More from Henry Peachum, The Garden of Eloquence (1593):


Epiphora is a figure which endeth diverse members or clauses still with one and the same word.

An example: Since the tiem that concord was taken from the citie, libertie was taken away, fidelitie was taken away, friendship was taken away.

Examples of the holy Scripture: “When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I imagined as a child.”1.Cor.13.

Another: “Have we not prophecied in thy name? have we not cast out devils in they name? and done miracles in thy name?”Mat.

Ambition seeketh to be next to the best, after that, to be equall with the best: last, to be chiefe and above the best.


This figure is esteemed of many to be an ornament of great3 eloquence, yet it is very sparingly used in grave and severe4 causes, it serveth to leave a word of importance in the ende of a sentence, that it may the longer hold the sound in the mind of the hearer.


It appeareth by experience that this figure is not commonly used by eloquent authors, but sparingly, and as it were thinly 5 sprinkled, as all exornations are, and therefore it ought not to be too much in use, if we desire to follow the examples of the most eloquent authors.

A most masterful use of this device is seen in The Merchant of Venice. The play hangs upon a courtroom scene. Portia, disguised as a lawyer, has saved the life of  Bassanio’s friend Antonio. At the end, this mystery lawyer asks of Bassanio the little ring “This ring, good sir — alas, it is a trifle”). Portia had given the ring to Bassanio as a token of her love:

I gave my love a ring and made him swear
Never to part with it; and here he stands;
I dare be sworn for him he would not leave it
Nor pluck it from his finger, for the wealth
That the world masters

Portia (who actually has the ring), demands to know what happened to the ring:

Even so void is your false heart of truth.
By heaven, I will ne’er come in your bed
Until I see the ring.

Since the ring is the focused of the conflict (it will be resolved), Shakespeare underscores the conflict by ending each line with “the ring”. Effect underscores the meaning:

Sweet Portia,
If you did know to whom I gave the ring,
If you did know for whom I gave the ring
And would conceive for what I gave the ring
And how unwillingly I left the ring,
When nought would be accepted but the ring,
You would abate the strength of your displeasure.
If you had known the virtue of the ring,
Or half her worthiness that gave the ring,
Or your own honour to contain the ring,
You would not then have parted with the ring.
What man is there so much unreasonable,
If you had pleased to have defended it
With any terms of zeal, wanted the modesty
To urge the thing held as a ceremony?
Nerissa teaches me what to believe:
I’ll die for’t but some woman had the ring.