Judging Like a Malt-Horse: The Humanist Interpretation of Humanity

  • Erica Fudge


‘Speak that I may see you’: Socrates’ dictum, cited by both Erasmus in the early sixteenth century and Jonson in the early seventeenth, comes to life at the end of Valentine and Orson.1 Orson becomes visible through his ability to communicate, and his contemplative state at the end of the text reveals a new notion of the species, one which can be termed humanist rather than Reformed. Speech and identity are inextricably linked: just as Orson needed to gain his voice to truly enter the human community, so humanists proposed that spoken communication was a signifier of humanity. This emphasis on speech would seem to offer a solution to the dangerous frailty of human status offered by the Reformed emphasis on conscience. But at the same time as eloquence was emerging as the site of human-ness the question of interpretation was also an issue. Eloquence was only a signifier of the human if it could be understood; in fact, eloquence, like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder. The human can be as eloquent as is humanly possible, but if his eloquence is not understood, if he is not interpreted aright, then his eloquence counts for nothing, and as such interpretation becomes the skill which defines the human.


Good Reader Greek Text Humanist Idea Brute Beast Reform Idea 
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Copyright information

© Erica Fudge 2000

Authors and Affiliations

  • Erica Fudge
    • 1
  1. 1.Faculty of Humanities and Cultural StudiesMiddlesex UniversityUK

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