Climax (figure of speech)

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In rhetoric, a climax (from the Greek κλῖμαξ klimax, meaning "staircase" and "ladder") is a figure of speech in which words, phrases, or clauses are arranged in order of increasing importance.[1][2]

Examples:

  • "There are three things that will endure: faith, hope, and love. But the greatest of these is love." 1 Corinthians 13:13
  • "I think we've reached a point of great decision, not just for our nation, not only for all humanity, but for life upon the earth." George Wald, A Generation in Search of a Future, March 4, 1969
  • "...Lost, vaded, broken, dead within an hour." William Shakespeare, The Passionate Pilgrim, XIII
  • "...that they are endowed by their creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. The United States Declaration of Independence, 1776

Similarly an anti-climax is an abrupt descent (either deliberate or unintended) on the part of a speaker or writer from the dignity of idea which he appeared to be aiming at; as in the following well-known distich:[3][4]

"The great Dalhousie, he, the god of war,
Lieutenant-colonel to the earl of Mar."

An anticlimax can be intentionally employed only for a jocular or satiric purpose. It frequently partakes of the nature of antithesis, as–

"Die and endow a college or a cat."

The English poet Herrick expressed the same sentiment when he suggested that we should gather rosebuds while we may. Your elbow is in the butter, sir. (P. G. Wodehouse, Much Obliged, Jeeves).

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Corbett, Edward P.J. Classical Rhetoric for the Modern Student. Oxford University Press, New York, 1971.
  2. ^ Smyth, Herbert Weir (1920). Greek Grammar. Cambridge MA: Harvard University Press. p. 677. ISBN 0-674-36250-0. 
  3. ^ Corbett, Edward P.J. Classical Rhetoric for the Modern Student. Oxford University Press, New York, 1971.
  4. ^ Smyth, Herbert Weir (1920). Greek Grammar. Cambridge MA: Harvard University Press. p. 677. ISBN 0-674-36250-0. 

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