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  • Print publication year: 2020
  • Online publication date: January 2020

Chapter 2 - Rhetorical Performance in Antiquity


In this chapter I provide a sketch of rhetorical performance practice as it emerges from the rich, complex, and contradictory texts of the Greco-Roman world. A visual conception of ancient rhetoric: John Bulwer’s representation of rhetorical stage acting, which contrasts the stage actor with the dialectician. Greece and Rome: Greece developed the art of rhetoric, accepting the centrality of acting or ‘hypokrisis’, while Roman orators placed more emphasis on the constant persona of the orator. Cicero and Roscius: a case study of how Cicero used performance skills to defend the celebrity stage actor in court. Cicero’s ‘De Oratore’: Cicero’s masterpiece, couched as a dialogue to make it clear there is no single set of rules for being an orator. Quintilian: who codified Cicero, and made rhetoric the foundation of an educational programme. Tacitus: who dissented from Quintilian’s political conformism. Augustine: who tried to adapt his rhetorical training to serve the needs of Christian preaching, anticipating the dilemmas faced by rhetorical performers in the Renaissance.