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16. In the epideictic style the narrative should not be consecutive, but disjointed; for it is necessary to go through the actions which form the subject of the speech. For a speech is made up of one part that is inartificial (the speaker being in no way the author
of the actions which he relates), and of another that does depend upon art. The latter consists in showing that the action did take place, if it be incredible, or that it is of a certain kind, or of a certain importance, or all three together. [2] This is why it is sometimes right not to narrate all the facts consecutively, because a demonstration of this kind1 is difficult to remember. From some facts a man may be shown to be courageous, from others wise or just. Besides, a speech of this kind is simpler, whereas the other is intricate and not plain. [3] It is only necessary to recall famous actions; wherefore most people have no need of narrative—for instance, if you wish to praise Achilles; for everybody knows what he did, and it is only necessary to make use of it. But if you wish to praise Critias, narrative is necessary, for not many people know what he did . . .2

[4] But at the present day it is absurdly laid down that the narrative should be rapid. And yet, as the man said to the baker when he asked whether he was to knead bread hard or soft, “What! is it impossible to knead it well?” so it is in this case; for the narrative must not be long, nor the exordium, nor the proofs either. For in this case also propriety does not consist either in rapidity or conciseness, but in a due mean; that is, one must say all that will make the facts clear,
or create the belief that they have happened or have done injury or wrong, or that they are as important as you wish to make them. The opposite party must do the opposite. [5] And you should incidentally narrate anything that tends to show your own virtue, for instance, “I always recommended him to act rightly, not to forsake his children”; or the wickedness of your opponent, for instance, “but he answered that, wherever he might be, he would always find other children,” an answer attributed by Herodotus3 to the Egyptian rebels; or anything which is likely to please the dicasts.

[6] In defence, the narrative need not be so long; for the points at issue are either that the fact has not happened or that it was neither injurious nor wrong nor so important as asserted, so that one should not waste time over what all are agreed upon, unless anything tends to prove that, admitting the act, it is not wrong. [7] Again, one should only mention such past things as are likely to excite pity or indignation if described as actually happening; for instance, the story of Alcinous, because in the presence of Penelope it is reduced to sixty lines,4 and the way in which Phayllus dealt with the epic cycle,5 and the prologue to the Oeneus.6

[8] And the narrative should be of a moral character, and in fact it will be so, if we know what effects this. One thing is to make clear our moral purpose; for as is the moral purpose, so is the character, and as is the end, so is the moral purpose. For this reason mathematical treatises have no
moral character, because neither have they moral purpose; for they have no moral end. But the Socratic dialogues have; for they discuss such questions. [9] Other ethical indications are the accompanying peculiarities of each individual character; for instance, “He was talking and walking on at the same time,” which indicates effrontery and boorishness. Nor should we speak as if from the intellect, after the manner of present-day orators; but from moral purpose: “But I wished it, and I preferred it; and even if I profited nothing, it is better.” The first statement indicates prudence, the second virtue; for prudence consists in the pursuit of what is useful, virtue in that of what is honorable. If anything of the kind seems incredible, then the reason must be added; of this Sophocles gives an example, where his Antigone says that she cared more for her brother than for her husband or children; for the latter can be replaced after they are gone, “ but when father and mother are in the grave, no brother can ever be born.7

” If you have no reason, you should at least say that you are aware that what you assert is incredible, but that it is your nature; for no one believes that a man ever does anything of his own free will except from motives of self-interest.8

[10] Further, the narrative should draw upon what is emotional by the introduction of such of its accompaniments as are well known, and of what is specially characteristic of either yourself or of the adversary: “And he went off looking grimly at me”;
and as Aeschines9 says of Cratylus, that he hissed violently and violently shook his fists. Such details produce persuasion because, being known to the hearer, they become tokens of what he does not know. Numerous examples of this may be found in Homer: “ Thus she spoke, and the aged nurse covered her face with her hands;10

” for those who are beginning to weep lay hold on their eyes. And you should at once introduce yourself and your adversary as being of a certain character, that the hearers may regard you or him as such; but do not let it be seen. That this is easy is perfectly clear11 from the example of messengers; we do not yet know what they are going to say, but nevertheless we have an inkling of it.

[11] Again, the narrative should be introduced in several places, sometimes not at all at the beginning. In deliberative oratory narrative is very rare, because no one can narrate things to come; but if there is narrative, it will be of things past, in order that, being reminded of them, the hearers may take better counsel about the future. This may be done in a spirit either of blame or of praise; but in that case the speaker does not perform the function of the deliberative orator. If there is anything incredible, you should immediately promise both to give a reason for it at once and to submit it to the judgement of any whom the hearers approve;12 as, for instance, Jocasta in the Oedipus of Carcinus13 is always promising, when the man who is looking for her son makes inquiries
of her; and similarly Haemon in Sophocles.14

1 Involving a continuous succession of proofs.

2 Something has been lost here, as is shown by the transition from epideictic to forensic Rhetoric. All the mss. have a gap, which in several of them is filled by introducing the passage ἔστι δ᾽ ἔπαινος . . . μετατεθῇ (1.9.33-37).

3 Hdt. 2.30. The story was that a number of Egyptian soldiers had revolted and left in a body for Ethiopia. Their king Psammetichus begged them not to desert their wives and children, to which one of them made answer ( τῶν δέ τινα λέγεται δέξαντα τὸ αἰδοῖον εἰπεῖν, ἔνθα ἂν τοῦτο , ἔσεσθαι αὐτοῖσι ἐνθαῦτα καὶ τέκνα καὶ γυναῖκας).

4 Hom. Od. 23.264-284, Hom. Od. 23.310-343. The title referred to the narrative in Books 9-12. It became proverbial for a long-winded story.

5 he apparently summarized it.

6 Of Euripides. It was apparently very compact.

7 Soph. Ant. 911-912, where the mss. have κεκευθότοιν instead of Aristotle's βεβηκότων.

8 Whereas this man makes his temperament responsible for the strange things he does; he is built that way and cannot help it.

9 Supposed to be Aeschines called Socraticus from his intimate friendship with Socrates. A philosopher and writer of speeches for the law courts, he had a great reputation as an orator.

10 Hom. Od. 19.361.

11 δεῖ (omitted by others) = “one cannot help seeing.”

12 Omitting τε. The difficulty is διατάττειν, which can apparently only mean “arrange.” Jebb retains τε, and reads ὡς for οἷς: “the speaker must make himself responsible for the fact . . . and marshal his reasons in a way acceptable to the hearers.” The old Latin translation vadiare quibus volunt suggested to Roemer διαιτηταῖς, “to the arbitrators they approve.”

13 According to Jebb, Jocasta tells the inquirer incredible things about her son, and pledges her word for the facts. Cope says: “promises (to do something or other to satisfy him).”

14 Soph. Ant. 683-723. On this Cope remarks: “This last example must be given up as hopeless; there is nothing in the extant play which could be interpreted as required here.” According to Jebb, the “incredibility” consists in the fact that Haemon, although in love with Antigone, and strongly opposed to the sentence pronounced upon her by his father Creon, still remains loyal to the latter. Haemon explains the reason in lines 701-3, where he says that he prizes his father's welfare more than anything else, for a father's good name and prosperity is the greatest ornament for children, as is the son's for the father.

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  • Commentary references to this page (3):
    • Sir Richard C. Jebb, Commentary on Sophocles: Antigone, 223
    • Sir Richard C. Jebb, Commentary on Sophocles: Antigone, 904-920
    • Sir Richard C. Jebb, Commentary on Sophocles: Antigone, 909
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