Definition of Epizeuxis

Epizeuxis is derived from a Greek word epizeugnumi that means “fastening together”. It is defined as a rhetorical device in which the words or phrases are repeated in a quick succession after each other for emphasis. It is also called diacope.

Difference between Epistrophe, Anaphora and Epizeuxis

These three literary devices have a major difference in that epistrophe is the repetition of the words at the end of successive sentences such as “Where now? Who now? When now…,” in The Unnamable by Samuel Beckett. Whereas, anaphora is the reverse of epistrophe; it is a repetition of the words and phrases at the beginning of successive sentences. Examples are in these lines;

“This blessed plot, this earth, this realm, this England,
This nurse, this teeming womb of royal kings
This land of such dear souls, this dear dear land,

(Richard II by William Shakespeare)

The third term, epizeuxis, is less refined than epistrophe and anaphora. But, it makes a very strong impact. Epizeuxis is the repetition of words in succession within a same sentence such as “The horror, the horror” in Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad.

Examples of Epizeuxis from Literature

Example #1

Hark, hark! the lark at heaven’s gate sings,
And Phoebus gins arise,
His steeds to water at those springs
On chaliced flowers that lies;
And winking Mary-buds begin
To open their golden eyes:
With everything that pretty is,
My lady sweet, arise:
Arise, arise

(Cymbeline by William Shakespeare)

This is considered as one of the perfect examples of epizeuxis. Shakespeare has used words intentionally such as“hark” and “arise” in order to emphasize his point.

Example #2

And my poor fool is hanged! No, no, no life!
Why should a dog, a horse, a rat have life,
And thou no breath at all? Thou’lt come no more,
Never, never, never, never!

(King Lear by William Shakespeare)

Shakespeare has beautifully used this device in this paragraph. In the first line, he has emphasized “no” and repeated it thrice. Similarly, he has repeated “never” four times in quick succession without using any other word.

Example #3

Phil Spector tamps his frontal lobes and closes his eyes and holds his breath. As long as he holds his breath, it will not rain, there will be no raindrops, no schizoid water wobbling, sideways, straight back, it will be an even, even, even, even, even, even, even world…

(The Kandy-Kolored Tangerine-Flake Streamline Baby by Tom Wolfe)

In the above extract, the word “even” is repeated at the end. This repetition makes this text notable for the readers. Also, it brings an emotional effect within the text.

Example #4

Waitress: Shut up! Shut up! Shut up! Bloody Vikings. You can’t have egg, bacon, Spam and sausage without the Spam.
Mrs. Bun: I don’t like Spam!
Mr. Bun: Shh dear, don’t cause a fuss. I’ll have your Spam. I love it. I’m having Spam, Spam, Spam, Spam, Spam, Spam, Spam, baked beans, Spam, Spam, Spam and Spam ….

(The Spam, a sketch by Monty Python)

The author has repeatedly used the words “shut up” and “Spam”. Although, the repeated words are used here to emphasize a point, they are giving a comic effect too.

Example #5

There’s little in taking or giving,
There’s little in water or wine;
This living, this living, this living
Was never a project of mine

(Coda by Dorothy Parker)

In this excerpt, the poet uses “this living” repeatedly for emphasis. These words provide melody and emphasis on a specific way of living. Also, it creates an artistic effect in the poem.

Example #6

Alone, alone, all, all alone,
on a wide, wide sea

(The Rime of the Ancient Mariner by Samuel Coleridge)

Here, the repetition of words, “alone”, “all” and “wide” is creating a rhythmic effect. These words draw the attention of the readers towards the supernatural incident which has killed crew members of the ship and has left the mariner all alone.

Function of Epizeuxis

The major function of epizeuxis is to create an appeal for the emotions of the readers—to hit them with a bang. It is employed to inspire, encourage and motivate the audience. Epizeuxis examples are found in literary writings as well as political speeches. As a literary device, it furnishes freshness to the texts and gives artistic effect to a piece. Apart from adding rhythm to the texts, epizeuxis makes the reading of the literary text pleasurable and memorable. Also, it helps in drawing the focus to a particular thought, idea and emotion through repetition.

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1 comment for “Epizeuxis

  1. Steve Hughes
    February 19, 2016 at 11:01 am

    Actually, Shakespeare uses 5 “nevers” in King Lear.

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