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date: 29 February 2020

Abstract and Keywords

The most important ancient rhetorician for the European Renaissance was Cicero, for whom rhetoric was essentially political. A republican who presented the art primarily as an instrument of debate, Cicero also praised it for ruling over its audience, thus imagining it in both republican and monarchical terms. Most Renaissance rhetoricians preferred the latter view. Nevertheless, although only a few writers actually celebrated rhetoric for its republicanism, the art’s democratic potential was visible everywhere throughout the period. First, that potential could be seen in its teaching, since students were basically taught how to debate issues, not how to rule subjects. Second, when the opponents of rhetoric attacked it, they associated it with the subversion and sedition of democratic states. Finally, printing made the secrets of rhetoric available to anyone who could read, thus allowing people to imagine the possibility of democratic debate even in the most absolutist of states.

Keywords: rhetoric, Renaissance, republicanism, monarchy, politics, sedition, printing, debate, print, teaching

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