I would like to start proceedings on a polemical note. My essay will be a defence of rhetoric and I will argue that in these new-historicist, post-structuralist, agendaladen times that it still matters, indeed matters all the more. Such defences are not new but they do have to be reiterated from time to time. Rhetoric is pleasure and we must never lose sight of this fact; we do, however, have to ask a little more particularly how it functions. As I am interested in how rhetoric brings pleasure, I am also concerned with how it defines the boundaries of its subject, and how it determines context. In our emphasis on context (which has recently been once more on the increase) we are as often as not inclined to move outwards from the poem or play, finding or interpreting something not signalled within the work itself. The poem becomes the cue for further investigation. We may find something fruitful and exciting ‘out there’ but we should never abandon internal context or simply use the work as pretext for other ends. What I am protesting against is what has become known as the ‘uses’ of an author.