Prosopopoeia in Ciceronian Oratory
This thesis examines the form and function of prosopopoeia in Cicero’s speeches. Prosopopoeia – the rhetorical device in which an orator fabricates and delivers a discourse as another character – offers an alternative to the orator’s own speech for the communication of information and emotion. The most recent study on the device, D.S. Mayfield’s Variants of Rhetorical Ventriloquism, suggests that “it is always significant rhetorically in whose mouth words are being put – at what time, in which context and whose presence, by which means, and (above all) in the interest of what or whom” (Mayfield 2019, 147-148). This study seeks to evaluate Mayfield’s claim in the practice of Ciceronian oratory by examining when Cicero used the device, whom he portrayed, and how the device contributed to his persuasive aims.A preliminary examination of extant rhetorical theory up to and including Quintilian provides context for Cicero’s practice, identifying a range of potential effects the device could enact. Ancient theory also raises several questions about taxonomical distinctions between types of prosopopoeia, which are briefly discussed to further contextualise Cicero’s practice. Following this, eight of Cicero’s speeches are discussed in chronological order: Pro Quinctio; Pro Roscio Amerino; In Verrem 2.5; the First Catilinarian; Pro Caelio; In Pisonem; Pro Plancio; and Pro Milone. Notable prosopopoeiae in these speeches are identified and evaluated in relation to their persuasive effect on the audience, identifying a diverse range of uses for the device such as generating indignation or pity, and the delineation of characters. Particular attention is paid to the significance of the choice of speaking character and to the emotion generated through the change in speaking-situation.I argue that several patterns emerge in Cicero’s use of the device, many of which have a grounding in rhetorical theory. Moreover, I suggest that it is possible to divide Cicero’s use of prosopopoeia into three categories based on the type of speaking character: deceased and abstract individuals, representations of a client, and representations of an opponent. This investigation shows that these categories present different means of delineating characters, and are attuned to achieving different persuasive effects.
Advisor: Hall, Jon
Degree Name: Master of Arts
Degree Discipline: Classics
Publisher: University of Otago
Keywords: Cicero; Prosopopoeia; Rhetoric; Oratory; Ventriloquism; Persona fictio
Research Type: Thesis