Figure Name characterismus
Source Silva Rhetoricae (; Rutil. 2.7; Isidore 2.21.40; Sherry (1550) 66; Ad Herennium ("character delineation") (387-395); Hill (1883) ("character"); Johnson (1903) ("character")
Earliest Source None
Synonyms description of character, character
Etymology None
Type Trope
Linguistic Domain Semantic

1. The description of a person's character. If this is restricted to the body, this is effictio; if restricted to a person's habits, this is ethopoeia. Characterismus is a kind of enargia (principally when describing physical attributes). (Silva Rhetoricae)

2. Character Delineation consists in describing a person's character by the definite signs which, like distinctive marks, are attributes of that character (Ad Herennium)

3. Character.
The character of men is generally reflected in a narrative of their lives, but, considered as a complete growth, character may be described. Several peculiarities belong to the description of character. Some of these may be mentioned.
1. Individuality.
Only marked characters are worth describing. The distinctive traits of a man are necessary to a successful description. (Hill)

3. 2. Inward Principles.
Specific acts important only as suggestive of internal principals. These make up the character. (Hill)

3. 3. Concrete Form.
No mere sum of abstractions, however, can truthfully represent a character. (Hill)

3. 4. Environment.
A character is a product, and must be studied in its environment. (Hill)

4. Character.—There is a common and unnecessary use of this word (like the redundant use of "situated "), which appears to have arisen from a failure to distinguish what may be required in a question from what may be required in an answer. (Johnson, 57)


1. He is a monster both in mind and in body; whatever part of mind or body you consider, you will find a monster ) quivery head, rabid eyes, a dragon's gape, the visage of a Fury, distended belly, hands like talons ready to tear, feet distorted, in short, view his entire physical shape and what else does it all present but a monster? Observe that tongue, observe that wild beast's roar, and you will name it a monstrosity; probe his mind, you will find a horror; weigh his character, scrutinize his life, you will find all monstrous; and, not to pursue every point in detail, through and through he is nothing but a monster.
—Erasmus, De copia (Silva Rhetoricae)

4. Thus, "Question—What is the character of the soil? Answer—It is of a clayey character." In the answer the word character is absolutely useless. The answer should be, "It is clayey." This clumsy use of character has become not only frequent but habitual. A country editor writes in his paper, "A rain so copious as to be soaking in its character fell on Tuesday." Prescott, in the preface to his Conquest of Peru, writes: "To the materials derived from these sources I have added some manuscripts
of an important character." "Important manuscripts" instead of "manuscripts of an important character" would have made the sentence more compact and stronger. (Johnson, 57)

Kind Of Identity
Part Of
Related Figures Figures of Description, enargia, effictio, ethopoeia
Confidence Unconfident
Last Editor Ioanna Malton
Confidence Unconfident
Editorial Notes
Reviewed No