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flourish merely for the purpose of harmless display, how much more will this be looked for in oratory, which has the gratification of the hearer as well as effect for its object. There is nothing in the whole range of Nature which starts at once into perfect maturity, and passes as suddenly away, and the most tremendous developments of her power have nothing of effort or violence in their commencement. Nor should the exordium be gathered extrinsically, and from foreign sources, but from the inmost core of the subject. The entire cause, therefore, being fully investigated and thoroughly understood, all the arguments prepared and skillfully arranged, it will be for us to consider what kind of exordium will be most suitable for the occasion, and this will readily suggest itself, for it will naturally flow, either from those topics which are most fertile in argument, or from those appeals to the passions, of which we ought often to avail ourselves. Drawn thus from the inmost resources of our defense, they will give weight to the reasoning as manifestly not commonplaces, and equally applicable to any cause, but a natural offshoot and efflorescence from the root of the question.
Every exordium ought either to have reference to the entire subject under consideration, or to form an introduction and support, or a graceful and ornamental approach to it, bearing, however, the same architectural proportion to the speech as the vestibule and avenue to the edifice and temple to which they lead. In trifling and unimportant causes, therefore, it is often better to commence with a simple statement without any preamble. But when a regular introduction cannot be dispensed with (which is generally the case), the material may be drawn either from the client or his opponent, from the point at issue or the presiding judges. From the character of the client (for so I designate him whose interests are at stake), by dwelling on those circumstances, which prove him to be a good and liberal man, a man whose misfortunes challenge commiseration, and who is the victim of a false accusation - from the character of his opponent, by painting him in directly opposite colors - from the point at issue, by representing the circumstances of the case as peculiarly cruel, beyond expression and imagination infamous, replete with suffering and ingratitude, unmerited, without precedent, beyond restitution or remedy-finally, from the presiding judges, by such representations as are calculated to conciliate their favor for our client, and raise him in their estimation, which will be more easily brought about by a clear statement of facts than by any direct appeal. This great object must never be lost sight of in any part of the address, and least of all at the close, though many exordia are supplied from the same source. We are told by the Greek rhetoricians that our aim at the outset should be to fix the attention of the judges, and to make them open to conviction, which, though valuable advice, is not more applicable to the commencement than to the rest of the discourse, but more attainable certainly at that time, when the expectation of all that is to come begets attention, and when the judges are more easily impressed, because the arguments, either for or against, stand out in a much stronger light there than in the body of the speech. But the greatest abundance and variety of matter for exordia, either in conciliating or exciting the feelings of the judges, will be supplied by those topics which are calculated to create emotion; these, however, must not be exhausted at the commencement, but only partially employed, to give that gentle impulse to the judges, which may be accelerated by the pressure of the subsequent oration.
Let the exordium also be so connected with the succeeding parts of the discourse that it may not appear artificially attached, like the prelude of the musician, but a coherent member of the same body. It is the practice of some speakers, after having put forth a most elaborately finished exordium, to make such a transition to what follows, that they seem solely intent upon drawing attention to themselves. The introduction should not resemble the practice of the Samnite gladiators, who brandish one weapon in advancing, and use another in the fight, but rather of those who employ the same weapon for the prelude and the encounter. As to the rule which exacts brevity from the narration, if brevity be understood to mean no superfluous word, then the orations of L. Crassus are brief; but if by brevity be meant such stringency of language as allows not one word more than is absolutely necessary to convey the bare meaning ; - this, though occasionally useful, would often be extremely hurtful, especially to the narration, not only by causing obscurity, but by doing away with that gentle persuasiveness and insinuation which constitute its chief excellence. In the lines, for instance, commencing thus:
« For he, as soon as he became of age,”
how purposely protracted is the narrative. The behavior of the youth - the inquiries of the slave -- the death of Chrysis — his wound - the look — the figure — the lamentation of the sister, and all the other circumstances, are detailed with great variety and sweetness of expression. If, indeed, the poet had aimed at brevity such as this
«She's carried forth - we go - we reach the place
he might have compressed the whole into almost ten short lines; but even here the brevity is made subservient to the beauty of the language; for had there been nothing more than «she's laid upon the pile,» the whole proceeding would have been sufficiently clear. But a narrative, diversified by characters, and interspersed with dialogue, has much more of life and reality, because not only is the transaction itself described, but the manner also; and the various circumstances thus deliberately dwelt upon are much more clearly understood than when hurried over with such precipitancy. The same perspicuity ought to distinguish the narration as the rest of the speech, and is all the more imperatively demanded there, because less easily attained than in the exordium, confirmation, refutation, or peroration; and also because this part of the discourse is much more imperiled by the slightest obscurity than any other, elsewhere this defect does not extend beyond itself, but a misty and confused narration casts its dark shadow over the whole discourse; and if anything be not very clearly expressed in any other portion of the address, it can be restated in plainer terms elsewhere; but the narration is confined to one place, and cannot be repeated. The great end of perspicuity will be attained, if the narration be given in ordinary language, and the occurrences related in regular and uninterrupted succession.
But when the narration should be introduced, and when omitted, is for our consideration. In matters of notoriety, and where there is no doubt of the occur. rence having taken place, the narration may be dispensed with, and equally so if anticipated by our opponent, unless we mean to refute his statement; and especial care must be taken not to press those points too strongly which suggest a suspicion of criminality, and tell against ourselves; such circumstances, on the contrary, should be extenuated as much as possible, lest we inflict that unintentional injury on our cause which, in the opinion of Crassus, can never occur but by deliberate treachery. A considerate or an inconsiderate statement of the case exercises a most powerful influence on the whole cause, - for from the fountain head of the narration flows the whole current of the discourse. Next comes the statement of the case, which must clearly point out the question at issue. Then must be conjointly built up the great bulwarks of your cause, by fortifying your own position, and weakening that of
your opponent; for there is only one effectual method of vindicating your own cause, and that includes both the confirmation and refutation. You cannot refute the opposite statements without establishing your own; nor can you, on the other hand, establish your own statements without refuting the opposite; their union is demanded by their nature, their object, and their mode of treatment. The whole speech is, in most cases, brought to a conclusion by some amplification of the different points, or by exciting or mollifying the judges; and every aid must be gathered from the preceding, but more especially from the concluding, parts of the address, to act as powerfully as possible upon their minds, and make them zealous converts to your cause. Nor do I see any reasonable ground for making a distinct head for the treatment of persuasion or panegyric, he same precepts being applicable to them as to every other kind of oratory; yet to speak for or against any important matter appears to me the especial privilege of an authoritative mind; for it is the province only of a wise man to give advice on the most momentous emergencies, as it belongs to integrity and high eloquence alone to provide by forethought, to enforce by authority, and to convince by the power of argument.
WIT AND HUMOR IN ORATORY
it and humor, at all times pleasing, are often extremely useful to the speaker;
and whatever other portion of oratory may be taught by rule, these at
least are purely the gifts of nature and quite independent of art. In this department you, Cæsar, in my opinion, stand without a rival, and you, therefore, are exactly the person to bear me out in the assertion that they are not at all amenable to rule, or if otherwise, to teach us in what degree they are so. In my opinion, observed Cæsar, it is easier for a man, not devoid of literary accomplishment, to speak on any subject than on the nature of wit and humor. Chancing, accordingly, to meet with some books in Greek entitled “On the Facetious,» I began to indulge a hope that something might be learned from them; nor was I disappointed in my expectation of meeting with many exquisitely humorous and sparkling sayings of the Grecian wits, for this lighter element of genius, possessed in various degrees by the Sicilians, Rhodians, and Byzantines, is pre-eminently characteristic of the Athenian mind; but those who have attempted to reduce it to system have failed so egregiously, that of all the ridiculous things contained in their books, nothing is more ridiculous than their own absurdity. I do not, therefore, see how this talent can by any means be reduced to a system. There are two forms of the facetious — the one equally diffused through every part of a discourse, the other brief and pungent; the former was by our forefathers called Humor, the latter Wit; neither bearing a very dignified designation, for of neither is the aim very dignified - viz., to raise a laugh. Nevertheless, as you say, Antonius, I have often seen great effects produced in pleading by the aid of wit and humor. In that form of the facetious which permeates the whole oration with its festive humor, no art is required; for nature fashions the skillful mimic and quaint narrator, and supplies him with corresponding voice, and look, and language; and what room for art is there in the other species, when the electric flash must strike before there would seem to be time for thought ? When my brother was tauntingly asked by Philippus why he barked so, what art could have suggested the ready reply, Because he saw a thief; or what art could have supplied those successive sallies which ran through the entire address of Crassus, when pleading against Scævola before the triumviri, or against the accusing party, Brutus, in defending the cause of Cneius Planeus ? For what you are pleased to compliment me with, Antonius, is by the general voice conceded to Crassus— scarcely any other can be found of equal excellence in both — in sustained humor, no less than in the rapid retort and sparkling phrase. His defense of Curio against the charge of Scævola overflowed from beginning to end with hilarious mirth and humor; the sharp retort was wanting; for he respected the dignity of his opponent, and, in so doing, preserved his own; for nothing is more difficult for a witty and facetious person than to have due regard to time and character, and to restrain those reckless sallies for the indulgence of which so many tempting opportunities occur. Accordingly, there are men of a humorous turn, who give a witty interpretation to the saying of Eunius, (It is easier for a wise man to hold a fire in his mouth than to repress his good — that is, his witty sayings); for such is the word in common use for wit. ..
The several kinds of wit I will dismiss briefly; but the most startling species arises, as you know, from something totally different from what was expected, and by which we ourselves are made to laugh at our own disappointment. But if an ambiguous phrase be added, the wit becomes still more pungent. There is an instance of this in Nævius, where one person meeting another arrested for debt in. quires, with affected compassion, “How much is he arrested for ?» «A thousand sestertii.” Had he merely said, “You may take him away, it would have come under that class of the humorous, where the answer disappoints expectation; but when he threw in the words, «I add no more; you may take him away,” another species of wit being imported by the additional ambiguity, the pungency appears to me to be brought to the finest possible point. There is no more felicitous form of retort than when a word employed by one party in any discussion is suddenly snatched out of his hand, and turned into a weapon of attack against himself, as was adroitly done by Catulus against Philippus. But as there are many other kinds of the ambiguous, and of a much more subtle nature, it behooves us to be on the watch for words; and thus, avoiding at the same time all affected phrases, and particularly such as would appear farfetched, we shall have much sparkling and pointed expression at our command. Another species consists in changing a single letter or syllable of a word, which the Greeks term paranomasia,” as when Cato said the nobility were the mobility”; or the following from the same: «Do let us take a walk together.) But what, said he, is the use of do? As for that, was the reply, what is the use of you? Or this, again, from the same: “If you are both averse and adverse, you are an impudent fellow.) We can give point even to the interpretation of a name, by assigning a ridiculous origin to it; as when I observed lately of Nummius, the notorious dispenser of bribes, that he had taken his name from the Campus Martius, as Neoptolemus his designation from Troy. ....
There is also a graceful species of irony, when something is said at variance with what is meant; not in direct contradiction to it, as in the instance of Crassus to Lamia, but when a strain of serious banter pervades the whole address, the language and feeling apparently running almost counter to each other; for instance, when Septumuleius of Anagnia, to whom a sum of money had been paid for the head of Caius Gracchus, was petitioning our friend Scævola to be taken as his prefect into Asia, «What would you have, you foolish man ?» said he; (such is the number of seditious citizens, that if you stay at home, depend upon it in a few years you will realize a splendid fortune. It was in this style of serious banter that Fannius in his annals describes Africanus Æmilianus as excelling, designating him by the Greek term, cipwva, or the master of irony; but in the opinion of others better qualified to judge, it was Socrates who stood unrivaled for the exquisite point and polish of his ironical sallies,- a peculiarly elegant cast of banter, covering the most cutting sarcasm with a veil of gravity, equally applicable to the stately
59 We can give tous when I obserume from the
style of the orator as to the language of polished conversation; and, indeed, all the different kinds of humor I have enumerated, from the seasoning not only of the forensic harangue, but of every kind of language. For the remark of Cato, from whose recorded apothegms I have selected many of my examples, strikes me as peculiarly happy, that Caius Publicius was in the habit of saying of P. Mummius,
that he was a man for all occasions ); assuredly wit and graceful accomplishments have a pervading charm equally adapted to every stage of life. But to pursue the subject, - very near akin to irony is that species of wit which gives an honorable designation to a disgraceful action. When Africanus, the censor, expelled from his tribe the centurion who had skulked from the battle in which Paulus commanded, the subject of this disgrace, complaining of such unmerited treatment, and alleging that he had remained behind for the purpose of guarding the camp: “I am not fond,” replied Africanus, of your over-vigilant people. There is point, too, in the wit which extracts from the language of the speaker an inference least expected by him. On the loss of Tarentum, Livius Salinator still held out in the citadel, and made many brilliant sallies from it; the town being retaken by Maximus some years after Livius reminded him that the recovery of the place was owing to his retention of the citadel. «How can I do otherwise than remember?» said he; «for I should certainly never have retaken the town had you not lost it,” ...
There is humor also in conceding to your adversary what he denies to you. A person of disreputable family, telling Caius Lælius that he was unworthy of his ancestry – «By Hercules!» he replied, “but you are worthy of yours.” A retort also often acquires additional force from the gravity with which it is given. On the day that Marcus Cincius proposed his law for the regulation of gifts and presents, Caius Cento, standing forth, addressed him with a very supercilious air«Well, little Cincius, wbat are you proposing ?» «That you, Caius,” said he, «may be obliged to pay for what you wish to have.) There is humor again in an affected craving for impossibilities, as when Lepidus, lolling in the grass, while his companions were exercising in the field, ejaculated: “I wish this were labor»; and not less amusing is the calm and imperturbable, though not very gratifying, answer of one pestered with importunate questioning. When Lepidus, the censor, had deprived Antistius of Pergi of his horse, and his friends were clamorously demanding what reason could Antistius assign to his father for this privation, when he was the best, most industrious, most modest, and frugal member of the colony,«that I do not believe one word of it," was the cool reply. Some other heads are enumerated by the Greeks, such as execrations, expressions of admiration, and threats; but I seem already to have let this subject branch out into too many subdivisions; for those classes of the ludicrous which lie in the meaning and point of the phrase are fixed and easily defined, and calculated for the most part rather to excite admiration than laughter; while those which turn upon the subject and thought, though almost infinite in their variety, may be comprised under very few heads; for it is by disappointing expectation, by satirizing the eccentricities of others, or by a humorous exhibition of our own — by a comparison of deformity with something still more deformed - by dissembling - by the utterance of seeming absurdities — by affected ignorance and stupidity, or by the exposure of folly, that laughter is excited. He, therefore, who would aspire to the character of a wit must be gifted with a genius suited to the display of its several aspects, and with such a perfect adaptation of the whole person that his every feature can accommodate itself to all the varieties of the ludicrous, and the more serious and solemn the look with which any witticism is uttered, as in the case with you, Crassus, the more ridiculous its effect.