Figure Name pragmatographia
Source Silva Rhetoricae (; Peacham 1593; Bullinger (1898) ("pragmatographia; or, description of actions")
Earliest Source None
Synonyms the counterfait action, description of actions, rei aut actionis descriptio
Etymology None
Type Trope
Linguistic Domain Semantic

1. The description of an action (such as a battle, a feast, a marriage, a burial, etc.). A kind of enargia. This figure is frequently used in drama for exposition or to report what has happened offstage. (Silva Rhetoricae)

2. Pragmatographia is a description of things whereby ye Orator by gathering together all circumstances belonging to them, doth as plainly portray their image, as if they were most lively painted out in coulours, & set forth to be seene: If one should say the citie was overcome by an assault: he hath (saith Fabius) comprehended all in a summe, but if thou wilt open and set abroad all things, and everie particuler effect included within that summe, there shall appeare many fires and scattered flames upon houses and Temples, the noyse of houses falling downe, a confused sound of many thinges, and wofull cries, some flying with great perill, other imbracing their frends, and bidding them farewell for ever, infants scriking, women most bitterly weeping, olde men reserved by most unhappy destinie to see that day, the spoiling of temporall, and prophaning of hallowed things, the running forth of them that carrie away the spoiles, and the submission of them that entreat for their owne goods, every captive led chained before his taker, the mother rastling to retaine her sucking babe, and wheresoever great wealth is, there is also great fighting and contention among the spoilers themselves: now albeit this word Destruction might well comprise all these thinges, yet is it lesse to declare the whole then to name the partes, he comprehendeth the whole, which saith, the Cittie was taken and destroyed, and no more, but he that rehearseth all thinges orderly doth much more largely expresse the same, for he doth not onely say, the cittie was taken, tmeples overthrowen, houses burned, everie thing spoiled, but also how the cittie was taken, temples, houses and buildings destroied, what perished else, what lamentation, what weeping, how horrible the slaughter was, the ravishing of Virgins, the shedding of blood, and many other thinges which is more then if hee rehearseth the whole in a total summe. (Peacham)


1. Horatio reports to Hamlet the appearance his father's ghost:
Horatio: Season your admiration for a while
With an attent ear, till I may deliver,
Upon the witness of these gentlemen,
This marvel to you.
Hamlet: For God's love let me hear!
Horatio: Two nights together had these gentlemen,
Marcellus and Barnardo, on their watch,
In the dead waste and middle of the night,
Been thus encount'red: a figure like your father,
Armed at point exactly, cap-a-pe,
Appears before them, and with solemn march
Goes slow and stately by them; thrice he walk'd
By their oppress'd and fear-surprised eyes
Within his truncheon's length, whilst they, distill'd
Almost to jelly with the act of fear,
Stand dumb and speak not to him. This to me
In dreadful secrecy impart they did,
And I with them the third night kept the watch,
Where, as they had delivered, both in time,
Form of the thing, each word made true and good,
The apparition comes. I knew your father,
These hands are not more like.
—Shakespeare, Hamlet 1.2.92-211 (Silva Rhetoricae)

2. King Aeacus (in 7. book of Metamorphosis) maketh a pittifull description of a great and cruell pestilence. (Peacham)

2. Likewise in the 8.booke of the hunting of the wild Bore. (Peacham)

3. See Joel 2:1-11, where the description of the actions connected with the great people and strong which should come upon Zion is minutely and graphically given. (Bullinger, 471)

Kind Of Series
Part Of
Related Figures figures of description, enargia
Notes Unsure of 'type of'. Chose series because the figure establishes a series of events to describe what happened.
Confidence Unconfident
Last Editor Ioanna Malton
Confidence Unconfident
Editorial Notes
Reviewed No