Rhetoric and Pedagogy: Its History, Philosophy, and Practice: Essays in Honor of James J. Murphy

By Winifred Bryan Horner; Michael Leff | Go to book overview

Chapter 3
Cicero's Court Speeches: The Spoken
Text Versus the Published Text
Some Remarks From the Point of
View of the Communication
Theory of Text

Jerzy Axer
University of Warsaw

As is generally known, the relation between a text as delivered and the same text as it was published has repeatedly puzzled scholars dealing with Cicero's speeches, especially those delivered in court. The question of the character and scope of the changes made by the orator for publication purposes has been raised over and over again, both in synthetically oriented studies and in analyses of individual speeches. This question is implicit even in the works of those scholars who explicitly renounce asking it.

Until quite recently the problem has not seemed to me an attractive one. The work of generations of philologists, who took pains to reconstruct hypothetical amendments and corrections Cicero introduced to his speeches after their delivery and before their publication, has proved to be decidedly unrewarding and of little practical use. Analysts focusing on the problem have tended to aim at isolating from the published texts all that was contained in the original delivered speeches, in order to derive from that material the defense tactics, the course of proceedings, and the ideological motivation of the contestants. Fragments regarded as added or reworded afterward have been construed either as insertions due to (chiefly political) circumstances around the moment of publication or as the author's self-corrections intended to expurgate the form and content of those elements in a speech that had proved to be ineffective in the course of the trial or had been found erroneous after it. What is particularly discouraging in inquiries of this kind (and even more discouraging in their reception by historians and lawyers) is a distinct--unconscious or sometimes conscious--tendency to view Cicero's revisions as a specific adulteration, as a distortion that was to conceal various aspects of the actual oration

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