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Home :: Archive :: 1999 :: July ::
Re: Little Latin
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 10.1331  Wednesday, 28 July 1999.

From:           David Kathman <
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Date:           Tuesday, 27 Jul 1999 09:33:56 -0500
Subject: 10.1328 Little Latin, a query
Comment:        Re: SHK 10.1328 Little Latin, a query

Marti Markus wrote:

>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.)

Among the papers of Richard Quiney surviving at Stratford-in addition to
Quiney's famous letter to Shakespeare-is a letter to Quiney from his
11-year-old son Richard, written in 1598.  In this letter, the younger
Quiney adapts a line from Cicero's Epistolae ad Familiares in a way that
makes it clear that he fully understands the line and its context.
Grammar school children in that era were drilled in Latin to an extent
that it's scarcely possible for most people to imagine today.  The
average Elizabethan grammar school graduate would know more Latin than
the average college classics major today.

Dave Kathman

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