Exordium (rhetoric)

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In rhetoric, the term exordium ( Latin exordium 'introduction', 'beginning') refers to the introduction and thus one of the four classic parts of a speech alongside narratio (narration), argumentatio (argumentation) and peroratio , also conclusio ( conclusion ).

Function of the exordium

In addition to preparing the audience as regards content, the Exordium serves in particular to provide the audience with basic information about the subject of the speech and to establish contact with them. As a rule, the speaker will try to win his audience over to himself and his cause (up to a captatio benevolentiae ); nevertheless, an opposing stance between the speaker and the audience from the start is also conceivable.

Aristotle was of the opinion that the exordium touched above all the emotions of the audience and did not introduce the matter in itself. It is more important that the beginning of the speech reaches the audience and also serves the speaker's self-expression.

The exordium has two different forms, the proemium and the insinuatio .

Forms of Exordium


As Prooemium ( Latin : "before the song prelude, introductory song") refers to the speech earlier under ordinary conditions, so if the speaker confronts a fundamentally benevolent audience. Classically, it should fulfill three functions: to attract the attention of the audience (attentum parare) , to prepare the content of the following part of the speech (docilem parare) and to make the audience feel benevolent in relation to the speech and speaker ( captatio benevolentiae ) .


As Insinuatio ( latin : "input on a curved path") refers to the beginning of speech under difficult conditions, such as fatigue, lack of interest or from the beginning of opposing position of the listener. In the case of insinuatio , psychological means are used in particular to win over the audience for their own speech. Classical rhetoric recommends, for example, creating amusement in the audience or starting with something surprising.

Captatio benevolentiae

The Latin term Captatio benevolentiae (German: "Erheischen of benevolence") refers to a since the ancient common figure of speech .

At the beginning of a text, the author addresses his reader directly with flattering words and asks them to kindly accept the following. In ancient practice, the captatio benevolentiae appeared particularly often in connection with the spoken word, for example at the beginning of a speech or a play . It can therefore also be understood as an elaborate form of “asking for peace” vis-à-vis the listening audience.


  • Clemens Ottmers: Rhetoric (= realities for language . Volume 283). JB Metzler, Stuttgart 1996, pp. 54-64.

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