Figure Name pathopoeia
Source Silva Rhetoricae (; Melanch. IR d5v ("adfectus" "pathopoeia"); Sherry (1550) 982 ("pathopeia") Peacham (1577) P3r; Smith ("affectus expressio" "pathopoeia"), 266-67.; JG Smith (1665) ("pathopoeia"); Peacham 1593; Bullinger (1898) ("pathopoeia; or, description of feelings"); Johnson (1903) ("feelings, description of."); Norwood (1742) ("pathopoeia")
Earliest Source None
Synonyms pathopeia, adfectus, affectus expressio, description of feelings
Etymology from Gk. pathos, "feeling" and poiia, "a making" or poiein "to make"
Type Chroma
Linguistic Domain Semantic

1. A general term for speech that moves hearers emotionally, especially as the speaker attempts to elicit an emotional response by way of demonstrating his/her own feelings (exuscitatio).
Melanchthon explains that this effect is achieved by making reference to any of a variety of pathetic circumstances: the time, one's gender, age, location, etc. (Silva Rhetoricae)

2. Expression of the affections of the mind, or an exceeding stirring up of the affections, &c.; PATHOPOEIA, [pathopoiia] affectus expressio, expression of the affection of the mind; derived from [pathos] which signifies every more vehement affection, or an exceeding stirring up of the affections of the mind; and [poieo] qualitate afficior, to be affected with the quality of such ardent affections. Pathopoeia is a form of speech whereby the Speaker moves the mind of his hearers to some vehemency of affection, as of love, hatred, gladness, sorrow, &c. It is when the speaker himself (being inwardly moved with any of those deep and vehement affections) doth by evident demonstration, passionate pronunciation and suitable gestures make a lively expression thereof. (JG Smith)

3. Pathopeia, is a forme of speech by which the Orator moveth the minds of his hearers to some vehemency of affection, as of indignation, feare, envy, hatred, hope, gladnesse or sorrow: of this there be two kindes.

The first is when the Orator being moved himselfe with anie of these affections (sorrow excepted) doth bend & apply his speech to stir his hearers to the same: and this kinde is called Imagination, to which diverse vehement figures do belong, as Exclamatio, Obteslatio, Imprecatio, Optatio, Exuscitatio, Interrogatio, and such like. And to move mirth, formes of speech serving to that purpose, as Asteismus, and others of that kinde. Now as I sayd before, matters that fall into this figure ought to be great, cruell, horrible, odious, pleasant, or marvellous, for the greater ye caue is, the sooner the affections of the hearers are moved. Examples hereof are common in Tragedies, but of mirth and laughter in Comodies.

The other kind of Pathopeia, is when the Orator by declaring some lamentable cause, moveth his hearers to pitie and compassion, to shew maerc, and to pardon offences. To move compassion, lamentable histories are oftentimes used, and likewise the lively descriptions of wofull sufferings, and pitiful miseries, and how they may be artificially expressed. Poets complaints may give apt examples.

To pardon offences the perorations of Cicero are good presidents. A serious and deepe affection in the Orator is a mightie furtherance and helpe to this figure, as when he is zealous, and deeply touched himselfe with any of those vehement affections, but specially if he be inwardly moved with a pitifull affection, he moveth his hearers to the same compassion and pitie, by his passionate pronunctiation. For true it is, that the apt bending of ye voice to the qualitie and nature of the cause, is not only a necessary dutie in an Orator, but also an excellent ornament. (Peacham)

4. [see Etymology]... Hence, the figure is so named, when the feelings and affections are described are described or expressed. (Bullinger, 470)

5. Feelings, Description of.—The ordinary novel describes the feelings and unspoken thoughts of the characters to a ridiculous extent. Nor are some famous novels free from this fault... A novel can be written best in the form of autobiography. When the writer does hot identify himself with one of the characters, but professes to overhear and witness all sorts of scenes and dialogues, he uses a considerable license, which custom, if not necessity, allows him. But when he goes beyond that, and enters into the secret thoughts of his characters, he not only mars the verisimilitude but by implication criticizes his own work. For the words and acts of the characters form the real story; and these should be so set forth that from them the reader may readily infer the motives that have prompted them, and the feelings they will excite. When a character has been addressed with evident rudeness, it should not be necessary to tell us that she felt hurt or resentful. The extreme of absurdity is reached by writers who profess to question the thoughts or feelings of a character, or conjecture what they were. As if the character were not entirely of the novelist's own creation, who therefore is always able to assign such thoughts as may please him! (Johnson, 103-104)

6. PATHOPOEIA. Pathopoeia. This Figure excited a most excessive passion in the soul of man, such as sorrow, joy, desire, and the like. (Norwood, 138)


1. O that my head were waters, and mine eyes a fountain of tears, that I might weep day and night for the slain of the daughter of my people. —Jeremiah 9:1-2. (Silva Rhetoricae)

2. Isa. 49.15. Can a woman forget her sucking child? yea they may forget, yet will I not forget thee: Behold, I have graven thee upon the palms of my hands, &c. (JG Smith)

4. For examples, see Isa. 22:4; 49:15. Jer. 9:1, 2; 23:9; 31:20. Hos. 11:7-9. Mark 3:5; 6:32; 7:34; 10:14, 21. Luke 19:41. 2 Cor. 2:4. Gal. 4:19, 20. (Bullinger, 470)

5. In James Payn's A Stumble on the Threshold, we read: "As he thought of this with many a secret sigh, a friendly hand was laid on his shoulder," and again, "Needham felt it somehow as a relief to him that Blythe said nothing of Ella, though afterwards his silence struck him as rather strange." And Mrs. Alexander, in A Ward in Chancery, writes: "It was long before Andree could sleep that night. The anticipation of seeing John Thurston again, of talking with and consulting him, was too delightful to permit of rest or forgetfulness."
Thus Mrs. Stowe, in Uncle Tom's Cabin, Chapter XVI, writes: "Was this what Marie St. Clair was thinking of, as she stood, goregously dressed, on the veranda, on Sunday morning, clasping a diamond bracelet on her slender wrist? Most likely it was. Or, if it wasn't that, it was something else." And Christian Reid, in Book II, Chapter III, of A Question of Honor, writes: "Madeleine said nothing—she did not even glance toward Devereux to see how he received this suggestion—as she crossed the floor and passed out of the open window, through which she had perceived Rosalind approaching. She was possessed by a feeling of angry contempt so unusual that it almost startled her. It is impossible to say whether this feeling was most strongly directed against Rosalind or Devereux, or whether it was shared equally between them. She felt an instinct approaching to a conviction that their meeting at the Lodge was not altogether an accident—and if it were arranged, there was an air of duplicity about it which made her heart stir with a hot sense of indignation. If they wanted to flirt, had they not honor enough to do it openly and brave the consequences? This was what she thought as she swept by Devereux with disdain, and stepped out on the piazza to meet Rosalind." If the thousands of pages that are filled with such preposterous matter could be canceled, our library shelves would hold more books, and the life of the readers would be virtually lengthened.

Frank R. Stockton, in his story The Lady or the Tiger, makes a fine stroke of humor when at the close he gravely declares that it is not for him to asstime that he is the one person in all the world that can tell which door the hero opened. And, this stroke can be read also as a bit o"f incidental satire on the novelists that ask such questions and make such declarations as those quoted above.

In The Cloister and the Hearth, Chapter XXVII, when Gerard has swum ashore with Denys,
Charles Reade writes: "Once on terra firma, they looked at one another from head to foot, as if eyes could devour, then by one impulse flung each an arm round the other's neck, and panted there with hearts too full to speak." Here the paragraph should have ended, but Reade adds what the most commonplace reader could imagine for himself without any prompting: "And at this sacred moment life was sweet as heaven to both; sweetest, perhaps, to the poor exiled lover who had just saved his friend. O joy ! to whose heights what poet has yet soared, or ever tried to soar? To save a human life, and that life a loved one. Such moments are worth living for, ay, threescore years and ten." An author once offered a manuscript story for publication, which the publisher returned with a letter saying he would accept it if certain changes were made, which he had indicated in the margin. Every one of his marginal memoranda was, "Describe the feelings of the parties at this time." The author, in a spirit of fun, kept the manuscript by him for some time, and whenever the humor took him he put in a few "feelings." When all was done, the story was accepted and paid for. That publisher had an eye to current fashion in literature. (Johnson, 103-107)

6. Hosea 11. 8. How shall I give thee up, Ephraim? How shall I deliver thee, Israel? how shall I make thee as Admah? How shall I set thee as Zeboim? Mine heart is turned within me, my repentings are kindled together. What a mighty pathos have these words? What tenderness? What compassions? What riches of mercy and kindness does God himself show to his people, even when their sins are become unpardonable? Yet then his love, his compassion is so excessively great, that be cannot suffer himself to destroy them, as those wicked places, Gen. 19. 23. Deut. 29. 23. But the Lord represents himself in a very great disorder and confusion, and as it were divided and swayed by different inclinations; sometimes as a just and a most righteous judge; and then, shall not the Judge of all the earth do right? And now again, he considers also, that he himself is a God full of mercy and compassion; and then says, I will not execute the fierceness of mine anger, I will not return to destroy Ephraim; for I am a God, and not a man. Methinks such tender and affectionate expressions as these give no great countenance to the doctrine of reprobation; for if God from all eternity decreed man to be miserable; why should God himself express such an infinite concernment upon the prophet of his ruin and destruction? Why should the Father of mercy weep and lament over him, when he was lost beyond all recovery so long ago, and by his very decrees, if they are in the right. (Norwood, 138-139)

Kind Of Series
Part Of Pathos
Related Figures figures of pathos, exuscitatio
Confidence Unconfident
Last Editor Ioanna Malton
Confidence Unconfident
Editorial Notes Added "Part of" as Pathos
Reviewed No