Page images
PDF
EPUB

ARISTOTLE'S RHETORIC.

BOOK III.

[ocr errors]

ARGUMENT.

-

Style and Action.— Action not yet an Art. — In Rhetoric, Action preferred to Style, and Style to Thought. Causes of these Errors.-The perfection of Style, wherein it consists.- Euripides one of its best models.- Ordinary and appropriate Terms. - Plain and Primitive Ones. -Well chosen Metaphors.-The frigid and nauseous Style.-Causes thereof.- Purity of Style, wherein it consists. — Amplification and Compression. Impassioned Oratory. - Harmony, how to be attained. — Style linked or periodic. — Antithesis. — Urbanity and Elegance, how attained. - Energy and Animation. Compositions to be read and to be rehearsed or spoken. Their differences.-The parts essential in Demonstrative Oratory In the Judicial-In the Deliberative.Narrative, how rendered Moral-And Pathetic.The Proof in Judicial Pleadings. The sources of Amplification in Eulogy. The respective Occasions for employing Examples and Arguments. -How the Order of Argumentation is to be varied. Ridicule. The Epilogue-Its Four Parts.

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

I.

THE art of oratory embraces three objects; CHAP. thoughts, words, and the fittest arrangement of them. The thoughts, however various, all centre Transition in one great end, - persuasion; which may be jects of

to the sub

III. style and action.

BOOK attained in three ways, and in these only; for men are persuaded, and give assent to our discourse, either when their understandings are convinced; or when their passions are skilfully touched and gained over; or when the orator has exhibited his character in so favourable a light, that his hearers are disposed to confide merely in his authority. Having previously examined the arguments and topics conducive to these three purposes, and discussed the subject of rhetoric in reference to the thoughts, it follows next to speak of the words or diction. Thoughts, proper in themselves, must also be properly expressed; for the effect of a discourse depends greatly on the expression. The things constituting the body of the argument, doubtless, deserved precedence; next comes the form of diction; and thirdly, a subject of great importance, but as yet, little investigated, I mean rhetorical action.

Action rhetorical, fol.

poetical,

and is not yet re

an art.

This action was only recently considered as a lowed the separate art, even with regard to heroic poetry and tragedy at first, the poets themselves recited and acted their own performances. There duced into is an oratorical action as well as a poetical one, the latter of which has been treated by several writers, particularly by Glaucon of Teios. This art consists in determining the modifications of voice adapted to each affection or passion; when the voice should be raised or lowered, or kept at the middle pitch; what should be its intonations or accents; the acute, the grave, or that tone intermediate between them; and also what should be

I.

the quantity or rhythm, that is, the relation of CHAP. sounds to each other, in point of the time spent in pronouncing them. The magnitude or loudness of sound, its intonation or accent, its rhythm or measure, thus constitute the main subjects of recitation and elocution. These, respectively, are matters of great importance in poetry and eloquence. In the poetical competitions, the best reciters or actors carry off the first prizes; and the skilful rehearser is often in greater estimation than the poet whose works he recites. The same thing happens in oratory through faulty political arrangements; for, where men of vulgar minds, or mean understandings, are invested with the supreme powers of government, a tuneful insinuating voice, or shrill impassioned tone, will prevail over the sense of the ablest pleaders, or most sagacious statesmen. Elocution, however, has not yet been reduced into an art; and even style or diction has only recently been made an object of philosophical research, and that, not so much on account of the thing itself, viewed absolutely, and rightly understood, as in reference to the weakness and incapacity of the hearers, which make such speculations a matter of necessity.

deemed

portant

Rhetoric, indeed, aims chiefly at effect; it is In rhetoconversant with appearances rather than realities: ric, action according to right reason, although the diction more imof the public speaker ought not to offend or give pain, so neither ought it so much to please and and style transport as shall divert attention from the matter. thought. This is the essential; and all is superfluous which

than style;

than

III.

;

BOOK tends not to strengthen the argument: yet, as was before said, elocution and style derive importance from the mean understandings of the audience. A certain attention to style is requisite, indeed, in all discourse that has instruction in view for this will be better conveyed in one form of words than in another: yet the difference is not considerable, in relation to the understanding; it is rather a matter of fancy, and dependent on the taste of the hearers: in teaching geometry, who ever had recourse to the allurements of diction? Elocution, when perfected, will bear the same relation to prose, that the histrionic art does to poetry: a little has already been done in it, particularly by Thrasymachus', in his instructions for exciting pity. It is the nature of man to be imitative, and, therefore, stage-playing and rhetorical elocution are things highly natural; and differing, in this respect, from style and composition, which are entirely artificial. Excellence in style and composition also meets with more than its full share of reward; for as in speeches addressed to the people, the victory is gained by action or elocution, so in discourses intended only to be read, the style is more reCause of garded than the thought. In disturbing the this per- judgment, and altering the right estimation of judgement. things, the imitative art of poetry was the principal and primary cause; for words have an imitative power, and of all our constituent parts, our organs of voice are endowed with the greatest

1 Thrasymachus, the noted sophist of Chalcedon, often mentioned by Plato and Cicero.

I.

variety and extent of imitation; hence the arts CHAP. of the rhapsodist, and of the stage-player, and others of the like kind. After this, when poets, superficial and frivolous in thought, gained fame by their expression and diction, orators endeavoured to recommend themselves by adopting a poetical style, like that of Gorgias of Leontium; and many ignorant people still regard such poetical prose as the perfection of eloquence. But Poetical diction to the thing is far otherwise; for the style of dis- be rejected course is quite different from that of poetry. in prose: proof This, the practice of the poets themselves makes thereof. manifest; for the writers of tragedy, in conformity with this distinction, have altered their mode of composition. Instead of their artificial trochaic tetrameters, they have had recourse to simple iambicks, as that kind of measure which least departs from the natural flow of dialogue or conversation; and, for the same reason, they have ceased to use those words of foreign idiom, far-fetched or new-coined, which are still admitted, by way of ornament, into hexameter or heroic verse. It would be ridicu lous therefore, to imitate in discourse a style, which even dramatic poets no longer employ; the prose style is that, of which we have to speak; that proper to lyric and heroic verse, was explained in our treatise on poetry.

2 In chapter iv. of his Poetics, he explains why this satyric and saltatorial measure was first used in tragedy. The satyrs, those licentious companions of Bacchus, were then principal personages. The drinking and dancing measure will become their characters; such trochaics as Jolly mortals, fill your glasses," &c.

« PreviousContinue »