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date: 29 February 2020

Abstract and Keywords

This chapter examines the relationship between rhetoric and politics in early modern Europe, focusing on the impact and legacy of Renaissance humanism. After summarizing the background from which politically orientated humanist rhetoric emerged in the city-states of late-medieval Italy, it discusses the role of rhetoric and public speech in the works of two influential proponents of republican political thought: Leonardo Bruni and Niccolò Machiavelli; for both authors, civic rhetoric is both the lifeblood and the potential undoing of republics. It then presents the ways in which rhetoric was incorporated into humanistic theories of princely government, especially in exhortations to virtue and discussions of counsel. Finally, turning to the works of Jean Bodin and Thomas Hobbes, it illustrates the reconsideration—and the downgrading—of the political status of rhetoric in the era of monarchical absolutism.

Keywords: rhetoric, politics, humanism, republicanism, monarchy, democracy, liberty, absolutism, deliberation, counsel

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