Enargia

An Introduction to Enargia

Enargia (also spelled enargeia, etymologically from Greek enarges, literally means “vividness”) is the generic name given to a group of figures that exclusively dealt with ultra-vivid verbal descriptions imaginable.

The presentation of enargia typically consists in a vivid description of actions, characters, abtract qualities, etc., that conjure palpable images in the audiences’ “mind’s eye”. Not to be confused with EnergiaOpens in new window

In Henry PeachamOpens in new window's observation, Enargia is presented:

  • “When we express and set forth a thing so plainly that it seemeth rather painted in tables than expressed with words, and the hearer shall rather think he see it than hear it.”

QuintilianOpens in new window, giving his observation of the figure, opines that

  • ‘There are certain experiences which the Romans call visions, whereby things absent are presented to our imagination with such extreme vividness that they seem actually to be there before our very eyes’.

He not only suggests that enargeia offers pictorial vividness but also points to the affective power of such descriptions, suggesting that the listener’s emotions will be moved as if they had seen the actual events themselves.

Enargia can be descriptively specific:

Classic Example
    When Francis MeresOpens in new window paid his handsome tribute to Shakespeare’sOpens in new window poetic genius he spoke in terms that correspond most nearly with enargia:
  • “the English tongue is migtily enriched in and gorgeously invested in rare ornaments and resplendent abiliments by Sir Philip Sidney, Spencer, Daniel, Drayton, Warner, Shakespeare, Marlow and Chapman.
  • Focusing on Shakespeare, Meres says:
  • “As the soule of Euphorbus was thought to live in Pythagoras: so the sweete wittie soule of Ovid lives in mellifluous & honytongued Shakespeare, witness his Venus and Adonis, his sugred Sonnets.
    (Patrick Cheney, The Cambridge Companion to Shakespeare's PoetryOpens in new window)
Further Readings:
Silver Rhetoricae, Figures by Gideon O. Burton | EnargiaOpens in new window