When Shakespeare's fellow dramatist Ben Jonson referred in his memorial poem published in the First Folio to the poet's "small Latin and less Greek," he meant that Shakespeare had the typical grammar school education of his time. In her Shakespeare's Use of the Arts of Language (New York, Columbia UP, 1947), Sister Miriam Joseph describes the typical grammar school day as follows:

This program of studies necessitated a strenuous routine. The order of the day in the Tudor grammar schools prescribed rising at five; class from six to nine; breakfast; class from nine-fifteen to eleven; dinner; class from one to five; supper. After supper, from six to seven, the pupils recited to their fellows what they had learned during the day. The lessons drilled on in the morning were regularly recited in the afternoon, and all the work of the week was reviewed in recitation on Fridays and Saturdays. A week devoted to repetitions tested the accomplishments of the thirty-six weeks of the school year. A sixteenth century schoolmaster estimated that one hour of instruction would require at least six hours of exercise to apply the principles to writing and speaking (p. 11).

According to Sister Joseph, the aim of the "program of studies" pursued by Elizabethan schoolboys during such an arduous day was "to enable the student to read, write, and speak Latin, to acquaint him with the leading Latin classics and a few of the Greek, and to infuse into him sound moral and religious principles. The method prescribed unremitting exercise in grammar, rhetoric, and logic. Grammar dominated the lower forms, logic and rhetoric the upper. In all forms the order was first to learn precepts, then to employ them as a tool of analysis in reading, and finally to use them as a guide in composition." Through such a method, Elizabethan students learned the over two hundred figures of speech set forth in Latin handbooks of rhetoric written by Susenbrotus, Erasmus, and Quintilian, figures described in English handbooks by such writers as Thomas Wilson, Abraham Fraunce, Henry Peacham, and George Puttenham.

Sister Joseph demonstrates convincingly that the knowledge of the rhetorical figures (along with a knowledge of the precepts of logic and grammar and an array of Classical writers) laid the basis of much of Shakespeare's poetic art. Elizabethan writers accepted Quintilian's definition of figura (figures) as:

Any deviation, either in thought or expression, from the ordinary and simple method of speaking, a change analogous to the different positions our bodies assume when we sit down, lie down, or look back. . . . Let the definition of a figure, therefore, be a form of speech artfully varied from common usage (Institutio oratoria, IX, i. II).

As Brian Vickers has shown, these figures were neither dry formulae nor empty ornaments; rather, they were what he calls "pockets of energy," "representations of human emotional and psychological states" (Classical Rhetoric in English Poetry (New York and London: Macmillan and St. Martin's, 1970, 121).

With one exception, the major Elizabethan rhetoricians employed the traditional division of figures into tropes and schemes. A scheme is based on a deviation from the ordinary pattern of words, while a trope is based on a deviation from the ordinary and principal signification of a word. In his Classic Rhetoric for the Modern Student, Third Edn., (New York: Oxford UP, 1990), Edward P. J. Corbett explains the mechanism behind figures this way: "Both types of figures involve a transference of some kind: a trope, a transference of meaning; a scheme, a transference of order."



Anaphora: Beginning a series of clauses with the same word.

Show men dutiful?

Why, so didst thou. Seem they grave and learned?

Why, so didst thou. Come they of noble family?

Why, so didst thou. Seem they religious?

Why, so didst thou. (Henry V, 2.2)

Anastrophe: Unusual word order.

Jove's lightnings, the precursors

0' th' dreadful thundeclaps, more momentary

And sight-outrunning were not. (Tem., 1.2.201)

I'll resolve you . . . of every

These happen'd accidents (Tem., 5.1.248)

Antanaclasis: Repeating a word, shifts from one of its meanings to another; a pun:

Fabian. This is a dear manikin to you, Sir Toby.

Toby. I have been dear to him, lad--some two thousand strong, or so. (TN, 3.2.57)

Antony. [of dead Caesar] 0 world, thou wast the forest to this hart;

And this indeed, 0 world, the heart of thee! (JC, 3.1.207)

Antithesis: Sets contraries in opposition to give greater perspicuity by contrast, as when Lord Rivers tries to comfort the widowed queen Elizabeth:

Drown desperate sorrow in dead Edward's grave

And plant your joys in living Edward's throne.

Anthypophora: A reasoning with the self, asking questions and answering them oneself, as Falstaff does in his catechism of honor:

Honour pricks me on. Yea, but how if honour prick me off when I come on? How then? Can honour set to a leg? No. . . Or an arm? No. Or take away the grief of awound? No. What is honour? A word. What is that word honour? (Henry IV.1, 5.1.131)

Aporia: A doubting or deliberating with oneself, as when having prearranged that Buckingham should offer him the crown, Richard III poses as the reluctant candidate and addresses the people for whom this scene is staged:

I cannot tell if to depart in silence, Or bitterly to speak in your reproof,

Best fitteth my degree or your condition. (R3, 3.7.141)

Brachylogia: Omission of conjunctions between words.

Paris. Beguil'd, divorced, stronged, spited, slain!

Capulet. Despis'd, distressed, hated, marty'rd, kill'd! (R&J, 5..55, 59)

Catachresis: A figure that we would call an implied metaphor; this is the wrenching of a word, most often a verb or an adjective, from its proper application to another not proper, as when one says that the sword devours.

Lent him our terror, dress'd him with our love (MM, 1.1.20)

I have supp'd full with horrors (Mac, 5.5.13)

I will speak daggers to her, but use non. (Ham, 3.2.414)

Chronographia: The description of times.

When Romeo describes the dawn thus:

Look, love, what envious streaks

Do lace the severing clouds in yonder East.

Night's candles are burnt out, and jocund day

Stands tiptoe on the misty mountain tops. (3.5.7)



A figure in which a point is added to balance or outweigh what has already been said,

as when Falstaff, taking the part of King Henry IV, rebukes Prince Hal in the course of

an elaborate parody of euphuism:

Harry, I do not only marvel where thou spendest thy time, but also how thou art accompanied. . . For, Harry, now do I not speak to thee . . . in words only, but in woes also. (lH4, 2.4.439-59)

Enallage: Deliberate use of one case, person, gender, number, tense, or mood for another.

So saucy will the hand of she here (A&C, 3.3.98)

Never was waves nor wind more violent (Per, 4.4.60),

The posture of your blows are yet unknown (JC, 5.1.33).

Encomion: High praise and commendation of a person or thing by extolling the inherent qualities or adjuncts:

What a piece of work is a man! how noble in reason! how infinite in faculties! in form and moving how express and admirable! in action how like an angel! in apprehension how like a god! the beauty of the world, the paragon of animals! (Ham, 2.2.315)

Epizeuxis: Repetition of words with none between.

0 horror, horror, horror! Tongue nor heart

Cannot conceive nor name thee! (Mac, 2.3.69)

Hypallage: The application of words is perverted and sometimes made absurd:

The eye of man hath not heard, the ear of man hath not seen, man's hand is not able to taste, his tongue to conceive, nor his heart to report what my dream was. (MND, 4.1.215).

Hysteron Proteron: Puts first that which occurs later.

Th' Antoniad, the Egyptian admiral,

With all their sixty, fly and turn the rudder. (A&C, 3.10.2)

Isocolon: Structure in which phrases or clauses are of equal length and usually of corresponding structure, as in Nathaniel's euphuistic comments to Holofernes:

Your reasons at dinner have been sharp and sententious, pleasant without scurrility, witty without affection, audacious without impudency, learned without opinion, and strange without heresy. (LLL, 5.1.2)

Metonymy: Substitution of subject for adjunct, or adjunct for subject.

Conferring them on younger strengths (Lear, 1.1.41)

Bell, book, and candle shall not drive me back (KJ, 3.3.12)

Optatio: An ardent wish or prayer.

A horse! a horse! my kingdom for a horse! (R3, 5.4.7)

Parenthesis: Simply the insertion of a phrase in parenthesis.

"If you'll bestow a small (of what you have little)

Patience awhile . . . (Cor, 1.1.129).

Prosopopoeia: The attribution of human qualities to dumb or inanimate creatures.

Antony employs this figure to assert new spirit and resolution:

the next time I do fight,

I'll make Death love me; for I will contend

Even with his pestilent scythe. (A&C, 3.13.192)

Synecdoche: A trope that heightens meaning by substituting genus for species, species for genus, pat for whole, whole for part.

Pour down thy weather. (KJ, 4.2.109)

Two thousand souls and twenty thousand ducats will not debate the question of this straw. (Ham, 4.4.25)

To dance our ringlets to the whistling wind. (MND, 2.1.86)

Threnos: A lament.

When Lady Anne, following the corpse of King Henry VI, invokes his ghost:

Topographia: The description of places.

When the queen, urging Cymbeline not to yield to Rome's demand for tribute, eloquently reminds him of Britain's natural barriers against invasion:

The natural bravery of your isle, which stands as Neptune's park, ribbed and paled in with rocks unscalable and roaring waters (3.1.18)

Zeugma: One verb serving a number of clauses.

But passion lends them power, time means, to meet. (R&J, 2. Prol 13)

As you on him, Demetrius dote on you! (MND, 1.1.225)