Aristotle's Rhetoric

Index to Book III

Chapter 1 (1404a)

Style. It is not enough to know what to say; we must also say it in the right way. Upon the subject of delivery (which presents itself here) no systematic treatise has been composed, though this art has much to do with oratory (as with poetry). The matter has, however, been touched upon by Thrasymachus in his "Appeals to Pity." As to the place of style: the right thing in speaking really is that we should fight our case with no help beyong the bare facts; and yet the arts of language cannot help having a small but real importance, whatever it is we have to expound to others. Through the influence of the poets, the language of the oratorical prose at first took a poetical colour, as in the case of Gorgias. But the language of prose is distinct from that of poetry; and, further, the writers of tragic poetry itself have not given up those words, not used in ordinary talk, which adorned the early drama.

Chapter 2 (1404b, 1405a, 1405b)

Still, in the main, the same definition and methods apply alike to poetical and to prose style. Style, to be good, must be clear; it must also be appropriate, avoiding both meanness and excess of dignity. How these qualities may be attained. Rare, compound, and invented words must be used sparingly in prose; in which, over and above the regular and proper terms for things, metaphorical terms only can be used with advantage, and even these need care. The language of oratorical conversation. Some discussion of metaphor.

Chapter 3 (1406a, 1406b)

Four faults of prose style, with illustrative examples: (1) misuse of compound words; (2) employment of strange words; (3) long, unseasonable, or frequent epithets; (4) inappropriate metaphors.

Chapter 4 (1407a)

The simile is a full-blown metaphor. Similes are useful in prose as well as in verse; but they must not be used often, since they are of the nature of poetry. Instances of simile, from Plato and the orators. Metaphors can easily be turned into similes, and similes into metaphors. The proportional (as definined in the Poetics) metaphor must always apply reciprocally to either of its co-ordinate terms.

Chapter 5 (1407b)

The foundation of good style is correctness of language, which is discussed under five heads: (1) right use of connecting words; (2) use of special, and not vague general, terms; (3) avoidance of ambiguity; (4) observance of gender; (5) correct indication of grammatical number. A composition should be easy to read and therefore easy to deliver; it should avoid (1) uncertainties as to puntuation, (2) zeugma, (3) parenthesis.

Chapter 6 (1408a)

Impressiveness of style. Six heads: (1) the use of a description instead of a simple name; (2) metaphors and epithets; (3) plural for singular number; (4) repetition of the article; (5) connecting words; (6) description by means of negation.

Chapter 7 (1408b)

Appropriateness. An appropriate style will adapt itself to (1) the emotions of the hearers, (2) the character of the speaker, (3) the nature of the subject. Tact and judgement are needed in all varieties of oratory.

Chapter 8 (1409a)

Prose rhythm. The form of the language should not be metrical, nor, on the other hand, without any rhythm at all. Of the various possible rhythms, the heroic is too grand, the iambic too ordinary, and the trochaic too like a riotous dance. The best rhythm for prose is the paean, since from this alone no definite metre arises.

Chapter 9 (1409b, 1410a, 1410b)

Periodic style. The language of prose must be either (1) free-running, like that of Herodotus; or (2) compact (i.e. periodic). A period may be defined as a portion of speech that has in itself a beginning and an end, being at the same time not too big to be taken in at a glance. It may have one member (clause), or more than one. A period of more than one member may be either (a) simply divided, or (b) antithetical. Antithesis implies contrast of sense. Parisosis makes the two members of a period equal in length. Paromoeosis makes the first or last worlds of both members like each other. Homoeoteleuton denotes similarity in terminations only.

Chapter 10 (1411a, 1411b)

Smart and popular sayings. Three chief features of these clever, pointed sayings are: (1) antithesis, (2) metaphor, and (3) actuality or vividness (i.e. the power of "setting the scene before our eyes").

Chapter 11 (1412a, 1412b, 1413a, 1413b)

The graphic power of "setting things before the eyes" implies the use of expressions that represent objects as in a state of activity: Homer often gives metaphorical life to lifeless things in this fashion. A touch of surprise also contributes to liveliness. People feel they have learnt something; hence the pleasure given by apophthegms, riddles, and puns. Similes, proverbs, and hyperboles also find a place here, being related to metaphors.

Chapter 12 (1414a)

Each kind of rhetoric has its own appropriate style. The style of written prose is not that of spoken oratory, nor are those of political and forensic speaking the same. The written style is the more finished: the spoken better admits of dramatic delivery -- alike the kind of oratory that reflects character and the kind that stirs emotion. The style of oratory addressed to public assemblies resembles scene-painting. In the one and the other, high finish in detail is superfluous and seems better away. The forensic style is more highly finished. Ceremonial oratory is the most literary, for it is meant to be read; and next to it forensic oratory. To analyse style still further, and add that it must be agreeable or magnificent, is useless; for why should it have these traits any more than "restraint," "liberality," or any other moral excellence?

Chapter 13 (1414b)

(B) Arrangement. A speech has two essential parts: statement and proof. To these may be added introduction and epilogue.

Chapter 14 (1415a, 1415b, 1416a)

Introduction. The introduction corresponds to the prologue in poetry and the prelude in flute-music. The most essential function and distinctive property of the introduction is to indicate the aim of the speech. An introduction may (1) excite or ally prejudice; (2) exalt or depreciate. In a political speech an introduction is seldom found, for the subject is usually familiar to the audience.

Chapter 15 (1416b)

Prejudice. The various lines of argument suitable for exciting or allaying prejudice.

Chapter 16 (1417a, 1417b)

Narration. (1) In ceremonial oratory, narration should, as a rule, not be continuous but intermittent: variety is pleasant, and the facts in a celebrity's praise are usually well known. (2) In forensic oratory, the current rule that the narration should be rapid is wrong: rightness consists neither in rapidity nor in conciseness, but in the happy mean. The defendant will make less use of narration than the plaintiff. (3) In political oratory there is least opening for narration; nobody can narrate what has not yet happened. If there is narration at all, it will be of past events, the recollection of which will help the hearers to make better plans for the future. Or it may be employed to attack some one's character, or to eulogize him.

Chapter 17 (1418a, 1418b)

Arguments. The duty of the Arguments is to attempt conclusive proofs. (1) In forensic oratory, the question in dispute will fall under one of four heads: (a) the fact, (b) the existence of injury, (c) the amount of injury, (d) the justification. (2) In ceremonial oratory, the facts themselves will usually be taken on trust, and the speaker will maintain, say, the nobility or the utility of the deeds in question. (3) In political oratory, it will be urged that a proposal is impracticable; or that, though practicable, it is unjust, or will do no good, or is not so important as its proposer thinks. Argument by "example" is highly suitable for political oratory, argument by "enthymeme" better suits forensic. Enthymemes should not be used in unbroken succession; they should be interpersed with other matter. "If you have proofs to bring forward, bring them forward, and your moral discourse as well; if you have no enthymemes, then fall back upon moral discourse: after all, it is more fitting for a good man to display himself as an honest fellow than as a subtle reasoner." Hints as to the order in which arguments should be presented. As to character: you cannot well say complimentary things about yourself or abusive things about another, but you can put such remarks into the mouths of some third person.

Chapter 18 (1419a, 1419b)

Interrogation and Jests. The best moment to employ interrogation is when your opponent has so answered one question that the putting of just one more lands him in absurdity. In replying to questions, you must meet them, if they are ambiguous, by drawing reasonable distinctions, not by a curt answer.-- Jests are supposed to be of some service in controversy. Gorgias said that you should kill your opponents' earnestness with jesting and their jesting with earnestness; in which he was right. Jest have been classified in the Poetics. "Some are becoming to gentlemen, others are not; see that you choose such as become you. Irony better befits a gentleman than buffoonery; the ironical man jokes to amuse himself, the buffoon to amuse other people."

Chapter 19 (1420a, 1420b)

Epilogue (Peroration, Conclusion). This has four parts. You must (1) make the audience well disposed towards yourself and ill disposed towards your opponent, (2) magnify or minimize the leading facts, (3) excite the required kind of emotion in your hearers, and (4) refresh their memories by means of a recapitulation. -- In your closing words you may dispense with conjunctions, and thereby mark the difference between the oration and the peroration: "I have done. You have heard me. The facts are before you. I ask for your judgement."

Lee Honeycutt ( Last modified:3/16/04