Rhetorical Figures


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Anadiplosis Repeating the terminal word in a clause as the start of the next one:

Pleasure might cause her read, reading might make her know,
Knowledge might pity win, and pity grace obtain

(Sidney Astrophil and Stella 1)

Anaphora Repetition of a word or phrase at the beginning of successive clauses:

Past reason hunted; and no sooner had,
Past reason hated, as a swallowed bait

(Shakespeare Sonnet 129)

Chiasmus A pattern of x-shaped syntactic structure (like the Greek letter chi):

By reason good, good reason her to love.

(Sidney Astrophil and Stella 10)

Zeugma (Gk. “yoking”) A single instance of a verb controls several successive words or clauses, each with a different meaning / effect:

I on my horse, and Love on me, doth try
Our horsemanships . . .

(Sidney Astrophil and Stella 49)

Thou bear’st the arrow, I the arrow-head

(Sidney Astrophil and Stella 65.

She was a long-necked, long-backed woman, who disciplined her hair and her children.

Dorothy Sayers. Clouds of Witness.

Apostrophe A direct address either to an absent person, or to an abstract or inanimate entity; when it is to a god or muse it is an Invocation.

Come sleep! O sleep the certain knot of peace

Astrophil and Stella 39)

Prosopopoeia Personification; having an imaginary or absent person represented as if she were speaking or acting.

Anaclasis homonymic pun:

My forces razed, thy banners raised within

(Astrophil and Stella 36)

Paronomasia Punning; but unlike anaclasis, the words are only similar, not identical in sound:

Were it not here apparent that thou art heir apparent

(Shakespeare Henry IV Falstaff to Prince Hal I ii):

Auxesis (Gk. “Increase, amplification:) Words or clauses in climactic / superlative order; the opposite of meiosis.

I may, I must, I can, I will, I do
Leave following that which it is gain to miss

(Sidney A and S 47)

Isocolon (Gk. “of equal members or clauses.”) repeating phrases of the same length; usually with the same structure.

Metaphor and simile Both compare one thing to another.
Simile uses “like” or “as” in a direct comparison, while metaphor identifies one thing with another, in a non-literal use of a word or attribution. Burns’

O my love is like a red, red rose
That’s newly sprung in June

is a simile.

Had he written

My love, thou art a red, red rose . . .

that would be a metaphor.

In a metaphor the subject (the individual under discussion; the unfamiliar object) is the tenor; in the previous example the tenor is Burns’ lady-love; the vehicle (the object someone / something is compared to; the object, the familiar) is the rose.

Metonmy When a vehicle is so closely associated with the tenor, that the tenor may be omitted. Pen stands for writing, the crown for the King, a sword for warfare.

Synecdoche The part stands for the whole:

All hands on deck.


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