The category of arrangement (Greek oikonomia, taxis; Latin dispositio) in classical rhetoric includes both the “natural” ordering of the parts of a speech and the changing or truncating of that order to adapt to specific circumstances. While it may also embrace the ordering of premises in arguments, those concerns are fully treated under invention rather than arrangement. Similarly, the most basic level of arrangement, that of individual words and clauses, is properly subsumed under style.
The canonical division of the parts of a speech derives from judicial rather than from deliberative or epideictic oratory. There are four essential parts. The introduction (prooimion, exordium) renders the audience well disposed, attentive, and receptive; the narration (diegesis, narratio) is brief, clear, and probable; the proof (pistis, argumentatio) is convincing; the conclusion (epilogos, peroratio) both summarizes and appeals to the emotions. Some writers add one or more other parts: after the narration, a proposition stating what is to be proven; a partition enumerating the different arguments to be advanced (common); a refutation, separated as a free-standing section following the proof (very common); and a digression immediately before the conclusion.
Adaptive or “artistic” arrangement omits or transposes parts as needed for the specific case. So, for example, a narration may be omitted entirely, or may be divided into smaller narratives before different sections of the argument.
The treatment of each part of the speech seems to be the organizing principle of the earliest rhetorical teachings of Corax and Tisias in the mid-fifth century. This principle, which we see in the remarks of Plato’s Socrates at Phaedrus 266d–267d., organized subsequent handbooks. Aristotle (384 –322 bce) and his followers took a different tack, placing invention before arrangement among their five activities of the orator: invention, arrangement, style, memory, and delivery (Memory and Rhetoric; Delivery and Rhetoric). Aristotle’s Rhetoric in fact treated only the first three, and treated arrangement after style (3.13 –19). Clearly arguing against earlier authorities, he stipulates two essential parts of the speech, namely proposition and proof, but will also allow introduction and epilogue. For each of the three types of speeches, Aristotle treats each part of the speech in a way that anticipates the canonical functions, with much attention to managing the prejudices of the audience. The slightly later Rhetorica ad Alexandrum similarly treats the function and content of each of the parts, organizing the discussion under each of the three types of speeches (29 –38).
The next complete rhetoric we have, the anonymous Latin Rhetorica ad Herennium of the early first century bce, preserves and refines the discussion of the parts, but dramatically relocates their treatment. Explaining all five activities, it focuses primarily upon judicial oratory and incorporates in its treatment of invention the stasis theory of Hermagoras. The treatment in order of the parts of speech with their special attributes becomes the organizational skeleton for this discussion of invention. The free-standing treatment of arrangement (3.16 –18) now functions mainly to note the possibility of adapting arrangement to special circumstances and to prescribe ordering of arguments with the weakest in the middle (cf. Quintilian 5.12.14). The anonymous author refers the reader to his discussion of invention for the natural order of the parts of the speech and of the ordering of premises in formal rhetorical argument. This subsuming of the teaching of the attributes and functions of the parts of speech under the discussion of invention, seen also in the treatment of judicial speeches in Cicero’s contemporaneous De inventione, will become standard, although the older tradition is still seen in the freestanding discussion of the parts of the speech and their functions in Cicero’s De oratore (2.307–332). Quintilian’s Institutio oratoria, the great compendium of the classical rhetorical tradition written in the 90s bce, completely subsumes arrangement under invention both in the discussion of the parts of the speech and even in the treatment of adaptive arrangement. Quintilian’s free-standing discussion of arrangement (book 7) is instead a series of further comments on the ordering and content of arguments generated through stasis theory.
The theory of the order, functions, and characteristics of the parts of speech, even though subsumed under invention, remains a robust feature of classical rhetoric. To the extent that treatises ignore or assume stasis theory and its refinements, arrangement becomes even more prominent. This is clear in two third-century bce Greek handbooks geared to declamation: the influential rhetoric of Apsines and the idiosyncratic Anonymous Seguerianus. The latter organizes his discussion of invention, arrangement, and style under each of the parts of the speech.
Arrangement was of course not immune from controversy. So, for example, Apollodorus, rhetorician to Caesar Augustus, insisted that a speech must have all four parts in fixed order. Theodorus, rhetorician to Augustus’ successor Tiberius, famously disagreed. Lausberg et al. (1998, §§ 260 – 442, 443 – 452) offers an exhaustive synchronic sketch of the classical categories of arrangement, largely marshaled under invention.
- Caplan, H. (1954). [Cicero] ad C. Herennium de Ratione Dicendi (Rhetorica ad Herennium). Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.
- Dilts, M. R., & Kennedy, G. A. (1997). Two Greek rhetorical treatises from the Roman Empire: Introduction, text, and translation of the Arts of rhetoric, attributed to Anonymous Seguerianus and to Apsines of Gadara. New York and Leiden: Brill.
- Hubbell, H. (1949). Cicero II: De Inventione, De Optimo Genere Oratorum, Topica. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.
- Kennedy, G. A. (1991). Aristotle: On rhetoric: A theory of civic discourse. New York: Oxford University Press.
- Kennedy, G. A. (1994). A new history of classical rhetoric. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.
- Lausberg, H., Orton, D. E., & Anderson, R. D. (1998). Handbook of literary rhetoric: A foundation for literary study. Leiden and New York: Brill.
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- Pernot, L. (2005). Rhetoric in antiquity. Washington, DC: Catholic University of America Press.
- Russell, D. A. (2001). Quintilian: The orator’s education. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.
- Wuellner, W. (1997). Arrangement. In S. E. Porter (ed.), Handbook of classical rhetoric in the Hellenistic period, 330 B.C.–A.D. 400. Leiden: Brill, pp. 51– 87.