symploce (rhetoric)

Glossary of Grammatical and Rhetorical Terms

symploce in rhetoric
President Bill Clinton, "A Time of Healing" Prayer Service in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma (April 23, 1995). (Getty Images)

Definition

Symploce is a rhetorical term for the repetition of words or phrases at both the beginning and end of successive clauses or verses: a combination of anaphora and epiphora (or epistrophe). Also known as complexio.

"Symploce is useful for highlighting the contrast between correct and incorrect claims," says Ward Farnsworth. "The speaker changes the word choice in the smallest way that will suffice to separate the two possibilities; the result is conspicuous contrast between the small tweak in wording and the large change in substance" (Farnsworth's Classical English Rhetoric, 2011).

See Examples and Observations below. Also see:

 

Etymology
From the Greek, "interweaving"
 

Examples and Observations

  • "The yellow fog that rubs its back upon the window-panes,
    The yellow smoke that rubs its muzzle on the window-panes . . .."
    (T.S. Eliot, "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock." Prufrock and Other Observations, 1917)
     
  • "The madman is not the man who has lost his reason. The madman is the man who has lost everything except his reason."
    (G.K. Chesterton, Orthodoxy, 1908)
     
  • "In the years after World War I my mother had put pennies for Grace [Cathedral] in her mite box but Grace would never be finished. In the years after World War II I would put pennies for Grace in my mite box but Grace would never be finished."
    (Joan Didion, "California Republic." The White Album. Simon & Schuster, 1979)
     
  • "For want of a nail the shoe was lost.
    For want of a shoe the horse was lost.
    For want of a horse the rider was lost.
    For want of a rider the battle was lost.
    For want of a battle the kingdom was lost.
    And all for the want of a horseshoe nail."
    (attributed to Benjamin Franklin and others)
     
  • Effects of Symploce
    "Symploce can add a sense of measured balance to the rhetorical effects achieved through either anaphora or epiphora. Paul demonstrates this in 'Are they Hebrews? So am I. Are they Israelites? So am I. Are they of the seed of Abraham? So am I.' Symploce can also string together clauses to create either a catalogue or gradatio."
    (Arthur Quinn and Lyon Rathbun, "Symploce." Encyclopedia of Rhetoric and Composition: Communication From Ancient Times to the Information Age, ed. by Theresa Enos. Taylor & Francis, 1996)
     
  • Symploce in Shakespeare
    - "Most strange, but yet most truly, will I speak:
    That Angelo's forsworn; is it not strange?
    That Angelo's a murderer; is't not strange?
    That Angelo is an adulterous thief,
    An hypocrite, a virgin-violator;
    Is it not strange and strange?"
    (Isabella in William Shakespeare's Measure for Measure, Act 5, scene 1)

    - "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. Who is here so vile that will not love his country? If any, speak; for him have I offended."
    (Brutus in William Shakespeare's Julius Caesar, Act 3, scene 2)
     
  • Bartholomew Griffin's Perfect Symploce
    Most true that I must fair Fidessa love.
    Most true that I fair Fidessa cannot love.
    Most true that I do feel the pains of love.
    Most true that I am captive unto love.
    Most true that I deluded am with love.
    Most true that I do find the sleights of love.
    Most true that nothing can procure her love.
    Most true that I must perish in my love.
    Most true that She contemns the God of love.
    Most true that he is snarèd with her love.
    Most true that She would have me cease to love.
    Most true that She herself alone is Love.
    Most true that though She hated, I would love!
    Most true that dearest life shall end with love.
    (Bartholomew Griffin, Sonnet LXII, Fidessa, More Chaste Than Kinde, 1596)
     
  • The Lighter Side of Symploce
    Alfred Doolittle: I'll tell you, Governor, if you'll only let me get a word in. I'm willing to tell you. I'm wanting to tell you. I'm waiting to tell you.
    Henry Higgins: Pickering, this chap has a certain natural gift of rhetoric. Observe the rhythm of his native woodnotes wild. 'I'm willing to tell you. I'm wanting to tell you. I'm waiting to tell you.' Sentimental rhetoric! That's the Welsh strain in him. It also accounts for his mendacity and dishonesty.
    (George Bernard Shaw, Pygmalion, 1912)

Pronunciation: SIM-plo-see or SIM-plo-kee

Alternate Spellings: simploce

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Nordquist, Richard. "symploce (rhetoric)." ThoughtCo, Jun. 19, 2017, thoughtco.com/symploce-rhetoric-1692013. Nordquist, Richard. (2017, June 19). symploce (rhetoric). Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/symploce-rhetoric-1692013 Nordquist, Richard. "symploce (rhetoric)." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/symploce-rhetoric-1692013 (accessed January 20, 2018).