The Elements of Eloquence
|Published||2013 Icon Books Ltd|
The Elements of Eloquence: How to Turn the Perfect English Phrase is a non-fiction book by Mark Forsyth first published in 2013. The book explains selected figures of classical rhetoric, with each chapter dedicated to a particular rhetorical figure and including famous examples of its use from literature, particularly the works of William Shakespeare. Forsyth argues that Shakespeare's genius for language did not appear out of thin air, but was the result of the careful study and practice of formal rhetorical figures of speech. As well as providing many examples from varied literary and non-literary sources, he particularly highlights the occurrence of different figures throughout Shakespeare's development as a writer.
Alliteration is the rhetorical device of repeating the sound of the first consonant in a series of multiple words. An example given by Forsyth is:
Whereat, with blade, with bloody blameful blade,
He bravely broached his boiling bloody breast;
The definition that Forsyth provides of polyptoton is that of "the use of one word as different parts of speech or in different grammatical forms". The term applies wherever words derived from the same root (such as wretched and wretchedness) are used, but other sources use the related term antanaclasis in examples when the same word is repeated but in a different sense.
Grace me no grace, nor uncle me no uncle:
I am no traitor's uncle; and that word 'grace'
In an ungracious mouth is but profane.
The figure of antithesis describes the use of two opposites for contrasting effect. The classic example quoted by Forsyth is:
It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.
Merism is where a single thing is referred to by an enumeration of several of its parts, or a list of several synonyms for the same thing. Forsyth's chapter focuses on the first of these definitions and provides the following amongst various examples:
Cannon to right of them,
Cannon to left of them,
Cannon in front of them
Forsyth defines Blazon as "extended merism, the dismemberment of the loved one". The term is applied to a tradition of poetry that praised a woman by singling out different parts of her body and finding appropriate metaphors to compare them with.
Synaesthesia is a device is where one sense is described in terms of another. An example given by Forsyth is that of Eduard Hanslick's quoted criticism of Tchaikovsky's Violin Concerto as "music that stinks to the ear".
Aposiopesis is a figure of speech wherein a sentence is deliberately broken off and left unfinished, the ending to be supplied by the imagination, giving an impression of unwillingness or inability to continue.
Hyperbaton is a figure of speech which describes an alteration of the logical order of the words in a sentence.
Anadiplosis describes the repetition of the last word of a preceding clause. Forsyth provides a biblical example amongst others:
We glory in tribulations also, knowing that tribulation worketh patience, and patience, experience, and experience, hope, and hope maketh man not ashamed
- Periodic Sentences
A periodic sentence is one that is not complete grammatically before the final clause or phrase.
- Hypotaxis and Parataxis
Diacope describes the close repetition of a word or phrase, separated by a word or words. Forsyth points to the film quote "Bond, James Bond" which he asserts is memorable not because of the name, or the scene, but simply to the use of diacope.
- Rhetorical Questions
The rhetorical question is a device where a question is stated to make a point, without requiring any answer because it is intended to be obvious.
Hendiadys is a device used for emphasis, where an adjective-noun form is swapped for noun-and-noun.
Epistrophe is a device using the repetition of the same word or words at the end of successive phrases, clauses or sentences for emphasis.
Tricolon is where a sentence is composed of three equal parts. Forsyth points to the national motto of France (Liberté, égalité, fraternité) as one of his many examples of the impact of this device.
Epizeuxis is the repetition of a word or phrase in immediate succession, for emphasis.
Forsyth's definition is where a single word is used with two other parts of a sentence but must be understood differently in relation to each.
Forsyth's definition seems to state that a sentence is composed by two parts equivalent in structure, length and rhythm. Other sources suggest two or more parts, and relate tricolon which is mentioned in the earlier chapter.
Enallage consists of a "deliberate grammatical mistake".
Forsyth in this chapter discusses the effect of a few different verse forms used, including examples of iambic pentameter.
Zeugma is a series of clauses which use the same verb.
The paradox is a statement that is logically false or impossible for emphasis or contrast.
Chiasmus is a symmetrical repetition of structure or wording.
This device consists of the repetition of a vowel sound.
- The Fourteenth Rule
This chapter discusses the rhetorical device of providing an unnecessarily specific number for something for emphasis.
This device describes a grammatically wrong use of words as a means of creative expression.
This device emphasises a point by denying the opposite.
- Metonymy and Synecdoche
These devices are where something connected to the thing described, or a part of it, is used in place of the thing itself.
- Transferred Epithets
Where an adjective is applied to the wrong noun, for effect.
The use of superfluous and unnecessary words in a sentence for emphasis.
This describes the repetition of a word or phrase at the beginning and end of a sentence or clause to emphasize circularity.
A description which imputes human actions or characteristics to an inanimate or non-human thing.
The rhetorical device of exaggeration.
This device describes a hyperbole so extreme as to be a complete impossibility.
This device describes the use of a pronoun at the start of a sentence, which reverses the normal order.
This device, Forysth defines as a bewildering list of adjectives or nouns.
- Scesis Onomaton
Sentences without a main verb.
Forsyth defines anaphora as starting each sentence with the same words.
David Evans, writing in The Independent, declares it an "enjoyable, accessible book" which "explores the uses of classical rhetoric". Christopher Howse in The Spectator criticises some wrongly attributed quotes and mistakes in the book but declares the author "well informed and amusing" and that the book deserves "many future printings". The Wall Street Journal review finds Forsyth is "adept at adding spice to received wisdom and popularizing the findings of academic linguists" and he "handsomely" drives home the point that "potent rhetorical devices are all around us".
- Evans, David (14 September 2014). "Paperback reviews". The Independent. Retrieved 29 October 2014.
- Howse, Christopher (30 November 2013). "What's notable about 'a lovely little old rectangular green French silver whittling knife'?". The Spectator. Retrieved 29 October 2014.
- "From Dickens to Perry: The art of speaking eloquently". BBC News. 11 November 2013. Retrieved 29 October 2014.
- Lanham, Richard A. (1991). A Handlist of Rhetorical Terms. Berkeley / Los Angeles / London: University of California Press. p. 20. ISBN 0-520-07669-9.
- Hitchings, Henry (30 October 2014). "Recipes for Killer One-Liners". Wall Street Journal. Retrieved 30 November 2014.