Chiastic Rhetorical Devices: “Shakespeare's Symmetries: The Mirrored Structure of Action in the Plays” by James E. Ryan

Shakespeare's Symmetries: The Mirrored Structure of Action in the Plays - James E. Ryan


M, O, A, I; this simulation is not as the former: and

yet, to crush this a little, it would bow to me, for

every one of these letters are in my name. Soft!

here follows prose.



'If this fall into thy hand, revolve. In my stars I

am above thee; but be not afraid of greatness: some

are born great, some achieve greatness, and some

have greatness thrust upon 'em. Thy Fates open

their hands; let thy blood and spirit embrace them;

and, to inure thyself to what thou art like to be,

cast thy humble slough and appear fresh. Be

opposite with a kinsman, surly with servants; let

thy tongue tang arguments of state; put thyself into

the trick of singularity: she thus advises thee

that sighs for thee. Remember who commended thy

yellow stockings, and wished to see thee ever

cross-gartered: I say, remember. Go to, thou art

made, if thou desirest to be so; if not, let me see

thee a steward still, the fellow of servants, and

not worthy to touch Fortune's fingers. Farewell.

She that would alter services with thee,


Daylight and champaign discovers not more: this is

open. I will be proud, I will read politic authors,

I will baffle Sir Toby, I will wash off gross

acquaintance, I will be point-devise the very man.

I do not now fool myself, to let imagination jade

me; for every reason excites to this, that my lady

loves me. She did commend my yellow stockings of

late, she did praise my leg being cross-gartered;

and in this she manifests herself to my love, and

with a kind of injunction drives me to these habits

of her liking. I thank my stars I am happy. I will

be strange, stout, in yellow stockings, and

cross-gartered, even with the swiftness of putting

  1. Jove and my stars be praised! Here is yet a




'Thou canst not choose but know who I am. If thou

entertainest my love, let it appear in thy smiling;

thy smiles become thee well; therefore in my

presence still smile, dear my sweet, I prithee.'

Jove, I thank thee: I will smile; I will do

everything that thou wilt have me.



In “Twelfth Night” by William Shakespeare


“Chiasmus – a mirror pattern in which key elements are repeated in reverse order, either with or without an unrepeated central element (ABCBA or ABBA) – is a common organizing principle, employed both rhetorically and structurally. [..] the best-known episodes in Shakespeare’s plays, such as Malvolio’s tortured reading of Maria’s letter in ‘Twelfth Night’, are structurally emphasized in this way.”


In “Shakespeare's Symmetries” by James E. Ryan


Dear, darling Shakespeare! How long is it, how many times hath Phoebus' cart gone round Neptune's salt wash, since you gave us the bad news of your imminent demise? I have been seated here those many years, tearing, fearing, lest, at any moment I should receive the grim testimony of some ugly, unwanted newshound. But, of course, you can never die, dear heart! You have bequeathed us a canon of literary and televisual wisdom like no other, such as would take any man a lifetime to dissect and absorb. And I believe you are working on yet another volume of pretty words, of poetry. Hurry it along, Shakespeare, for I am keen to drink in thy paroles!   



If you're into Shakespeare, read on.