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Ovid, Metamorphoses, 3.511-733

 | 
Ingo Gildenhard
, 
Andrew Zissos

Appendices

2. Glossary of Rhetorical and Syntactic Figures

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1This list contains the major rhetorical and syntactic figures identified and discussed in the Commentary. Most of the terms for the figures derive from, or indeed are, either Greek or Latin; we have therefore provided an etymological explanation for each, not least to show that the terminological abracadabra makes perfectly good sense — even if it takes a smattering of ancient Greek and Latin to see this. To facilitate comprehension, the illustrative examples are in English and taken from the Shakespearean corpus. Unless otherwise indicated, they come from the Pyramus-and-Thisbe episode in Act 5 of A Midsummer Night’s Dream. A good reason for drawing on the oeuvre of an (early) modern author for illustration is to convey a sense of the continuity of classical and classicizing rhetoric in the western cultural tradition. And in Shakespeare, of course, some saw the ‘sweet witty soul of Ovid’ reincarnated.

2 alliteration: the repeated use of the same sound at the beginning of words in close proximity.

Etymology: from (un-classical) Latin alliterare, ‘to begin with the same letter’.

Example: ‘Whereat, with blade, with bloody, blameful blade | He bravely broach’d his boiling bloody breast’.

3 anaphora: the repetition of the same word or phrase at the beginning of several successive syntactic units.

Etymology: from Greek anapherein, ‘to carry back, to repeat’

Example: ‘O grim-look’ d night! O night with hue so black! O night, which ever art when day is not! O night, O night, alack, alack, alack!’

4 antithesis: literally ‘a placing against’; the (balanced) juxtaposition of contrasting ideas.

Etymology: from Greek antitithenai, ‘to place (tithenai) against (anti-)’.

Example: ‘‘Tide life,’ tide death, I come without delay’.

5 apo koinou: two constructions that have a word or phrase in common; or, put the other way around, a word or phrase shared by two different constructions.

Etymology: from the Greek phrase apo koinou lambanein, used by ancient grammarians of two clauses taking a word in common (koinou, genitive of koinon after the preposition apo).

Example: ‘There was a man — dwelt by the churchyard’ (The Winter’s Tale, Act 2, Scene 1).

6 asyndeton: the absence or omission of conjunctions (see also below polysyndeton).

Etymology: from Greek a-sun-detos, ‘not (a-privativum) bound (detos, from dein, to bind) together (sun)’.

Example: ‘O Fates, come, come, cut thread and thrum; quail, crush, conclude, and quell!

7 captatio benevolentiae: a Latin phrase that literally means ‘the capture of goodwill’, i.e. a rhetorical technique designed to render the audience kindly disposed towards the speaker.

  • 5 Note that (Will) Shakespeare’s proxy character here, hilariously, ‘translates’ the Latin benevolen (...)

(Botched) example: ‘If we offend, it is with our good will. That you should think, we come not to offend. But with good will’.5

8 chiasmus: the repetition of a grammatical pattern in inverse order: a b — b a.

Etymology: from Greek chiasmos, ‘a placing crosswise’, from the letter X (pronounced chi) of the Greek alphabet. (Imagine the two a at either end of the first diagonal line of X, and at either end of the second diagonal line the two b; then read the top half first and afterwards the bottom half and you get a b — b a.)

Example: ‘(a) Sweet Moon, (b) I thank thee… (b), I thank thee, (a) Moon...’

9 climax: a series or sequence of units that gradually increase in import or force.

Etymology: from Greek klimax, ‘ladder’.

Example: ‘Tongue, lose thy light; | Moon take thy flight: Now die, die, die, die, die’ |‘Tongue, lose thy light; | Moon take thy flight: Now die, die, die, die, die’ (Pyramus before stabbing himself).

10 ellipse: the omission of one or more words in a sentence necessary for a complete grammatical construction.

Etymology: from Greek elleipein, ‘to fall short, leave out’.

  • 6 Filling in the items elided would results in something like ‘I neither know it nor can I learn any (...)

Example: ‘I neither know it nor can learn of him’ (Romeo and Juliet, Act 1, Scene 1).6

11 hendiadys: one idea expressed by two words joined by ‘and’, such as two nouns used in place of a noun and an adjective.

Etymology: from Greek hen-dia-duoin, ‘one thing (hen) through (dia) two (duoin)’.

Example: ‘The service and the loyalty I owe’ (Macbeth, Act 1, Scene 4), for ‘the loyal service’.

12 homoioteleuton: similarity of ending in words in close proximity to one another.

Etymology: from Greek homoios, ‘like’, and teleute, ‘ending’.

  • 7 Note that the last item in the list (wring-ing) contains the-ing sound twice, a stylistic climax t (...)

Example: ‘My mother weeping, my father wailing, my sister crying, our maid howling, our cat wringing her hands’ (The Two Gentlemen of Verona, Act 2, Scene 3).7

13 hyperbaton: dislocation of the customary or logical word order, with the result that items that normally go together are separated.

Etymology: from Greek huperbaino, ‘to step (bainein) over (huper-)’. (Imagine, for instance, that if an adjective is placed apart from the noun it modifies you have to ‘step over’ the intervening words to get from one to the other.)

  • 8 Natural word order would require ‘some fall by virtue’. Note that the hyperbaton also produces a c (...)

Example: ‘Some rise by sin, and some by virtue fall’ (Measure for Measure, Act 2, Scene 1).8

14 hyperbole: the use of exaggeration.

Etymology: from Greek huperballein, ‘to throw (ballein, from which derives bole, “a throwing”) over or beyond (huper)’.

  • 9 ‘To incarnadine’ means ‘to turn into the colour of flesh (Latin caro/carnis, carnis), dye red, red (...)

Example: ‘Will all great Neptune’ s ocean wash this blood | Clean from my hand? No. This my hand will rather | The multitudinous seas incarnadine, | Making the green one red’(Macbeth, Act 2, Scene 2).9

15 hysteron proteron: A Greek phrase, meaning ‘the latter (hysteron) first (proteron)’, producing chronological disorder.

  • 10 The logical sequence would require ‘they turn the rudder and fly’. The example is a beautiful inst (...)

Example: ‘Th’ Antoniad, the Egyptian admiral, | With all their sixty, fly and turn the rudder’(Antony and Cleopatra, Act 3, Scene 10).10

16 onomatopoesis/ onomatopoeia: expressions where the sound suggests the sense. (The word sounds like the perfect example of itself.)

Etymology: from Greek onoma (genitive onomatos), ‘word, name’, and poiein (noun: poesis), ‘to make’.

Example: ‘Sea-nymphs hourly ring his knell | Hark! now I hear them, — Ding-dong, bell’ |‘Sea-nymphs hourly ring his knell | Hark! now I hear them, — Ding-dong, bell’ (The Tempest, Act 1, Scene 2).

17 pleonasm: a ‘fullness of expression’, that is, the use of more words than is strictly speaking necessary to convey the desired meaning.

Etymology: from Greek pleonazein, ‘to be more than enough or superfluous’.

  • 11 Shakespeare expresses the degree to which Brutus’ unkindness outdid that of all the others pleonas (...)

Example: ‘the most unkindest cut of all’ (Julius Caesar, Act 3, Scene 2, about Brutus’stabbing of Caesar).11

18 polyptoton: the repetition of the same word, variously inflected.

Etymology: from Greek poluptoton, ‘many (polu) cases (from ptôsis, i. e. fall, grammatical case)’.

Example: ‘Then know that I, one Snug the joiner, am | A lion-fell, nor else no lion’s dam’.

19 polysyndeton: the frequent use of conjunctions such as ‘and’ or ‘or’ even when they are not required.

Etymology: from Greek polu-sun-detos, ‘many times (polu) bound (detos, from dein, to bind) together (sun)’.

Example: ‘Peering in maps for ports and piers and roads’(The Merchant of Venice, Act 1, Scene 1).

20 tautology: the repetition of the same idea in different ways.

Etymology: from Greek tauto, ‘the same’, and logos, ‘word, idea’.

Example: ‘The… mouse… may now perchance both quake and tremble here’.

21 tricolon: the use of three parallel grammatical units (words, phrases, clauses).

Etymology: from Greek tri-, ‘three’, and kôlon, ‘limb, member, clause, unit’.

Example: ‘Tongue, not a word; | Come, trusty sword; | Come, blade, my breast imbue’.

22 zeugma: the application of a word (usually a verb or an adjective) to two or more words in different senses.

Etymology: from Greek zeugma, ‘bond’.

Example: ‘Kill the boys and the luggage!’ (Henry V, Act 4, Scene 7).

Notes

5 Note that (Will) Shakespeare’s proxy character here, hilariously, ‘translates’ the Latin benevolentia of the rhetorical figure, but, perversely, refers to the ‘good will’ of himself, the speaker, rather than that of the audience.

6 Filling in the items elided would results in something like ‘I neither know it nor can I learn anything about it from him’.

7 Note that the last item in the list (wring-ing) contains the-ing sound twice, a stylistic climax that reinforces the climax in content achieved through the anthropomorphism of the cat and the unexpected switch from sound (weeping etc.) to silence (wringing) that coincides with the (humorous) mismatch of creature and activity (cats, not maids, howl; and maids, not cats, wring their hands).

8 Natural word order would require ‘some fall by virtue’. Note that the hyperbaton also produces a chiasmus–Some (a) rise (b) by sin, and some (b) by virtue (a) fall–, which is ideally suited to reinforce the elegant antitheses of sin and virtue, rising and falling. One could further argue that the hyperbaton, which produces disorder on the level of grammar and syntax, is the perfect figure of speech for the basic idea of the utterance: moral disorder, which manifests itself in the reward of sin and the punishment of virtue and implies that our universe is devoid of justice, i.e. as chaotic as the hyperbatic word order.

9 ‘To incarnadine’ means ‘to turn into the colour of flesh (Latin caro/carnis, carnis), dye red, redden’. A more familiar term with a similar etymology is ‘incarnation’.

10 The logical sequence would require ‘they turn the rudder and fly’. The example is a beautiful instance of enactment since the husteron proteron conveys a sense of how hastily (‘heel over head’ as it were) everyone is trying to get away.

11 Shakespeare expresses the degree to which Brutus’ unkindness outdid that of all the others pleonastically by using both the adverb ‘most’ and the superlative ending -est.

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