Strategies of persuasion in provoked quarrels in Plautus: A pragmatic perspective

Ed Sanders, Chris Carey, Brenda Griffith-Williams, Guy Westwood, Angelos Chaniotis, Maria Fragoulaki, Jayne Knight, Alexandra Eckert, Lucy Jackson, Jennifer Winter, Judith Hagen, Matthew Johncock, Irene Salvo, Eleanor Dickey, Kate Hammond, Federica Iurescia

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


The arousal of anger and fear are widely used as rhetorical strategies of persuasion in Roman literature. In Plautus's comedies, we see these strategies most plainly displayed in deliberately provoked quarrels, i.e. when one party intentionally manufactures a quarrel to throw the other party's judgment off balance, in order to manipulate him or her: it can be considered as a specific form of mouēre. Accordingly, this proves an excellent topos in which to appreciate interactions between linguistic expression and emotional impact, because it highlights the rhetorical-linguistic means to which Latin can turn to irritate and puzzle one's collocutor, with the purpose of manipulating him or her. Quarrels occur widely in the genres of Comedy, Satire and the Novel; those in Plautus are a convenient microcosm of the wider application of the quarrel as rhetorical strategy in these genres. Quarrels are complex communicative situations, and several factors (e.g. psychological, sociological, anthropological) come into play. It requires, therefore, a multidisciplinary approach, borrowing insights from discourse analysis, speech act theory, pragmatics, semantically oriented studies and ancient rhetoric theorisation. Such a methodological approach, applied to the Latin texts, will help us analyse exactly which kinds of information a literary text can (and cannot) provide about the provoked quarrel as a means of persuasion through negative emotions.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationEmotion and Persuasion in Classical Antiquity
Number of pages14
Publication statusPublished - 2016


  • Comedy
  • Emotion
  • Persuasion
  • Plautus
  • Pragmatics
  • Quarrel


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