An Introduction to Epiplexis
Epiplexis (etymologically from Greek, literally “a chastisement”) is a specific kind of rhetorical question in which a lament or an insult is asked as a question, mainly to upbraid, reproach, and not to elicit information or answer; usually in this form:
- “why will you say to me such hurtful thing?”
- “What’s the point you keep doing this?”
- “Why are you so mad?” etc,.
The Epiplexis, as a rhetorical figure, seeks to convince and move by an elegant kind of upbraiding. It basically, throws a question, not aiming to obtain an answer but to make a point or rebuke another person’s viewpoint.
Mark Forsyth opines: “Though epiplexis does not expects a real answer, it does at least have a meaning and a purpose. ‘You just can’t stop being witty, can you?’ A rebuke expressed in the form of a rhetorical question used to reproach or upbraid, as when Cicero has a go at Catiline at the outset of his first speech In Catilinam.” — (Mark Forsyth, The Elements of Eloquence: How To Turn The Perfect English Phrase)