Ragan Fox Breaks Down Kenneth Burke’s Pentadic Ratios

(If you use this chart in your class, credit me.  This display took longer than you might think to construct.)

Ratio                            Definition                                   One-Sentence Example

Scene-act Setting determines action. “The ominous cliff compelled him to kill himself.”
Scene-agent Setting determines the person. “You are where you come from.”
Scene-agency Location determines appropriate tools for the job. “If you live in the city, you better have a gun to protect yourself.”
Scene-purpose The location determines what a person hopes to accomplish. “I work at a restaurant. My goal is to make you happy.”
Act-scene The action shapes the location. “My church wasn’t the same after the priest stole donations.”
Act-agent The action shapes the person. “You are what you do.”
Act-agency The action determines which tools are right for the job. “If our men go to war, they need body armor.”
Act-purpose The action tells you something about the person’s intent. “A person would only act that way if he was trying to save his child.”
Agent-scene The person shapes the setting. “The whole office changed when she started working here.”
Agent-act Certain people act in certain ways. “Homeless people always ask me for money.”
Agent-agency Only these people have access to the right tools. “The president does not negotiate with terrorists.”
Agent-purpose A person’s character tells you something about their intentions. “All liberals want to destroy the country.”
Agency-scene The tools constrain and enable the setting or situation. “A hospital is only as good as its medical equipment.”
Agency-act The tools determine how a person will act. “If you put a gun in a child’s hands, he’s probably gonna’ pull the trigger.”
Agency-agent The available tools shape a person’s character. “Unlimited power creates tyrants.”
Agency-purpose The available tools shape a person’s intentions. “Without rescue equipment, this became a search for dead bodies.”
Purpose-scene A person’s intentions affect the situation or setting. “Courtrooms are bastions of dishonesty, because lawyers care about winning more than truth.”
Purpose-act A person’s intent shapes his or her actions. “The murder was an act of self-defense.”
Purpose-agent A person’s intent reflects his or her character. “I’m not a bad person.  I didn’t mean to hit you.”
Purpose-agency Intention determines the right tools to use for the job. “If you want to help me, shut up for a second!”