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 to illustrate or prove a point. In literature, these figures achieve artistic dimensions and often operate on multiple levels.
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.
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
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.
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.
A 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
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
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
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
Incongruous or contradictory terms appear side by side.
Statement that seems to contradict itself but is nevertheless true.
Explicit comparison between two things using “like” or “as”.