Style and Substance: Cicero’s Rethinking of Elocutio
This chapter shows that from his extended outer preface in the third and final book of the De Oratore, deliberately recalling that of book 1 and pointing ahead to Crassus' enhancement of elocutio, Cicero steps back into the dramatic setting, as the friends wait for Crassus to reach the end of his long and deep deliberation, before gathering in the heart of his shady woodland. Crassus' opening sentence, recalling the bargain with Antonius, reiterates the inseparability of content and form. All speech is formed from words and matter, but words are unstable if you withdraw their subject matter, and matter is left dark if you take away the words. Crassus will vindicate this insistence by both a physical and an intellectual analogy, citing the cohesion of all physical nature, and the Platonic belief in the association of all disciplines in a nexus of causality. The many terms of cooperation and coherence combine words of human understanding (complexi, 3.20; comprehendi, 3.21), with parallel compound forms to describe natural phenomena (consensione naturae constricta…constare…conservare), and abstract knowledge itself (contineri…consensus…concentusque). Cumulatively each of these forms reinforces his message.
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