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recitātiō


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The public reading of a literary work by the author himself. The practice originated in Greece. At Rome we are told that Asinius Pollio ‘was the first of all Romans to recite what he had written before an invited audience’. Horace's allusion to reading his poems to select groups of friends probably refers to something less formal.

Recitation became common under the empire. We hear of readings of tragedy, comedy, lyric, elegy and history; and Pliny the Younger employed recitation as a stage between delivery of a speech and its publication. A well‐to‐do author would hire a hall and send out invitations; a poorer poet might make do with a public place. Hadrian's Athenaeum eventually provided a formal venue in Rome. The satirists make fun of the affectation of some performances. Recitation was a good way of publicizing one's work; but it could be a trial to the listeners, and an audience might show its contempt openly.

Pliny regarded recitation as a convenient way of soliciting criticism from educated friends. But there was a risk of insincere flattery; certainly applause and extravagant compliment were habitual. And recitation, like declamation, could encourage showy and superficial writing.

Subjects: Classical Studies.


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