Listeners and Readers Have Different Needs

Quintilian Institutio Oratoria, 10.1

“Indeed, some things are useful for listeners and others are good for readers. A speaking narrator causes excitement with his energy and feeds our attention not only with vivid images but with the material itself. Everything comes alive and is moved and we feed on new ideas as if they are just born in charm and worry. We are hand not just on the fate of the plot but on the danger faced by those who narrate it. In addition, the voice itself, proper movement, and performance shaped as each segment will demand are the most powerful aspects of recitation and, as I may say, teacheverything equally.

When it comes to reading, the audience’s judgment can be more certain since a listener’s prejudice often turns either by their own taste or by the shouting of those who are responding to the performance. Disagreement makes us feel shame and our unacknowledged humility keeps us from trusting our own responses even though pretty terrible stuff is pleasing to the majority of people. A summoned audience, moreover, will even applaud for things they don’t like. The opposite occurs too: poor taste often can’t tell when something has been finely put.

Reading is private—it does not move through us with the force of live performance and you’re allowed to re-read often just in case you are uncertain or want to memorize it. We may return to the text and work it again the way we let our food be chewed and worked because we swallow it for easier digestion. In this way, our reading is not raw but it is ready for memory through repeated softening and preparation.”

Alia vero audientis, alia legentis magis adiuvant. Excitat qui dicit spiritu ipso, nec imagine tantum rerum sed rebus incendit. Vivunt omnia enim et moventur, excipimusque nova illa velut nascentia cum favore ac sollicitudine: nec fortuna modo iudicii sed etiam ipsorum qui orant periculo adficimur. Praeter haec vox, actio decora, accommodata ut quisque locus postulabit pronuntiandi vel potentissima in dicendo ratio, et, ut semel dicam, pariter omnia docent. In lectione certius iudicium, quod audienti frequenter aut suus cuique favor aut ille laudantium clamor extorquet. Pudet enim dissentire, et velut tacita quadam verecundia inhibemur plus nobis credere, cum interim et vitiosa pluribus placent, et a conrogatis laudantur etiam quae non placent. Sed e contrario quoque accidit ut optime dictis gratiam prava iudicia non referant.

Lectio libera est nec ut actionis impetu transcurrit, sed repetere saepius licet, sive dubites sive memoriae penitus adfigere velis. Repetamus autem et tractemus et, ut cibos mansos ac prope liquefactos demittimus quo facilius digerantur, ita lectio non cruda sed multa iteratione mollita et velut confecta memoriae imitationique tradatur.

MS Additional 11639, f. 116r, France, 1277-1286 — From Here

Faint Praise vs. Censure

Aulus Gellius, Attic Nights (19.3):

The philosopher Favorinus used to say that it was more disgraceful to receive slight and cold praise than to be bitterly and seriously criticized, “Since,” as he said, “the more savagely someone talks shit and finds fault with you, the more they appear as unfair and hostile, and thus not credible. But one who praises you sparingly and feebly seems to be uncommitted to your cause, and although they are trusted to be the friend of the one whom they wish to praise, they cannot find anything which they might praise justly.”

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Turpius esse dicebat Favorinus philosophus exigue atque frigide laudari quam insectanter et graviter vituperari: “quoniam,” inquit “qui maledicit et vituperat, quanto id acerbius facit, tam maxime pro iniquo et inimico ducitur et plerumque propterea fidem non capit. Sed qui infecunde atque ieiune laudat, destitui a causa videtur et amicus quidem creditur eius, quem laudare vult, sed nihil posse reperire, quod iure laudet.”

Peril Shows A Person’s True Nature

Lucretius, De Rerum Natura 3.41-58

“For men often claim that disease and a life
of a bad reputation should be feared more than Tartaros.
And they claim they know that the nature of the soul is like blood
Or even air, if that fits their current desire.

And they claim that they do not need our arguments.
But what follows will make you see these things as a matter of boasting
rather than because the matter itself has been proved.

The same men, out of their homeland and in a long exile
From the sight of others, charged with some foul crime,
live as they do, even afflicted with all possible troubles.
But, still, wherever they go the outcasts minister to their ancestors
and slaughter dark cattle and make their offerings
to the departed ghosts and when things get worse
they focus more sharply on religion.

For this reason it is better to examine a man in doubt or danger:
Adverse circumstances make it easier to know who a man is,
for then true words finally rise from his deepest heart;
when the mask is removed, the thing itself remains.”

nam quod saepe homines morbos magis esse timendos
infamemque ferunt vitam quam Tartara leti
et se scire animi naturam sanguinis esse,
aut etiam venti, si fert ita forte voluntas,
nec prosum quicquam nostrae rationis egere,
hinc licet advertas animum magis omnia laudis
iactari causa quam quod res ipsa probetur.
extorres idem patria longeque fugati
conspectu ex hominum, foedati crimine turpi,
omnibus aerumnis adfecti denique vivunt,
et quo cumque tamen miseri venere parentant
et nigras mactant pecudes et manibus divis
inferias mittunt multoque in rebus acerbis
acrius advertunt animos ad religionem.
quo magis in dubiis hominem spectare periclis
convenit adversisque in rebus noscere qui sit;
nam verae voces tum demum pectore ab imo
eliciuntur [et] eripitur persona manet res.

 

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Demons From The Livre de la vigne nostre Seigneur, 1450 – 70

Piss-Poor Prescriptions

Poggio Bracciolini, Facetiae (203):

On the doctor who used to give out cures by lot

“It is the custom in Rome that a sick person’s urine be sent to the doctor with one or two silver coins, so that he will consider the health of the patient. One doctor whom I knew would write various remedies on his note papers (which they call prescriptions) every night. He would then place them all in a bag. In the morning, when the urine was brought to him and he was asked for a remedy, he would place his hand in the bag and take out whichever leaflet happened to fall into his hand, and as he moved his hand through the bag he would tell the client (in the common tongue) Prega Dio te la mandi buona, that is, Pray to God that you get a good one. Wretched is the condition of those who receive their assistance from fortune, not reason.”

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Facetum medici qui sorte medelas dabat

Mos est in urbe Roma ut infirmi urina mittatur ad medicum, cum uno aut duobus argenteis nummis, ut consulat sanitati. Quidam medicus, quem ipse novi, varia nocte remedia morbis scribebat in scedulis (quas “receptas” vocant). Eas omnes in sacculum ponebat. Mane, cum urinae ad eum referrentur. postulato remedio, ille manum ponebat ad sacculum, casu quae in manus incideret sumpturus, dicens inter capiendum petenti vulgaribus verbis: “Prega Dio te la mandi buona” id est: “Roga Deum ut sortiaris bonam”. Misera eorum conditio, quibus non ratio sed fortuna opitulabatur.

How Many Angels on the Head of a Pin? How Many Oarsmen on Achilles’ Ships?

Scholia T ad Homer Iliad 16.170

“Achilles, dear to Zeus, had fifty ships which he led to Troy. In each of the ships there were fifty companions at the benches.” How, people ask, is it that the Poet who typically augments Achilles elsewhere, diminishes him in this passage? Is it because there is no excellence in numbers?

Aristarchus, however, says that there are fifty rowers [only] because of the phrase “on the benches”, meaning sailors as support crew. Dionysus, still, claims that the greatest number of rowers possible was 120 and that most ships had between these two numbers, so that the average amount was 86 men.”

πεντήκοντ᾽ ἦσαν νῆες θοαί, ἧισιν ᾽Αχιλλεὺς ἐς Τροίην ἡγεῖτο διίφιλος· ἐν δὲ ἑκάστηι πεντήκοντ᾽ ἔσαν ἄνδρες ἐπὶ κληῖσιν ἑταῖροι] πῶς, φασίν, ἐν ἅπασιν αὔξων ᾽Αχιλλέα τούτωι μειοῖ; τινὲς μὲν οὖν, ὅτι οὐκ ἐν πλήθει ἡ ἀρετή … ᾽Αρίσταρχος δέ φησιν ν̄ ἐρέτας εἶναι διὰ τὸ ῾ἐπὶ κληῖσιν᾽ ἢ ναύτας πρὸς ὑπηρεσίαν. Διονύσιος δὲ τὸν μέγιστον ἀριθμὸν ρ̄κ̄ τιμᾶι, τὸ δὲ λοιπὸν ἐν τῶι μεταξὺ τούτων ἄγεσθαι, ὡς φθάνειν πάσας ἀπὸ π̄ε̄ ἀνδρῶν.

Ah, another case study of that “morbus Graecorum”

Seneca, De Brevitate Vitae 13

“It would be annoying to list all the people who spent their lives pursuing board games, ball games, or sunbathing. Men whose pleasures are so busy are not at leisure. For example, no one will be surprised that those occupied by useless literary studies work strenuously—and there is great band of these in Rome now too.

This sickness used to just afflict the Greeks, to discover the number of oarsmen Odysseus possessed, whether the Iliad was written before the Odyssey, whether the poems belong to the same author, and other matters like this which, if you keep them to yourself, cannot please your private mind; but if you publish them, you seem less learned than annoying.”

Persequi singulos longum est, quorum aut latrunculi aut pila aut excoquendi in sole corporis cura consumpsere vitam. Non sunt otiosi, quorum voluptates multum negotii habent. Nam de illis nemo dubitabit, quin operose nihil agant, qui litterarum inutilium studiis detinentur, quae iam apud Romanos quoque magna manus est. Graecorum iste morbus fuit quaerere, quem numerum Ulixes remigum habuisset, prior scripta esset Ilias an Odyssia, praeterea an eiusdem essent auctoris, alia deinceps huius notae, quae sive contineas, nihil tacitam conscientiam iuvant sive proferas, non doctior videaris sed molestior.

Lenormant Relief, c. 410 BCE

Anger, Insult, and Wounds

Seneca, De Ira, 28

“Anger hobbles many, it makes many disabled even when it finds ready material. Add to this the fact that nothing is born so submissive that it will pass on without any threat for its destroyer. Pain and danger make some of the weak equal to the strongest. What, don’t most of the things we get angry about insult us more than they wound?

Indeed, there is a great difference whether someone resists my will, steals it from me, or does not agree with it. But we attach equal value to each, whether someone takes something or denies it, whether he crushes our hope or puts it off, whether he acts against us or for himself, and whether because of love or out of hate.”

Multos iracundia mancos, multos debiles fecit, etiam ubi patientem est nancta materiam. Adice nunc quod nihil tam imbecille natum est, ut sine elidentis periculo pereat; imbecillos valentissimis alias dolor, alias casus exaequat. Quid, quod pleraque eorum, propter quae irascimur, offendunt nos magis quam laedunt? Multum autem interest, utrum aliquis voluntati meae obstet an desit, eripiat an non det. Atqui in aequo ponimus, utrum aliquis auferat an neget, utrum spem nostram praecidat an differat, utrum contra nos faciat an pro se, amore alterius an odio nostri. Quidam vero non tantum iustas causas standi contra nos, sed etiam honestas habent.

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Angry Fish The Hague, KA 16, 14th c.

 

Forget Virtue, Study Vice!

Poggio Bracciolini, Facetiae 23:

“In the Roman Curia, Fortune holds the most power, and I was searching to see whether it be a place for intelligence or for virtue. But all things are obtained by ambition and opportunity (not to mention money, which appears to reign all over the world.) A certain friend of mind, who was vexed that many people inferior to him in learning and morals were nevertheless preferred to him, was complaining to Angelotto, the cardinal of St. Mark’s, that his virtue was of no account but was an afterthought when compared to those who were not his equals. He recollected all of his studies, and all of his labors in learning. Then, the cardinal, who was always ready to chastise the vices of the Curia, said, ‘Here knowledge and learning will do you no good. But go on and apply yourself to forgetting them and learning instead some idle vices, if you want to be accepted into the Pope’s favor.”

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In Curia Romana ut plurimum Fortuna dominatur, cum perraro locus sit vel ingenio, vel virtuti; sed ambitione et opportunitate parantur omnia, ut de nummis sileam, qui ubique terrarum imperare videntur. Amicus quidam, qui aegre ferebat praeferri sibi multos doctrina et probitate inferiores, querebatur apud Angelottum cardinalem Sancti Marci nullam haberi suae virtutis rationem, sed postponi his, qui nulla in re sibi pares essent. Sua insuper studia commemoravit, et in discendo labores. Tum promptus ad lacessendum Curiae vitia cardinalis, “Hic scientia et doctrina” inquit “nihil prosunt. Sed perge et aliquod tempus ad dediscendum et addiscendum vitia vaca, si vis Pontifici acceptus esse”.