Burke’s Pentad is a critical, rhetorical perspective that is used both as

  1. a heuristic
  2. a tool of rhetorical analysis.

The pentad consists of five variables—aka rhetorical constraints. Burke believed these contextual elements have affordances and constraints and that these elements and the relationships among these elements shape the writer’s, speaker’s, knowledge maker’s composing processes:

  1. The act
  2. The scene
  3. The agent
  4. The agency or method or means
  5. The purpose or motive.

Key Concepts: Invention; Rhetorical Analysis; Rhetorical Reasoning


Kenneth Burke was an influential rhetorician and critic who was curious about the role of rhetoric in decision making and persuasion. In A Grammar of Motives, Burke suggested that any analysis of motives need to account for act, scene, agent, method, and purpose. Furthemore, Burke suggests that interrelationships between these variables play a substantive role in rhetorical analysis and rhetorical reasoning.

  • Actor to act
  • Actor to scene
  • Actor to agency
  • Actor to purpose
  • Act to scene
  • Act to agency
  • Act to purpose
  • Scene to agency
  • Scene to purpose
  • Agency to purpose

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