commonplace koinos topos
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Commonplace is "a composition which amplifies inherent evils" (originally described as an amplification of either a virtue or vice, but in practice more the latter). A preparation for the following two exercises, encomium and vituperation, the commonplace differed from these by taking up a general virtue or vice, rather than the specific qualities of a single person. Subjects included gambling, theft, adultery, etc. Sometimes it took up the virtues/vices of specific kinds of persons; e.g., tyrants. See also topics of invention (sometimes named the "commonplaces" and proverbs, maxims, and sententia (all of which are sometimes referred to as "commonplaces")

Directions for Composition

Argue for or against a general (common) fault or virtue of human nature (or a type of person), using these steps:

  1. Begin with the contrary or a contradiction
  2. Introduce a comparison, comparing something better to what is attacked
  3. Introduce a proverb that upbraids the motivation of the doer of the deed
  4. Employ a digression with a defamatory conjecture as to the past life of the person accused
  5. Repudiate the idea of taking pity on such a person
  6. Consider the following headings in discussing this virtue or vice:
    • legality
    • justice
    • expediency
    • practicability
    • decency
    • consequences
See Also

Sources: Quintilian 2.4.22

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Gideon O. Burton, Brigham Young University
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