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[97] 28. That this is the common acceptation of1 propriety we may infer from that propriety which poets aim to secure. Concerning that, I have occasion to say more in another connection. Now, we say that the poets observe propriety, when every word or action is in accord with each individual character. For example, if Aeacus or Minos said:
“Let them hate, if only they fear,
or:
“The father is himself his children's tomb,
[p. 101] that would seem improper, because we are told that they were just men. But when Atreus speaks those lines, they call forth applause; for the sentiment is in keeping with the character. But it will rest with the poets to decide, according to the individual characters, what is proper for each; but to us Nature herself has assigned a character of surpassing excellence, far superior to that of all other living creatures, and in accordance with that we shall have to decide what propriety requires.

1 Poetic propriety.

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  • Cross-references in indexes to this page (5):
    • M. Tullius Cicero, De Officiis: index, Aeacus
    • M. Tullius Cicero, De Officiis: index, Atreus
    • M. Tullius Cicero, De Officiis: index, Minerva
    • M. Tullius Cicero, De Officiis: index, Minos
    • M. Tullius Cicero, De Officiis: index, Propriety
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