Guide to Literary Terms Parallelism

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Parallelism - an arrangement of the parts of a composition so that elements of equal importance are balanced in similar constructions. This arrangement may be applied to words, phrases, clauses, sentences, paragraphs, or complete units of compositions. Parallelism is a rhetorical device.

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The term comes from the Greek parallelos, meaning “beside one another.”

Shakespeare used this device in his Richard II when King Richard laments his position:

I’ll give my jewels for a set of beads,
My gorgeous palace for a hermitage,
My gay apparel for an almsman’s gown,
My figured goblets for a dish of wood . . . .
Act III, scene iii : lines 170 – 173

see: antithesis, subplot

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