Every Notable Figure in the Past...

spoke in a exaggerated, histrionic voice.

How do I know this? Because I listen to lectures by historians on the way to work almost every day, and every time they read a passage from Madison, or Jefferson, or Cromwell, or Locke, or Cramer, or More, or Adams, or.. whoever, they read it in an exaggerated, histrionic way.

What is up with that? The lecturers might defend themselves by saying, "We're just trying to give life to the writer's words!"

But, if that is the case, why don't they give their own lecture in the same voice? Do they not want to "give life" to their own lecture? This is a silly custom that ought to be abandoned.


  1. I suppose there's something to be said for differentiating the quotation from the rest of the lecture.

    1. Yes, I guess, but they way they do it never really works for me: it always sounds like the figures being quoted were pompous blowhards.

  2. But it you listen to recordings from the first half of the 20th century, people speaking in public actually did it much more histrionically than now.

  3. Hmmm.... suppose you've got no microphone and no PA system. So you're speaking to a crowd and you know from experience half your listeners are going to be clutching their neighbors and asking "What'd he say? huh?"

    Then you might well decide to speak slowly, with elongaged pauses, and a raised voice, and to make a number of gestures to emphasize your words. Histrionically, in other words.

  4. Jesus and Mike: Perhaps when reading *speeches* this might make sense, except that even then, if you are correct, the *reason* they were spoken like that is absent, so the practice has been torn from context. But usually what I hear done like this are *not* speeches, but written texts!


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