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Figurative Language and Rhetorical
SIMILE: An explicit
comparison (using like or as): "Her
lips are like roses."
METAPHOR: A word or
phrase denoting one kind of object or idea used in
place of another to suggest a likeness or analogy
between them ("the ship ploughs the sea.") A metaphor
is generally an implicit comparison (doesn't
use like or as): "Her lips are
a part for a whole or a whole for a part. "Fifty sail"
for "fifty ships"; "the smiling year" for spring.
the name of something for its attribute or whatever it
is associated with ("crown" for king).
a descriptive phrase, made up of a concrete adjective
and abstract noun, for a precise word: "fringed
curtains of thine eye" (= eyelashes).
animation to something inanimate ("a grieving
nation"); treating a thing or abstract quality as
though it were a person.
combination of seemingly contradictory words ("helpful
concordance of sounds and meaning. "Snap, crackle,
vowel sounds ("sweet, sleeps, creature").
consonant sounds, frequently but not exclusively at
beginning of words (e.g. in Shakespeare's Sonnet 30: sessions,
PUN: deliberate confusion
of words based upon similarity of sound (waist/waste).
pun; confusing "odious" for "onerous."
WORDPLAY: a serious
pun, as when a dying man says "tomorrow you shall find
me a grave man."
based upon similar rather than identical sounds (e.g.
REPETITION, PARALLELISM, CONTRAST, ANTITHESIS: devices
which have the rational appeal of logic and the
aesthetic appeal of symmetry. For example: "Suit the
action to the word and the word to the action" uses contrasted
repetition of "action" and "word" within parallel
grammatical units (noun plus prepositional phrase).
of word or words beginning a series of parallel
syntactical units ("this sceptered isle, ... this
blessed plot, this earth, this realm,
this England"). See sonnet 91.
DOUBLE EPITHET: two
words of identical or almost identical meaning joined
by a conjunction. The chief effect is richness or
plenitude of style: "extravagant and erring," "foul
and pestilent." One of Shakespeare's favorite devices;
usually combines a Latinate and an Anglo-Saxon word.
HENDIADYS: two words
joined by a conjunction although one modifies the
other ("this policy and reverence of age"
means "this policy of reverencing age").
of normal word order for effect (Noun-Verb-Direct
Object may become N-DO-V, e.g. "I the apple ate" for
"I ate the apple"; "gentle my lord" means "my gentle
address of an abstraction or of someone absent ("O
time!..."; "Death, be not proud!")
overstatement, exaggeration for effect ("I'm so hungry
I could eat a horse").
ALLUSION: reference to
or echo of familiar expressions, persons or objects
from a cultural tradition (esp. biblical, classical,
proverbial); e.g., a "prodigal son" alludes to the
and triple-level suggestive power of words; gold can
connote wealth, but also beauty and excellence or
greed; a dove, peace as well as innocence.
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