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Home » Shakespeare's Works » Elements » Figures of Speech » Figures of Speech By Type » Parallelism


Parallelism is a specific form of Arrangement, Comparison and Repetition. Sentences, clauses or phrases are balanced in a similar or inverse order, one part mirroring the other.



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.



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.



Chiasmus (ki-az’-mus) is the repetition of two corresponding phrases arranged in a parallel inverse order. The second half is balanced against the first but with the parts reversed. “Fair is foul, and foul is fair” Macbeth 1.1.1.  Related to antimetabole, in which the two pairs suggest opposing or opposite meanings. Also similar to epanados, which also repeats the terms after presenting them.



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



Epanados (e-pan’-o-dos) is the repetition of the chief points in a discourse, especially in reverse order of that in which they were previously treated. “Mine eye and heart are at a mortal war / How to divide the conquest of thy sight. / Mine eye my heart thy picture’s sight would bar, / My heart mine eye the freedom of that right. / My heart doth plead that thou in him dost lie, ” Sonnet 46. It is a type of chiasmus, which is the inversion of the verbal structure of phrases using the same words. Also similar to antimetabole, in which the two phrases are not just inverted but suggest opposing meanings.



Isocolon (i-so-co’-lon) is a generic term for two or more clauses of equal length and parallel syntax and rhythm. When there are more than two, the figure can be more specifically named (though they are not in the quotes on this website) tricolons, tetracolons, etc. “My gorgeous palace for a hermitage, / My gay apparel for an almsman’s gown, / My figured goblets for a dish of wood, / My scepter for a palmer’s walking-staff, / My subjects for a pair of carvèd saints.” Richard II, 3.3.148. This quote from Richard II strings five clauses of parallel syntax in sequence and, because the clauses all begin with the same word, this is also an example of anaphora.