|Pub life, music and song||1||3||1||5||3|
|Toasts, dinners and feasts||2||1||1|
|Theatre and cinema audiences||2||1||1||1|
|Music and song in theatres||2||2||2|
|Public music and song outdoors||3||1||4|
|Education: Oratory and debate||1|
|Gambling and fairs||1||1||1||2||1|
|Families at leisure||1|
Period referred to: 1170s
Sound category: Social > Education: Oratory and debate
Title of work: A Description of London
Type of publication: Manuscript/panegyric
Author: William Fitz Stephen
Year of publication: c. 1173
Page/volume number: The Schools
School pupils practise their debating skills
The three principal churches of London – St. Paul's (seat of the bishop), Holy Trinity, and St. Martin's – possess schools, by ancient right and privilege. But, thanks to the support of a number of those scholarly men who have won renown and distinction in the study of philosophy, there are other schools licensed there.
On holy days, the schoolmasters assemble their students at the churches associated with the particular festival, for purposes of a training exercise. There the students debate, some using demonstrative rhetoric, others using dialectical logic. Yet others "hurtle enthymemes", while those who are more advanced employ syllogisms. Some undergo the debating exercise just to be put through their paces, it being like a wrestling match of the intellect; for others it is to help perfect their skills in determining the truth. The contrivances of sophists receive credit for the torrent and flow of their arguments. Others apply false logic. Occasionally some speakers strive to persuade by delivering rhetorical orations, taking care to observe the rules of their art and not to leave out anything related to them.
Boys from different schools fling versified arguments against each other, disputing matters of grammatical principles or rules governing the use of the future or past tenses. There are those who make use of epigrams, rhymes, and metrical verse – types of sarcasm traditionally heard at street-corners; with "Fescennine License", they freely ridicule their associates, without naming names. They hurl "abuse and jibes"; with Socratic wit they take digs at the character flaws of their fellows, or even their elders, and "bite more keenly even than Theon's tooth" with their "bold dithyrambs". The audience being "ready to laugh their fill", "with wrinkling nose repeat the loud guffaw".