Encyclopædia Britannica, Ninth Edition/Anticlimax

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ANTICLIMAX ([ Greek ] and [ Greek ]), in rhetoric, is an abrupt declension on the part of a speaker or writer from the dignity of idea which he has attained, as in the following well-known distich:—


" The great Dalhousie, he, the god of war,

Lieutenant-colonel to the earl of Mar."


From its character it is plain that it can be intentionally employed only for a jocular or satiric purpose. It frequently partakes of the nature of antithesis, as—


"Die and endow a college or a cat."


From bathos it is distinguished by being much more decidedly a relative term. A whole speech may never rise above the level of bathos; but a climax of greater or less elevation is the necessary antecedent of an anticlimax.

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