Term of Art: Anticlimax

“A critical term, the first recorded definition of which comes from Dr. Samuel Johnson: ‘a sentence in which the last part expresses something lower than the first.’ It is often used deliberately for comic effect to create an ironical letdown by descending from a noble tone or image to a trivial or ludicrous one. For example, in Henry Fielding’s burlesque The Tragedy of Tragedies (1931), Lord Grizzle addresses Huncamunca: ‘Oh! Huncamunca, Huncamunca, Oh!/ Thy pouting breasts, like Kettle-Drums of Brass,/Beat everlasting loud Alarms of joy….’ Bathos is an unintentional anticlimax.”

Excerpted from: Murphy, Bruce, ed. Benet’s Reader’s Encyclopedia, Fourth Edition. New York: Harper Collins, 1996.

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