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In Defence of Rhetoric$

Brian Vickers

Print publication date: 1989

Print ISBN-13: 9780198117919

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: October 2011

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198117919.001.0001

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(p.491) Appendix Definitions of Rhetorical Figures and Tropes

(p.491) Appendix Definitions of Rhetorical Figures and Tropes

In Defence of Rhetoric
Oxford University Press

Note: further illustrations and discussions of the figures and tropes may be found in Taylor (1937); Rubel (1941); Joseph (1947); Heinrich Lausberg, Handbuch der literarischen Rhetorik, 2 vols. (Munich, 1960) and Elemente der literarischen Rhetorik (Munich, 1963); L. A. Sonnino, A Handbook to Sixteenth-Century Rhetoric (London, 1968); Richard A. Lanham, A Handlist of Rhetorical Terms: A Guide for Students of English Literature (Berkeley and Los Angeles, 1968); Arthur Quinn, Figures of Speech: 60 Ways to Turn a Phrase (Salt Lake City, Utah, 1982); Bernard Dupriez, Gradus: Les procédés littéraires (Dictionnaire) (Paris, 1984). All the illustrations are from Shakespeare's works.

Adynaton, the impossibility of expressing oneself adequately to the topic:

  • 3 Gent. Did you see the meeting of the two kings?
  • 2 Gent. No.
  • 3 Gent. Then have you lost a sight which was to be seen, cannot be spoken of.
  • Winter's Tale, 5. 2. 39

Anadiplosis (or reduplicatio), where the last word(s) of one clause or sentence become(s) the first of the one following:

  • Wishing me like to one more rich in hope,
  • Featur’d like him, like him with friends possess’d.
  • Sonnet 29

Anaphora (or repetitio), where the same word is repeated at the beginning of a sequence of clauses or sentences:

  • Some glory in their birth, some in their skill,
  • Some in their wealth, some in their body's force…
  • Sonnet 91

Antanaclasis, where a word is used twice (or more) in two (or more) of its senses:

  • Put out the light, and then put out the light.
  • Othello, 5. 2. 7

(p.492) Anthypophora (or rogatio), to ask a question and to answer it oneself:

  • What is in that word honour? What is that honour? Air. A trim reckoning!
  • Who hath it? He that died a’ Wednesday. Doth he feel it? No. Doth he hear it?
  • No.
  • 1 Henry IV, 5.1.131

Antimetabole (or commutatio), where two or more words are repeated in inverse order:

  • Music to hear, why hear'st thou music sadly?
  • Sonnet 8

Antithesis (or comparatio), where contraries are opposed and distinguished:

  • A bliss in proof; and prov’d, a very woe;
  • Before, a joy propos’d; behind, a dream.
  • Sonnet 129

Antonomasia (or pronominatio), substitution of name, either (1) of a descriptive phrase for a proper name; or (2) of a proper name for a quality associated with it:

  1. (1) Cupid is ‘that same wicked bastard of Venus.…that blind rascally boy.’

    As You Like It, 4.1.211

  2. (2) I am no great Nebuchadnezzar, sir;

         I have not much skill in grass.

    All's Well, 4. 5. 21

Aposiopesis (or praecisio), breaking off a sentence with the sense incomplete.

  • I will have such revenges on you both,
  • That all the world shall — I will do such things —
  • What they are yet I know not, but they shall be
  • The terrors of the earth!
  • King Lear, 2. 4. 281

Apostrophe (or aversio), a turning of speech from one topic or person to another, often for emotional emphasis:

  • Within a month…
  • She married—O most wicked speed: to post
  • With such dexterity to incestuous sheets…
  • Hamlet, 1 2. 153

(p.493) Asyndeton (or dissolutio), the absence of connecting particles between clauses:

  • Gor’d mine own thoughts, sold cheap what is most dear,
  • Made old offences of affections new.
  • Sonnet 110

Auxesis (or incrementum), where words are arranged in ascending order of importance:

  • Since brass, nor stone, nor earth, nor boundless sea,
  • But sad mortality o’er-sways their power…
  • Sonnet 65

Brachylogia (or articulus), the absence of connecting particles between single words, which are thus separated only by commas:

  • …till action, lust
  • Is perjur’d, murd’rous, bloody, full of blame,
  • Savage, extreme, rude, cruel, not to trust…
  • Sonnet 129

Chiasmus, repeating ideas (not necessarily in the same words, contrast antimetabole) in inverted order:

  • But O, what damned minutes tells he o’er
  • Who dotes, yet doubts; suspects, yet strongly loves.
  • Othello, 3. 3. 169

Climax (or gradatio), where the last word of one clause or sentence becomes the first of the one following, as in anadiplosis, but continued through three or more stages—like the rungs of a ladder:

  • My conscience hath a thousand several tongues,
  • And every tongue brings in a several tale,
  • And every tale condemns me for a villain.…
  • Richard III, 5. 3. 193

Ecphonesis (or exclamatio), the exclamation of extreme emotion such as anger, grief, admiration:

  •               O sides, you are too tough!
  • Will you yet hold?
  • King Lear, 2. 4. 197

(p.494) Epanalepsis (or resumptio), where the same word is repeated at the beginning and end of clause, a line, or sentence:

  • Kind is my love today, tomorrow kind…
  • Sonnet 105

Epanodos (or regressio), where the main terms in an argument are repeated in the course of it:

  • Mine eye and heart are at a mortal war
  • How to divide the conquest of thy sight:
  • Mine eye my heart thy picture's sight would bar,
  • My heart mine eye the freedom of that right.
  • Sonnet 46

Epanorthosis (or correctio), where a word or idea is corrected and replaced by one more suitable:

A good heart, Kate, is the sun and the moon, or rather the sun and not the moon; for it shines bright and never changes, but keeps his course truly.

Henry V, 5. 2. 162

Epiphonema (or acclamatio), a pithy summing-up of an argument, often in the form of an epigram or sententia:

  • This I do vow and this shall ever be:
  • I will be true despite thy scythe and thee.
  • Sonnet 123

Epistrophe (or conversio), where the same word is repeated at the end of a sequence of clauses or sentences:

  •         Is this nothing?
  • Why then the world and all that's in’t is nothing,
  • My wife is nothing, nor nothing have these nothings,
  • If this be nothing.
  • Winter's Tale, 1.2. 292

Epizeuxis (or subjunctio), where a word is repeated two or more times with no other word intervening:

  • Howl, howl, howl!
  • King Lear, 5. 3. 257

Euphemismos, substituting a more favourable for a pejorative term:

Falstaff…when thou art king, let not us that are squires of the night's body [‘we that take purses’] be call’d thieves of the day's beauty. Let us be Diana's foresters, gentlemen of the shade, minions of the moon…

1 Henry IV, 1. 2. 13 ff.

(p.495) Homoioptoton (or similiter cadens), where corresponding words (often at the end of a sequence of clauses or sentences) have similar case endings (not possible in uninflected languages):

  • Veni, vidi, vici.

Homoioteleuton (or similiter desinens), where corresponding words (often at the end of a sequence of clauses or sentences) have similar endings:

My mother weeping, my father wailing, my sister crying, our maid howling, our cat wringing her hands…

Two Gentlemen of Verona, 2. 3. 6

Hypallage (or submutatio), ‘changing the true construction and application of the words whereby the sense is perverted and made very absurd’ (Puttenham):

The eye of man hath not heard, the ear of man hath not seen, man's hand is not able to taste, his tongue to conceive, nor his heart to report, what my dream was.

Midsummer Night's Dream, 4.1. 211

Hyperbaton (or transgressio), the alteration of word order for purposes of emphasis:

  •                                    Yet I’ll not shed her blood,
  • Nor scar that whiter skin of hers than snow…
  • Othello, 5. 2. 3

Hyperbole (or superlatio), exaggeration of scale in order to describe outstanding qualities:

  • His legs bestrid the ocean, his rear’d arm
  • Crested the world, his voice was propertied
  • As all the tuned spheres, and that to friends…
  • Antony and Cleopatra, 5. 2. 82

Hypotyposis (or demonstratio, evidentia), vivid description appealing to the sense of sight:

  • Think, when we talk of horses, that you see them
  • Printing their proud hoofs i’th’ receiving earth…
  • Henry V, 1. Pro. 26

Hysteron proteron (or praeposteratio), the placing first in a sentence or clause of words which, in terms of sense, ought to come later:

  • Th’ Antoniad, the Egyptian admiral,
  • With all their sixty, fly and turn the rudder.
  • Antony and Cleopatra, 3. 10. 2

(p.496) Isocolon (or compar), where a sequence of clauses or sentences is of an identical length (and often of an identical structure: see parison):

  • Was ever woman in this humour woo’d?
  • Was ever woman in this humour won?
  • Richard III, 1. 2. 227

Meiosis (or extenuatio), a form of ‘diminishing’ a topic by belittling it:

  • But when my glass shows me myself indeed,
  • Beated and chopp’d with tann’d antiquity…
  • Sonnet 62

Metalepsis, attributing a present effect to a remote cause:

  • There spake my brother! There my father's grave
  • Did utter forth a voice.
  • Measure for Measure, 3. 1. 86

Metaphor (or translatio), when a word is transferred from one thing to another, for illumination and for emotional emphasis:

  • That time of year thou mayst in me behold
  • When yellow leaves, or none, or few, do hang
  • Upon those boughs which shake against the cold,
  • Bare ruin’d choirs, where late the sweet birds sang.
  • Sonnet 73

Metonymy (or transmutatio), the substitution of one name for another, as of an author for his work, the sign for the signified:

  • O thou, my lovely boy, who in thy power
  • Dost hold Time's fickle glass, his sickle, hour…
  • Sonnet 126

Onomatopoeia (or nominatio), where language is used to imitate the sound of the animal (‘Tu-whit tu-whoo’) or thing described:

  • Blow, winds, and crack your cheeks! rage, blow!
  • You cataracts and hurricanoes, spout…
  • King Lear, 3. 2. 1

Paralipsis (or occultatio), when one pretends to pass over a matter and so draws attention to it:

  • Let but the commons hear this testament [Caesar's will] —
  • Which, pardon me, I do not mean to read —
  • (p.497) And they would go and kiss dead Caesar's wounds…
  • Have patience, gentle friends; I must not read it.
  • It is not meet you know how Caesar loved you…
  • Julius Caesar, 3. 2. 130

Parison (or compar), corresponding or symmetrical structure of a sequence of clauses or sentences:

As Caesar lov’d me, I weep for him; as he was fortunate, I rejoice at it; as he was valiant, I honour him; but as he was ambitious, I slew him.

Julius Caesar, 3. 2. 24

Paronomasia (agnominatio or allusio), where two or more words are used in proximity which are similar in sound but different in sense:

  • Mad in pursuit and in possession so.
  • Sonnet 129

Periphrasis (or circumlocutio), the use of a number of words to describe at greater length and with fuller emphasis something which could be stated much more briefly:

  •                           …when that fell arrest
  • Without all bail shall carry me away…
  • Sonnet 74

Ploké (or conduplicatio, diaphora), the repetition of the same word or words:

  • Music to hear, why hear'st thou music sadly?
  • Sweets with sweets war not, joy delights in joy.
  • Sonnet 8

Polyptoton (paragmenon, traductio, or adnominatio), repeating a word in a different form:

  • And death once dead, there's no more dying then.
  • Sonnet 146

Polysyndeton (or acervatio), the profusion of connecting particles between clauses:

  • Then, in the blazon of sweet beauty's best,
  • Of hand, of foot, of lip, of eye, of brow,
  • I see their antique pen would have express’d
  • Even such a beauty as you master now.
  • Sonnet 106

(p.498) Prosopopoeia (or confirmatio), representing an imaginary or absent person as speaking or acting; attributing life, speech or human qualities to dumb or inanimate objects:

  • Methinks I hear
  • Antony call; I see him rouse himself
  • To praise my noble act. I hear him mock
  • The luck of Caesar…Husband, I come!
  • Antony and Cleopatra, 5. 2. 283

Syllepsis (or conceptio), where a word is used once only but where by the context and tone two different meanings are suggested:

  • Therefore I lie with her, and she with me…
  • Sonnet 138

Synecdoche (or subintellectio), where one thing is substituted for another, part for whole, genus for species, and vice-versa:

These are the ushers of Martius: before him he carries noise, and behind him he leaves tears…

Coriolanus, 2. 1. 158

Synoeciosis (oxymoron or contrapositum), uniting (not opposing, as in antithesis) contrary and incompatible-seeming terms or states:

  • Have we, as ’twere with a defeated joy,
  • With an auspicious and a dropping eye,
  • With mirth in funeral, and with dirge in marriage,
  • In equal scale weighing delight and dole,
  • Taken to wife.
  • Hamlet, 1. 2. 10

Zeugma (or adjunctio), where one verb serves two or more clauses:

  • Since saucy jacks so happy are in this,
  • Give them thy fingers, me thy lips to kiss.
  • Sonnet 128