[Milton-L] solemn pronouncing = voice _and_ physical movement. Thx Brendan Prawdzik

JCarl Bellinger dionhalic at gmail.com
Fri Jun 29 13:58:20 EDT 2012

Many thanks [but a bit tardy] to Brendan Prawdzik for his generous and
learned response to my query.

   I had not been aware how closely associated in the tradition of
rhetorical training was the art of physical expression (e.g. hand gesture)
with that of voice performance.

  I appreciate also Prawdik's observations re the unequal valuation of the
arts of voice versus those of espression by motions of the body. In
 the passage at hand from Of Education he Prawdik points out the apparent
incongruity that whereas Milton "takes pains to reproduce these ... scenes
of gestural instruction" he at the same time "works to tone down the
presence of "actio..." The first holds "vigor," is masculine, the second is
histrionic, feminized. "A similar tension" he notes "runs through
discourses of early modern sacred rhetoric generally."

  There is one passage in Milton that runs stunningly contrary to said
bias, but the passage (Paradise Regained, bk 4] only supports the argument,
it would seem, because it's the Devil that offers it speaking in one of the
temptations. I say "it would seem" because 'Messia's" counter, so far
from rejecting the "secret power" of these arts seems rather to subsum them
within the rhetorical traditions of ancient Hebraic lyric.

I'd be most grateful for observations on the passage

           Within the walls then view
The schools of ancient sages-his who bred
Great Alexander to subdue the world,
Lyceum there; and painted Stoa next.
There thou shalt hear and learn the secret power
Of harmony, in tones and numbers hit
By voice or hand, and various-measured verse,
Aeolian charms and Dorian lyric odes,
And his who gave them breath, but higher sung,
Blind Melesigenes, thence Homer called,
Whose poem Phoebus challenged for his own.
Thence what the lofty grave Tragedians taught
In chorus or iambic, ...
    Messia: Or, if I would delight my private hours
With music or with poem, where so soon
As in our native language can I find
That solace? All our Law and Story strewed
With hymns, our Psalms with artful terms inscribed,
Our Hebrew songs and harps, in Babylon
That pleased so well our victor's ear, declare
That rather Greece from us there arts derived—
Ill imitated

__________[ from B Prawdzik:]_____________
Dear all,

Some observations about the Of Education passage noted by J Carl Bellinger:
This passage reworks two iconic scenes of oratorical education that Milton
would have confronted in Quintilian and Plutarch, who describe the
transformation of Demosthenes and Cicero into expert orators through the
arts of delivery (actio/pronuntiatio, gesture).  Plutarch describes
Cicero's training by the tragedian Aesopus and the famed comedian Roscius.
More to the point, Plutarch describes the actor Satyrus's use of,
specifically, texts by Sophocles and Euripides to train Demosthenes.

In Milton's passage from Of Education, the actors and comedians disappear.
Moreover, where another author might see in these scenes of education a
training in imitation, Milton emphasizes the transmission of authentic
feeling from book to reader, and the expression of that "vigor" and
"spirit" (protestantized) through the voice.  This seems fully in keeping
with Areopagitica's passion-centered ethics of textuality.

It is of interest to me that Milton both takes pains to reproduce these
iconic scenes of gestural instruction in the concise passage from Of
Education and at the same time works to tone down the presence of "actio"
by obscuring the actors (esp. Roscius) and their focus on bodily gesture.
And it would seem that "vigor" contributes to the more masculine view of
oratorical instruction intended by Milton here.  Thus, the passage depicts
reading and declamation as embodied and spiritual but also strives to tone
down the presence of the histrionic, feminized body.  A similar tension
runs through discourses of early modern sacred rhetoric generally.

William Marshall, the artist who engraved the notorious frontispieces to
both the 1645 Poems and the Eikon Basilike, features the scenes of Cicero's
and Demosthenes's instruction (the latter with looking-glass included) in
the frontispiece of John Bulwer's 1644 Chironomia which, with Chirologia,
is Bulwer's treatise on the rhetorical gestures of the hands and fingers
(available in EEBO).


Brendan Prawdzik

On Tue, Jun 19, 2012 at 10:20 AM, JCarl Bellinger <dionhalic at gmail.com>

A number of benefits to students memorizing and pronouncing important
texts have been listed in this thread but nothing approaching the
radical re-wiring of mind & force Milton seems to promise in OF
    Query: Should we dismiss M's claim here as a hyped-up,
rallying-the-troops-of-an-English-eduction, or some such?
  >> and some of them got by memory,and solemnly pronounced ... would

endue them even with the spirit and vigor of Demosthenes or Cicero,
Euripides, or Sophocles. <<<
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