Hendiadys

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"hendiadys" in the Century Dictionary.

Hendiadys is a figure of speech in which a thought is expressed by a conjunction of two words. The phrase to begin with is usually an adjective modifying a noun, and the result is usually a conjunction of two nouns. There are other possibilities.

For example, the idea of "kind permission" could be expressed as leave and favor as in Scene 2 line 052 in Hamlet. As that example shows, sometimes a change of wording is needed to make the phrasing work. If so, a synonym, or near synonym, is used.

(I am aware that the Century Dictionary definition is a slog to struggle through. The idea isn't really so difficult as that.)

Shakespeare made frequent use of hendiadys in his writings. For one thing, it provides a way to adjust the syllable count and meter, as iambic pentameter requires, while preserving the meaning.

Consider the phrase, "rosy outlook." In Hamlet the idea is expressed as expectancy and rose. Scene 8 line 153 The phrasing becomes more expressive and poetic, and not mundane, in addition to gaining syllables.

In using hendiadys to convert an adjective + noun phrase, the adjective generally becomes the second noun in the conjunction. That is not absolutely mandatory, but it's the usual pattern.

The hendiadys technique also provides a way to unstack adjectives. Consider the phrase, "erring, extravagant spirit." Both "erring" and "extravagant" are adjectives modifying he noun "spirit." In Scene 1 line 165 that idea is expressed as extravagant and erring spirit which sounds better and more expressive.

Hendiadys can also turn a single word into two words. The single word "loath" can be expressed as loath and unwilling as we see in the Dumb Show, Scene 9 line 121-DS9. That phrase, loath and unwilling really only means "very unwilling," but it does a much better job of emphasis, since the word "very" is so common people tend to ignore it, Also, the phrasing sounds better, and for the poet's purpose, it gives a greater syllable count (albeit, the Dumb Show is not in iambic pentameter.) Certainly, listeners notice a phrase like loath and unwilling much better than they do the mere phrase "very unwilling."

Also, hendiadys is a way to build vocabulary, since it's often necessary to use synonyms, and approximate synonyms, to make the phrasing work. Shakespeare's frequent use of hendiadys was one of the ways he built his amazing vocabulary.


© 2014 Jeffrey Paul Jordan

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