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Antistrophe

Antistrophe is a rhetorical device that’s concerned with the repetition of the same word or words at the end of consecutive phrases.

The device also occurs when the writer uses the same words or words at the end of sentences, paragraphs, and clauses. Writers use this literary device to place an increased focus on a certain part of their writing. It is easily used in motivational speeches and political rallies when a politician wants to engage with the crowd and ensure they walk away remembering their message. 

Antistrophe pronunciation: an-ti-struh-fee

Antistrophe definition and examples

 

Definition of Antistrophe

Antistrophe is often compared to another literary device, epistrophe, due to the use of repetition at the end of lines.

The word “antistrophe” comes from the Greek meaning “a turning back.” It traditionally refers to an ode sung by a chorus in its returning movement from west to east. It was sung in response to a strophe. The antistrophe was considered an act of balance, offsetting the strophe, which was sung from east to west. 

 

Examples of Antistrophe in Literature 

The Tempest by William Shakespeare 

There’s a well-known example of antistrophe in the following lines from Shakespeare’s The Tempest. The lines are spoken by the character of Juno. 

Honor, riches, marriage, blessing,

Long continuance, and increasing,

Hourly joys be still upon you.

Juno sings her blessings on you.

[…]

Spring come to you at the farthest

In the very end of harvest.

Scarcity and want shall shun you.

Ceres’ blessing so is on you.

In this excerpt, there is a clear example of antistrophe seen through the use of “you” at the ends of lines three, four, eleven, and twelve. The use of the technique in this passage helps create the song-like sound that these lines need. Juno is singing her blessing in this section, and Shakespeare’s use of the technique helps make the lines more effective. 

Explore more of William Shakespeare’s poetry.

 

The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck 

In the following lines of John Steinbeck’s best-known novel, The Grapes of Wrath, readers can find a great example of antistrophe. 

Wherever they’s a fight so hungry people can eat, I’ll be there. Wherever they’s a cop beatin’ up a guy, I’ll be there. If Casy knowed, why, I’ll be in the way guys yell when they’re mad an’ — I’ll be in the way kids laugh when they’re hungry an’ they know supper’s ready. An’ when our folks eat the stuff they raise an’ live in the houses they build — why, I’ll be there.

In these lines, the speaker, Tom Joad, is speaking to his mother. He explains that she shouldn’t worry about him getting hurt because he thinks he shares a piece of a larger soul. Therefore, even if he does get hurt, he’ll still be there in some form. The use of “I’ll be there” emphasizes this point, especially as it is repeated three times at the ends of three different lines. 

 

Song of Myself by Walt Whitman 

Repetition is one of the most important literary devices that Whitman uses throughout his long poem, ‘Song of Myself.’ Below are a few lines that demonstrate antistrophe: 

And am not stuck up, and am in my place. 

(The moth and the fish-eggs are in their place,

The bright suns I see and the dark suns I cannot see are in

their place,

The palpable is in its place and the impalpable is in its place.)

At the end of each line in this excerpt, Whitman uses the word “place.” This helps the poet emphasize the importance of his “place” in the world in these lines. Everything, he suggests, has a place and is in its place, adding to the overall tone of peace infused into these lines. 

Explore more Walt Whitman poems.

 

Antistrophe Examples in Speeches

Below are a few quotes from important political speeches and documents in which readers can find examples of antistrophe. 

  • “Government of the people, by the people, for the people.” —Abraham Lincoln 
  • “I say to them tonight, there’s not a liberal America and a conservative America, there’s the United States of America. There’s not a black America and white America and Latino America and Asian America; there’s the United States of America.” —President Barak Obama 
  • “The time for the healing of the wounds has come. The moment to bridge the chasms that divide us has come.” —Nelson Mandela

 

Antistrophe Examples in Film 

The Return of the King

Based on J.R.R. Tolkien’s famous novel of the same name, The Return of the King contains one of the most commonly quoted movie speeches. The lines read: 

A day may come when the courage of men fails, when we forsake our friends and break the bonds of fellowship, but it is not this day. An hour of wolves and shattered shields, when the age of men comes crashing down, but it is not this day. This day we fight!

Here, Aragorn is speaking to his remaining army, inspiring them into battle at the end of the film. He repeats the words “but it is not this day” as a means of reminding those around him that this is their last chance to defend their world. Together, he implies, today won’t be the day when “the age of men comes crashing down.” 

 

A Few Good Men 

The following lines from A Few Good Men are another great example of how antistrophe can be used in film. 

You don’t want the truth because deep down in places you don’t talk about at parties, you want me on that wall — you need me on that wall. 

The use of “me on that wall” helps to drive home the speaker’s point and make the quote all the more memorable. 

 

Antistrophe and Anaphora 

Antistrophe and anaphora are often compared to one another due to the fact that they are exact opposites. The former occurs when a writer repeats a word or words at the end of multiple successive lines. On the other hand, anaphora occurs when a word or words are repeated at the beginning of lines. For example, these lines from Londonby William Blake: 

In every cry of every Man, 

In every infant’s cry of fear, 

In every voice, in every ban, 

The mind-forg’d manacles I hear

Here, Blake repeats the phrase “In every” four times. It has a similar effect to antistrophe in that it allows the writer to place emphasis on a specific word/phrase and ensure that the reader remembers it. It is also effective in speeches. 

Read more William Blake poems.

 

Related Literary Terms 

  • Epistrophe: also known as epiphora, is the repetition of the same word, or a phrase, at the end of multiple clauses or sentences.
  • Anadiplosis: refers to the repetition of words so that the second clause starts with the same word/s that appeared in the previous.
  • Anaphora: the repetition of a word or phrase at the beginning of multiple lines, usually in succession.

 

Other Resources 

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