Cicero and the Politics of Ambiguity: Interpreting the <i>Pro Marcello</i>

John Dugan

in Community and Communication

Published in print January 2013 | ISBN: 9780199641895
Published online January 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780191746130 | DOI:
Cicero and the Politics of Ambiguity: Interpreting the Pro Marcello

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Ambiguous speech, that is, words that instil doubt in a listener regarding a speaker’s meaning, has self-evident utility in politics. Obscure language can be a cautiously opaque response to precarious circumstances, make adversaries uncertain about one’s intentions, hedge bets, or offer criticism of a more powerful person in the guise of praise. This chapter explores the problem of ambiguity in Roman oratory from a hermeneutical perspective: how it is that readers—both in antiquity and now—interpret ambiguous language in Cicero’s pro Marcello. Drawing on reception theory, it argues that the questions we ask and the ways we answer them have been, to a degree, already scripted within the rhetorical-hermeneutical tradition, from the scholia onwards. Interpretation is implicated within this history of textual interpretation, however much readers imagine that they occupy an autonomous position when unravelling the meaning of texts. The objective, therefore, is not so much historical, as it is to historicize the process of the interpretation of ambiguity.

Keywords: ambiguity; Cicero; pro Marcello; rhetoric; reception theory; hermeneutics; scholia

Chapter.  7495 words. 

Subjects: Classical History

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