Debating and speeches in “The Old Arcadia” by Sir Philip Sidney

Term Paper, 2007

12 Pages, Grade: 2,3



1. Introduction

2. Notions “Debating” and “Discussion”

3. Debating and Discussion in “The Old Arcadia”
3.1. Structure of a Speech in “The Old Arcadia”
3.2 The Main Characteristics of Speeches in “The Old Arcadia”
3.3. The Theme of Love and Justice in the Arcadian Debating

4. Conclusion

5. Bibliography

1. Introduction

Sir Philip Sydney’s work “The Old Arcadia” is notorious not only for its poetic significance of eclogues, but also for the outstanding rhetoric skills of his characters. Debating in “The Old Arcadia” is an interesting field for research, because it represents not only the richness of Sydney’s language, but it also reflects the way people communicated in the Elizabethan epoch. Moreover, the romance by Philip Sydney reproduces the range of themes, which excited the minds of his contemporaries. Therefore, the aim of our work is to find out what structure the speech of a medieval courtier looks like, and by what rhetoric principles it is built. We will investigate this question not only from the theoretical point of view, but also on the example of “The Old Arcadia”’s speeches. We will also analyze Arcadian speeches from the angle of its lexical, stylistic, and syntactic value. Finally, we are going to trace how such themes as love and justice are debated and discussed throughout the work “The Old Arcadia”.

2. Notions “Debating” and “Discussion”

In order to represent an adequate picture of the peculiarities of debating and speeches in the work “The Old Arcadia” by Sir Philip Sidney and to understand them properly, it is appropriate to find a suitable definition of the terms “debating” and “rhetoric”.

In “The Oxford Companion to Chaucer” the term “debate” is defined as a common form in medieval life, used in scholastic disputations, in the law courts, and as a rhetorical exercise. “The literary verse debate, in which stanzas or speeches are given alternately by two disputants (sometimes human, sometimes animal or avian, sometimes opposed abstract qualities) was very popular.”[1] (The Oxford Companion to Chaucer 2003) So, we can see that debating usually consists of certain extracts of human conscious speech which the speakers exchange with each other in order to achieve certain aims, for example, to discuss some scholastic, political, cultural themes, or the aspiration of one of the speakers to exercise his rhetoric eloquence.

The term “debate” is frequently used as a synonym of the word “discussion”. For example, in the Concise Oxford English Dictionary discussion is characterized as “a debate about or detailed written treatment of a topic.”[2] The Oxford American Thesaurus gives the following synonyms of the word “discussion”: “ conversation, dialogue, chat, conference, debate, discourse, exchange of views, symposium, seminar, consultation, deliberation, parley, examination, review, study, scrutiny, analysis, ventilation, argument, dispute; inf. confab.”[3] One can notice that the terms “debating” and “discussion” also comprise such notions, revealing its nature and essence, as exchange of views, parley, examination, analysis, argument. So, while analyzing debating in “The Old Arcadia”, we are going to take into account not only the way the speakers exchange their points of view, but also the background of their speeches, the arguments, brought forward by the speakers. In this context it is important to give the notion of a “debating point” which could be equalled to the term”argument”. The New Oxford American Dictionary gives the following entry of the word “debating point”: “an extraneous proposition or inessential piece of information used to gain advantage in a debate.”[4]

In the above mentioned definition of the “debate” it was noted that the term was commonly used in medieval time as a rhetoric exercise. So, the disputes were arranged according to the canons of rhetoric. We can thus presume that the speeches, led by the Arcadian characters, were built according to the canons of rhetoric. Traditionally, rhetoric was and is defined as the art of persuasion or the art of speaking eloquently. In medieval and Renaissance Europe it was one of the liberal arts and was a separate subject in schools and universities. Good rhetorical skills included the knowledge of Latin and its use in the speech. The term “rhetoric” is famous for its five canons, worked out by the first rhetoric teacher Quintilian (35-96): inventio (finding and developing of arguments), dispositio (arrangement of the material, determination of the structure, putting of the elements in an appropriate order), elocutio (determination of the style by the speaker, language, ornamentation, preparation of figures of speech ), memoria (methods used to recall the prepared speech), actio ( the final action of speaking)[5]

One can thus sum up that rhetoric, as the art of eloquent persuasion, is an essential part of debating and discussion. We are going to analyze characters’ debates in “The Old Arcadia”, taking into account the five canons of rhetoric. We will pay our special attention to such canons as eloquence (the way the speakers arrange their speeches, what means they use in order to elaborate their speech), disposition, and invention.

3. Debating and Discussion in “The Old Arcadia”

3.1. Structure of a Speech in “The Old Arcadia”

As stated in the previous chapter in our small research, we are going to explore the way the Sydney’s characters apply some canons of rhetoric to their speeches. A very important canon that we are going to treat in this chapter is disposition or its Latin equivalent dispositio. The way the Arcadian characters elaborate their speeches, the presence of the speech’s structure is worth investigating, because they comprise the canon of disposition.

We have analyzed some speeches of Musidorus, Pyrocles and Basilius and have come to conclusion that the speeches of the Arcadia’s characters usually have the following structure: introduction, the main part, and conclusion. Speech’s introduction usually begins with the address to an interlocutor. The address is quite picturesque and is accompanied by epithets. For example, Musidorous, addressing Pyrocles, says: “my noble friend Pyrocles”, Pyrocles uses the epithet “excellent”, starting his dialogue with Musidorous.[6] Basilius, opening his speech, in which he tries to reveal his ardent feelings to Cleophila, says to her: “O heavenly woman or earthly goddess”.[7] Speech’s introduction is usually extended and complicated and a character gradually approaches to the main purpose of the speech. For example, as Musidorus attempts to dissuade Pyrocle to gain Philoclea’s love, he starts his speech with the description of mind’s virtues, he says: “A mind well trained and long exercised in virtue, my sweet and worthy cousin, doth not easily change any course it once undertakes, but upon well grounded and well weighed causes;”[8], he goes on using numerous sentences, describing the well trained mind and referring to Pyrocles who allegedly has such intellect. After prolonged tirades about Pyrocles’s mind, he finally comes to the point of his speech – false intentions of Pyrocles of giving up everything for the sake of love for Philoclea.


[1] The Oxford Companion to Chaucer. Douglas Gray. Oxford University Press 2003. Oxford Reference Online. Oxford University Press. Universitatsbibliothek Osnabrück. 17 April 2007 <>.

[2] The Concise Oxford English Dictionary, Eleventh edition revised . Ed. Catherine Soanes and Angus Stevenson. Oxford University Press, 2006. Oxford Reference Online. Oxford University Press. Universitatsbibliothek Osnabrück. 17 April 2007 <>

[3] The Oxford American Thesaurus of Current English. Ed. Christine A. Lindberg. Oxford University Press, 1999. Oxford Reference Online. Oxford University Press. Universitatsbibliothek Osnabrück. 17 April 2007 <>

[4] The New Oxford American Dictionary, second edition. Ed. Erin McKean. Oxford University Press, 2005. Oxford Reference Online. Oxford University Press. Universitatsbibliothek Osnabrück. 17 April 2007 <>

[5] The Oxford Dictionary of the Renaissance. Gordon Campbell. Oxford University Press, 2003. Universitatsbibliothek Osnabrück. 17 April 2007 <>

[6] Sidney, Sir Philip. The Old Arcadia. Oxford, New York: Oxford University Press, 1999, 12-13.

[7] Sidney 1999, 100.

[8] Sidney 1999, 13.

Excerpt out of 12 pages


Debating and speeches in “The Old Arcadia” by Sir Philip Sidney
University of Osnabrück  (Literatur- und Sprachwissenschaft)
Sir Philip Sydney, Arcadia
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ISBN (eBook)
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448 KB
Debating, Arcadia”, Philip, Sidney, Philip, Sydney, Arcadia
Quote paper
Yulia Saltowski (Author), 2007, Debating and speeches in “The Old Arcadia” by Sir Philip Sidney , Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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