stichomythia was our Word of the Day on 06/07/2013. Hear the podcast!
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In stichomythia terse, contentious, and often biting lines are bandied back and forth. Characters engaged in stichomythia may alternately voice antithetical positions, or they may play on one another's words, each repartee twisting or punning on words just spoken to make a new point. Classical Greek dramatists, such as Aeschylus and Sophocles (who wrote Agamemnon and Oedipus the King, respectively), used this device in some of their dialogues. Shakespeare also used it in exchanges in his plays. For instance, in the Closet scene in Hamlet (Act III, scene iv), the Queen tells Hamlet "Come, come, you answer with an idle tongue" to which Hamlet retorts "Go, go, you question with a wicked tongue." Not to be idle with the origin of "stichomythia": the word is from Greek stichos (meaning "row," "line," or "verse") and "mythos" ("speech" or "myth").
Origin and Etymology of stichomythia
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Britannica.com: Encyclopedia article about stichomythia
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