Euphues, the Anatomy of Wit

by John Lyly
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What is John Lyly's prose style in Euphues, the Anatomy of Wit?

John Lyly's prose style in Euphues, the Anatomy of Wit is sophisticated, scholarly, poetic, and dense.

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The prose style of John Lyly’s Euphues, the Anatomy of Wit is formal. The characters possess an expansive vocabulary that makes the prose come across as proper and cultured. Words like lamentable, countenance, mortified, and maidenly suggest that Lyly was aiming for a sophisticated style. The...

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The prose style of John Lyly’s Euphues, the Anatomy of Wit is formal. The characters possess an expansive vocabulary that makes the prose come across as proper and cultured. Words like lamentable, countenance, mortified, and maidenly suggest that Lyly was aiming for a sophisticated style. The distinguished style is reinforced when the story directly mentions Naples's common people and their jealousies. The inclusion of ordinary people indicates that neither Lucilla nor her suitors consider themselves common, which accounts for their ornate style of speaking.

The prose style of Lyly’s Euphues can also be called poetic. There are several literary devices in Lyly’s novel that are often found in poetry. One such device is alliteration. A poet might use alliteration to create melody or a phonetically pleasing line. Lyly brings this poetic sensibility to his work of prose. Throughout the narrative, there are many passages that contain groups of words with the same first letter, including, “Thou art not the firfl that hath folicited this fute.”

Another way to describe Lyly’s prose style is dense. Lyly’s paragraphs can take up almost an entire page or stretch onto a second page. The dense style relates to the analytical, scholarly style of Lyly. His characters are thoughtful and philosophical. They discuss heady topics like love and Greek mythology. The enormous paragraphs are a reflection of Lyly’s tendency to pack them with an assortment of clever theories, allusions, and references.

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