This article studies the essays of Michel de Montaigne in the context of the tradition of epideictic rhetoric from antiquity to the Renaissance, with particular attention to the humanist reception of Aristotle's Rhetoric. The focus of this attention is the relationship between epideictic and consensus, which proves to be more problematic than Aristotle seems to have anticipated. If we read Montaigne's essay “Des Cannibales” as a paradoxical encomium and compare it to Plutarch's declamation on the fortune of Alexander, we can see how epideictic works to undermine consensus and even to challenge the very impulse to conform to social and ethical norms.

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