Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Speech Communication

First Advisor

Andrew A. King


This study examines the 1951 death sentences imposed upon Ethel and Julius Rosenberg by Judge Irving R. Kaufman. This study's focus is discovering how these sentences came to be, rhetorically. The study employs the dramatistic pentad suggested by Kenneth Burke. The scene is seen as the dominant, driving force behind the judge's sentences. The scene is labeled as "betrayal"; the name betrayal resulting from: (1) the Cold War; (2) McCarthyism; (3) the Korean War; and (4) other domestic post-World War II problems. The analysis pictures the American government using the Rosenbergs as scapegoats to symbolically cleanse away betrayal images. Thus, the government sought to purify itself and to regain some of the power and control it was perceived to have lost. Some of the concerns that were raised in the Rosenberg case have potential present-day relevance in America's handling of espionage cases.