Definition of Diacope

Diacope has originated from a Greek work “thiakhop” which means, “to cut into two.” This literary device is a repetition of a phrase or word broken up by other intervening words. For instance, a very popular example of diacope is in William Shakespeare’ Hamlet, “to be, or not to be!” In this line, you can notice that the speaker has repeated a phrase “to be” which is separated by another phrase “or not.” This is called diacope.

Popular use of Diacope

You held me down, but I got up”
You hear my voice, you hear that sound…
You held me down, but I got up
Get ready ’cause I’ve had enough
I see it all, I see it now

(“The Roar” by Katy Perry)

In this song, the phrase “You held me down,” lays emphasis on main idea, which is confidence and strength in the time of adversity. Then, the repetition of the phrase “you hear” and “I see it” gives rhythm to the song.

Types of Diacope

There are two types of diacope:

Vocative diacope

This type of diacope just repeats a phrase or word for emphasis such as;
The horror! Oh, the horror!

Repetition in this line is on the phrase “the horror”, which emphasizes how horrific something is! It also shows how a character is mentally overwhelmed.

Elaborative diacope

This version of diacope repeats a phrase or word with an additional description or adjective that describes, clarifies or further lays emphasis on a particular aspect of the thing or subject such as;

“He is standing with a lovely woman. A tall, well-dressed and beautiful woman.”

Here elaborative diacope adds further clarity to the appearance of a woman: tall, well-dressed and beautiful.

Examples of Diacope in Literature

Example #1

Cleopatra: O sun,
Burn the great sphere thou movest in! dar,kling stand
The varying shore o’ the world. O Antony,
Antony, AntonyHelp, Charmian, help, Iras, help;
Help, friends below; let’s draw him hither…

Antony: I am dying, Egypt, dying; only
I here importune death awhile…

(“Antony and Cleopatra” by William Shakespeare)

This is a very good example of vocative diacope where Cleopetra is repeating the words, “Antony” “help” and “dying” which are shown in bold, for emphasis.

Example #2

“I can picture in my mind a world without war, a world without hate. And I can picture us attacking that world, because they’d never expect it.”

(“Deep Thoughts” by Jack Handey)

This is another example of vocative diacope in which the author has repeated the phrase “a world without” to emphasize the world.

Example #3

And the life that I have
Is yours.
The love that I have
Of the life that I have
Is yours and yours and yours.

Yet death will be but a pause…
In the long green grass
Will be yours and yours and yours.

(“The Life that I Have” by Leo Marks)

Here are two phrases “that I have” and “yours” the poet repeats to highlight love of a lover for the loved one. It also adds rhythm to the lines.

Example #4

“He wore prim vested suits with neckties blocked primly against the collar buttons of his primly starched white shirts. He had a primly pointed jaw, a primly straight nose, and a prim manner of speaking that was so correct, so gentlemanly, that he seemed a comic antique.”

(Growing Up by Russell Baker)

In the excerpt given above, the author has used elaborative diacope using a word “primly” to emphasize and illustrate man’s primness that he is prim in looks, actions and dressing, etc.

Example #5

Life is not lost by dying! Life is lost
Minute by minuteday by dragging day,
In all the thousand, small uncaring ways.

(A Child is Born by Stephen Vincent Benet)

In the first sentence, the phrase “Life is not lost” is followed by same phrase “Life is lost”, which is an instance of elaborative diacope. The author has re-defined and clarified it. Another repetition is on the words “minute” and “day”, which emphasizes passing of time.

Function of Diacope

Diacope is frequently used in writing, advertising, slogans, catch-phrases, speeches, TV shows, and music as well as in movie scripts. Its purpose is to describe, specify and emphasize an idea or subject. Writers often use it to express their strong emotions and draw attention towards repeated phrase or words. It also serves to make a phrase memorable and rhythmic.

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