epimone (rhetoric)

Marlon Brando as Marc Antony in the 1953 film version of Shakespeare's Julius Caesar. (Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer)

Epimone (pronounced eh-PIM-o-nee) is a rhetorical term for the frequent repetition of a phrase or question; dwelling on a point. Also known as perseverantia, leitmotif, and refrain.
In Shakespeare's Use of the Arts of Language (1947), Sister Miriam Joseph observes that epimone is "an effective figure in swaying the opinions of a crowd" because of "its insistent repetition of an idea in the same words."

In his Arte of English Poesie (1589), George Puttenham called epimone "the long repeat" and "the love burden."

See Examples and Observations below. Also see:

From the Greek, "tarrying, delay"


  • "All his brains are in the nape of his neck, Simon Dedalus says. Welts of flesh behind on him. Fat folds of neck, fat, neck, fat, neck."
    (James Joyce, Ulysses, 1922)
  • "Mr. Dick shook his head, as utterly renouncing the suggestion; and having replied a great many times, and with great confidence, 'No beggar, no beggar, no beggar, sir!'"
    (Charles Dickens, David Copperfield, 1850)
  • "We forget all too soon the things we thought we could never forget. We forget the loves and the betrayals alike, forget what we whispered and what we screamed, forget who we were."
    (Joan Didion, "Keeping a Notebook," 1968)
  • Epimone in Shakespeare's Othello
    "Put money in thy purse; follow thou the wars; defeat thy favor with
    an usurped beard; I say, put money in thy purse. It
    cannot be that Desdemona should long continue her
    love to the Moor--put money in thy purse--nor he
    his to her: it was a violent commencement, and thou
    shalt see an answerable sequestration: put but
    money in thy purse."
    (Iago in William Shakespeare's Othello, Act 1, scene 3)
  • Epimone in Shakespeare's Julius Caesar
    "Who is here so base that would be a bondman? If any, speak; for him I have offended. Who is here so rude that would not be a Roman? If any speak; for him have I offended."
    (Brutus in William Shakespeare's Julius Caesar, Act 3, scene 2)
    "Here, under leave of Brutus and the rest--
    For Brutus is an honourable man;
    So are they all, all honourable men--
    Come I to speak in Caesar's funeral.
    He was my friend, faithful and just to me;
    But Brutus says he was ambitious;
    And Brutus is an honourable man.
    He hath brought many captives home to Rome
    Whose ransoms did the general coffers fill;
    Did this in Caesar seem ambitious?
    When that the poor have cried, Caesar hath wept:
    Ambition should be made of sterner stuff:
    Yet Brutus says he was ambitious;
    And Brutus is an honourable man.
    You all did see that on the Lupercal
    I thrice presented him a kingly crown,
    Which he did thrice refuse. Was this ambition?
    Yet Brutus says he was ambitious;
    And, sure, he is an honourable man. . . ."
    (Mark Antony in William Shakespeare's Julius Caesar, Act 3, scene 2)
  • Epimone as a Fallacy
    "There is a figure of speech termed 'epimone' . . . , the purpose of which is to render some word or thought ridiculous by its frequent repetition, and showing its grotesque character as an element of argument. But sometimes from the frequent repetition of a thought, is deduced one of the most subtle fallacies known to language. This fallacy is often resorted to by unscrupulous men during the excitement of political contests, when some idea or point is assumed without proof to the detriment and prejudice of a man or party; and though it may have no just foundation for support, yet is dwelt upon and commented on so frequently, that the ignorant assume that the charge must be true, else it would not receive so much consideration; they apply to the matter under consideration the old adage: 'That where there is so much smoke there must be some fire.'"
    (Daniel F. Miller, Rhetoric as an Art of Persuasion: From the Standpoint of a Lawyer. Mills, 1880)
  • Calvino's Epimone
    "You are about to begin reading Italo Calvino's new novel, If on a winter's night a traveler. Relax. Concentrate. Dispel every other thought. Let the world around you fade. Best to close the door; the TV is always on in the next room. Tell the others right away, 'No, I don't want to watch TV!' Raise your voice--they won't hear you otherwise--'I'm reading! I don't want to be disturbed!' Maybe they haven't heard you, with all that racket; speak louder, yell; 'I'm beginning to read Italo Calvino's new novel!' . . .
    "Find the most comfortable position: seated, stretched out, curled up, or lying flat. Flat on your back, on your side, on your stomach. In an easy chair, on the sofa, in the rocker, the deck chair, on the hassock. In the hammock, if you have a hammock. On top of your bed, of course, or in the bed. You can even stand on your hands, head down, in the yoga position. With the book upside down, naturally.
    "Of course, the ideal position for reading is something you can never find. In the old days they used to read standing up, at a lectern. People were accustomed to standing on their feet, without moving. They rested like that when they were tired of horseback riding. Nobody ever thought of reading on horseback; and yet now, the idea of sitting in the saddle, the book propped against the horse's mane, or maybe tied to the horse's ear with a special harness, seems attractive to you."
    (Italo Calvino, If on a winter's night a traveler, 1979/1981)
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Nordquist, Richard. "epimone (rhetoric)." ThoughtCo, Apr. 5, 2023, thoughtco.com/epimone-rhetoric-term-1690662. Nordquist, Richard. (2023, April 5). epimone (rhetoric). Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/epimone-rhetoric-term-1690662 Nordquist, Richard. "epimone (rhetoric)." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/epimone-rhetoric-term-1690662 (accessed May 30, 2023).