Pysma

Pysma ... when the Orator all at once brings forth a torrent of question upon the hearer
Pysma ... when the Orator all at once brings forth a torrent of question upon the hearer

Definition and Examples of Pysma

Pysma (derived from the Greek, literally “question” ), is a figure of vehemence which consists when the oratorOpens in new window all at once brings forth a torrent of question upon the hearer in as much vigor and degree as requiring diverse answers.

SonninoOpens in new window, while giving prominence to the use of this Figure in orations, observes that Pysma can be used “to underline emotions such as admiration, determination and indignation” (153).

Another ingenious author also cites the sixteenth-century rhetor Henry PeachamOpens in new window, who in his repertoire, opines that this Figure makes an oration sharp and vehement:

  • “Now thus many questions together, are as it were like unto a courageous fighter, that doth lay strokes upon his enemy so thick and so hard that he is not able to defend or bear half of them”.

Examples of Pysma

The figure Pysma consists when Cicero brought upon Roscius such torrent of questions:

  • “In what place did he speake with them? with whom did he speake? did he hire them? whom did he hire, and by whom? To what end, or how much did he give them?”

Another example of Pysma occur in the sacred Scripture:

  • “Will the Lord absent himself for ever? and will he be no more intreated? Is his mercy cleane gone for ever? and is his promise come utterly to an end for evermore? hath God forgotten to be gracious? and will he shut up his loving kindness in displeasure?”
    — Psalm 77: 7.8.9.

The Use of this Figure — Indeed, Pysma can be used as a wonderfully intimidating device. It can also be considered a type of rhetorical questionOpens in new window if the many questions asked do not require answers but are asked simply to confute, to provoke, to cause attention, to move affections, and it is well and aptly represented in the conflict of battle, as in the manifold strokes of the sword, thick vollies of arrows, and in the thundering peals of cannon shot.

Further Readings:
Henry Peachum, The Garden of Eloquence | PysmaOpens in new window