An Introduction to Cataplexis

Cataplexis (known as comminatio in Latin; literally, “a terrifying threat”), is a form of speech, by which the Orator threatens a misfortune against some person, people, city, common wealth or country.

A cataplexis speech usually contains and declares the certainty or likelihood of disaster, or punisments to fall upon them for their wickedness, impiety, insolence, and general misconduct.

Classical Examples
  • “You have conquered, and I yield. Yet, henceforward art thou also dead – dead to the World, to Heaven and to Hope! In me didst thou exist – and, in my death, see by this image, which is thine own, how utterly thous hast murdered thyself.”
  • — (William Wilson, 3:325)

  • Gentleman: “I dare warrant you (M. Parson) … you shall have your wages home with you, and for the greedy desire you have had to fill your paunch, you shall have fire and brimstone your belly full: and for your mirth and merry pastime … you shall have more weeping nad gnashing of teeth then you would desire: and for the friendship you have had in the wold, you shall have as much of wrath of God as you are able to bear ..”
  • — (I. B., A Dialogue between a vertuous Gentleman and a popish priest, D4r-v)

This figure “Cataplexis” is associated with consequence. It is related to Deprecatio, Execratio, Ominatio, and Paraenesis (See Links below).

Further Readings:
Antoinina Bevan Zlatar, Reformation Fictions: Polemical Protestant Dialogues in Elizabethan England
Silver Rhetoricae: CataplexisOpens in new window