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Keeping up Appearances: Shame and Oratory in Cicero's Thought
Unformatted Document Text:  suggests that “all counsel ought to be referred to the individual’s own nature.” This is especially the case since we wish to “be constant to ourselves for the whole length of our life, not wavering in any of our duties.” 69 In these deliberations, the most important factor is nature is our particular natures, and after that we should consider fortune. If, perchance, one should pick a life “entirely in accordance with his nature (if it is not a vicious one) let him then maintain constancy” – again, constancy is the most seemly thing (cf. I.125) – though Cicero recognizes that even such an individual may “realize that he has made a mistake in choosing his type of life.” In such situations, the individual must be prepared “to change his behavior and his plans;” in doing so, “every care must be taken so that we appear to have done so with good judgment.” 70 While harmony and consistency are seemly, they are not if taken to the extreme. We cannot emulate everyone in everything, then– for instance, not all of us (perhaps Cicero hints at his son Marcus) can emulate our ancestors, given that we may have lesser endowments; nor ought young and old to act in the same fashion. Similarly, with respect to our fourth persona, magistrates undertake a role with its own criterion of seemliness, while private individuals are subject to different standards of seemliness than public officials. He reiterates, though, that nothing “is so seemly as preserving constancy in everything that you do and in every plan that you adopt.” Such seemliness – the harmony between inward disposition and external appearance – “can be seen in every deed and word, and indeed in every bodily movement or state;” the latter is a function of “beauty, order and embellishment that is suited to action.” Linked to beauty, order and 69 Cicero, On Duties. I.117-119. 70 Ibid. I.121. 24

Authors: Kapust, Daniel.
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suggests that “all counsel ought to be referred to the individual’s own nature.” This is
especially the case since we wish to “be constant to ourselves for the whole length of our
life, not wavering in any of our duties.”
In these deliberations, the most important factor
is nature is our particular natures, and after that we should consider fortune. If, perchance,
one should pick a life “entirely in accordance with his nature (if it is not a vicious one) let
him then maintain constancy” – again, constancy is the most seemly thing (cf. I.125) –
though Cicero recognizes that even such an individual may “realize that he has made a
mistake in choosing his type of life.” In such situations, the individual must be prepared
“to change his behavior and his plans;” in doing so, “every care must be taken so that we
appear to have done so with good judgment.”
While harmony and consistency are
seemly, they are not if taken to the extreme.
We cannot emulate everyone in everything, then– for instance, not all of us
(perhaps Cicero hints at his son Marcus) can emulate our ancestors, given that we may
have lesser endowments; nor ought young and old to act in the same fashion. Similarly,
with respect to our fourth persona, magistrates undertake a role with its own criterion of
seemliness, while private individuals are subject to different standards of seemliness than
public officials. He reiterates, though, that nothing “is so seemly as preserving constancy
in everything that you do and in every plan that you adopt.” Such seemliness – the
harmony between inward disposition and external appearance – “can be seen in every
deed and word, and indeed in every bodily movement or state;” the latter is a function of
“beauty, order and embellishment that is suited to action.” Linked to beauty, order and
69
Cicero, On Duties. I.117-119.
70
Ibid. I.121.
24


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