GCSE Latin: Literary Devices

Literary and rhetorical devices

These are some of the techniques used by Latin authors. Each Latin example is taken from Book 9 of Virgil’s Aeneid.

Alliteration a repeated consonant sound.
silent late loca (190)
Whereat, with blade, with bloody blameful blade, He bravely broached his boiling bloody breast. (Shakespeare)
Anaphora the repetition of a word or phrase at the start of successive clauses.
audit equos, audit strepitus (394)
we shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills. We shall never surrender. (Churchill)
Assonance a repeated vowel sound.
ant(e) annos animumque (311)
Tyger, Tyger burning bright in the forest of the night (Blake)
Asyndeton the absence of conjunctions.
exterritus, amens (424)
government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth (Lincoln)
Chiasmus an arrangement of four words in the pattern A B B A, where the As are linked and the Bs are linked. The links can be linguistic (e.g. verb…noun…noun…verb) or thematic.
propinquabant castris murosque subibant (371)
Love without end, and without measure Grace (Milton)
Hendiadys using two nouns to express what would more naturally be expressed by a noun and adjective.
somno vinoque per herbam corpora fusa (316-7)
full of sound and fury (Shakespeare)
Historic Present The use of the present tense to refer to past time, making the action more vivid, dramatic or rapid.
omnes imperio laeti parent et iussa facessunt.
He did, and with an absolute ‘Sir, not I,’ The cloudy messenger turns me his back, And hums(Shakespeare)
Hyperbaton separation of words which belong together, often to emphasise the first of the separated words.
pulchram properet per vulnera mortem? (401)
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read (Shelley, Ozymandias)
Hyperbole an exaggeration.
toto conixus corpore (410)
Cry me a river (Justin Timberlake)
Juxtaposition when two words or phrases are placed side by side to produce a contrast or a comparison.
moriens animam (443)
It was the best of times, it was the worst of times (Dickens)
Litotes emphasising an idea through understatement, usually by negating its opposite.
haud temere est visum. (375)
That sword was not useless to the warrior (Beowulf)
Metaphor an indirect comparison, implied through the use of symbolic language.
corpora fusa vident (317)
an iron curtain has descended across the Continent (Churchill)
Pleonasm use of redundant words, often enriching the thought.
Aenean acciri omnes, populusque patresque,
exposcunt (192)
Ears pierced while you wait.
Polyptoton repetition of words which share the same root.
sed viribus ensis adactus
transadigit costas (431-2)
Absolute power corrupts absolutely.” Lord Acton
Polysyndeton the repetition of conjunctions.
Fadumque Herbesumque subit Rhoetumque Abarimque (344)
And soon it lightly dipped, and rose, and sank,
And dipped again…”(Keats)
Sibilance a repetition of the letter s.
audit equos, audit strepitus et signa sequentum. (394)
“Sing a Song of Sixpence” (English folk song)
Simile a direct comparison introduced by a word such as “like,” “just as,” or “as.”
impastus ceu plena leo ovilia turbans (339)
“I wandered lonely as a cloud” (Wordsworth)
Tautology repetition of an idea in a different word or phrase
quid dubitem et quae nunc animo sententia surgat (191)
“With malice toward none, with charity for all.” (Lincoln)
Tricolon a list of three.
quae causa viae? quive estis in armis?
quove tenetis iter? (376-7)
“Education, education, education” (Tony Blair)