Persuasion: Greek Rhetoric in Action

By Ian Worthington | Go to book overview

10

Comedy and rhetoric

Phillip Harding

This chapter will attempt to demonstrate the influence that the genre of comic drama had on Greek rhetoric in style, vocabulary, technique and theme. To all intents and purposes this will mean the influence of so-called Old Comedy, since Middle Comedy is little more than a concept and our earliest examples of New Comedy (excluding the fragments) post-date the great rhetorical works of the late fifth and fourth centuries, upon which I shall be focusing. Just occasionally it might be possible to glimpse a stock character of New Comedy, like the braggart soldier, behind the scenes; mostly, however, I shall be taking my cue from the plays of Aristophanes. Now it is obvious that humour can be found in many places other than on the comic stage, and equally clear that not all the humour found in the speeches of the orators need have (or was likely to have) been inspired by the comic genre. The larger subject of the use of humour, in general, in ancient rhetorical theory and practice is beyond the scope of this study. It has, anyway, been treated on numerous previous occasions, especially from the theoretical point of view, from antiquity to the present. But between these works and the present enquiry stands the obtrusive figure of Aristotle, whose prim views of propriety were antipathetic to the vigour of Old Comedy, especially the more abusive elements in it, which he excluded from ‘good’ rhetoric. This study will overleap the bounds he set and examine the texts of the orators for echoes or applications of Old Comedy in practice. 1

Something can, however, be salvaged from ancient theory. The examination of comedy that has come down to us in the tenth-century codex Parisinus Coislinianus no. 20, usually called the Tractatus Coislinianus, is thought by many to be an epitome of Aristotle’s discussion of comedy from the lost Book Two of the

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Persuasion: Greek Rhetoric in Action
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • Preface viii
  • Abbreviations xi
  • Part I - Communicating 1
  • 1 - From Orality to Rhetoric: an Intellectual Transformation 3
  • 2 - Rhetorical Means of Persuasion 26
  • 3 - Probability and Persuasion: Plato and Early Greek Rhetoric 46
  • 4 - Classical Rhetoric and Modern Theories of Discourse 69
  • Part II - Applications 83
  • 5 - Power and Oratory in Democratic Athens: Demosthenes 21, against Meidias 85
  • 6 - History and Oratorical Exploitation 109
  • 7 - Law and Oratory 130
  • Part III - Contexts 151
  • 8 - Epic and Rhetoric 153
  • 9 - Tragedy and Rhetoric 176
  • 10 - Comedy and Rhetoric 196
  • 11 - Philosophy and Rhetoric 222
  • Notes 242
  • 12 - The Canon of the Ten Attic Orators 244
  • Bibliography 264
  • Index 274
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