Practice Makes Perfect: Why the Art of Rhetoric Can be Learned and Mastered
The requirements of the orator: natural gifts are essential;
XXV. “This then is my opinion,” resumed Crassus, “that in the first place natural talent is the chief contributor to the virtue of oratory; and indeed in those writers on the art, of whom Antonius spoke just now, it was not the principles and method of oratory that were wanting, but inborn capacity. For certain lively activities of the intelligence and the talents alike should be present, such as to be at once swift in invention, copious in exposition and embellishment, and steadfast and enduring in recollection; and if there be anyone disposed to think that these powers can be derived from art, a false belief – for it would be a glorious state of things if art could even kindle or waken them into life; engrafted and bestowed by art of a certainty they cannot be, for they are all the gifts of nature, – what will he say of those other attributes which undoubtedly are innate in the man himself: the ready tongue, the ringing tones, strong lungs, vigor, suitable build and shape of the face and body as a whole? And, in saying this, I do not mean that art cannot in some cases give polish, – for well I know that good abilities may through instruction become better, and that such as are not of the best can nevertheless be, in some measure, quickened and amended –, but there are some men either so tongue-tied, or so discordant in tone, or so wild and boorish in feature and gesture, that, even though sound in talent and in art, they yet cannot enter the ranks of the orators. While others there are, so apt in these same respects, so completely furnished with the bounty of nature, as to seem of more than human birth, and to have been shaped by some divinity.” (Bizzel and Herzberg 305)
Being one of the greatest orators of all time, Cicero’s developments on rhetoric still hold significant ground as they are relevant to today’s strong...