Epistrophe

Glossary of Grammatical and Rhetorical Terms - Definition and Examples

Soylent Green - Epistrophe
"It's people. Soylent Green is made out of people. They're making our food out of people!" (Charlton Heston as Detective Thorn in the movie Soylent Green, 1973). (Movie Poster Image Art/Getty Images)

Definition

Epistrophe is a rhetorical term for the repetition of a word or phrase at the end of successive clauses. Also known as epiphora and antistrophe. Contrast with anaphora (rhetoric).

The "trope of obsession" is how Mark Forsyth characterizes epistrophe. "It's the trope of emphasizing one point again and again. . . . You can't seriously consider the alternatives because the structure dictates that you'll always end up at the same point" (The Elements of Eloquence, 2013).

See Examples and Observations below. Also, see:

Etymology

From the Greek, "turning about"

Examples

  • "A day may come when the courage of men fails, when we forsake our friends and break all bonds of fellowship, but it is not this day. An hour of woes and shattered shields, when the age of men comes crashing down! But it is not this day! This day we fight!"
    (Viggo Mortensen as Aragorn in The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King, 2003)
  • "The big sycamore by the creek was gone. The willow tangle was gone. The little enclave of untrodden bluegrass was gone. The clump of dogwood on the little rise across the creek--now that, too, was gone."
    (Robert Penn Warren, Flood: A Romance of Our Time. Random House, 1963)
  • "Don't you ever talk about my friends! You don't know any of my friends. You don't look at any of my friends. And you certainly wouldn't condescend to speak to any of my friends."
    (Judd Nelson as John Bender in The Breakfast Club, 1985)
  • "Youth is not enough. And love is not enough. And success is not enough. And, if we could achieve it, enough would not be enough."
    (Mignon McLaughlin, The Complete Neurotic's Notebook. Castle Books, 1981)
  • "For no government is better than the men who compose it, and I want the best, and we need the best, and we deserve the best."
    (Senator John F. Kennedy, speech at Wittenberg College, Oct. 17, 1960)
  • "She takes just like a woman, yes, she does.
    She makes love just like a woman, yes, she does.
    And she aches just like a woman,
    But she breaks just like a little girl."
    (Bob Dylan, "Just Like a Woman." Blonde on Blonde, 1966) 
  • Tom Joad: "I'll Be There"
    "Then I'll be all aroun' in the dark. I'll be ever'where--wherever you look. Wherever they's a fight so hungry people can eat, I'll be there. Wherever they's a cop beatin' up a guy, I'll be there. . . . An' when our folk eat the stuff they raise an' live in the houses they build--why, I'll be there."
    (Tom Joad in John Steinbeck's novel The Grapes of Wrath, 1939)
  • Manny Delgado: "Shel Was There"
    "Shel Turtlestein was many things, but above all he was my friend. When I didn’t get a date with Fiona Gunderson, Shel was there. When I didn’t get to play the part of Tevye, Shel was there. And when a raccoon broke into my room, unfortunately, Shel was there."
    (Manny's eulogy for his turtle in the episode "Truth Be Told." Modern Family, March 2010)
  • Abraham Lincoln: "The People"
    "It is rather for us the living, we here be dedicated to the great task remaining before us--that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they here gave the last full measure of devotion--that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain, that this nation shall have a new birth of freedom, and that government of the people, by the people, for the people shall not perish from the earth."
    (Abraham Lincoln, The Gettysburg Address, Nov. 19, 1863)
  • Barack Obama: "Yes, We Can"
    "For when we have faced down impossible odds, when we've been told we're not ready or that we shouldn't try or that we can't, generations of Americans have responded with a simple creed that sums up the spirit of a people: Yes, we can. Yes, we can. Yes, we can.

    "It was a creed written into the founding documents that declared the destiny of a nation: Yes, we can.

    "It was whispered by slaves and abolitionists as they blazed a trail towards freedom through the darkest of nights: Yes, we can.

    "It was sung by immigrants as they struck out from distant shores and pioneers who pushed westward against an unforgiving wilderness: Yes, we can.

    "It was the call of workers who organized, women who reached for the ballot, a president who chose the moon as our new frontier, and a king who took us to the mountaintop and pointed the way to the promised land: Yes, we can, to justice and equality.

    "Yes, we can, to opportunity and prosperity. Yes, we can heal this nation. Yes, we can repair this world. Yes, we can."
    (Senator Barack Obama, speech following a primary loss in New Hampshire, Jan. 8, 2008)
  • Shakespeare: "The Ring"
    Bassanio:
    Sweet Portia,
    If you did know to whom I gave the ring,
    If you did know for whom I gave the ring
    And would conceive for what I gave the ring
    And how unwillingly I left the ring,
    When nought would be accepted but the ring,
    You would abate the strength of your displeasure.
    Portia:
    If you had known the virtue of the ring,
    Or half her worthiness that gave the ring,
    Or your own honour to contain the ring,
    You would not then have parted with the ring.
    (William Shakespeare, The Merchant of Venice, Act 5, scene 1)
     
  • Purposes of Epistrophe
    "The general purposes of epistrophe tend to be similar to those of anaphora, but the sound is different, and often a bit subtler, because the repetition does not become evident until each time a sentence or clause ends. Sometimes epistrophe also is easier to use, and it tends to be convenient on different occasions, because the parts of speech that most naturally go at the end of an English sentence or clause aren't the same as the ones that come most naturally at the start."
    (Ward Farnsworth, Farnsworth's Classical English Rhetoric. David R. Godine, 2011) 

Pronunciation: eh-PI-stro-fee

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Your Citation
Nordquist, Richard. "Epistrophe." ThoughtCo, Jun. 16, 2017, thoughtco.com/epistrophe-rhetoric-term-1690666. Nordquist, Richard. (2017, June 16). Epistrophe. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/epistrophe-rhetoric-term-1690666 Nordquist, Richard. "Epistrophe." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/epistrophe-rhetoric-term-1690666 (accessed January 23, 2018).