Declamation: Overview

This is a public speaking event of the National Catholic Forensics League (although, some divisions of the National Forensics League, Illinois for example, do offer Declamation as an individual event). Declamation is also referred to as Oratorical Declamation, Oratorical Interpretation, or simply Dec.

Declamation is essentially the interpretation of a speech that has been previously delivered in public. For instance, I might choose to work with a speech given by Franklin Delano Roosevelt. I would take that speech, cut it to an appropriate length to fit my time restraints, analyze and interpret the language of the piece, memorize the work, and then perform it in the most powerful and truthful way possible. Note, this is NOT an interpretation of the original speaker (impersonation); rather it is an interpretation of the text itself. Thus, all speeches chosen must possess merit of language and not be considered good speeches based on the performance of the originator.

An introduction for the piece is given during competition. Also, body language, facials, and movement (walking) are vital. All movements during the speech need to be motivated by the words of the text (high emotion “forcing” you to move, for instance) and sparse—movements as transitions is an easy way of looking at it. Facials and gestures should be used to help convey meaning and impact, and they should never distract from the piece. Think of these things as accents to the work; enhancers that benefit the speech and punctuate important bits.

Due to Declamation’s non-original nature, the event is typically only offered to Freshman and Sophomore competitors as a “starter” event to get them used to public speaking. Declamation is often considered preparation for Original Oratory and other dramatic performance events. However, as noted earlier, rules for Dec. vary pending on the state you are located in—Declamation might be offered all four years of high school for all willing competitors.