The figures of rhetoric VII: Aposiopesis: “Percy, thou art dust And food for …”

Aposiopesis is Greek for becoming silent and is signalled in English by three dots…

There are three reasons for aposiopesis: you can’t go on; you don’t need to go on; or you want to leave the audience hanging.

From Shakespeare

But thought’s the slave of life, and life time’s fool;

And time, that takes survey of all the world,

Must have a stop. O, I could prophesy,

But that the earthy and cold hand of death

Lies on my tongue: no, Percy, thou art dust

And food for …

From Henry IV, Part 1, the death of Henry Percy

And From King Lear:

No, you unnatural hags, I will have such revenges on you both,

That all the world shall … I will do such things …

What they are, yet I know not: but they shall be

The terrors of the earth.



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