Epiphora Definition

Epiphora, also known as epistrophe, is a stylistic device in which a word or a phrase is repeated at the end of successive clauses. Examples of epiphora are not only found in literary pieces. Debates and persuasive writings are also rich with epiphora examples.

Epiphora and Anaphora

Epiphora is an exact counterpart of another figure of speech anaphora. An anaphora is repetition of the first part of successive sentences whereas in an epiphora repetition occurs in the last part of successive clauses and sentences. For example, “Every day, every night, in every way, I am getting better and better” is an example of anaphora as the word “every” is repeated in the successive clauses. While, the sentence “I am an American, he is an American and everybody here is an American,” exhibits epiphora as the repetition is in the last part of the successive clauses. Despite being different in their structures, both anaphora and epiphora have the same function of laying emphasis on a particular point.

Epiphora Examples in Literature

Example #1

“Hourly joys be still upon you! Juno sings her blessings on you. . . . Scarcity and want shall shun you, Ceres’ blessing so is on you.”

(The Tempest by William Shakespeare)

Mark the emphasis on “you”; Shakespeare wants to convey the importance of “you” through the use of epiphora.

Example #2

“Fie, fie, thou shamest thy shape, thy love, thy wit,
Which, like a userer, abound’st in all,
And uses none in that true sense indeed
Which should bedeck thy shape, thy love, thy wit.”

(Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare)
Again, Shakespeare is at his best in using epiphora; “thy shape, thy love, thy wit” comes twice within four lines. It puts much emphasis on three attributes of Romeo. Friar Laurence is at his best when he speaks this dialogue.

Example #3

BASSANIO: “Sweet Portia,
If you did know to whom I gave the ring,
If you did know for whom I gave the ring
And would conceive for what I gave the ring
And how unwillingly I left the ring,
When nought would be accepted but the ring,
You would abate the strength of your displeasure.”PORTIA: “If you had known the virtue of the ring,
Or half her worthiness that gave the ring,
Or your own honor to contain the ring,
You would not then have parted with the ring.”

(Merchant of Venice by William Shakespeare)
Shakespeare played with the phrase “the ring” in his famous play The Merchant of Venice. He makes both of his characters use the same phrase again and again in their dialogue.

Example #4

“Then, since this earth affords no joy to me
But to command, to check, to o’erbear such
As are of better person than myself,
I’ll make my heaven to dream upon the crown;
And, whiles I live, to account this world but hell,
Until my mis-shap’d trunk that bears this head
Be round impaled with a glorious crown.
And yet I know not how to get the crown,
For many lives stand between me and home.”

(King Henry VI by William Shakespeare)
Shakespeare plays with “crown” to emphasize his point here that it is important for the speaker.

Example #5

“I’m a Pepper, he’s a Pepper, she’s a Pepper, we’re a Pepper. Wouldn’t you like to be a Pepper, too? Dr. Pepper.”

This is an advertising jingle for Dr. Pepper soft drink. Just observe how “a Pepper” has been repeated in all the phrases to emphasize the point for the consumers that they must get Dr. Pepper to join this bandwagon of all Peppers.

Function of Epiphora

Epiphora or epistrophe is a literary device that serves the function of furnishing an artistic effect to passages; both in poetry as well as prose. It lays emphasis on a particular idea. In addition, it lends a unique rhythm to the text which consequently becomes a pleasurable experience for the readers. That is the reason that it is easily understood and memorized along with providing full comprehension of the emphasis it adds to the ideas. As a rhetorical or stylistic device, it is brought into action to make appeal to the emotions of the audience in order to persuade them be courageous and motivated.

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