Ciceros oration in defense of M. Caelius Rufus shows many substantive and stylistic borrowings from the Roman Theater, particularly the comedies of the 2nd century b.c.e. This would scarcely seem remarkable to Cicero, to employ such devices is only to make use of the tools of his trade, as a practical and practicing rhetorician. In this case using the theater as a framing device to guide his audiences response.
So too would the judgments and emotions existing in the cultural reservoir of Greco-Roman, or Attic-Latin stage have met his division of purpose as he considered the permanent written speech, he would set down in the wake of the trial, however it was decided. Half a year back from exile and taking a case where he faced by proxy a personal enemy. Cicero wanted a note that would not only sound loudly when struck, but continue to reverberate. His message needed to rise clear of the verdict of the particular case.
Cicero was formally trained as a rhetorician - in Athens -at the Academy. To Cicero oratory was an all pervading endeavor. It was speaking to an audience for a purpose. He seems to accept the prevailing Greek definition of oratory as that division of speech concerned with legal cases and public debates (Cicero, Orator I 6, 22-23). without seeing it as distinct or separate from other speech as not to involve commonality.
In On the Orator I it is debated at one point whether oratory truly involves a comprehensive search for the good, or does the Orator merely use an appearance of the truth for effectiveness as part of a natural art or learned set of techniques (Cicero, Orator I 10, 42). Crassus somewhat dry answer to Scavola is to observe that the opinion of the Greeks was not to allow the rhetorician inclusion in genuine government affairs or learning (Cicero, Orator I 11, 46).
Cicero, by example of his own life takes a broad inclusive
approach to Oratory. In a earlier statement we encounter words
which probably reflect his own view closely:
But the fact of
the matter is that oratory is a much more considerable activity
and depends on a far wider range of different arts and branches
of study, than people imagine (Cicero, Orator I 4,16).Particularly
Cicero seems interested in holding on to the orators special
sphere - the third branch of Philosophy
life and behavior of
human beings which is to say, human nature (Cicero, Orator
I 15, 69).
We hear of the orators
special strength - to rouse
mens hearts to anger, hatred, and indignation (Cicero, Orator
I 12,53), a not dissimilar goal to that of the dramatist.
We find that a speakers job is to ensure that the feelings
of his audience are affected just the way he wants them to be
(19, 87). His Five Tasks of the orator (and to keep within the
dignity of the theme) (Cicero, Orator I 38, 142-44) given
in a following paragraph, are suitable instructions for any playwright
or actor. Even at the beginning of On the Orator Cicero
has one of his characters observe approvingly of the benefits
to be gained from
the less serious art on regulation of
expression, voice and movement of body. Cicero has his character
Antonius make an observation that the chief distinction between
an actor speaking and an orator is that the actor has more leeway.
He is excused if he has a bad outing - is forgiven. The orator
is not. He is subjected to a more severe standard of judgment
(Cicero, Orator I 26, 124). The orator must have:
In short, the arts of the stage were so allied to the cause
of the orator to make up the material of the orators art
both in their form and extension. There is also comment toward
the end of On the Orator book I concerning the point an
orator makes of exaggerating everything to the good, and to the
bad (Cicero, Orator I 50, 221). It is useful to compare
this with an observation from a chapter in a book by Richard C.
Beacham where he notes that the last decades of the republic were
a time of virtuoso acting, ...hyper dramatic conflicts...and rhetoric
a high degree of histrionic skill (Beacham 154).
There are elements of calculated opportunism to be seen in
adding an extra measure of theatrical motifs and references to
Pro Caelia. The first of these may be termed the agonistic
argument. Cicero is well aware that with the Ludi Meglense under
way, most in attendance at the trial would rather be there than
listening to lawyers. He opens with a traditional benedacto, commiserating
with the courts population for being stuck there, adding
a not-to-subtle questioning as to why this case had to be tried
under the Lex Lutatia di vi. A law promulgating a special
court of immediate proceedings for events using violence against
the state (Cicero, Pro Caelia 1,1). Cicero; however, has
more in mind than mere sympathy. He knows he is in competition
for the hearts and minds of the jury, his audience, against the
games they would be at. If they want theater, Ill give them
theater, he seems to have decided. Those here with me wont
be the ones who have missed anything. They will count themselves
as being the ones who had the best seats in town. People will
look back at this and say: Pompey wasn't the only one to give
Rome a Theater.1 The conceit
of his strategy was to peg the corners of this case to the well
known outlines of the stock situations and characters of Roman
Comedy. Already by the second paragraph he has declaimed that
the whole current action is being financed by a whore. At the
third paragraph this whore is the recipient for the further abrogation
as the third party of:
Insupportable tantrums and savage malevolence.
Nothing more is needed to mark her as a particular character:
the Meretrix -subtype- cold, demanding, debauched, mercenary,
a bitter fading courtesan. By the time an actual person brought
forth in name, she is locked in to this label. His next move is
far more difficult. He must try to portray Marcus Caelius Rufus
as the Adulescens; a young man swept up by youthful inexperience,
foolish first love, and lacking resources mental and monetary.
Caelius Rufus is not that, not really. He is at least in his late
twenties - this from a remark Cicero allows that he has reached
the age where he can hold office. For a member of the equestrian
order this would be after ten years on call to the army. Cicero
builds up an argument for forgiving youthful indiscretion. Obfuscating
the point and changing the subject then coming back to it admitting
that youthful indiscretions Caelius didnt have. His indiscretions
large and small have mostly been in the last few years. Again
he turns to his meretrix, it is in those last few years he has
been her neighbor, living in an apartment building owned by her
brother, P. Clodius Pulcher whom he names. This advances the plot.
Cicero quoting Ennius indirectly through M. Crassus refers to
his Meretrix in high style this time as the
Medea of the Palatine
(Cicero., Pro Caelia viii 18) source by proximity of all
Caelius trouble. This phrase hearkening to the wife of Jason,
in the Argonauts story, who kills her own children in a fit of
cold fury and spite when Jason abandons her, on the occasion of
the festival of the Great Mother is calculated to have maximum
effect on the audience. It also functions to admit yet dismiss
the well known affair between Caelius and Clodia.
Next he takes up the comments of the proceeding prosecutor
Lucius Herennius who has condemned Caelius way of living
in a righteous reproachful manner, but to apparent good effect
(ix, 25). With just a few words Cicero co-opts all this effort
toward his own end:
Yet here in court, on the other hand, you could not have imagined a sterner kind of uncle and moralist and tutor. He reprimanded Marcus Caelius in terms no father has ever dreamed of using towards his own son. He went on at great length about the evils of wild and intemperate living ...beginning to cause even me to tremble. (xi 25)
Herennius now leaves the stage marked as Senex iratus severus:
old man, angry and stern. As a parental type - he is overblown
and overreacting; however, he is also understood to be deeply
concerned for his charge. Eventually, in a idealized version of
the plot he comes to a forgiving rapprochement with his son. Now
all Herenniuss and the other prosecutors2
attacks work against them. Go ahead feel that way Cicero tells
them, only mind that you are not singling Caelius out. Our young
people are like this and they usually turn out all right (see
at xii, 28, 29,30). At this point he takes up the charges emanating
from Clodia. He names her directly for the first time, and does
not immediately refer back to his earlier pointedly harsh treatment.
Noting that if she, while officially not being involved, were
to say Caelia did not steal gold from me, did not try to poison
me, that case would vanish (xiii, 32). He makes a pretense of
deferring to her status of a Roman Lady of noble birth, but has
no intention of dealing with her or her set of charges seriously.
He next pretends to slip and refer to her Brother Clodius as her
husband - while making a statement that since he recognizes he
has a existing quarrel with Clodius he will try to be moderate
in treatment of the family. In fact the barrage against the two
is getting underway. Almost every line now makes an overt misogynist
stab at Clodia, by turns humorous put-downs, and comments colored
to evoke disgust. All designed to leave the jury feeling very
superior to this family:
...Engage[ing] in quarrels ... with a women widely regarded as having no enemies since she so readily offers intimacy in all directions(xiii 32).
Did I bring water to Rome so that you may wash yourself after your impure copulations(xiv, 34)?
This latter quote Cicero makes through what he terms
stage personage. It is the voice of her distant but most illustrious
ancestor Appius Claudius Caectus. Conjured up from the shade he
calls forth three other relatives: her dead husband, Q Metelus
Celer whom Cicero believes she poisoned, Claudia Quinta, the Roman
noblewoman who was reputed to have freed the barge bringing the
Rock of Cybele (the Magna Mater whose festival the Ludi Meglense
is) up the Tiber to Rome, and lastly a Vestal Virgin Claudia.
In comparison to these, her nobility is symbolically stripped
With a flurry of well selected quotations from Terence occurring
at the thirty seventh paragraph speaking the words of the Senex
severus, and gathering the characters of adulescens
and meretrix together. Cicero again is able to ask the
audience to consider the
mild and kindly father (xvi, 37)
Having once more sought compassion for his clients dissipate
ways. Cicero launches into a second detailed description of all
the rumor, gossip and innuendo of Clodias behavior and comportment
he knew or was able to find out. Only to say at end that her behavior
is so bad, lewd, depraved that if Caelius were caught up in this;
it was not an outrage to chastity, but mere satisfaction of appetite
(xx, 49). One can only conclude the jury/audience was too entertained
to care about logic or fairness at this point. The cast of characters
now reduced to broad strokes, Cicero deals with the issue of the
theft of Clodias gold in an offhand manner that necessitates
staying within the confines of the story as he tells it to make
The description the prosecution has previously set forth as
to Caelius attempt to poison Clodia is retold by Cicero
plainly as theatrical farce. He deliberately invites the comparison:
Take this little drama for instance - the effort of a poetess who has many such works to her credit. How badly off the play is for plot. How... lost for an ending (xxvi, 65?)....Well that is not the sort of finale a real play has. It is more the ending of a song and dance show - the type of production where nobody has been able to think of a suitable ending and so someone escapes from someone else, and the clappers sound, and its the curtain.(xvi, 66?)
The foot note helpfully names this as a reference to the Mimes. These were short stylistically simple productions of low vulgar comedy, imitative of life raw (Duckworth 14). They were very popular of largely Italian origin and were gradually pushing classic Greek comedy off the Roman stage. Ciceros inference here is that Clodia is lowbrow and uneducated. From this point to the end Cicero merely recycles established themes. Towards the end he brings up P.Clodius Pulcher again, referring to him without naming him directly. Clodius is beyond the scope of any single member of the auxiliary cast of professional types usually turned to as villains but a pest to the state, subsuming all of them. He is described as petty, dishonest, incestuous, seditious, riotous, profane, vindictive and vendettive.
There has been a duality of purpose contained with in Pro Caelia all along. When an ambitious advocate takes a case. The case is examined for its utility towards the advocates ends. This case offered just such an opportunity. We can look at the purpose of the oration of one day versus the prose text of another. The case has been decided. Caelius freedom is now secure. Clodia and Clodius Pulcher have been checked. Cicero can re-target the enterprise from the immediate end to his primary aim. The Pulchers are to be ridiculed, actively damaged in standing, their methods censured, and Ciceros position in Rome made secure. His closing references to Clodius Pulcher are to hold up his violent imtimidative actions -not incidentally the destruction of Ciceros and his brothers house and property- as evidence against them in the charge they bring.
R.G.M Nisbet in the book Author and audience in Latin Literature
describes how Cicero approached his written orations.
He explains that to a Roman orator not in front of a live audience
- to react to - the prose composition would be a very different
thing and a Fresh Occasion (Nesbit 2). Cicero was quite
willing to make
the more plausible points carry the less
(Nesbit 15) alternately exaggerating as he advocates doing in
On the Orator, or habitually dismissing inconvenient
facts by turn as we see him do infuriatingly in Pro Caelia.
Cicero would press to win, Nesbit says, always by the greatest
degree possible. And in literary endeavors would make the strongest
statement possible to his reader for his purpose (Nesbit 16).
The theatrical motif of Pro Caelia not only offered a convenient way out for Caelius whose behavior seems too reckless to be obviated by any direct strategy. It also offered a way of entertaining and rescuing his audience from missing the highlights of a holiday. It further allowed a return in spirit to the scenes of an earlier success over Clodius Pulcher, recounted in Beachams book at p. 159-160.
Cicero was a friend to the theater, and it was a friend to
him. It represented the ideals of strong Latin adaptation of Greek
learning and culture. He undoubtedly saw it as being very close
to his own occupation and eminently transferable in its ability
to move and direct the emotions of a audience. This is what we
see him putting into practice in the Oration Pro Caelia.
In defense of Marcus Caelius Rufus. Political
Writings of Cicero. (from the Course Packet)
Beacham, Richard C.
Later Stages and Stagings. The
Roman Theater and its Audience. Cambridge, MA: Harvard Univ
Cicero, M. Tullius.
On the Orator- book I. Cicero:
On the Good Life. trans., ed. Michael Grant. Harmondsworth:
Duckworth, George E. The Nature of Roman Comedy: A Study in Popular Entertainment. Princeton: Princeton Univ. Press, 1951
the Orator and the Reader: Manipulation and
response in Ciceros fifth Verrin. Author and Audience
in Latin Literature. Tony Woodman & Jonathan Powell eds.
Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Press, 1992
1 By 57 bce, the date of this trial, Pompeys theater project had been announced and I believe construction was underway - it was completed in 53 bce.
Contrary to the footnote in Pro Caelia selection in the
course packet I would believe that the Publius Clodius named in
the text is P. Clodius Pulcher I dont what is being translated
but it struck me a ironic usage (xii, 28)