Captatio benevolentiae (Latin for "winning of goodwill") is a rhetorical technique aimed to capture the goodwill of the audience at the beginning of a speech or appeal. It was practiced by Roman orators, with Cicero considering it one of the pillars of oratory.[1]

For example, Roman historian Livy (Titus Livius) begins his prologue with a description of his own insignificance against the importance of the Roman people and history of Rome. By preaching his own humility, and especially by comparing himself to the much greater importance of the Roman people (his audience), he hopes to gain their favor at the start of his work.[2]

During the Middle Ages, it was used in court cases to gain the judge's favor, with lavish praise of the judge's wisdom considered most effective by Guillaume Durand.[3] In parallel, the techniques of the captatio benevolentiae began to be used in the prologues of chivalric romance novels, addressing the readers and trying to have them view the work favourably.[4]


  1. ^ Calboli Montefusco, Lucia (2006). "Captatio benevolentiae". In Cancik, Hubert; Schneider, Helmuth (eds.). Brill's New Pauly. Antiquity volumes. Brill Online. Retrieved 20 April 2014.
  2. ^ "(PDF) The role of captatio benevolentiae in the interaction between the speaker and his audience in Antiquity and today". ResearchGate. Retrieved 2021-07-12.
  3. ^ Brundage, James A. (2008). The Medieval Origins of the Legal Profession. Vol. 1. University of Chicago Press. ISBN 9780226077598.
  4. ^ Schomanek, Florian (2011). Captatio Benevolentiae. GRIN. ISBN 9783640843480.