Figure Name anticlimax
Source De Mille (1882); Waddy (1889); Demetrius (1902) 137; Johnson (1903) ("bathos"); Kellog (1880) ("anti-climax")
Earliest Source
Synonyms bathos
Type Chroma
Linguistic Domain Semantic

Anticlimax is usually considered in connection with climax, although it belongs to an opposite class of figures, the one being augmentative and the other decrementive; so that while the former enhances the importance of the subject, the latter diminishes or degrades it.
In climax the thoughts are arranged in an ascending series, the most important being reserved until the last. In anticlimax the thoughts are also arranged in an ascending series, but in the last place, instead of the most important, there suddenly occurs something trivial:
"The king of France, with twice ten thousand men,
Marched up the hill, and then-marched down again." (De Mille)

1. The effect of anticlimax is generally ludicrous, and when used intentionally it tends to depreciate the subject to which it is applied by covering it with ridicule. It is, therefore, very frequently employed in humorous and satirical composition. But it is sometimes used unintentionally, and then it is called "bathos," the effect being to turn the ridicule with which it is associated upon the writer himself. (De Mille)

2. Anti-climax.-The inversion of climacteric order gives anti-climax. The arrangement of the parts of the sentence is such that the ideas suddenly become less dignified at the close. Anti-climax is allowable in comic writings, but it is a fault in serious discourse. (Waddy)

2. A ludicrous descent from the elevated to the mean is called "bathos."

4. Bath'os.—This term, from a Greek word that signifies deep, is used to indicate a sudden drop from lofty thought and diction to that which is petty or commonplace. (Johnson, 47-48)

5. The opposite arrangement [of climax] gives us the anti-climax-an arrangement in every respect weak; since, the last part being feeble, the whole is thought to be feeble; since, the strongest coming suddenly upon us, we do not fully appreciate it; and since in our effort to do this we are incapacitated for feeling the weight of the weaker parts, which follow. If we lift the animal each day, beginning with it when it is a calf, we can lift it, we are told, when it has become an ox; beginning with it when an ox, we could never lift the animal at all. (Kellog, 149)


1. "Here thou, great Anna! whom three realms obey, Dost sometimes counsel take, and sometimes-tea." (De Mille)

2. The Russian grandees came to court dropping pearls
{and diamonds.- Climax
{and vermin.- Anti-climax. (Waddy)

2. These two nations were divided by mutual fear
{and the bitter remembrance of recent losses. - Climax.
{and mountains.- Anti-climax. (Waddy)

3. 'He gives him as presents the assurance that his country should be no longer plundered, and also a horse, robe, and linked collar.' (Demetrius)

4. The last line of Tennyson's The Deserted
House is an example:

Come away: for Life and Thought
Here no longer dwell;
But in a city glorious—
A great and distant city—have bought
A mansion incorruptible.
Would they could have stayed with us!

Sometimes bathos is resorted to purposely to produce ludicrous effects. Albert G. Greene's poem Old Grimes is constructed entirely on this principle, every stanza presenting an example, as this:

Whene'er he heard the voice of pain
His breast with pity burned;
The large round head upon his cane
From ivory was turned. (Johnson, 48)

Kind Of Symmetry
Part Of
Related Figures climax, catacosmesis, anadiplosis, auxesis
Confidence Unconfident
Last Editor Ioanna Malton
Confidence Unconfident
Editorial Notes
Reviewed No