Branches of Oratory

K. Gonzales


Branches of Oratory





Aristotle's Rhetoric (Ars Rhetorica) concerns itself with the art of persuasion, and includes the enormity of rhetorical concepts currently studied in classical rhetoric and “informs us about the cognitive features of language and style.”1 The work is dived into three books, the first primarily about rhetoric as a general concept, and provides a definition of rhetoric as an art. It discusses the “centrality of proofs and enthymemes”2 including, beginning at 1.3.1, our topic of the three branches of oratory – deliberative, forensic, and epideictic. Book II speaks to the three means of persuasion (ethos, logos, and pathos) and Book III discusses elements of style and arrangement.




Rhetoric falls into three divisions, determined by the three classes of listeners to speeches. For of the three elements in speech-making -- speaker, subject, and person addressed -- it is the last one, the hearer, that determines the speech's end and object. The hearer must be either a judge, with a decision to make about things past or future, or an observer. A member of the assembly decides about future events, a juryman about past events: while those who merely decide on the orator's skill are observers. From this it follows that there are three divisions of oratory - (1) political, (2) forensic, and (3) the ceremonial oratory of display.” 3 Additionally, the divisions of oratory are further divided into “topics of invention” which further divide the topic into specific considerations.


*note : the following discussion of oratory will be categorized by past, present, and future forms.

Judicial Oratory/Forensic (past)


“Forensic speaking either attacks or defends somebody: one or other of these two things must always be done by the parties in a case'.4 Forensic oratory is concerned with the past, and speaks to events that have already come to pass and are now being discussed in a court of law. The principles of justice/injustice are paramount to the judicial oratory, though it should be understood that the definitions and discussions of what is “just” and “unjust” are complex, and are discussed widely through the Rhetoric.



 “Justice is reason without passion, and so justice includes, though not exhausted by, the
intelligent application of rules.”5




“Injustice is defined, at the opening of Chapter 10, as voluntarily causing injury contrary to
the law.”6



Deliberative Oratory/Political (present)

“...urges us either to do or not to do something: one of these two courses is always taken by private counsellors, as well as by men who address public assemblies.7 The political orator is concerned with the future: it is about things to be done hereafter that he advises, for or against.” 8 Political oratory is primarily concerned with the topics of invention, goodness/unworthiness and advantageousness/disadvantageousness. Essentially, political speaking aims to persuade an audience to do, or not to do something. Its end goal is to influence a populous about actions to be taken in the future.




Although this heading pairs goodness and advantageousness, which are distinctly different terms as far as ethical reasoning, they've been placed together as they are closely paired in terms of considering what might benefit a community, when examining political oratory. "Goodness" connotes an idea of what is ethically good for a community, and whether or not a political position or decision will have positive ethical implications for the populus. "Advantageousness" deals more specifically with a positon of benefit in a pragmatic sense, and examines what will "work", whether or not it is considered ethical.



Conversely, "unworthiness" concerns itself with those decisions that are decidedely "immoral" or have obviously negative moral implications. Being "disadvantageous" again is simply pragmatic, and focuses on whether or not something will "work" for a community, regardless of ethical reasoning.




 Epideictic Oratory/Ceremonial (future)


“A type of suasive speech designed primarily for rhetorical effect. Epideictic oratory was panegyrical, declamatory, and demonstrative. Its aim was to condemn or to eulogize an individual, cause, occasion, movement, city, or state.”9 This type of oratory is largely ceremonial and “either praises or censures somebody”.10 The ceremonial orator is, properly speaking, concerned with the present, since all men praise or blame in view of the state of things existing at the time, though they often find it useful also to recall the past and to make guesses at the future.11




“The standard form of the epidiactic oration is the encomium. As explained by Aristotle and his successors, this form involves much more than simple flattery. It is in some respects closer to biography than oratory. The body of the encomium is devoted to a summary of the life of the man being praised.”12




Although the standard form of epidiactic oration is based in praise, the expository vituperation is, conversely, a method of attacking a person's character for being evil, or vicious.




Further Reading



Aristotle's Rhetoric
Encomium - Silva Rhetorica
Vituperation – Silva Rhetorica
Outline of Rhetoric - Book One
Outline ofRhetoric- Book Two
Outline of Rhetoric - Book Three





1Aristotle's Rhetoric – Stanford.

2Aristotle's Rhetoric Book One – Outline.

3American Rhetoric – Aristotle's Rhetoeric – Selected Moments.

4Book 1 – Chapter 3 : Aristotle's Rhetoric.

5Garver, Eugene. Aristotle's Rhetoric: an Art of Character. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1994. 67.

6“Aristotle's Rhetoric : An Art of Character.” 97. Garver, Eugene. Aristotle's Rhetoric: an Art of Character. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1994. 97.

7Aristotle, and W. Rhys Roberts. Rhetoric. Array New York: Modern Library, 1984. 9.

8Aristotle, and W. Rhys Roberts. Rhetoric. Array New York: Modern Library, 1984. 9.

9Encyclopedia Brittanica.

10Book 1 – Chapter 3 : Aristotle's Rhetoric.

11Book 1 – Chapter 3 : Aristotle's Rhetoric.

12 Kallendorf, Craig. Landmark Essays On Rhetoric And Literature. Mahwah, N.J.: Hermagoras Press, 1999. 84.