Abstract: Ever since Aristotle noted in the Rhetoric that, when fashionable, delivery ταύτό ποιήσϵι τῆ ύποκριτικῆ (has “the same effect as acting”; 1404a), classical and medieval rhetorical theorists fulminated against a crowd-pleasing oratory that had devolved into a theatrical spectacle more akin to that provided by the comic “actress” or the “effeminate” male. It cannot be coincidental, however, that, as the fifth rhetorical canon documents the theatricalization of rhetoric, it also offers companion testimony about the so-called emasculation of eloquence. In this essay, I examine the early belief that legal and religious rituals crossed gender lines into effeminacy at they same time that they crossed genre lines into theater. Close analysis suggests that the persistent association between theatrics, bad rhetoric, and effeminacy struck four different targets in a single, well-conceived blow: it marginalized women, homosexuals, bad oratory, and theater by casting certain types of speakers and speech as perverse and disempowered. Delivering delivery today thus entails exposing the ways in which early theorists themselves attempted to deliver it from evil.
- Copyright 1997, The International Society for the History of Rhetoric