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The Pro Ligario: Volgarizzamento as a Means of Profit Cristiana Fordyce Boston College In 1267, the illustrious citizen Brunetto Latini was allowed to return to victorious Guelf Florence after six years of exile in France. The notary and chancellor, who had served the city until the defeat of his party, had continued his commitment to the city abroad by assisting rich Florentine merchants residing in France. Providing support to the mercantile class, the primary function of most lawyers, meant for Brunetto the backing of the commune not only economically, but politically. Before and after his exile, Brunetto was to Florence what Coluccio Salutati would be a century later: a rhetorician who made the art of letter-writing the most powerful weapon for the defense of the city. Brunetto conceived rhetoric as a tool of persuasion, as an art that could not just convince the mind, but conquer the will. I He found the model for this kind of rhetoric in the classics, especially in Aristotle and Cicero, as his entire production aspired to educate his fellow citizens to a rhetoric of utilitas. Giovanni Villani, Florentine historiographer of the fourteenth century, noted how Brunetto Latini was "a worldly man, ...the...master in refining the Florentine and in teaching them how to speak well, and how to guide and rule...." (Wicksteed 1906, 312-13). Villani's comment highlights how Brunetto had actually accomplished his goal by revealing to his fellow citizens the secrets of a rhetoric capable of leading to an end . Essential to the civic and political life of the city, the ars rhetorica offered for Brunetto the solution to the problems of the city as well as of the individual. Brunetto was aware that the practical knowledge of the merchants needed the support of eloquence since, as Cicero advised, eloquence and knowledge had to be joined in the same end for the resolution of a specific problern.i Moreover, eloquence appeared to Brunetto to be of paramount importance in a society that lived by the labors of its tongues and that had stemmed from a profit economy based on the art of persuasion. Brunetto, who had made his living from the power of 108 THE POLITICS OF TRANSLAnON rhetoric, was fully aware of the new supremacy of the word. In the Tesoretto, he advised his fellow citizens to speak properly and after having evaluated the circumstances, because: Che non ritoma mai La parola ch'e detta SI come la saetta Che vae e non ritoma (Latini 1981, vv. 1604-9). But rhetorical ability could save one from any situation, since: "Chi ha la lingua adorna / poco gli basta" (Latini 1981, vv. 1610-11). The word, like merchandise, had come to occupy a fundamental place in each aspect of the mercantile society, possessing no other value than what the individual was capable of negotiating for it. The word had become the means of estimation of every aspect of life. From the marketplace to the university, from good reputation to vituperium, the word had redefined means and ends. The new sin of the city was committed by means of language, as the word became the vehicle of defamation and vituperium, destroyers of that public image by now essential to any citizen of the new city.3 Dino Compagni, in the canzone Pregio, advised the Florentine bourgeoisie to care for their reputation by acknowledging the importance of common opinion and public estimation. Both in the Pregio and in his Chronicle, Dino revealed how the world of the individual and the world of the community, the world of the city and of its citizens, had become totally interwoven, forced into a continuous negotiation-a quest for agreement on the definition of the individual . 4 pnce. Sensitive to the importance of appearance and image, Brunetto constantly advised his audience to be aware of milieu and to cultivate buona usanza, the common approval, which would return in honor and public appreciation. Troppa sicuranza, which Brunetto associated with excessive self-confidence, on the other hand, was to be avoided, as it could damage one's reputation. Che troppa sicuranza Fa contra buona usanza: SI ch' anzi che l'amendi N'avrai danno e disonore. Pero che a tutte l'ore Ti tieni a buona usanza, Pero ch'ella t'avanza In pregio e in onore (Latini 1968, 13).5 VOLGA RIZZAMENTO AS A MEANS OF PROFIT 109 The new kind of life and activities that awaited the mercantile class required not a rhetoric of elegance, but of...


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