Figure Name dilemma
Source Silva Rhetoricae (http://humanities.byu.edu/rhetoric/Silva.htm); Peacham (1577) T2r ; JG Smith (1665) ("dilemma"); Blount (1653) 41
Earliest Source None
Etymology Gk. “double proposition”
Type Chroma
Linguistic Domain Semantic

1. Offering to an opponent a choice between two (equally unfavorable) alternatives. (Silva Rhetoricae)

2. An horned or double argument: which every way convinceth, &c.; Dilemma, Argumentum cornutum, an horned argument, or a double argument: derived from [dis] twice, or double, and [lemma] Assumptio, the Assumption or Minor Proposition, but sometimes it signifies the Major Proposition also. Dilemma is an argument which convinceth every way, and consists of two propositions, which both wayes conclude or convince ones adversary; wherein, whether of the two you grant, he will take hold of, or reprove you. (JG Smith)

3. Dilemma this figure differeth from Diaeresis or Division, for that divideth the generall into the specials, but this removing one thing from another, endeth them both by shewing a reason. Cicero for Ligarius. I demaund now, whether you will revenge your owne injuries, or the injuries of the common wealth: if you do revenge the injurie of the common wealth: if you do revenge the injurie of the common wealth: what answere will you make concerning your constancie in that behalfe? If that you do revenge your owne, beware you erre not, which think that Caesar will be angry and retaine displeasure with your enemies, when he hath forgiven his own, not covetousnesse, for the maner of his life doth shew that he was never covetous, neither povertie for he hath great riches. (Peacham)

4. "[the third part of division] is Dilemma, which proposes two sides, and overthrows both ability and will to write well" (Blount)


1. Either your client is guilty of perjury, or of murder. (Silva Rhetoricae)

2. If he be a good man, why speak you ill of him? if he be naught, why doe you keep him company? (JG Smith)

3. Why should I now saie any thing to thy charge, if thou beest good, thou hast not deserved it, but if thou beest naught, thou carest not for it. (Peacham)

3. An example of the Apostle Paul: “If I do it willingly I have a reward, but if I do it against my wil, notwithstanding a dispensation is committed unto me.” 1. Cor. 9. (Peacham)

4. "for to say I cannot, is Childish; and I will not, is Womanish" (Blount)

Kind Of Symmetry
Part Of
Related Figures figures of division
Confidence Unconfident
Last Editor Mark Carter
Confidence Unconfident
Editorial Notes
Reviewed No