Guide to Literary Terms

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Anachronism

Anachronism - an error in chronology, or placing an event, person, item, or language expression in the wrong period.

The term is originally from the Greek anakhronismos formed by combining ana, which means “back or backwards,” and khronos, which means “time.”

In Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar, an anachronism is used:

Brutus: Peace! count the clock.
Cassius: The clock has stricken three.
Act II, scene i : lines 193 – 194

There were no clocks during Roman times, and the striking clock was not invented until 1,400 years after Caesar’s death.

Contemporary theater often uses anachronisms, such as when one of Shakespeare’s plays is performed in modern-day clothing.