How to tell a joke : an ancient guide to the art of humor / Marcus Tullius Cicero ; selected, translated, and introduced by Michael Fontaine.

Cicero, Marcus Tullius [Browse]
  • English
  • Latin
  • Princeton ; Oxford : Princeton University Press, [2021]
  • ©2021
xxxiii, 292 pages ; 18 cm.


Writer of supplementary textual content
Ancient wisdom for modern readers [More in this series]
Summary note
"Everyone knows that Marcus Tullius Cicero was one of the great statesmen, lawyers, and effective orators in the history of Rome. But did you also know he was regarded as one of the funniest people in Roman society as well? Five hundred years after his death, in the twilight of antiquity, the writer Macrobius ranks him alongside the comic playwright Plautus as the one of the two greatest wits ever. In this book, classicist Michael Fontaine, proposes to translate selections from Cicero's great rhetorical treatise, On the Ideal Orator (De Oratore). That larger work covered the whole of rhetoric and effective public speaking and debate. However, contained within it, is a long section focused on the effective use of humor in public speaking. In it, Cicero is concerned not just with various kinds of individual jokes, but with jokes that are advantageous in social situations. He advises readers on how to make the most effective use of wit to win friends, audiences, and achieve their overall ambitions. Cicero wants to teach his readers how to tell a joke without looking like a buffoon, and how to prevent or avoid jokes from backfiring. Hence, he does give scores of examples of jokes-some of which are timeless and translate easily, others that involve puns in Latin that challenged the translator's creativity. But overall, this work brings to the fore a little known, but important part of Cicero's classic work."-- Provided by publisher.
Bibliographic references
Includes bibliographical references (pages 289-292)
Language note
Facing page translations with Latin on the versos and English on the rectos ; introduction and epilogue in English.
  • Introduction
  • How to tell a joke / Cicero
  • On the art of humor / Quintilian
  • Epilogue.
  • 9780691206165
  • 0691206163 (hardcover)
Statement on language in description
Princeton University Library aims to describe library materials in a manner that is respectful to the individuals and communities who create, use, and are represented in the collections we manage. Read more...
Other views
Staff view