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Fabrique de la déclamation antique

 | 
Catherine Schneider
, 
Rémy Poignault

Un Ludus entre instruction et distraction des élites

Declamatory play

Erik Gunderson

Résumé

Cette étude examine la relation entre ludere et declamare ; elle explore notam­ment les termes en rapport avec ludere tels qu’ils se rencontrent dans le corpus conservé des déclamations romaines. Les déclamations n’exploitent pas jusqu’au bout les possibilités sémantiques de ces mots. Elles témoignent d’une forme de réticence envers d’autres institutions romaines où figure le vocabulaire du lusus, à savoir notamment : les jeux gladiatoriaux, le théâtre, et l’éducation. Il semble que cette évasion des richesses linguistiques du lusus s’explique par la situation précaire de la déclamation elle-même sur le champ littéraire et par sa faiblesse par rapport au capital culturel.

This is a study of the relationship between the concept of play and the institution of declamation. Although play itself is broadly conceived, I specifically explore terms related to ludere as they are found in the surviving corpus of Roman declamations. Declamation does not make full use of the possible senses of these terms. And declamation reveals a hesitant relationship to other proximate cultural domains where one also finds the vocabulary of ludere. These are, specifically, gladiatorial shows, theater, and education. The failure to embrace “play” likely reflects declamations’ own awkward position in the cultural field.

Texte intégral

1The title “declamatory play” is pointedly ambiguous. The ambiguity reproduces a productively imprecise ancient situation. Terms for play have a variety of valences in Latin. And I want to examine how their many possibilities have been variously materialized within the declamatory corpus.

  • 1 University of Toronto. See Bourdieu 1990, p. 53.

2Throughout I will rely upon a rather crude fiction, namely the unity of declamation itself. I will treat declamation as if it were a coherent, unified noun, and I will even make it the subject of verbs. Of course, there is no discrete, nameable conscious subject here. One might more properly speak of a habitus, a general disposition on the part of declaimers that generates and organizes practices1. This disposition, though, is a fraught one, and it positions declamation uneasily at the crossroads between the high and the low, the playful and the serious, the fictive and the real. To stand at the crossroads is to stand at the trivium. This place is both “trivial” and the dangerous haunt of Hecate. Few linger. Instead they move along swiftly. But in what direction? After mapping out the topography of this ambiguous crossroads I will examine some of the choices made at this polyvalent juncture.

3The concept of “play” in Latin is broad, and the word lusus encompasses a number of contradictions. Play goes beyond mere play. Play always also has its earnest side. Play is both real and fake. Play is a matter for both children and adults. It is both literally sublime and completely ridiculous. It is both itself as well as training for something else. It is both good-natured and cruel. It is both reality and representation. This same doubleness inheres among the people and the places of play: gladiators, theaters, schools, and, of course, declamation. I hope to explore declamation’s rather vexed relationship to its various ludic neighbors.

  • 2 See Nicolet 1980, p. 366‑373.

4At Rome the ludic is never merely one thing or another. Both comic poets and comic audiences appreciate this. Plautus regularly breaks the so-called fourth wall and asks the audience to ask themselves about the distinction between fiction and reality. And, notoriously, Roman theatrical audiences would detect contemporary political allusions during dramatic performances, even if the play in question was a revival from another era2.

  • 3 See Gunderson 1996.

5Gladiatorial combat involves fights that are simultaneously real and fake. Gladiators go to school to learn how to fight as a “Thracian”, for example. The reviled performer is also a cultural hero. And, conversely, the old warrior elite sometimes train with and as if they were to be gladiators. Myths become realities, and things that never were suddenly come to be. Meanwhile the giver of the games and the audience are drawing earnest conclusions about one another3.

6And so we come to declamation. It obviously participates in a similar logic. One can say of it that it is simultaneously both this and that. It is at once both the representation and the reality. It is both rhetorical training and the thing itself. It is both inconsequential and earnest. And, indeed, some of its potential seriousness springs directly from its marked unseriousness. Nevertheless, declamation shows a certain reserve when it comes to play. Of the many relationships declamation could have to play, not all are equally realized.

  • 4 Petr., 2, 3: “Agamemnon wouldn’t let me declaim longer in the arcade than he had himself sweated it (...)
  • 5 Hömke 2007, p. 117.

7Comedy is happy to play up its literary qualities and ironic connections with tragedy: Vt paratragoedat carnufex (Plaut., Ps. 707). Elegy delights to stage itself as a genre and to work through its relationship with epic: Arma gravi numero violentaque bella parabam (Ov., Am. 1, 1). The novel wears on its sleeve its connections to other genres and its exuberant hybridity: Non est passus Agamemnon me diutius declamare in porticu quam ipse in schola sudaverat (Petr., 2, 3)4. Declamation appealed to its educated audience “by incorporating contemporary and also canonized older literature, excursions, allusions, quotes, parodies and other intertextual references”5. And yet despite its hybridity, declamation nevertheless seems not to revel in programmatic references to its fictive status and its relationship to other genres.

8Lusus as a sort of literary self-reference in Catullus, Vergil, Horace, and Ovid is quite familiar. And play as literary play is an all but ubiquitous feature of Latin literature. Apuleius’ Metamorphoses includes a programmatic festival of laughter (III, 11, lusus iste). And Petronius uses ludere to talk about core features of his novel: declamation (4, 4), Trimalchio (e. g. 27, 1 and 68, 4) and sex (e. g. 11, 2 and 129, 10).

9A declaimer, though, tends to adduce ludus and its cognates only to speak of gambling, prostitution, and various other kinds of notoriously bad play. Similarly the ludus that trains gladiators is not especially common in declamation, and it generally arises only when the case itself involves gladiators. That being said, it nevertheless seems that an allegorical evocation of gladiators is more likely to be present in a declamation than the allegorical appropriation of actors: fake-soldiers entice more than do outright fakers. The ludi of public games and spectacles are mentioned only incidentally in the course of a biography of Laberius at Controversiae VII, 3, 9. The ludi that educate the young seem never to be mentioned throughout the declamatory corpus. And yet ludus as a locus of education is standard Latin in all periods. Cicero even talks about “some declaimer from a ludus” at Orator 47. Conversely, no actual declaimer from a ludus seems comfortable using the word ludus with this same force.

  • 6 See, for example, the opening of Plin., Ep. IV, 14.

10Letting oneself be seen at play can be a gesture of confidence and an arrogation of privilege: one “clowns around” while unafraid of being mistaken for a clown. Comparison does not here entail reduction. And this does seem to be one of the general feature of the “ludus game” at Rome: the sport is also only the semblance of sport. An earnestness is being signaled in the very declaration of frivolity. This is perhaps an earnestness of person: “I, Pliny, a gentleman to be taken most seriously, herewith offer you a portrait of myself at leisure.”6 Or one detects an earnestness of literary purpose among the various “lesser” genres. They mark out a position that is notionally opposed to epic gravity, but it nevertheless stands opposite it within the same general (high-)cultural field.

  • 7 For a detailed and politically sensitive overview of Seneca’s speakers, see Migliario 2003.
  • 8 Guérin 2010, p. 155: “Le déclamateur, lui, n’existe que par son texte [...] [L]a citation est bien (...)

11Declamation, though, does not seem nearly so comfortable with playing around, even if such play is only a studied posture of simulated ease. Indeed, one wonders if there is not a hesitation to embrace the language of play precisely because declaimers and declamation seem not to be members of an established social and cultural aristocracy, but rather arrivistes who are still making a case for themselves and their genre. For many declamation is the hight of their attainment. For others declamation is an amusing way to “slum it”. This latter list includes, importantly, Seneca the Elder: the preface to his tenth book announces that while declamation is fun as an occasional amusement, a surfeit is revolting. Accordingly it is time for Seneca to stop writing so much about it. The most high-profile figures in Seneca’s collection of declaimers are men whose accomplishments are anchored in and do not much radiate beyond declamation7. They can only be taken as seriously as declamation itself is. Their claim upon posterity is quite tenuous8.

  • 9 See the first chapter of Bourdieu 1984.
  • 10 Sen., Contr. IX, pr.: Nam si foro non praeparat, aut scaenicae ostentationi aut furiosae vociferati (...)
  • 11 Quint., II, 10, 8: Nam si foro non praeparat, aut scaenicae ostentationi aut furiosae vociferationi (...)
  • 12 See Quint., III, 8 on persona and suasoriae.

12Seneca marks out simultaneously lines of taste and of social position. He flags “distinction” in a double and (strategically) convergent manner9. And he imparts a strong sense that while it is a fine thing to be a great declaimer, one would always aspire to have something more on offer, specifically, the ability to plead actual cases well10. Quintilian similarly sets up rigid cultural barriers so as to deligitimate ludic declamers. No case can be made for the genre on its own; either one is preparing for the courtroom or the speaker is to be assimilated either to a pompous actor or a raving lunatic11. Adopting a persona is fine, but it should always be dignified12. Since actors are base, there is no good reason to make oneself seem “histrionic”.

  • 13 See the productive reading of fraternal conflict in Sen., Contr. I, 1 as an allegory for civil war (...)
  • 14 A politically charged moment of imposed allegory occurs at Sen., Contr. II, 4, 12‑13. Pernot 2007, (...)
  • 15 See, for example, Gunderson 2003, p. 205‑206 on Ps.‑Quint., Decl. mai. 18; p. 64 on Ps.‑Quint., Dec (...)

13I would like in what follows to read declamation allegorically. Such entails thinking through the points of contact between the subjects and situations contained within declamations and the ways in which one can think about declamation itself13. The Romans themselves were keen allegorists. They relished allegorical interpretations both in general and when it came to declamation itself14. Declamatory cases are themselves filled with allegorical doubles15. The pattern of use and non-use of the possibilities of the ludus-theme in the declamatory corpus seems to offer insights into the logic of declamation, into the limits of its self-presentation, and into the shape of its self-understanding.

14When gladiators fight in the arena, the blood is real. But just about everything else is a blend of the actual and mere representation. The sword is a sword, but it is also a prop. A martial man holds it, but he is not a proper warrior in a proper army. Instead he is a debased man in a show. Gladiators train for these fights in a ludus. One is schooled in this real but fake art. Meanwhile no good man would ever want to be reduced to that condition. It humiliates both abstractly and in a concrete legal sense. That a real warrior could also be a gladiator is a cultural contradiction. That is, it is the occasion for a declamation.

  • 16 Calp. Flacc., Decl. 52 (éd. Håkanson 1978): Sed o virtus, in adversis comes, sola tu me secuta in c (...)
  • 17 Calp. Flacc., Decl. 52: Erravi, iudices, fateor, erravi, qui semper credidi immortalitatem esse pro (...)

15In Calpurnius Flaccus, Declamatio 52 a war hero is captured by pirates, sold to a lanista before he can be redeemed, eventually released from gladiatorial service, and then denounced by a general who sees him as unfit to serve his country as a soldier. As ever with Calpurnius, only scattered sentences of a fuller treatment remain. The soldier-gladiator speaks on his own behalf. Fortune debased him. Only his virtus has remained forever constant. His valor followed him into prison and into the ludus16. He always was a vir fortis: his essence precedes and exceeds the incidents of his life. Compare, then, the ideal orator, that is, the vir bonus peritus dicendi. He may descend into the declamatory arena and he may even train in the declamatory ludus. But, despite such, what matters is that he is a vir bonus first and foremost. The ludus cannot actually besmirch him. Moreover it is outrageous for a republic of letters to repudiate him when he has always been ready to give his all for it17.

  • 18 Ps.‑Quint., Decl. min. 302, 2: Nam neque orator est qui numquam egit causam, neque accusator qui re (...)

16The infamia of the gladiatorial ludus informs Minor Declamation 302 as well. A man hired himself out as a gladiator in order to finance his own father’s funeral. On the day of the show he wore a placard explaining as much. The audience insists that he accept the rudis of retirement then and there. Later he gets rich, but a dispute arises as to whether or not he can sit in the first fourteen rows of the theater among the knights. The speech in defense of the man emphasizes that even though he was in the ludus he never really was a gladiator since he never actually fought in public. The specific analogies that are adduced at this point are all too telling: a man who has never conducted a case is not really an orator. A man who has never brought a defendant into court is not an accuser. A man who has never pled his case is not a defendant18. That is, there are three people to whom one might compare a gladiator: a speaker, a speaker, and a speaker. And that is what this speaker insists we do.

17There is an irony to the situation which is never made explicit in the case itself. The reward for this man who was never a gladiator, who was a model of filial piety, and who virtuously amassed a fortune is that now he can sit in the front rows of... well, gladiatorial shows. Though himself trained to fight as a gladiator, he is not really a gladiator, he is just a man who watches gladiators.

18The speaker of this Minor Declamation is a lot like the gladiator of Calpurnius’ case: he trained and then performed. He defends a client who is dissimilarly positioned relative to the shows: this client never really fought. And yet the speaker of this case is supposed to be Quintilian’s beloved vir bonus peritus dicendi if not Quintilian himself. Thankfully – if we are to trust Calpurnius Flaccus – the descent into the ludus does not change one’s essence. A good man’s goodness follows him everywhere. It will be remembered, though, that there are no essences here, merely rhetorical claims of identity. All of the claims are themselves moments folded within a declamatory fiction.

19The major declamation entitled Gladiator does not have a gladiator as either the man accused or the man accusing. It is a portmanteau case, actually: it contains fathers and sons, rich and poor, pirates and even gladiators. A rich man and a poor man were enemies. Their sons were friends. The rich son is captured by pirates and sold to a lanista. Before the rich man can ransom his son, the poor son offers himself as a substitute in the arena. He fights and dies. The rich son looks after the now childless poor father. The rich son is disowned. He defends himself.

  • 19 Ps.‑Quint., Decl. mai. 9, 22: Bonitate sua gladiator factus est!

20The friend’s death as a gladiator is presented as a sort of suicide. He does not hope to win his battle, and he does not want to live on as a gladiator. Though sold into a ludus, he seeks only to leave it and life with his virtue intact. The friend’s goodness maks him a gladiator, and that same goodness makes him want to die rather than to live as a gladiator19. But the rich youth is able to show off his own luxuriant prose specifically because he was both in and then left two kinds of ludus. He has been both to gladiator school and to rhetoric school. The memory of one school fades in the same gesture as the force of the other is displayed. The rich friend returns to his “proper” station and to the legitimate spectacle: the forum in which cases are tried rather than the one in which gladiatorial combats are presented. The audience here wants to see one sort of spectacle, the audience there desired another.

  • 20 The phrase is not unparalleled; see also Ps.‑Quint., Decl. min. 330, 2. Both Krapinger 2007, p. 121 (...)

21And yet the spectacles are not so very different, of course. The speech is not a real speech. And instead of its conjured audience of citizens curious about right and wrong it has an audience keen to see a good rhetorical show. The speech even uses the phrase iudicii scaena and so lets slip its own mask for just a second. We need to think not just of the gladiatorial ludus, but so too of the ludi scaenici20.

  • 21 Ps.‑Quint., Decl. mai. 9, 8: Quicquid historiae tradiderunt, carmina finxerunt, fabulae adiecerunt (...)

22The speech pointedly sets itself up in a literary competition with other genres. The act of the friend outstripped the exempla of yore. History, poetry, and drama can find no equal of this episode (Ps.‑Quint., Decl. mai. 9, 10)21. The moment where the poor youth arrives and offers himself as a substitute is elaborately introduced and full of literary craft: the speaker lingers on the details; he points out the difficulty of representing the moment adequately; he offers vivid dialogue and emotional language.

23Obviously we can see here a sort of literary parasitism. It is precisely those other purportedly superseded genres that allow the speaker to offer his stirring narration. But the situation is much more complex than one of dependency and derivation. And so we return to gladiators and play. The gladiator made, in the world of this speech at least, the really real gesture. The rich youth is but a pale imitation of the poor one. What he does for the bereft father and what he says about the dead son are both meager substitutes. The fake speech about the fake fighting is unequal to the “reality” of that fake fight. Nevertheless this same “inadequate” speech declares that all other narrative vehicles are themselves unequal to this present situation: Herodotus, Homer, and Aeschylus never came close to representing a friendship such as was lately shown.

24The haughtiness of the rich is also a haughtiness of the culturally rich. The established genres love to look down on the lowly ones. They fall out with them. And yet, in the ludi one can find the children of the rich and the poor. There they mix and mingle. They befriend one another. And so, when they leave the ludus litterarius they are ready to do anything for one another, even if that means entering the gladiatorial ludus. The speech becomes a way for declamation to talk about itself, an opportunity for it to make strong claims for weak socio-political positions. The case declamation makes for itself is not even a proper case. It is an allegorical self-justification embedded within its own generic framework. And the claims do not comprise arguments for a sort of ludic counter-culture that challenges the hegemonic cultural paradigms. Instead the entitled bearer of culture – that is, the rich son – shows how declamation fits within the framework of the dominant culture precisely if and as represented by an advocate of that same culture.

  • 22 Sen., Contr. III, pr. 13 (éd. Håkanson 1989): Deinde res ipsa diversa est: totum aliud est pugnare, (...)

25Given the convergence between complex and contested domains, other possibilities emerge that are more disruptive of familiar hierarchies. Seneca says that Cassius Severus spoke well but declaimed poorly. And Cassius himself explains why: the very fictiveness of declamation impedes his performance. Seeing a real judge in a real case spurs him to greatness. Cassius’ next move, though, makes a distinction and destabilizes it in the very same gesture. Oratory is real fighting while declamation is mere flailing. The school-house, he says, is like a gladiatorial ludus, the forum is like the gladiatorial arena22.

26This statement is constructed around a non-simile: scholam quasi ludum esse, forum arenam. Schola and ludus are two words that mean, depending on the situation, either two different things or one and the same thing. Both are words for a school-house. Moreover gladiatorial pairs were at one point matched in the forum. The quasi vanishes: the arena is the forum, and the forum is the arena. The comparison is in fact all too apt. There are far too many points of contact between them. The distance between the four terms is a made truth rather than a found one.

27Orators fight, says Cassius. But what kind of men are they when they are fighting? Are they viri fortes or are they gladiatores? This is exactly the problem one sees in Calpurnius Flaccus. Cassius Severus is rhetorically conjuring the problem away, but his mere assertions hardly dispel the uncanny sense that there is a profound connection between the serious and the ludic, and that, moreover, there is not a simple, hierarchical relationship between the two. And, further, that when we say “ludic” we ought to evoke the full set of associations that accompany the term ludus in Latin.

28Cassius’ simile offers, however, a rare moment of explicit impacted imagery. Distance is more normal. Seneca is generally tireless in marking a distance between his own editorial gravity and the puerilities of the declaimers. The very phrase “editorial voice” has a gladiatorial second sense. Seneca himself adduces this valence with a tongue-in-cheek image he deploys at the opening of the fourth book of Controversiae. And, naturally, an editor is a very different person from a gladiator at Rome.

  • 23 See Van Mal-Maeder 2007, p. 10‑18 for a survey of the declamatory dramatis personae.
  • 24 Winterbottom 1984, p. 561: “The theme is particularly reminiscent of New Comedy, besides having a c (...)

29Much like the pedagogical sense of the word ludi, the theatrical sense of the term is largely missing from the declamatory corpus. Again we have a case of avoidance. It is a striking avoidance since the declamatory cast of characters is all but stripped from the stage where one also finds an endless supply of stern fathers, wastrel sons, and raped girls23. The declamatory cases are also filled with stock situations that remind one inevitably of theatrical plots. For example in Minor Declamation 356 a youth buys the freedom of his meretrix girlfriend with the money his father gave him to purchase the father’s own girlfriend. He is disowned. They go to court. But for the litigation, this is the summary of a Plautine comedy24.

  • 25 Pasetti 2011, p. 46: “[L]a ‘teatralità’ della declamazione è confermata dalla presenza di artifici (...)
  • 26 See Van Mal-Maeder 2007, p. 33‑35. One should note, though, that the genres are nevertheless consta (...)
  • 27 See Pianezzola 2003, p. 91‑99.

30Declamation as a genre, though, evinces a tendency to play things surprisingly straight. It generally avoids being mistaken for a theatrical genre in contradistinction to a rhetorical genre. This is not, of course, to say that declaimers were not well aware of the connections with drama and that they did not exploit generic tropes from the stage when articulating their own speeches. There are deep structural connections between declamation and drama. Nobody watching a declamation could have avoided the conclusion that declamatory performance was strongly connected to theatrical performances25. Comparisons drawn between declamation and theater are explicit in rhetorical theory26. Reading declamation as if one were a theater critic is a highly productive enterprise27. But heuristic utility is one thing, and actual convergence another.

  • 28 See Danesi Marioni 2003, p. 159‑160.

31A problem of method presents itself: it is quite artificial to declare that any given myth, story, or motif either is or is not “theatrical” when there is a constant interplay of literature and performance across all Roman genres, both prose and verse. For example, in Declamatio maior 6, 9 do we see an allusion to the myth of Antigone, to Sophocles’ Antigone, to a lost play of Accius, or to Horace, Carmen 1, 2828? It would be a mistake to insist that here and elsewhere there is one and only one answer to such a question.

  • 29 Becker 1904; Deratani 1930; Berti 2007, p. 268‑308 offer surveys of Vergilian and Ovidian echoes.
  • 30 Such is amply documented by Krapinger 2005; on Ps.‑Quint, Decl. mai. 3, cf. also Schneider 2004, p. (...)
  • 31 See Zinsmaier 2009a.
  • 32 See Hömke 2002, p. 252‑278 and Longo 2008, p. 27‑35. In these two speeches one likely hears reminis (...)

32It does seem, however, that the relatively frequent poetic borrowings in declamation tend to be drawn predominantly from non-dramatic poetry29. Declamatio maior 13 is saturated with Augustan-age verse, and the countryside of the speech is thoroughly Vergilian30. Declamatio maior 6, 7 takes us on a sea voyage suffused with poetic topoi and diction31. Declamationes maiores 14 and 15 are about love and hate and pick up on a variety of elements of the odi et amo tradition of Roman verse32.

  • 33 See Stramaglia 2002, p. 96; Van Mal-Maeder 2004; Van Mal-Maeder 2007, p. 83‑87.
  • 34 Van Mal-Maeder 2004, p. 197.
  • 35 See Pasetti 2011, p. 203.
  • 36 See Sen., Contr. VII, 3, 8.

33Dramatic verse is hardly absent. Many a potent passage strives to add to its effect by adducing reminiscences of tragic Seneca’s already highly rhetorical tragedies. Declamatio maior 12 can frequently be found reworking Seneca’s Thyestes33. Declamatio maior 8, 21 evokes Seneca’s Phaedra34. The stirring conclusion to Declamatio maior 17 may well include a modified bit of dialogue from Seneca’s Agamemnon35. Even Publilius Syrus’ mimes appear to have inspired some speakers, but the reaction to these appropriations was decidedly mixed36.

  • 37 A topic explored in depth by Casamento 2002.
  • 38 See the fourth chapter of Gunderson 2000 on the (forced) efforts at disambiguation between orator a (...)

34Despite the undeniable presence of drama in declamation, I believe that one can nevertheless affirm that declamation does not make a special effort to “sound tragic” by dipping into tragedy as often as possible. And this is the case despite the fact that Senecan tragedy with its many sententiae is itself so very declamatory37: it is ready-made, as it were, for re-appropriation. Declamatory pathos and other effects are generally achieved by remaining within established rhetorical means, which, though “stagey” to our eyes are nevertheless generally distinguished from (mere) theatricality within rhetorical theory38.

  • 39 Van Mal-Maeder 2004: this is a core feature of declamation’s own efforts to make a claim that it be (...)
  • 40 See Klodt 2003.

35“Sounding poetic” is extremely common, then. But “sounding theatrical” is far less common. The former obviously entails cultural prestige39. The latter less obviously does so. Self-assured Cicero is not especially shy about mixing theatrical elements into his real speeches for rhetorical ends40. But these fictive speeches are much more hesitant to openly embrace theatricality. And this is especially true at the level of diction where declamatory speakers avoid constructing a situation where one is led inevitably to connect the domains of rhetoric and theater via a double sense of key individual terms.

  • 41 Ps.‑Quint., Decl. min. 259, 21 (éd. Shackleton Bailey 1989): Cogita quae fuerint illa pericula ex q (...)
  • 42 Ps.‑Quint., Decl. min. 254 (Exul accusator et sententiae pares) has a fairly dense collection of th (...)
  • 43 See Breij 2006, p. 81‑82; Zinsmaier 2009a, p. 96‑105; Zinsmaier 2009b on the various meanings of co (...)

36One should contrast the frequent meta-rhetorical games of declamation with its avoidance of meta-theater. Speakers cite Cicero to Cicero in Seneca’s Suasoriae 6 and 7. Dolor disponitur is used at the opening of Declamatio maior 17 to draw our attention to the technical issue of rhetorical dispositio. Even the relatively restrained Declamationes minores contain technical vocabulary in the course of the speeches. A theoretical discussion of a declamation might note its divisio, but a declamation can use the very same term in its body with a rather sly wink to the cognoscenti41. Sententiae are both the votes of a jury and the bons mots of a declaimer: the two senses can be in dialogue with one another. And one sees a variety of exchanges between the rhetoric of the fictive speech qua fiction and the self-awareness of the speaker that this is a fiction42. Color finds its doubleness similarly exploited by Calpurnius Flaccus, Declamatio 2, a case about a black baby born to a white woman. One reads the following: vides sanguinis vitio perustam cutem; colorem putas: istud fortasse infantis iniuria est. Saying that the color of the baby is perhaps an iniuria is itself an example of a rhetorical color43. And in such a context one is uncertain if the seemingly obvious “metatheatricality” of certain uses of persona might not be read as examples of “metarhetoricity” instead.

  • 44 A quick and representative initial survey can be had by looking at the entry for fabula in the inde (...)
  • 45 Again, this is a somewhat forced distinction: the plot of a myth cannot be radically dissociated fr (...)

37In contrast to the productive play with double meanings above, the word fabula almost never means “theater” in the declamatory corpus. Instead of “a play”, fabula means common talk or reputation or it means a story or it means a myth or legend. There are literally dozens of passages that could illustrate this claim44. Mythical fabulae are common, unambiguously theatrical ones are vanishingly rare45. The word fabula, however, had been used to designate theatrical productions from the time of Naevius onwards.

  • 46 Danesi Marioni 2003, p. 161 makes a convincing case that not only is fabulosa certamina a reference (...)

38Nevertheless the declamatory advocates do not evoke this kind of play when they employ the word even though they often seem to be living in the litigious wake of a Plautine plot. The word fabula does designate a play in a couple of Seneca’s biographical notices. After that there are only two other places I could find where it had to have this meaning46. Fabula means play at Major Declamation 9, 8. And the other passage I will discuss shortly. Scaena is likewise quite rare, considering the ubiquity of elements in the declamations that might remind a reader of the theater. It can be found only a handful of times. And, again the few exceptions are in those very cases we have either already seen or are about to examine, that is in Major Declamation 9, Minor Declamation 338 and Minor Declamation 342.

39Minor Declamation 338 is perhaps unusually worthy of our attention. It both contains a good deal of commentary from the Master and a number of theatrical references. One finds both a miniature rhetorical handbook and a theatrical script in one and the same case. The case itself is very elaborate: a man has divorced his wife and has a seeming son by her; a poor man shows up saying the son is actually his; a maid is tortured; first she says the child is legitimate; during a second round of torture she says that he is not; the maid dies; the son is yielded to the poor man; the wife claims him as her own.

40The Master’s comments on the case begin with a very general topic: how is one to construct a prologue? What is its relationship to the narration? Included in his remarks is the observation that prologues are to be drawn ex personis. That is, they are derived from the “characters” of the case. And here we have a theatrical word. Of course persona has long been used of character beyond the stage, and so it does not necessarily evoke drama, especially in a context like this.

  • 47 Ps.‑Quint., Decl. min. 338, 21: Cum dico “iratus est”, succurrat vobis quidquid non experimentorum (...)
  • 48 See Vogt-Spira 2007 on the truth-like as a quality that theorists tend to praise in ancient fiction (...)
  • 49 See Arist., Rhet. 1393b-94a on fictive paradeigmata rather than those derived from actual experienc (...)

41Nevertheless it is tempting to retain something specifically theatrical in this instance, if only because of what follows. Theatrical evidence is used to provide a species of proof: in the course of the declamation the nature of anger is demonstrated by an appeal to the stage: “When I say, ‘He is angry’, you will be reminded not only of what we have seen in the state but also what has appeared on the theatrical stage: how much has this emotion brought about, how many has it driven off course like some storm at sea?”47. This sort of argument is not unfamiliar to readers of Cicero. There is a rhetorical tradition of adducing fiction as a way of getting at the truth48. And this kind of appeal is even folded into the theorry of exempla in the handbooks49. Nevertheless a gesture to the stage seems to be quite rare in declamation: declamation avoids imitating real oratory precisely at the moment where non-fictive oratory gestures to fiction.

  • 50 Ps.‑Quint., Decl. min. 338, 28: cui non mortalium patet totus hic mimus.
  • 51 The Mss have animus. Mimus is proposed by Schultingh and printed by Shackleton Bailey 1989, p. 300, (...)

42The indignant speaker says: “Is there anyone to whom this whole farce is not perfectly clear?”50. The text is, unfortunately, not certain, and the word mimus itself is a conjecture51. But, even without mimus, this case offers a rare instance where the voice of the rhetorical Master and the voice of the conjured advocate communicate with one another along the lines of a series of theatrical metaphors. The allegorical force of the situation is striking, but also disavowed: declamation is a sort of prologue to proper oratory; declamation starts from personae; declamation tortures its characters; declamation tortures them precisely so as to yield double and ambiguous results; declamation is a farcical rewrite of rhetoric proper; declamation’s farce nevertheless prepares one for reality.

  • 52 Much energy is expended in the case on a narrow linguistic point that is asked to serve as a legal (...)

43Do fictions have the power of truth? The question is explicitly raised by Minor Declamation 342: a youth had a father and a sister. The youth is captured by pirates. The pirate chief says he will release the son if the daughter is given to him as his bride. The father sends a slave dressed as a free woman. The maid marries the pirate and upon his death is named his heir. She returns and is claimed as a slave. The plot of a whole novel has been compressed into the premise. But as readers we begin at the end: we arrive at the concluding courtroom drama. The key question of the case is, of course, does pretending a maid is free in fact free her52?

  • 53 Ps.‑Quint., Decl. min. 342, 7: At eadem si hoc habitu extra scaenam fuerit et in civitate processer (...)

44The Master pauses in the middle of his sample declamation to note that what follows is a standard argument: “If one dresses up a slave as a matron for a play, is she going to be freed because of this?” The answer is no: the very scaena testifies to the fact that this is a mere fiction. And yet if one allowed her to step off the stage while so dressed, then maybe she would have been implicitly freed53.

  • 54 Compare, of course, the logic of usucapio.

45This is an arresting claim: at Rome fictions become real as soon as we allow them to be so54. It is only our will that an actress not be a matron that prevents her from becoming one. And we enforce this will by drawing a hard line between the space of the stage and that of the state. And one has to enforce the distance. Of course, how hard and fast can any such line be?

46The speech is actually happy to blur fiction and reality. Indeed, it is ready to radically challenge the stereotypical objection that an actress does not become free because of her acting free. It is precisely because she was a great actress that this slave deserves to step down from the stage and be recognized as a matrona. The declamation argues that the father earnestly wished for his fiction to be mistaken for a reality. It would have been a disaster if the pirate knew what had happened. The speech lingers on the skill with which the maid played the part of a sister: she wept; she embraced the captive; she called him brother.

47The following is a key claim of the speech: wishing makes it so. A master asks a slave to sign a document as if a free person. This is a sort of theater. Specifically it is the prelude to a fraudulent transaction. And yet the very fiction of acting in libertate yields real results. The slave should henceforth be considered to be free.

48These musings can also be directed towards rhetoric’s grubby handmaiden declamation. First, it would be possible for declamation to really be free were one to let it act in libertate. Next, declamation might become free in a somewhat unexpected and unintended manner: a declamatory play might yield a new truth of the world. And demanding after the fact that things be otherwise or denying one’s real intention that things be thus will do no good: the deed has been done precisely because the play was not mere play and because fictions have a way of affecting reality.

  • 55 See also Petr., 4, 4 which is complaining about declamation: Nunc pueri in scholis ludunt [...].

49Let us make final stop on our tour of the senses of “play”: the ludus as a school. One might object that schola and scholastica are the words one properly uses of declamation. However the Cicero citation must be borne in mind: ludus can indeed be used in conjunction with declamatory training55. And, of course, insisting that only schola is used of declamation just restates the problem: despite a variety of playful extensions of language and double meanings on offer within declamation itself, our speakers and schoolmasters use the word for play in a highly circumscribed manner. Something that could happen never quite takes place.

50Both the genre itself and the voice of the advocate that is conjured within the genre labor under a similar burden. As Seneca’s endless commentary makes clear, the genre has trouble being taken seriously. And, meanwhile, the imagined advocate is himself constantly striving to convince us that we ought to listen to him. Though antithetically motivated, both positions share a common premise. Seneca is keen to set declamation off in its own space and to distinguish great orators from the popular declaimers. Partisans of declamation who are less critical are nevertheless themselves keen that declamation be its own separate cultural enterprise. That is, they too want to segregate it from other activities, but only so as to set off its luster rather than its folly.

51The net result, though, is a sort of permanent liminality. Declamation is always distinct from but nevertheless connected to oratory proper. The word ludus captures various versions of this same problem: declamation is the son who never grows up and leaves the ludus; declamation is the gladiator who trains in the ludus and not the vir fortis who is granted his optio in the forum; declamation is the slave dressed up as a free person who will have to remove her costume when the ludi scaenici come to a close. And yet just as all of these statements are accurate, so too are their contraries.

  • 56 Compare Van Mal-Maeder 2007, p. 105: inset within a declamation one might find revolutionary sugges (...)

52The commentary that frames declamation generally avoids inviting us to see the parallel between life and the stage, forum and arena, school-house and court-house. Though a highly fictional genre, declamation sets up barriers to the free play of ideas56. The contrast with the novel is especially stark: built of the same basic stuff and including as well declamatory elements, the novel is unafraid to remind us of its own fictional status, its literary antecedents and neighbors, and its own playfulness. One could make similar arguments about elegy and comedy.

53Declamation stands at the crossroads between genres, and yet it has trouble moving forward. Indeed, it can be paralyzed by its own self-dramatization and the need for seriousness. What ensues is a tragic encounter. Or perhaps it is a comic one depending on one’s perspective. Specifically, at this crossroads limping declamation forever finds itself quarrelling with an old man that it attempts to strike down. In so doing it seems to fail to appreciate that, despite all of its cleverness, it is itself the very thing that has brought a plague upon the state of oratory. And this is because of an involuted, incestuous relationship with both oratory and play that cannot acknowledge itself as such. Of course, the biggest scandal of all is that the orator proper was himself always also a mere actor despite his sham reluctance to be taken as such. The old fellow who tried to force the younger, more vigorous man to make way for him at the trivium perhaps got exactly what he deserved.

54My fable has a moral. I am not asking that we abandon declamation for the novel and its unrepressed and indeed irrepressible embrace of literary possibilities. I mean instead to indicate that we ought to use our understanding of the constitutive erasures and silences of declamation to revisit it with a revised and expanded understanding of just what kind of play we are watching.

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Notes

1 University of Toronto. See Bourdieu 1990, p. 53.

2 See Nicolet 1980, p. 366‑373.

3 See Gunderson 1996.

4 Petr., 2, 3: “Agamemnon wouldn’t let me declaim longer in the arcade than he had himself sweated it out in the schoolhouse”. See Van Mal-Maeder 2003, p. 345‑355 on declamation as an intertext and hypotext for Petronius and Apuleius.

5 Hömke 2007, p. 117.

6 See, for example, the opening of Plin., Ep. IV, 14.

7 For a detailed and politically sensitive overview of Seneca’s speakers, see Migliario 2003.

8 Guérin 2010, p. 155: “Le déclamateur, lui, n’existe que par son texte [...] [L]a citation est bien l’unique manière de faire exister le souvenir du déclamateur, dont l’œuvre ne représente qu’un texte privé de toute influence sur les réalités institutionnelles et politiques.”

9 See the first chapter of Bourdieu 1984.

10 Sen., Contr. IX, pr.: Nam si foro non praeparat, aut scaenicae ostentationi aut furiosae vociferationi simillimum est. Seneca reproduces at length the charges laid by Votienus Montanus against declamation and in favor of real oratory.

11 Quint., II, 10, 8: Nam si foro non praeparat, aut scaenicae ostentationi aut furiosae vociferationi simillimum est.

12 See Quint., III, 8 on persona and suasoriae.

13 See the productive reading of fraternal conflict in Sen., Contr. I, 1 as an allegory for civil war in Danesi Marioni 2003.

14 A politically charged moment of imposed allegory occurs at Sen., Contr. II, 4, 12‑13. Pernot 2007, offers guidelines for finding the contemporary amidst declamation’s “figured speech”. Compare Breij 2006.

15 See, for example, Gunderson 2003, p. 205‑206 on Ps.‑Quint., Decl. mai. 18; p. 64 on Ps.‑Quint., Decl. min. 372, and p. 132‑135 on Sen., Contr. X, 3, 3.

16 Calp. Flacc., Decl. 52 (éd. Håkanson 1978): Sed o virtus, in adversis comes, sola tu me secuta in carcerem, tu in ludum, virum fortem tu sola non decipis, “Virtue, my companion amidst adversity, you alone followed me into prison and into the gladiatorial school. You alone prove true to a man of valor.”

17 Calp. Flacc., Decl. 52: Erravi, iudices, fateor, erravi, qui semper credidi immortalitatem esse pro re publica mori, cum fama etiam viventium consenescat, “Wrong, judges, yes, I was wrong: I always thought death on behalf of the state to be a kind of immortality though even the glory of the living grows feeble with age.”

18 Ps.‑Quint., Decl. min. 302, 2: Nam neque orator est qui numquam egit causam, neque accusator qui reum in iudicium non deduxit, neque reus qui causam non dixit, “The man who has never pled a case is no orator. He who has never brought a defendant before the bar is no accuser. And he who has never spoken his case is no defendant.”

19 Ps.‑Quint., Decl. mai. 9, 22: Bonitate sua gladiator factus est!

20 The phrase is not unparalleled; see also Ps.‑Quint., Decl. min. 330, 2. Both Krapinger 2007, p. 121 n. 200 and Winterbottom 1984, p. 507 feel the need to gloss this somewhat unexpected use of scaena.

21 Ps.‑Quint., Decl. mai. 9, 8: Quicquid historiae tradiderunt, carmina finxerunt, fabulae adiecerunt sub hac conparatione taceant, “What history transmits, what poetry invents, what tales have added to the mass, let it all fall silent when matched with this.”

22 Sen., Contr. III, pr. 13 (éd. Håkanson 1989): Deinde res ipsa diversa est: totum aliud est pugnare, aliud ventilare. Hoc ita semper habitum est, scholam quasi ludum esse, forum arenam; et ille ideo primum in foro verba facturus tiro dictus est, “And the matter itself is dissimilar. It’s one thing to fight and another to flail. One has always considered the school to be a sort of gladiatorial ludus and the forum to be an arena. Accordingly the man about to make his first speech in the forum was labelled a tiro (i. e., first-time fighter).” See the comments of Casamento 2002, p. 26.

23 See Van Mal-Maeder 2007, p. 10‑18 for a survey of the declamatory dramatis personae.

24 Winterbottom 1984, p. 561: “The theme is particularly reminiscent of New Comedy, besides having a close relative in Calp. 37”. See Van Mal-Maeder 2004, p. 191; Van Mal-Maeder 2007, p. 15: there is also often a tragic cast of characters on display in the declamatory universe.

25 Pasetti 2011, p. 46: “[L]a ‘teatralità’ della declamazione è confermata dalla presenza di artifici retorici funzionali anche sul piano scenico: ad es. le frequentissime allocuzioni e autoallocuzioni [...], i deittici, l’inserimento di segmenti dialogici attraverso la sermocinatio [...]”. See also Hömke 2009; Schneider 2013, p. 147‑148 n. 132 and p. 222.

26 See Van Mal-Maeder 2007, p. 33‑35. One should note, though, that the genres are nevertheless constantly also distinguished from one another in the very same passages.

27 See Pianezzola 2003, p. 91‑99.

28 See Danesi Marioni 2003, p. 159‑160.

29 Becker 1904; Deratani 1930; Berti 2007, p. 268‑308 offer surveys of Vergilian and Ovidian echoes.

30 Such is amply documented by Krapinger 2005; on Ps.‑Quint, Decl. mai. 3, cf. also Schneider 2004, p. 24.

31 See Zinsmaier 2009a.

32 See Hömke 2002, p. 252‑278 and Longo 2008, p. 27‑35. In these two speeches one likely hears reminiscences of dramatic poetry. Elegy and New Comedy are highly convergent, and it would be foolish to claim that one can detect the one without hearing the other as well.

33 See Stramaglia 2002, p. 96; Van Mal-Maeder 2004; Van Mal-Maeder 2007, p. 83‑87.

34 Van Mal-Maeder 2004, p. 197.

35 See Pasetti 2011, p. 203.

36 See Sen., Contr. VII, 3, 8.

37 A topic explored in depth by Casamento 2002.

38 See the fourth chapter of Gunderson 2000 on the (forced) efforts at disambiguation between orator and actor. See also Van Mal-Maeder 2007, p. 42‑46 on role-playing in theory, on stage, and in declamation.

39 Van Mal-Maeder 2004: this is a core feature of declamation’s own efforts to make a claim that it be taken seriously as literature. See Van Mal-Maeder 2007, p. 85 on declamatory intertextuality and rivalry with the greats of Latin verse. I tend to see less invocation tragedy than she does, though.

40 See Klodt 2003.

41 Ps.‑Quint., Decl. min. 259, 21 (éd. Shackleton Bailey 1989): Cogita quae fuerint illa pericula ex quibus evasit, quae tempestates, qui fluctus et naufragia et cetera quae nihil divisione egent nomina, “Imagine the dangers that he escaped, the storms, the waves, the shipwreck, and the other headings that stand in no need of a rhetorical partition.” This case is uncommonly theatrical: forma iudicii proponitur, agitur defendentis imitatio, “The semblance of a tribunal is set forth, an imitation of a man defending himself is enacted” (259, 16). Compare Gallio at Sen., Contr. IX, 5, 1: Quam indulgenter puerperia divisit!, “What indulgence he shows in his (rhetorical) partitioning of the matter of childbirth!”

42 Ps.‑Quint., Decl. min. 254 (Exul accusator et sententiae pares) has a fairly dense collection of these moments.

43 See Breij 2006, p. 81‑82; Zinsmaier 2009a, p. 96‑105; Zinsmaier 2009b on the various meanings of color within the world of declamation.

44 A quick and representative initial survey can be had by looking at the entry for fabula in the index to Shackleton Bailey 1989.

45 Again, this is a somewhat forced distinction: the plot of a myth cannot be radically dissociated from its dramatic representation.

46 Danesi Marioni 2003, p. 161 makes a convincing case that not only is fabulosa certamina a reference to the Thyestes myth, but that the presentation of the civil war in Sen., Contr. I, 1 is also filled with specifically tragic diction and allusions. Compare Berti 2007, p. 318‑325. See Casamento 2002, p. 79‑87: the declamatory Thyestes in this case returns in the younger Seneca’s own Thyestes.

47 Ps.‑Quint., Decl. min. 338, 21: Cum dico “iratus est”, succurrat vobis quidquid non experimentorum in civitate sed in scaenis fabularum est, quam multa fecerit hic adfectus, quam multos transversos velut tempestate quadam egerit.

48 See Vogt-Spira 2007 on the truth-like as a quality that theorists tend to praise in ancient fictions. Truth and fiction can be, then, mutually re-enforcing categories.

49 See Arist., Rhet. 1393b-94a on fictive paradeigmata rather than those derived from actual experience. Compare Cic., Top. 45 and Part. 40.

50 Ps.‑Quint., Decl. min. 338, 28: cui non mortalium patet totus hic mimus.

51 The Mss have animus. Mimus is proposed by Schultingh and printed by Shackleton Bailey 1989, p. 300, 17. Winterbottom 1984, p. 532 accepts animus and Dingel’s arguments for it, but does note the passages one might compare for mimus.

52 Much energy is expended in the case on a narrow linguistic point that is asked to serve as a legal point, namely what exactly does the phrase in liberate mean?

53 Ps.‑Quint., Decl. min. 342, 7: At eadem si hoc habitu extra scaenam fuerit et in civitate processerit, eadem illa quae solet mima esse nihilominus erit in iure libertatis, “Nevertheless, had the same woman been so attired beyond the confines of the stage and had she made her way so dressed amid the state, this very same woman who performs as a mime would nevertheless be free in point of law.”

54 Compare, of course, the logic of usucapio.

55 See also Petr., 4, 4 which is complaining about declamation: Nunc pueri in scholis ludunt [...].

56 Compare Van Mal-Maeder 2007, p. 105: inset within a declamation one might find revolutionary suggestions, but the genre itself makes sure that the revolution never really breaks out.

Auteur

University of Toronto

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