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Home :: Archive :: 1999 :: July ::
Little Latin, a query
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 10.1328  Tuesday, 27 July 1999.

From:           Marti Markus <
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Date:           Tuesday, 27 Jul 1999 01:55:56 +0100
Subject:        Little Latin, a query

In  "Titus Andronicus" IV.14ff old Titus (or his brother Marcus) speaks
to his grandson (grandnephew), little Titus jr.:  "Ah, boy, Cornelia
never with more care / Read to her sons than she [=Lavinia] hath read to
thee / Sweet poetry and Tully's Orator." Question: What  is "Tully's
Orator"?

It could be either Cicero's "Orator" or his "De Oratore" - both works
seem to be rather of  rhetorical and philosophical interest, but, I must
confess, I do not know either of them. Does anybody?  We know that
classical education began early in Elizabethan times ((for the
fortunate, the chosen few), but nevertheless,  I wonder what could have
been in one of these works that might have been able to attract the
attention of a small boy, at least in the eyes of his grandfather or
grand uncle...

How could the Elizabethans imagine that one of "Tully's works" could be
something Roman mothers (or aunts) would read to their children (instead
of the bible or of some fairy tales or instead of installing them in
front of a TV-set to make them watch tele-tubbies). Could it be that
Cicero uses small and simple stories (fables. perhaps) in one of these
two works, and that some of these "short pieces" might have been used in
Latin school books in the 16th Century? (=Where could one find these?)
There could be some other explanations, of course, but they are less
likely:

* Remembering my own school days I could imagine that Cicero's works as
a whole were considered to be of such an extremely somnolent quality
that they could have been used as a sort of rhetorical equivalent to a
sleeping pill ("just read out one sentence and your brats will fall
asleep immediately: Quawn usque, yawn....patientia snorostra...")
* or, Cicero's works were considered to be of extreme difficulty  - so
that  our passage would then stress the point that the boys (the young
Gracchi and young Titus) were of an extraordinary intelligence... (Just
as our own kids,  to whom we all, I guess, read the usual bit of
Heidegger and, if that does not help, some Bakhtin, Baudrillard or Lacan
before we let them sleep, change their diapers or send them to the
kindergarten.)

Cheers, Markus Marti
 

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