Declamation

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Declamation

 

the art of rhetorically delivering poetry or prose.

In ancient Rome, declamation, or exercise in elocution, was an important element of rhetoric. In France, declamation was the art of delivering speeches and poems on the stage. In the classical theater of the 17th and 18th centuries the concept of declamation encompassed the entire range of methods, including gesture and mimicry, that an actor could use in playing his role. Classicism canonized the solemnly elevated, melodious, and conventional manner of dramatic speech that met the norms of court taste.

The development of romantic and realistic tendencies in the theater of the late 18th and early 19th century led to the decline of classical declamation. Romanticism proclaimed the freedom of the actor’s inspiration and feeling; realism made the actor’s speech and whole behavior on the stage dependent on the character he portrayed, with all his individual and typical traits. With time, the word “declamation” began to designate a false, stilted manner of speaking. K. Stanislavsky considered declamation to be one of the most flagrant manifestations of vacuity and hyprocrisy in the art of acting.

For a long time, a concert reading of poetry from the stage was called a declamation, with no pejorative connotation. In this sense the term “declamation” was later supplanted by “recitation.”