[Milton-L] Milton's use of rhetoric

LEEJACOBUS at aol.com LEEJACOBUS at aol.com
Mon Mar 1 17:11:45 EST 2004

When I was teaching Milton I gave my students the following handout on 
rhetoric and tropes.
It is incomplete (and some may argue with my definitions) but I found it 
useful in the classroom and you are welcome to use it.  Please forgive errors  and 
silently emend them.  This was typed by a local secretary unfamiliar with 
Milton and I do not have my Milton near me as I prepare this for your kind eyes.  
Lee Jacobus

 Milton's Rhetoric  Examples of Milton's use of the Classical Schemes and 
 Definitions:  Quintilian & others, via Corbett's Classical Rhetoric.

Lee Jacobus: examples

The Schemes  A schematic use of language does not change its apparent 
meaning.  A scheme is an ordering or  patterning of language.

Schemes of Words

 prosthesis -- adding a syllable in front of a work -- eg. beloved for loved 
O.H.C.H. 155,     to those ychained in sleep.
 epenthesis -- adding a syllable in the middle of word -- e.g. climature for 
visiting On S.     4. under a star-ypointing pyramid.
 proparalepsis -- adding a syllable at the end of word -- e.g. climature for 
climate P.L. VI.     410.  The foughten field
 aphaeresis -- subtracting a syllable from the beginning of word -- 'neath 
for beneath P.L.     IV 50. I sdein'd
 syncope -- subtracting a syllable from the middle of word -- e.g. prosprous 
for prosperous     P.L. II. 175 op'n'd
 apocope -- subtracting a syllable from the end of the word -- e.g. even for 
evening P.L.     III. 625 Golden tiar
 metathesis -- transposition of letters in a word -- e.g. clapse for clasp 
upon the C. 10.     Heav'ns heraldry whilere
 antisthecon -- change of sound -- e.g. wrang from wrong PL I. 247. fardest

Schemes of Construction

I.  Schemes of Balance

Parallelism -- similarity of structure in a pair or series of related words, 
phrases, or clauses. PL II. 185.   Unrespited, unpitied, unrepriev'd.

Antithesis -- the juxtaposition of contrasting ideas, often in parallel 
structure.  PL. III. 19-29 to venture  down/The dark descent, and up to reascend.

2. Schemes of unusual or inverted word order (hyperbaton)

Anastrophe -- inversion of the natural or usual word order. PL. III. 142.  
Love without end, and without  measure Grace.

Parenthesis -- insertion of some verbal unit in a position that interrupts 
the normal syntactical flow of the sentence.  P.L. III. 108-9 When Will and 
Reason (Reason also is choice)/ Useless and vain.

Apposition -- placing side by side two co-ordinate elements, the second of 
which serves as an explanation  or modification of the first.  P.L. III 974.  
Alone, and without guide, half lost. III 99 Sufficient to have stood, though 
free to fall.

3. Schemes of Omission

Ellipsis -- deliberate omission of a word or of words which are readily 
implied by the context.  P.L. III  210. Die hee or justice must.

Asyndeton -- deliberate omission of conjunctions between a series of related 
clauses.  P.L. II. 621.  Rocks,  caves, lakes, fens, bogs, dens, and shades of 

The opposite scheme is polysyndeton (deliberate use of many conjunctions. 
P.L. II. 1009-10 go and   speed;/Havoc and spoil and ruin are my gain.

4. Schemes of Repetition

Alliteration -- repetition of initial or medial consonants in two or more 
adjacent words.  P.L. I. 250. Hail  horrors, hail/Infernal world...Hell. 298.  So 
Heav'nly love shall outdo Hellish hate.

Assonance -- the repetition of similar vowel sounds, preceded and followed by 
different consonants, in the stressed syllables of adjacent words.  P.L. III 
274  O thou...only place//found out...O thou.

Anaphora -- repetition of the same word or group of words at the beginnings 
of successive clauses. P.L.I. 242-3 Is this the Region, this the Soil, The 
Clime,/...this the seat?

Epistrophe -- repetition of the same word or group of words at the ends of 
successive clauses. P.L. 105-6  What though the filed be lost?/All is not lost.

Epanalepsis -- repetition at the end of a clause of the word that occurred at 
the beginning of the clause.    P.L. III. 294-5 So man, as is most just/Shall 
satisfy for man.

Anadiplosis -- repetition of the last word of one clause at the beginning of 
the following clause. P.L. III   124. I form'd them free, and free they must 

Climax -- arrangement of words, phrases or clauses in an order of increasing 
importance.  P.L. I. 134.   strength, chance, fate

Antimetabole --repetition of words, in successive clauses, in reverse 
grammatical order.  P.L. IL 34-40.    Surer to prosper than prosperity/Could have 
assur'd us.

Polyptoton -- repetition of words derived from the same root.  P.L. I. 642 
which tempted our attempt.   III. 296 And dying rise, and rising with him raise.

Mirror Repetition (this may be a Miltonic invention--I "invented" the name of 
the device)-- repetition of simple words or large sections of verse to 
simulate a mirror.  see P.L.   IV 460-464 and IV 639-656.

Sequential Repetition -- simple Repetition of words, lines or phrases for 
effect.  P.L. III. 316  Both God and Man, sone both of God and Man. III 190-1 to 
pray, repent, and bring obedience due./ To Prayer, repentance and obedience 

THE TROPES  A trope is a use of language that changes its apparent meaning.  
The following are examples of  tropic language.


Metaphor -- an implied comparison between two things of unlike nature that 
yet have something in common.  P.L. IX 432.  Herself though fairest unsupported 

Simile -- an explicit comparison between two things of unlike nature that yet 
have something in common.   P.L. I. 768. As Bees/In springtime...they...fly 
to and fro cf. flower simile:  P.L.V. 479-482.

Synechdoche -- a figure of speech in which a part stands for the whole.  P.L. 
IV. 409-10. Eve...Turn'd him  all ear.

Metonymy -- substitution of some attributive or suggestive word for what is 
actually meant.  P.L. II. 204   Those who at the Spear are bold.

PUNS -- generic name for those figures which make a play on words.

 (1) Antanaclasis - repetition of a word in two different senses.
  P.L. IX 648  Fruitless to me, though Fruit be here to excess.
 (2) Paronomasia - use of words alike in sound but different in meaning.  
  P.L. IV 742 till on Niphates top he lights
 (3) Syllepsis - use of a word understood differently in relation to two or 
more other words, which it modifies or governs. P.L. II 767-8  My womb 
conceiv'd/A growing burden.

Anthimeria - the substitution of one part of speech for another.  P.L. II 
656-8 creep...into her womb/And  kennel there.

Periphrasis (antomasia) -- substitution of a descriptive word or phrase for a 
proper name or of a proper name for a quality associated with the name.  P.L. 
II 410. ere he arrive/the happy Isle.

Personification (prosopoeia) -- investing abstractions or inanimate objects 
with human qualities or  abilities. P.L. II 233 fickle chance

Hyperbole -- the use of exaggerated terms for the purpose of emphasis or 
heightened effect.  P.L. I 632-3.   Legions, whose exile/Hath emptied Heav'n

Litotes -- deliberate use of understatement, not to deceive someone but to 
enhance the impressiveness  of what we say.  P.L. I 75.  O how unlike the place 
from whence they fall!

RHETORICAL QUESTION (eroteme) -- asking a question, not for the purpose of 
eliciting an answer  but for  the purpose of asserting or denying something 
obliquely.  P.L. I 661  Who can think  submission?

IRONY -- use of a word in such a way as to convey a meaning opposite to the 
literal meaning of the  word.  P.L. V. 396  No fear lest dinner cool.  X 462  I 
call ye and declare ye now, return'd/  Successful beyond hope.

ONOMATOPOEIA --  Use of words whose sound echoes the sense.  P.L. X 498-9 
(hissing) I am to bruise his heel;/ His seed when is not set, shall bruise my 

OXYMORON -- the yoking of two terms which are ordinarily contradictory.  P.L. 
I 63 darkness visible  II 692  precious bane.  II 6 Bad eminence.

PARADOX -- an apparent contradiction.  P.L. I 160 ever to do ill one sole 
delight. II 23 (Satan's) a safe   unenvied throne.  IV 110 Evil be thou my Good.

PLEONASM -- using too many words - redundance P.L. II. 197 fate inevitable 
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