Antitheton

An Introduction to Antitheton

Antitheton is a literary device whose composition deals with contrasting thoughts by which contraries are set in opposition to each other.

Antitheton is closely related to and sometimes confused with antithesisOpens in new window (which deals with contrasting words wihin a phrase, clause or sentence.) The unspecified latin term for antitheton is contentio, meaning a ”struggle” or ”fight”.

Examples of Antitheton
  • “It was the best of times; it was the worst of times.”
  • — Charles Dickens, Tale of Two Cities. (33)
  • Flattery hath pleasant beginnings,
    but the same hath very bitter endings.
  • — R. Sherry
  • His bent is sweet, his loose is somewhat sour;
    In joy begun, ends oft in woeful hour.
Important Hint! 

While Antitheton deals with contrasting thoughts or proofs in an argument; AntithesisOpens in new window deals with contrasting words or ideas within a phrase, sentence, or paragraph.

Further Readings:
Silva Rhetoricae: Antitheton Opens in new window
Gregory T. Howard — Dictionary Of Rhetorical Terms: Antitheton Opens in new window
George Puttenham — The Art of English Poesy, Critical Edition: Antitheton Opens in new window