Figures of speech that compare two ideas or situations either in terms of their similarities or differences are common in everyday conversations. Analogies and similes are frequently invoked in discussion to illustrate or prove a point. In literature, gifted writers invoke these figures to achieve aesthetic effects, which often operate on multiple levels.
Alliosis (al’-e-o’-sis) is the use of alternatives or choices in a balanced and parallel structure. Such a structure may result in a false dichotomy but it can create a cleverly balanced and artistic sentence. “Better it were a brother died at once, / Than that a sister, by redeeming him, / Should die forever.” Measure for Measure, 2.4.95. Similar to antithesis, which presents contrasting or opposite ideas but not as alternatives.
Allusion (al’-lu-shun) is a brief and indirect reference to a person, place, thing or idea of historical, cultural, literary or political significance. “I’ll drown more sailors than the mermaid shall; / I’ll slay more gazers than the basilisk; /I’ll play the orator as well as Nestor…” Henry VI Pt 3, 3.2.126
Analogy (a-nal’-o-gee) is a comparison between two situations for the purpose of explanation or clarification. “What’s in a name? That which we call a rose / By any other word would smell as sweet; / So Romeo would, were he not Romeo call’d.” Romeo and Juliet, 2.2.36.
Antimetabole (an’-ti-me-ta’-bo-lee) is the repetition of words or phrases in an inverted or reverse order in which the phrases suggest opposing meanings. “How / much better is it to weep at joy than to joy at weeping!” Much Ado About Nothing. 1.1.13. Antimetabole is a type of chiasmus, which is a similar inversion but of actual words whose meanings are not necessarily opposite. Chiasmus is similar to epanados, which also repeats the terms after presenting them.
Antithesis (an-tith’-e-sis) is the juxtaposition of contrasting or opposite ideas or words in a balanced or parallel construction. “The evil that men do lives after them, / The good is oft interred with their bones;” Julius Caesar, 3.2.82. Similar to alliosis, which presents contrasting ideas as alternatives or choices.
Dichotomy is the contrast between two things that are represented as being opposed or opposite, e.g, good and evil, black and white, thought and action, etc. “So foul and fair a day I have not seen.” Macbeth,1.3.39
Irony (i’-ron-ee) is the use of words to convey the opposite of their literal meaning. “Prodigious birth of love it is to me / That I must love a loathèd enemy.” Romeo and Juliet, 1.5.152
Litotes (li-to’-tees) is an understatement in which an affirmative is expressed by negating its opposite. “He hath not failed to pester us with message.” Hamlet, 1.2.1
Metaphor (met’-a-phor) is an implied comparison between two unlike things. “Lo, in these windows that let forth thy life / I pour the helpless balm of my poor eyes.” Richard III, 1.2.1
Oxymorons (ox-y-mo’-ron) are incongruous or contradictory terms appearing side by side.
A paradox is a statement that seems to contradict itself but is nevertheless true.
Simile is the explicit comparison between two things using “like” or “as”.