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This chapter discusses the thought of Juan Luis Vives, who was a prominent voice in sixteenth-century debates on language and learning between humanists and scholastics. The chapter shows that, like Valla, Vives presents himself as a defender of common language and common sense. The notion of “common” turns out to be ambiguous. As the chapter makes clear, in most contexts the common language is Latin, but in Vives’s attacks on what he considered the linguistic and dialectical aberrations of his scholastic opponents, common language could also mean the usage and conventions of any linguistic community. Though his critique focuses on the Latin of his opponents, the point is sometimes phrased in terms that go beyond this particular language. This critique of scholastic language is part of a wider reform of language and learning that Vives thinks is necessary. The chapter therefore examines his views on the origins of language, its functions and purposes, and the role he assigns to the topics (loci) in thinking and argumentation. It is suggested that for Vives the topics form a grid through which we structure our thought and speech.
Because there was no equivalent in Renaissance England to the Roman Forum and Senate, the stage actor was free to inherit the mantle of Cicero and Quintilian. I shall ask in this chapter how far stage actors did in practice follow a path mapped out by the ancient orators. Italian accounts of the actor’s art: De Sommi, Cecchini and Scala were Italian stage directors who contested appropriation of the rhetorical tradition by intellectuals, and the improvisatory tradition placed them as makers of embodied speech. Erasmus and the act of speaking: although Erasmus fostered a culture of the book, his sense of language was grounded in orality. Vives offers a vivid account of the fleshiness of the spoken word. A case study from ‘Merchant of Venice’ illustrates how Shakespeare wrote for different rhetorical registers. Sacred rhetoric: Erasmus straddled a tension between the Catholic tradition that emphasized form and the nascent Protestant tradition that required the preacher to be driven by the spirit. Donne and Alleyn: I focus on the relationship between England’s greatest preacher in the early seventeenth century and his son-in-law, who had been England’s greatest stage actor, bringing out the different conceptions of rhetoric.
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