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Antithesis

ANTITHESIS (the Greek for "setting opposite"), in rhetoric, the bringing out of a contrast in the meaning by an obvious contrast in the expression, as in the following: - "When there is need of silence, you speak, and when there is need of speech, you are dumb; when present, you wish to be absent, and when absent, you desire to be present; in peace you are for war, and in war you long for peace; in council you descant on bravery, and in the battle you tremble." Antithesis is sometimes double or alternate, as in the appeal of Augustus: - "Listen, young men, to an old man to whom old men were glad to listen when he was young." The force of the antithesis is increased if the words on which the beat of the contrast falls are alliterative, or otherwise similar in sound, as - "The fairest but the falsest of her sex." There is nothing that gives to expression greater point and vivacity than a judicious employment of this figure; but, on the other hand, there is nothing more tedious and trivial than a pseudo-antithetical style. Among English writers who have made the most abundant use of antithesis are Pope, Young, Johnson, and Gibbon; and especially Lyly in his Euphues. It is, however, a much more common feature in French than in English; while in German, with some striking exceptions, it is conspicuous by its absence.

Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)

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