Academic journal article Antichthon

Performance and Rhetoric in Cicero's Philippics*

Academic journal article Antichthon

Performance and Rhetoric in Cicero's Philippics*

Article excerpt

In recent years, the idea of 'performance' has become a more and more important concept for the analysis of literary texts, even if the notion of 'performance' in literary criticism still does not denote a single agreed theory, but is a collective term referring to a number of different aspects and methods. The performance approach seems obvious for some literary genres, like drama and also oratory, for which performance is an essential characteristic. In the case of orations, in antiquity already a detailed doctrine of the perfect performance was established, both in theory and practice. Building on this knowledge and trying to recover the quintessential context of a speech, people have successfully attempted to explore a Roman orator's potential and to contextualize Roman orations by reconstructing the delivery of sample speeches.1

However, there are further levels of performance to be looked at in a Roman speech if the term 'performance' is understood in a more specific way: there is not only the actio that determines the performance of a complete speech; the texts of transmitted speeches also exhibit passages where the wording shows that the orator bases his argument on the performance situation, particularly by making use of the active participation of the audience. Reactions from the audience are deliberately elicited by the orator, for instance by taking on certain roles; these techniques stem from his rhetorical training (for example, ethopoiia); however, considering and commenting on these reactions subsequently yield a performative dialogue with the audience, mirrored in the text. That opens up the opportunity to reconstruct a performance situation which goes beyond identifying how rhetorical techniques have been realized by the orator. And that is what this paper will focus on by analysing to what effect Cicero puts the possibilities given by such per-formance situations in his orations.

One might object that the preserved speeches typically are not those actually delivered, but versions reworked for publication (irrespective of the precise extent of this revision).2 Nevertheless, it is safe to assume that the methods found in the published speeches reflect common practice with Roman orators for the actual delivery of speeches. For in order to draw up a convincing text in the course of revision, an author has to keep in mind that he is supposed to produce a written transcript of an orally delivered speech and can only use means of performance possible in that context so that the written speech might be delivered.3

Consequently, looking at the transmitted texts of the orations may show what aspects of performance can be highlighted in the actual delivery of a speech, how performative features are exploited to further the argument and how signs of performance may be employed in a written version for a reading public as well. Of course, no authentic transcript of a complete performance or a reliable record of the audience's opinion and conduct exist; there are only the orator's strategies and comments on the audience's reactions in the preserved speeches. All those mentioned in the orations are possible reactions of an audience (in this period); whether they actually occurred as described cannot be proved, and the report need not always be exactly true. At any rate, they point to the techniques used and reactions aimed at by the orator.

In view of the available evidence, it seems a good idea to look at all these questions by taking several speeches belonging to the same thematic context as sample texts. For when orations are connected by a common subject matter, similarities and differences between various performative acts may be interpreted against this background. If they have been published as a group, one may also ask whether the orator's attempts at interaction with the audience are paralleled by efforts to influence the readers in compiling a corpus.

That is why this study will analyse Cicero's Philippics, the largest coherent group of Ciceronian political speeches extant. …

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