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Acting the Princely Style: Ethos and Pathos in Cicero's On the Ideal Orator and Machiavelli's The Prince

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This article explores the relationship between the prince and his subjects in Machiavelli's The Prince. Drawing on Cicero's On the Ideal Orator, I develop a reading of the prince as acting out a persuasive ethos while appealing to the pathos
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  Acting the Princely Style:  Ethos  and  Pathos  inCicero’s  On the Ideal Orator   and Machiavelli’s The Prince Daniel J. Kapust University of Georgia This article explores the relationship between the prince and his subjects in Machiavelli’s  The Prince  . Drawing onCicero’s  On the Ideal Orator  , I develop a reading of the prince as acting out a persuasive  ethos  while appealing to the  pathos  of his audience. Rather than viewing this relationship as one of sheer manipulation and deception, however, Isuggest that the beliefs and experiences of his subjects constrain the prince, preventing him from engaging in utter dissimulation.However,whereas Cicero’s orator projects good character and cultivates goodwill,Machiavelli’s princeneed not cultivate good character, and rather than seek his audience’s love, he need only avoid their hatred. A central issue in Machiavelli scholarship is his relationship to classical thinkers:whether heshould be read as an innovator,subversive or re-creator of classical ideals. 1 On one side arethose who view Machiavelli as an innovator,perhaps holding that‘Machiavelli was a teacher of evil’ (Strauss, 1984, p. 9) or understanding his thought as discontinuous with prior thought. On the other side are those who view Machiavelli as a champion of classicalrepublican values, reworking and recovering Roman ideals. This debate is hardly recent – a similar debate was under way about Machiavelli’s allegiances,purposes and beliefs amonghis contemporaries, and has been ever since (Baron, 1961, pp. 217–8). Especially problem-atic is  The Prince  ,which both participated in a prominent and traditional literary genre,the‘mirror for princes’(Gilbert,1938,pp.3–15,p.98;Skinner,1978,pp.113–38) and subvertedkey themes and arguments of texts of that genre and others (Newell, 1987; Rahe, 2000;Strauss, 1984).Many scholars have read  The Prince   with Cicero’s moral writings,and especially  On Duties ,exploring the complex relationship between the two thinkers (e.g.Mansfield,1996;Newell,1987). The comparison is apt given that  On Duties  was widely read in sixteenth-centuryFlorence; moreover,  On Duties  and  The Prince   are advice books dealing with how tocomport oneself in public life (Colish, 1978; Skinner, 1990). Marcia Colish, for instance,views  On Duties  as supplying Machiavelli with ‘a way of defining his ethical terminologyand a structural framework for the analysis of the ethics of public life’(Colish,1978,p.82).While for Colish Machiavelli and Cicero often agree, Paul Rahe suggests that Machiavellirejects Cicero’s belief ‘that the distinctive human feature is man’s capacity for moral andpolitical rationality’, and hence Cicero’s conception of the common good as transcendingthe material,instead focusing solely on political goods (Rahe,2000,p.292).While QuentinSkinner views Machiavelli as recovering and reinvigorating Roman political ideas and doi: 10.1111/j.1467-9248.2009.00793.x POLITICAL STUDIES: 2009  © 2009The Author. Journal compilation © 2009 Political Studies Association  concepts, such as the Roman conception of Fortune (Skinner, 1981, pp. 28–38), he grantsthat  On Duties ’ conception of virtue – ‘that it is always rational to be moral’ and that‘expediency can never conflict with moral rectitude’ – is ‘suddenly and violently over-turned’ in  The Prince   (Skinner, 1981, pp. 40–1).Comparisons between  On Duties  and  The Prince   have been, and are, fruitful; yet this is notthe only Ciceronian text with which to compare  The Prince  . As important as  On Duties  insixteenth-century Florence were Cicero’s rhetorical writings, especially his works  OnInvention  and  On the Ideal Orator   (Cox, 2006; Kristeller, 1988, p. 123). Thus other scholarshave focused on  The Prince   as a work of or engaging with Ciceronian rhetoric. MaurizioViroli, for instance, argues that Machiavelli composed ‘his treatise following the rules of Roman rhetoric’ (Viroli, 1998, p. 77). In particular, Machiavelli sought to demonstrate his rhetorical   wisdom in‘the art of the state’(Viroli,1998,p.77). The structure of the work itself,which Viroli divides into sections corresponding to a speech’s divisions – exordium,narrative, partition, confirmation, refutation and peroration – demonstrates Machiavelli’sgrasp of rhetoric, as does his mastery of invention, arrangement and expression (Viroli,1998, p. 76). Even the most controversial chapters of   The Prince  , in which Machiavelliappears to teach evil, are largely conventional, demonstrating that ‘when the safety of thestate is at stake, moral considerations are to be postponed’ (Viroli, 1998, p. 94).Rather than focus on the rhetorical structure of the work, Virginia Cox argues thatMachiavelli’s‘notoriously anomalous’ethical advice – his‘promotion of expediency as theoverriding criterion in political deliberation’– becomes less anomalous when read in lightof the pseudo-Ciceronian  Rhetorica ad Herennium  (Cox,1997,p.1111). As opposed to manyof his contemporaries, who adopted ‘a moralizing position on the ends of deliberativerhetoric’, Machiavelli elevates  utilitas  over   honestas  (Cox, 1997, p. 1116). 2  Yet Machiavelliis not  sui generis  in doing so;rather,Machiavelli’s source is the  Rhetorica ad Herennium ,whichwas widely known in Machiavelli’s time. Even the  Rhetorica ad Herennium ’s resources for security –   vis  (force) and  dolus  (fraud) – are ‘recommended in chapter 18 of   The Prince   tothe ruler who seeks to maintain himself in power’ (Cox, 1997, p. 1122). The irony of Machiavelli’s rhetorical transgression, then, is that he does so while ‘adhering to the rulesfor deliberative argument laid down in the most popular classical rhetorical textbook of theday’ (Cox, 1997, p. 1133).Eugene Garver and Victoria Kahn read Machiavelli’s  Prince   as developing a rhetoric of invention linked to the need for innovation in an unstable world. Invention refers, alongwith arrangement, style, memory and delivery, to an activity of the orator; it involves‘getting to know the case and thinking out all the material accordingly’ (Wisse, 2002, p.385). Thus Garver argues that Machiavelli’s project is‘to find practical stability without anineffectual rigidity and to establish an intellectual flexibility that does not become amo-rality’; in doing so, Machiavelli seeks to provide his princely reader with ‘material that canbe the foundation of power’ and to illustrate how to find ‘appropriate ways of controllingthat material’ (Garver, 1987, p. 11, p. 36). Machiavelli seeks to cultivate princely prudence,a mode of prudence akin to rhetoric in its emphasis on particularity.Unlike prior examplesof the ‘mirror for princes’ genre, however, Machiavelli focuses on innovation rather thanruling because of the instability of the prince’s world (Garver, 1987, p. 43). The prince’s 2  DANIEL J. KAPUST  © 2009The Author. Journal compilation © 2009 Political Studies AssociationPOLITICAL STUDIES: 2009   task,then,becomes one of prudential invention,a central part of which is inventing stabilitythrough ‘the sentiments and beliefs of the material’ – his subjects (Garver, 1987, p. 80).In a similar vein, Kahn reads  The Prince   as seeking to solve ‘the problems of politicalinnovation in the realm of contingency’,problems that are rhetorical because they‘cannotbe resolved by applying fixed moral principles on the one hand or mere force on the other’(Kahn, 1994, p. 17). For Kahn, Machiavelli’s princely innovator is adept at rhetoricalinvention. A key tool for the practitioner of princely rhetoric is prudence, a facultyMachiavelli seeks to cultivate by showing the inadequacy of strictly imitating others’actions.Moreover,Machiavelli utilizes the ability to argue  in utramque partem  to develop‘theamoral, flexible faculty of judgment’, Machiavelli’s  virtù  (Kahn, 1994, p. 25). Machiavelli’sprince must remain in control of particular situations;his  virtù ‘is structured like the classicaland humanist notion of prudence or practical reason, as opposed to technical or instru-mental reason’ (Kahn, 1994, p. 37).Like these prior studies, this article is concerned with two issues: the relationship of Machiavelli to Cicero, and  The Prince  ’s relationship to Cicero’s  On the Ideal Orator  , which,asViroli notes,Machiavelli‘had available in his house’(Viroli,1998,p.76).Like Garver andKahn, I develop a reading of   The Prince   centered on the prince as analogous to the orator, acting   as Cicero’s ideal orator   speaks ,and blurring the very distinction between speaking andacting. However, unlike scholars such as Colish, Skinner and Viroli, who do not viewMachiavelli’s relationship to Cicero as entirely subversive,I argue that Machiavelli’s princedeparts in his behavior from that of Cicero’s ideal orator in a way that highlights Machia-velli’s distinct conception of princely persuasion and politics.Whereas Cicero’s orator seeksto cultivate goodwill through his speech, Machiavelli’s prince need only avoid hatred andcontempt through his actions. In this regard, Machiavelli utilizes classical ideas and themes – especially  ethos  and  pathos  – while at the same time subverting them. This subversion,though, is not complete, for as we will see in the following section, Cicero’s rhetoricaltheory had great – though perhaps latent – potential for dissimulation,a potential that wasof some concern to him (see Zerba, 2004). Moreover, Cicero himself was aware of thepotentially blurred distinction between speech and action, though he sought to limit bothby reference to the value of   decorum . 3 Machiavelli exploits this potential and this blurring,while at the same time limiting the prince’s deception from being total;his limits,however,are not moral, but political.My concern,then,is to make sense of Machiavelli’s project of achieving security for his newprince by reading  The Prince   with Cicero’s account of the emotions’ role in creatingpersuasion. The prince Machiavelli portrays, and who portrays himself through publicactions designed to arouse particular emotional responses, is one whose security emergesthrough the interaction between his projected character ( ethos ) and the emotional responses(  pathos ) of his subjects, as does the persuasiveness of Cicero’s orator. Yet in transferringcategories from speech to action, Machiavelli blurs the distinction between acting andspeaking, making princely virtue more rhetorical than moral.I begin by briefly discussing emotion as a means of persuasion in classical rhetoric, withparticular attention to Cicero’s  On the Ideal Orator  .Drawing on this discussion,I then argue,  ACTING THE PRINCELY STYLE   3 © 2009The Author. Journal compilation © 2009 Political Studies AssociationPOLITICAL STUDIES: 2009   through a reading of   The Prince  ,that Machiavelli’s princely persuasion is both a deploymentand subversion of Ciceronian rhetorical categories – namely, the character of the speaker ( ethos ) and the audience’s emotional responses (  pathos ).Whereas these devices, for Cicero,are the domain of oratory (and hence speech),princely persuasion is primarily a matter of action for Machiavelli. Rather than cast away persuasion, however, Machiavelli transferscategories from the realm of speech to action. Moreover, while the concern for Cicero’sorator is to display good character and cultivate his audience’s goodwill, the concern for Machiavelli’s prince is not to display those vices that would destroy him and to avoid hatred.Machiavelli’s prince is himself engaged in a persuasive project centered on cultivating aparticular kind of public image given the expectations and feelings of his domesticaudience, namely his subjects. The prince and his subjects are, like the Ciceronian orator,involved in the play of perception and emotion,a play that empowers and limits the prince.These limitations, however, are primarily political. Ethos  and  Pathos  as Two Means of Persuasion As noted, my focus is on princely persuasion as a mode of invention. Unlike Garver andKahn,however,I focus on the behavior of Machiavelli’s prince,who blurs speech and actionby acting in a way analogous to the speech of the orator, rather than Machiavelli’s adviceto the prince. My particular concern is the prince’s cultivation of persuasion through twomodes of rhetorical invention: ethos  and  pathos .It is thus fruitful to explore briefly classicaldiscussions of rhetoric’s power to arouse emotions and its concomitant dangers. This isperhaps most clear in Plato’s  Gorgias  (1987): while Polus and Gorgias conceive of rhetoricas an art bringing political power,rendering other arts its slaves,Socrates argues that rhetoricis no art,but a knack‘for producing a certain gratification and pleasure’through emotionalappeals (Plato, Gorgias ,462c). Aiming at the‘most pleasant at the moment’,the rhetoricianachieves his ends by manipulating the emotions of the ignorant (Plato, Gorgias ,464d). Therhetorician produces conviction because he ‘guesses at what’s pleasant with no consider-ation for what’s best’(Plato, Gorgias ,465a);the space for manipulation and dissimulation isimmense. Yet in spite of Plato’s criticism of conventional rhetoric in the  Gorgias , it is amethod for bringing one to philosophy in the  Phaedrus  (1995),where the art of rhetoric is‘a way of directing the soul by means of speech’, both public and private (Plato,  Phaedrus ,261a;see Yunis,2007,p.82).Such direction entails knowledge of the human soul and whatkinds of speech are suitable to which kinds of soul (Plato, Phaedrus ,271a–b). The image of the soul as charioteer and horses shows the centrality of emotion, especially  eros , inpracticing rhetoric and inscribing one’s teaching in the soul of one’s auditor(s).Aristotle, in his  Rhetoric   (1984), gives more systematic attention to the role emotions playin persuasion. Defining rhetoric‘as the faculty of observing in any given case the availablemeans of persuasion’ (Aristotle,  Rhetoric  , 1355b27),Aristotle argues that those engaged inpersuasion utilize artless proofs (‘witnesses,evidence given under torture,written contracts’)and artful proofs produced by skill and effort (Aristotle,  Rhetoric  , 1355b36). The latter category includes three kinds of persuasion: ‘The first kind depends on the personalcharacter of the speaker [ ethos ];the second on putting the audience into a certain frame of mind [  pathos ];the third on the proof,or apparent proof,provided by the words of the speech 4  DANIEL J. KAPUST  © 2009The Author. Journal compilation © 2009 Political Studies AssociationPOLITICAL STUDIES: 2009   itself [ logos ]’ (Aristotle,  Rhetoric  , 1356a3–4). The first kind increases a speaker’s persuasive-ness by making him seem credible;if he can‘make us think him credible’,he has succeeded,since we are likely to believe those we judge to be good (Aristotle, Rhetoric  ,1356a4). Pathos is connected to the arousal of the audience’s emotions, and is important because ‘Our  judgments when we are pleased and friendly are not the same as when we are pained andhostile’ (Aristotle,  Rhetoric  , 1356a14–5). Given the power of emotion when it comes tomaking decisions,a speaker ought to present himself as having good character and to arousehis audience’s goodwill;but he‘will not generally want to present himself as in the grip of passion either during the speech,or in the events described in the speech’,acting based onhis good character and not from emotion (Gill, 1984, p. 153).As we shall see, Cicero gives more attention to style than Aristotle, not only linking  ethos and  pathos  to interrelated modes of speaking, but also in his expectation that the orator himself display the emotions he seeks to arouse.  On the Ideal Orator   (55 BCE) is set inSeptember 91 BCE in the midst of a crisis brewing over Rome’s Italian allies’ demands for citizenship (which would erupt in the SocialWars),a crisis involving the (mis)use of oratoryby those ‘attacking the policy of our leading statesmen’ (Cicero, 2001,  On the Ideal Orator  ,I.24). Cicero’s work not only addresses the dangers of oratory misused, but also outlines aconception of the ideal orator-statesman (Fantham, 2004, pp. 311–9). Cicero’s ideal orator is able‘to have a hold on human minds,to win over their inclinations,to drive them at willin one direction,and to draw them at will from another’(Cicero, On the Ideal Orator  ,I.30).Not only can his (ideal) orator speak persuasively on any topic; it is the ability to speakeloquently that Cicero credits with having ‘gathered the scattered members of the humanrace into one place’, leading them ‘from a savage existence in the wilderness to this truly,human, communal way of life’ (Cicero,  On the Ideal Orator  , I.33–4).While Cicero’s ideal orator requires knowledge to be persuasive, his persuasiveness is notsimply a function of his underlying knowledge (Cicero,  On the Ideal Orator  , I.51). Inaddition to knowledge, it is essential for the orator to be able to stir the emotions of hisaudience. Like Aristotle, Cicero distinguishes between artless and artful proofs, and in thelatter category speaks of the three means of persuasion that an orator must consider whenengaging in the task of invention:‘proving that our contentions are true [ logos ], winningover our audience [ ethos ], and inducing their minds to feel any emotion the case maydemand [  pathos ]’ (Cicero,  On the Ideal Orator  , II.115). The latter two aspects of persuasionare of utmost importance,given the power exerted by emotions in the process of judging: people make many more judgments under the influence of hate or affection or partiality or anger or grief or joy or hope or fear or delusion or some other emotion,than on the basis of the truth or an objective rule,whether some legal standard or a formula for a trial or the laws(Cicero,  On the Ideal Orator  , II.178). The successful orator, then, must win over his audience by presenting himself as good inword and style.While it is easier to portray oneself as having good character if one has it, one can createsuch an appearance even if one is not altogether good (Cicero,  On the Ideal Orator  , II.182;see Zerba, 2004). The appearance of good character can be achieved by showing ‘signs of   ACTING THE PRINCELY STYLE   5 © 2009The Author. Journal compilation © 2009 Political Studies AssociationPOLITICAL STUDIES: 2009 
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