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What is Peroration?

Peroration (Lat. Peratio), in RhetoricOpens in new window, is the epilogueOpens in new window or concluding part of an oration whereby what the orator had insisted on through his whole oration is urged afresh with greater vehemence and passion. In other words, the peroration which closes the oration is a short summary of the entire oration.

The peroration, which is typically succinct and to the point (emotively persuading the audience to action one last time), serves several functions. It serves to amplify on the final argument or appeal in an oration.

Peroration also serves to reiterate the main themes of an oration, as well as stirring the deeper emotions of an audience for the sake of making sure they embrace and adhere to the views announced and arguments presented in the preceding oration.

The peroration consists of two parts:

  1. the enumeration of the points (arguments) (enumeratio argumentorum) and;
  2. the moving of the emotions (commotion affectuum) — These are broken down in detail below:

The Enumeration of the Points

The enumeration of the points or arguments is the means by which the substance of what was diffused in the preceding oration (speech), is recalled briefly and summarized with new force and vehemence.

It is perfectly appropriate for the enumeration to be in newer order, and capable to leave a lasting impression. A most illuminating example of enumeration is given in Pro Lege Manilia, below:

Wherefore, since this war is both of such importance that it cannot be neglected and of such magnitude that it must be conducted with the utmost care; and since you have it in your power to put in command of it one who possesses remarkable knowledge of warfare, exceptional capacity, brilliant prestige, and unusual good fortune, do you hesitate, gentlemen, to employ for the protection and advancement of the State, this great blessing which Heaven has bestowed and conferred upon you?

The Moving of the Emotions

In the moving of the emotions, the passions to be elicited in the peroration are divergent according to the various kinds of orations:

  • In a panegyric (epideictic) oration, it elicits the passion of love, admiration, emulation, joy, etc.
  • In an invective, it elicits hatred, contempt, etc.
  • In a deliberative, however, it brings forth hope, confidence, or fear.

The qualities required in the peroration are, that it be vehement and passionate so that if the orator should be praising (as in the panegyricOpens in new window), the listeners not only praise, but rejoice, admire, and are moved to emulate what is praised. If, on the contrary, he should reprove (as in the invectiveOpens in new window), not only should the audience show contempt, but also spurn, despise, and hate the reproved.

If he should counsel (as it is typical of the deliberative speechOpens in new window) not only does he arouse hope, but excites courage; not only does he instill apprehension, but also moves to dread those who have to deliberate.

Finally, if he either accuses or defends, he may mingle together all sorts of emotions, though from the accuser aversion is inflamed toward the defendant and from the counselor (patronus) compassion is won for him. A supreme example of the eloquence of pathos is a series of emotions in Pro Milone:

“But I have now said enough about the case itself ... What is left, save that I should beg and implore you, gentlemen, to extend to this brave man that mercy which he himself does not beg, but which I, in spite of his protests, both beg and demand?”

And now he excites admiration for the virtuous Milo:

For myself, gentlemen, all life and spirit is taken out of me by those words of Milo which ring ever in my ears and amid which I daily move: “Farewell!” he cries, “farewell, my fellow-citizens! Security, success, prosperity be theirs! Long may this city, my beloved fatherland, remain glorious, however ill she may have treated me! May countrymen rest in full and peaceful enjoyment of their constitution, enjoyment from which, since I may not share it, I shall stand aloof, but which none the less is owed to myself! I shall pass and go hence.”

This example is an excerpt, taken from the resource manual, The Art of Rhetoric: (Institutiones Oratoriae, 1711-1741). You might use this link, here,Opens in new window if you wish to see the concluding part of the oration where intense emotion is even aroused.

Important Hint! 

The peroration, or conclusion of an oration or speech, is divergent according to the strain of the preceding part. Sometimes the whole pathetic part is most properly introduced in the peroration.

In cases wherein the oration has been entirely argumentative, it is fit to conclude with summing up the arguments, placing them in one view, and leaving the impression of them full and strong on the mind of the audience. For the great rule of a conclusion, and what is generally recommended, is to place that last in which we choose that the strength of our cause should rest.

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  • References
    • Arkins, J.W.H. Literary Criticism in Antiquity: A Sketch of Its Development. Vol. 2. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1934.
    • Bate, Walker Jackson, From Classic to Romantic: Premises of Taste in Eighteenth Century England, New York: Harper, 1946.
    • Eimsatt, W.k., and Cleanth Brooks,Literary Criticism: A Short Histroy. London: Routledge and Kegan Paul, 1957.

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