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The Training Of A Public Speaker by Grenville Kleiser


The peroration, called by some the completion, by others the conclusion, of a discourse, is of two kinds, and regards either the matters discust in it or the moving of the passions.

The repetition of the matter and the collecting it together, which is called by the Greeks recapitulation, and by some of the Latins enumeration, serves for refreshing the judge's memory, for placing the whole cause in one direct point of view, and for enforcing in a body many proofs which, separately, made less impression. It would seem that this repetition ought to be very short, and the Greek term sufficiently denotes that we ought to run over only the principal heads, for if we are long in doing it, it will not be an enumeration that we make, but, as it were, a second discourse. The points which may seem to require this enumeration, however, ought to be pronounced with some emphasis, and enlivened with opposite thoughts, and diversified by figures, otherwise nothing will be more disagreeable than a mere cursory repetition, which would seem to show distrust of the judge's memory.


This seems to be the only kind of peroration allowed by most of the Athenians and by almost all the philosophers who left anything written on the art of oratory. The Athenians, I suppose, were of that opinion because it was customary at Athens to silence, by the public crier, any orator who should attempt to move the passions. I am less surprized at this opinion among philosophers, every perturbation of the mind being considered by them as vicious; nor did it seem to them compatible with sound morality to divert the judge from truth, nor agreeable to the idea of an honest man to have recourse to any sinister stratagem. Yet moving the passions will be acknowledged necessary when truth and justice can not be otherwise obtained and when public good is concerned in the decision. All agree that recapitulation may also be employed to advantage in other parts of the pleading, if the cause is complicated and requires many arguments to defend it, and, on the other hand, it will admit of no doubt that many causes are so short and simple as to have no occasion in any part of them for recapitulation. The above rules for the peroration apply equally to the accuser and to the defendant's advocate.

They, likewise, use nearly the same passions, but the accuser more seldom and more sparingly, and the defendant oftener and with greater emotions; for it is the business of the former to stir up aversion, indignation, and other similar passions in the minds of the judges, and of the latter to bend their hearts to compassion. Yet the accuser is sometimes not without tears, in deploring the distress of those in whose behalf he sues for satisfaction, and the defendant sometimes complains with great vehemence of the persecution raised against him by the calumnies and conspiracy of his enemies. It would be best, therefore, to distinguish and discuss separately the different passions excited on the parts of the plaintiff and defendant, which are most commonly, as I have said, very like what takes place in the exordium, but are treated in a freer and fuller manner in the peroration.


The favor of the judges toward us is more sparingly sued for in the beginning, it being then sufficient to gain their attention, as the whole discourse remains in which to make further impressions. But in the peroration we must strive to bring the judge into that disposition of the mind which it is necessary for us that he should retain when he comes to pass judgment. The peroration being finished, we can say no more, nor can anything be reserved for another place. Both of the contending sides, therefore, try to conciliate the judge, to make him unfavorable to the opponent, to rouse and occasionally allay his passions; and both may find their method of procedure in this short rule, which is, to keep in view the whole stress of the cause, and finding what it contains that is favorable, odious, or deplorable, in reality or in probability, to say those things which would make the greatest impression on themselves if they sat as judges.

I have already mentioned in the rules for the exordium how the accuser might conciliate the judges. Yet some things, which it was enough to point out there, should be wrought to a fulness in the peroration, especially if the pleading be against some one universally hated, and a common disturber, and if the condemnation of the culprit should redound as much to the honor of the judges as his acquittal to their shame. Thus Calvus spoke admirably against Vatinius:

|You know, good sirs, that Vatinius is guilty, and no one is unaware that you know it.| Cicero, in the same way, informs the judges that if anything is capable of reestablishing the reputation of their judgment, it must be the condemnation of Verres. If it be proper to intimidate the judges, as Cicero likewise does, against Verres, this is done with better effect in the peroration than in the exordium. I have already explained my sentiments on this point.


In short, when it is requisite to excite envy, hatred, or indignation there is greater scope for doing this to advantage in the peroration than elsewhere. The interest in the accused may naturally excite the judge's envy, the infamy of his crimes may draw upon him his hatred, the little respect he shows him may rouse his indignation. If he is stubborn, haughty, presumptuous, let him be painted in all the glaring colors that aggravate such vicious temper, and these manifested not only from his words and deeds, but from face, manner, and dress. I remember, on my first coming to the bar, a shrewd remark of the accuser of Cossutianus Capito. He pleaded in Greek before the Emperor, but the meaning of his words was: |Might it not be said that this man disdains even to respect Caesar.|

The accuser has recourse frequently to the arousing of compassion, either by setting forth the distrest state of him for whom he hopes to find redress, or by describing the desolation and ruin into which his children and relations are likely thereby to be involved. He may, too, move the judges by holding out to them a prospect of what may happen hereafter if injuries and violence remain unpunished, the consequence of which will be that either his client must abandon his dwelling and the care of his effects, or must resolve to endure patiently all the injustice his enemy may try to do him.

The accuser more frequently will endeavor to caution the judge against the pity with which the defendant intends to inspire him, and he will stimulate him, in as great a degree as he can, to judge according to his conscience. Here, too, will be the place to anticipate whatever it is thought the opponent may do or say, for it makes the judges more circumspect regarding the sacredness of their oath, and by it the answer to the pleading may lose the indulgence which it is expected to receive, together with the charm of novelty in all the particulars which the accuser has already cleared up. The judges, besides, may be informed of the answer they should make to those who might threaten to have their sentence reversed; and this is another kind of recapitulation.

The persons concerned are very proper objects for affecting the mind of the judge, for the judge does not seem to himself to hear so much the orator weeping over others' misfortunes, as he imagines his ears are smitten with the feelings and voice of the distrest. Even their dumb appearance might be a sufficiently moving language to draw tears, and as their wretchedness would appear in lively colors if they were to speak it themselves, so proportionately it must be thought to have a powerful effect when exprest, as it were, from their own mouths. Just so, in theatrical representations, the same voice, and the same emphatic pronunciation, become very interesting under the masks used for personating different characters. With a like view Cicero, tho he gives not the voice of a suppliant to Milo, but, on the contrary, commends his unshaken constancy, yet does he adapt to him words and complaints not unworthy of a man of spirit: |O my labors, to no purpose undertaken! Deceiving hopes! Useless projects!|

This exciting of pity, however, should never be long, it being said, not without reason, that |nothing dries up so soon as tears.| If time can mitigate the pangs of real grief, of course the counterfeit grief assumed in speaking must sooner vanish; so that if we dally, the auditor finding himself overcharged with mournful thoughts, tries to resume his tranquility, and thus ridding himself of the emotion that overpowered him, soon returns to the exercise of cool reason. We must, therefore, never allow this kind of emotion to become languid, but when we have wound up the passions to their greatest height, we must instantly drop the subject, and not expect that any one will long bewail another's mishap. Therefore, as in other parts, the discourse should be well supported, and rather rise, so here particularly it should grow to its full vigor, because that which makes no addition to what has already been said seems to diminish it, and a passion soon evaporates that once begins to subside.

Tears are excited not only by words but by doing certain things, whence it is not unusual to present the very persons who are in danger of condemnation, in a garb suitable to their distress, together with their children and relations. Accusers, too, make it a custom to show a bloody sword, fractured bones picked out of wounds, and garments drenched in blood. Sometime, likewise, they unbind wounds to show their condition, and strip bodies naked to show the stripes they have received. These acts are commonly of mighty efficacy, as fully revealing the reality of the occurrence. Thus it was that Caesar's robe, bloody all over, exposed in the Forum, drove the people of Rome into an excess of madness. It was well known that he was assassinated; his body also lay in state, until his funeral should take place; yet that garment, still dripping with blood, formed so graphic a picture of the horrible murder that it seemed to them to have been perpetrated that very instant.

It will not be amiss to hint that the success of the peroration depends much on the manner of the parties in conforming themselves to the emotions and action of their advocates. Stupidity, rusticity, and a want of sensibility and attention, as it is said, throw cold water on a cause against which the orator can not be too well provided. I have, indeed, often seen them act quite contrary to their advocate's instructions. Not the least show of concern could be observed in their countenance. They laughed foolishly and without reason, and made others laugh by some ridiculous gesticulation or grimace, especially when the heat of a debate exhibited anything akin to theatrical action.

An orator of slender ability will acquit himself better if he allows the judges by themselves to feel the compassion with which his subject may naturally inspire them, especially since the appearance, and voice, and studied air of the advocate's countenance are often ridiculed by such as are not affected by them. Let the orator make an exact estimate of his powers, therefore, and be conscious of the burden he undertakes. Here there is no middle state; he must either make his hearers weep, or expect to be laughed at.

It should not be imagined, as some have thought, that all exciting of the passions, all sentimental emotions, ought to be confined to the exordium and peroration. In them they are most frequent, yet other parts admit them likewise, but in a shorter compass, as their greatest stress should be reserved for the end. For here, if anywhere, the orator may be allowed to open all the streams of eloquence. If we have executed all other parts to advantage, here we take possession of the minds of the judges, and having escaped all rocks, may expand all our sails for a favorable gale; and as amplification makes a great part of the peroration, we then may raise and embellish our style with the choicest expressions and brightest thoughts. And, indeed, the conclusion of a speech should bear some resemblance to that of tragedy and comedy, wherein the actor courts the spectator's applause. In other parts the passions may be touched upon, as they naturally rise out of the subject, and no horrible or sorrowful thing should be set forth without accompanying it with a suitable sentiment. When the debate may be on the quality of a thing, it is properly subjoined to the proofs of each thing brought out. When we plead a cause complicated with a variety of circumstances, then it will be necessary to use many perorations, as it were; as Cicero does against Verres, lending his tears occasionally to Philodamus, to the masters of ships, to the crucified Roman citizens, and to many others.

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