Cicero's Use of Judicial Theater

Jon Hall


In Cicero’s Use of Judicial Theater, Jon Hall examines Cicero's use of showmanship in the Roman courts, looking in particular at the nonverbal devices that he employs during his speeches as he attempts to manipulate opinion. Cicero's speeches in the law-courts often incorporate theatrical devices including the use of family relatives as props during emotional appeals, exploitation of tears and supplication, and the wearing of specially dirtied attire by defendants during a trial, all of which contrast strikingly with the practices of the modem advocate. Hall investigates how Cicero successfully deployed these techniques and why they played such a prominent part in the Roman courts. These "judicial theatrics" are rarely discussed by the ancient rhetorical handbooks, and Cicero’s Use of Judicial Theater argues that their successful use by Roman orators derives largely from the inherent theatricality of aristocratic life in ancient Rome—most of the devices deployed in the courts appear elsewhere in the social and political activities of the elite.

While Cicero’s Use of Judicial Theater will be of interest primarily to professional scholars and students studying the speeches of Cicero, its wider analyses, both of Roman cultural customs and the idiosyncratic practices of the courts, will prove relevant also to social historians, as well as historians of legal procedure.

Illustration: Statue of Cicero, Arpino, Italy.

Jon Hall is Associate Professor in the Department of Classics, University of Otago, New Zealand.

Praise / Awards

  • "In the book as a whole, Hall provides an elegant and well-documented account of a significant, if restricted, aspect of the practice of Roman forensic oratory in Cicero’s day, combining analysis of language with some comparative sociology, sensible speculation and touches of humor."
    Bryn Mawr Classical Review
  • "Working with very little hard evidence, Hall has illuminated the concept of judicial theatrics and their effectiveness through a careful study of Cicero's speeches. His book has helped us to understand the manipulation of emotion by non-verbal means, and to see the ways in which such behaviour was intrinsic to Roman aristocratic culture. Cicero indeed excelled in performance; Hall has excelled in explaining the orator's judicial theatre to us in this fine book."
    --Jane Crawford, The Classical Review
  • "[Cicer's Use of Judicial Theater] is a signi?cant book, not only for its individual insights, but also, more importantly, for what can be inferred from remaining scripts for the organization of Roman society and the rôle of ‘performances’ within it."
    --Journal of Roman Studies
  • "Cicero’s Use of Judicial Theater provides a lucidly written, well-argued, and highly interesting study of Cicero’s use of “theatrics” in his forensic speeches."
  • "Hall's work brings a new and very interesting light to the functioning of justice in Roman times through a very precise and detailed analysis of technical theatrical techniques used for Cicero's arguments in court."

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Product Details

  • 202 pages.
Available for sale worldwide

  • Ebook
  • 2014
  • Available
  • 978-0-472-12036-9

  • PDF: Adobe Digital Editions e-book (DRM Protected)

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  • Cicero; Roman oratory; Oratorical performance; Oratorical showmanship; Roman lawcourts; Roman rhetoric; Oratorical tears; Oratorical props; Supplication; Judicial theatrics