This article shows that Plutarch’s principles of historical criticism in On the Malice of Herodotus do not always obtain in the Lives, and that Plutarch’s narrative techniques in his biographies prove to be vulnerable to the criticisms that Plutarch makes of Herodotus in the essay. Yet rather than being a sign of malice and deviousness, as Plutarch argues for Herodotus in On the Malice, it is suggested that these techniques are used in the Lives in a sophisticated way to invite an active response from the readers toward the biographical narrative and engage them all the more profoundly in their individual process of moral reflection and evaluation of history. This insight, in turn, shows that there is more artistry in the composition and purpose of On the Malice than has been hitherto discerned or allowed. Overall, this article advances our understanding of Plutarch’s oeuvre as an integrated corpus in which Plutarch encourages through his use of inconsistencies a provocative readerly experience. It also has some far-reaching consequences for our interpretation of the literary persona that Plutarch evokes in the Lives and On the Malice and his conception of the ideal way of writing and reading history.

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