THE ENCYCLOPÆDIA BRITANNICA

A DICTIONARY OF ARTS, SCIENCES, LITERATURE AND GENERAL INFORMATION

ELEVENTH EDITION 1911

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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 147 English; while in German, with some striking exceptions, it is conspicuous by its absence.
Transcriber's note: A few typographical errors have been corrected. They appear in the text like this, and the explanation will appear when the mouse pointer is moved over the marked passage. Sections in Greek will yield a transliteration when the pointer is moved over them, and words using diacritic characters in the Latin Extended Additional block, which may not display in some fonts or browsers, will display an unaccented version.

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