Ploce occurs when the author uses the same word twice, usually within the same sentence or line, and emphasizes it differently. For example, when describing a character, an author might write: “When she’s angry, she’s angry,” suggesting that her anger is a strong and unstoppable emotion when it occurs. A common proverb that can be described as an example of a ploce is “when the going gets tough, the tough get going.”
Ploce pronunciation: Plo-chay
Often, readers will come across this rhetorical device in catchphrases, advertising campaigns, idioms, and proverbs. For example, the Vogue slogan, “If it wasn’t in Vogue, it wasn’t in vogue.” The word “vogue” takes on two different and differently emphasized meanings in this slogan.
Examples of Ploce in Literature
William Blake’s ‘Jerusalem’ contains a useful example of a ploce in the poet’s repetition of the word “sleep.” Here are the lines from the poem:
England! awake! awake! awake!
Jerusalem thy sister calls!
Why wilt thou sleep the sleep of death,
And close her from thy ancient walls?
Here, Blake uses the word “sleep” in two different ways. Once as a verb and once as a noun. His speaker is asking “England” to wake up and if the country is going to sleep the kind of sleep comparable to death itself, meaning that the country will do nothing to help Jerusalem.
Explore William Blake’s poems.
Richard III by William Shakespeare
Richard III contains one of the best-known examples of a ploce within Shakespeare’s works. In Act II, Scene 4, the Duchess says:
And being seated, and domestic broils
Clean overblown, themselves the conquerors
Make war upon themselves, brother to brother,
Blood to blood, self against self. O, preposterous
And frantic outrage, end thy damnèd spleen,
Or let me die, to look on Earth no more.
Here, the poet’s use of repetition is seen clearly, and in multiple repetitions. The speaker is trying to make her point very clear about the possibilities of war. She suggests that any war is not worth seeing or enduring, even going so far as to wish for death rather than “look on Earth” during such a conflict.
Twelfth Night by William Shakespeare
Another great example of a ploce can be found in Twelfth Night. Specifically, the line is spoken by Sir Toby Belch in Act I, Scene 3. Consider Belch’s words when he uses “except” multiple times. Here is part of the conversation:
Maria: By my troth, Sir Toby, you must come in earlier o’ nights. Your cousin, my lady, takes great exceptions to your ill hours.
Sir Toby Belch: Why, let her except, before excepted.
Maria: Ay, but you must confine yourself within the modest limits of order.
Sir Toby Belch: Confine? I’ll confine myself no finer than I am. These clothes are good enough to drink in, and so be these boots too. An they be not, let them hang themselves in their own straps.
Readers might also note Maria’s use of “exceptions.” When she uses it, she’s emphasizing how “my lady,” Lady Olivia, will react to his drinking. He shrugs it off, saying that she should “except before excepted.”
The purpose is to emphasize a word in two different ways to make a line in a poem, a speech in a play, or a description in a prose work all the more impactful. It is also an interesting rhetorical device that writers can use to describe characters and events.
Writers use ploce to emphasize something. It is a creative figure of speech that is clearer than in others in some instances. It may take some interpretation in order to figure out the multiple meanings of a single word. For example, if a word like “sleep” or “wife” is used as both a noun and a verb.
An example of ploce is the advertising slogan for Vogue, “If it wasn’t in Vogue, it wasn’t in vogue.” Here, readers have to know what the magazine and brand “Vogue” stands for and how the word is used in two different ways. For something to be “in vogue” or popular, the slogan suggests it has to have been in the magazine Vogue.
Related Literary Terms
- Anaphora: the repetition of a word or phrase at the beginning of multiple lines, usually in succession.
- Antistrophe: a rhetorical device that’s concerned with the repetition of the same word or words at the end of consecutive phrases.
- Diacope: a literary term that refers to the repetition of a word or phrase.
- Epistrophe: or epiphora, is the repetition of the same word, or a phrase, at the end of multiple clauses or sentences.
- Antimetabole: the repetition of words, in reverse order, in successive clauses.
- Anadiplosis: the repetition of words so that the second clause starts with the same word/s that appeared in the previous.