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Home :: Archive :: 2004 :: June ::
Rhetorical Figure
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 15.1241  Friday, 11 June 2004

From:           Nancy Charlton <
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Date:           Thursday, 10 Jun 2004 18:28:43 -0700
Subject:        Rhetorical Figure

Recently I've had occasion to explain the rhetorical figure "litotes"
and how it is used. Related to this is a figure I can't put a name to,
but which is used to great effect in EM literature. A search of Silva
Rhetoricae turns up zilch, and I have no other resources to hand. SRh is
wonderful, but in this case it needs to work like a reverse
dictionary--and it can't!

This figure is exemplified in these Shakespearean lines:

Merchant of Venice IV.i:

SHYLOCK An oath, an oath, I have an oath in
heaven:
         Shall I
lay perjury upon my soul?
         No,
not for Venice.

and

         Not on
thy sole, but on thy soul, harsh Jew,
         Thou
makest thy knife keen; but no metal can,
         No,
not the hangman's axe, bear half the keenness
         Of thy
sharp envy.

Hamlet I.ii:
But two months dead: nay, not so much, not two:
         So
excellent a king;

Coriolanus V.iv:

A merrier day did never yet greet Rome,
         No,
not the expulsion of the Tarquins.

Richard II IV.i:

       No lord of thine, thou
haught insulting man,
         Nor no
man's lord; I have no name, no title,
         No, not that name was given me at the font,
         But 'tis usurp'd:

And in the KJV:

Luke 7:9 - I have not found so great faith, no, not in Israel:

Mark 13:32 and Matt.24:36 - But of that day and hour knoweth no man, no,
not the angels which are in heaven ...

Mark 5:3 - ...and no man could bind him, no, not with chains.

Psalms 53:3 - ...there is none that doeth good, no, not one.

Ecclesiastes 10:20 - Curse not the king, no, not in thy thought...

And a twist on this trope using a "yes":

Isaiah 44:8 - ...Is there a God beside me? yea, there is no God: I know
not any.

Job 15:15 - Behold, he putteth no trust in his saints: yea, the heavens
are not clean in his sight.

Litotes seems to be used to express modesty or self-deprecation, but
"no, not" seems to emphasize one aspect of that which is being negated
or denied, which itself could be considered metonymy or synecdoche. I'd
really like to know what its correct name is.

I'm currently doing some coaching in oral reading, including the KJV,
and I'm more and more convinced we can't understand, no, nor properly
translate, earlier literatures without an understanding of rhetoric.

Nancy Charlton

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