An Introduction to Systrophe

Systrophe (derives from Greek combination syn, “together” and strophe “turning”), is a figure of speech which prevails by the heaping together of many qualities or descriptive elements to define or describe a subject. Usually, the end definition is not always explicit.

Notable Examples of Systrophe
    The character Macbeth, in Shakespeare's Macbeth employs systrophe to heap together the benefits of sleep:
  • “Sleep that knits up the ravell’d sleave of care,
    The death of each day’s life, sore labour’s bath,
    Balm of hurt minds, great nature’s second course,
    Chief nourisher in life’s feast.”
  • —(Macbeth: 2.2.37)
    Another amusing instance of this figure is when Shakespeare in his iconic Hamlet used the device to heap up many qualities in which he attempts to describe man:
  • “What [a] piece of work is a man, how noble in reason, how infinite in faculties, in form and moving, how express and admirable in action, how like an angel in apprehension, how like a god! The beauty of the world; the paragon of animals; and yet to me what is this quintessence of dust?”
  • — (Shakespeare, Hamlet:2.2.)
Further Readings.
Silver Rhetoricae, Figures | SystropheOpens in new window