The close of a lecture is called the peroration--the word oration
prefixed by the Latin preposition "per." "Per" has several meanings, one
of them being "to the utmost extent" as in peroxide--a substance
oxidized to the utmost degree.
This is probably the sense in which it is used in peroration, for the
close of a lecture should be oratory at its utmost.
The speaker who has failed to observe the previous rules about
"beginning easy," and "speaking deliberately" will pay the penalty here.
If he has spoken rapidly, he will be unable to increase the pace--at
least, sufficiently to get the best results.
If he has spoken too loudly and kept nothing in reserve, his voice will
refuse to "rise to the occasion."
The manner of the peroration has two essentials, an increase of speed,
and a raising of the voice. These two things go naturally together; as
the words come more quickly the voice tends to rise apparently
automatically, and this is as it should be.
The peroration has the nature of a triumph. The question has been fought
out in the main body of the lecture, the opposing positions have been
overthrown, and now the main conclusion is victoriously proclaimed and
Even if an element of pathos enters into the peroration, it is a mistake
to allow the voice to weaken. If it takes a lower note, it must make up
in strength and intensity what it loses in height. Anything else is sure
to prove an anticlimax.
The matter of the peroration should consist of the main conclusion of
the lecture, and should begin by gathering together the principal
threads of the discourse which should lead to that conclusion.
The necessity for a peroration, or strong finish, is recognized in
music, the drama, and everything presented before an audience. Most band
selections end in a crash, the majority of instruments working at full
capacity. Every musical comedy concludes with its full cast on the stage
singing the most effective air. Every vaudeville performer strives to
reach a climax and, where talent breaks down, refuge is sought in some
such miserable subterfuge as waving the flag or presenting a picture of
the bulldog countenance of Theodore Roosevelt.
The entertainer, however, appeals to prevailing opinions and prejudices;
he gives the audience what they want. The lecturer should be an
instructor and his theme may be a new and, as yet, unpopular truth, and
it is his duty to give the audience what they should have.
Therefore the peroration should be full of that persuasive eloquence
which will lead the audience to a favorable consideration of the
positions which have been carefully and judiciously presented in the
body of the lecture.
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