Apart from these more obviously rhetorical uses, the question as a grammatical
form has important rhetorical dimensions. For example, the rhetorical
critic may assess the effect of asking a question as a method of beginning
discourse: "Shall I compare thee to a summer's day?" says the persona
of Shakespeare's 18th sonnet. This kind of rhetorical question, in which
one asks the opinion of those listening, is called anacoenosis .
This rhetorical question has a definite ethical dimension, since to ask
in this way generally endears the speaker to the audience and so improves
his or her credibility or ethos . The technical term for rhetorical
questions in general is erotema .
Rhetorical questions are questions that are asked without expecting an answer. These questions are meant to influence the audience or express a feeling. In literature, a rhetorical question can be humorous, obvious, or reflective. It can be one that is asked already knowing the answer, like in Shakespeare's Merchant of Venice , when Shylock asks, 'I am a Jew. Hath / not a Jew eyes? hath not a Jew hands, organs, / dimensions, senses…' These questions have obvious answers, but they are asked to get the audience to empathize with him.