Building the Perfect Beast:  Cicero's Reinvention of Aristotelian Dramatic Ethos in the Pro Cluentio

James H. Crozier

Missouri Valley College

In Trials of Character, James May numbers dramatic ethos among the principal weapons of character-based argumentation that epitomize the power and effectiveness of Cicero's forensic oratory. This paper builds upon May's scholarship by tracing the evolution of dramatic ethos from its Aristotelian origins to Cicero's practical use of the technique in the Pro Cluentio.  The paper begins with an examination of the problems associated with the disappearance of Aristotelian idea of ethos-based proofs in Hellenistic rhetoric. The research presented demonstrates that after Aristotle's death, Hellenistic rhetoricians, who favored logical argumentation over emotional appeal, ignore his theories about ethos-based argumentation. As a result, ethos is stripped of its function as a means of persuasion and is limited to providing a means for speakers to obtain the goodwill of an audience.

The second part of the paper examines the survival of the essential elements of dramatic ethos among the figures of thought that are outlined in the Rhetorica ad Herennium.  Despite the treatise's silence on the use of ethos-driven arguments as a means of persuasion, an examination of five figures of thought outlined in the Rhetorica -- effictio, notatio, sermocinatio, conformatio and demonstratio -- reveals the survival of the basic tools needed to evoke dramatic ethos as prescribed by Aristotle. A brief analysis of Cicero's portrayal of Staienus in the Pro Cluentio demonstrates Cicero's novel use of these figures to evoke powerful dramatic scenes that function as the kind of ethos-driven proofs that are recommended by Aristotle.


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