-Malcolm Cowley Correspondence.” Paper presented at the Conference of the Kenneth Burke Society: Iowa City, Iowa, 20-23 May 1999.

Rountree, Clarke. "Charles Haddon Spurgeon's Calvinist Rhetoric of Election: Constituting an Elect." Journal of Communication and Religion 17.2 (1994): 33-48.

---. “Coming to Terms with Kenneth Burke’s Pentad.” American Communication Journal 11.3 (1998). 7 September 2008. <>.

---. “Instantiating ‘The Law’ and its Dissents in Korematsu v. United States: A Dramatistic Analysis of Judicial Discourse.” Quarterly Journal of Speech 87.1 (2001): 1-24.

---. Judging the Supreme Court: Constructions of Motives in Bush v. Gore. East Lansing: Michigan State University Press, 2007.

---. “RE: Pentad/Hexad: Some Questions.” E-mail to the authors. 18 July 2008.

Tonn, Mari Boor, Endress, Valerie A., and Diamond, John N. “Hunting and Heritage on Trial: A Dramatistic Debate over Tradition and Territory.” Quarterly Journal of Speech 79 (1993): 165-181.

Vito Signorile. "Ratios and Causes: The Pentad as an Etiological Scheme in Social Explanation." The Legacy of Kenneth Burke. Eds. Herbert W. Simons and Trevor Melia. Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1989. 74-98. 

Wess, Robert. Kenneth Burke, Rhetoric Subjectivity, Postmodernism. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1996.