pile of books
skip main nav
 Ling 131: Language & Style

Topic 3 (session A) - Patterns, Deviations, Style and Meaning > Parallelism: literary examples

skip topic navigation
Session Overview
Overview of foregrounding, deviation and parallelism
Deviation: non - literary examples
Deviation: literary examples
Parallelism: non-literary examples
Parallelism: literary examples
Useful Links

Parallelism: literary examples

Task A - Kiss & kill

What is the meaning connection between the verbs 'kiss' and 'kill'?

our commentary


Task B - Othello

The line below is from Shakespeare's Othello. Othello has just killed his wife, Desdemona, because of his uncontrollable and unfounded jealousy. She is lying dead on the bed and he says:

I kissed thee ere I killed thee

(Shakespeare More about Shakespeare, 0000-0000, Othello, Act V, scene iii)

In one sense this line merely states the obvious. Othello kissed Desdemona before he killed her. You'd have to be a bit of a necrophiliac to do it the other way round!

But it has often been pointed out that this line also encapsulates a basic thematic opposition present in the play, that between love and jealousy, or love and hate (note that these are anonyms of one another).

Can you explain, using the 'parallelism processing rule', how this can be possible?
When you have worked out your answer, compare it with our commentary

our commentary

(Tip: it is important to note that the parallelism works at a number of different linguistic levels).

If you would like to read more of Othello, try the following site:


Task C - 'The Journey of the Magi'

Below are the first four lines of T. S. Eliot's More about T.S. Eliot, 0000-0000 poem, 'The Journey of the Magi'. One of the three wise men is describing the difficult journey they made to witness the birth of Christ in Bethlehem.

Examine the final line of the quotation. In what ways can the two noun phrases on either side of the coordinator 'and' be said to parallel one another structurally? What is the effect of this structural parallelism? When you have decided on your answer, click on the line to see what we think.

A cold coming we had of it,
Just the worst time of the year
For a journey, and such a long journey:
The ways deep and the weather sharp


to the top
Next: Start Session B next

Home ¦ Outline ¦ Contents ¦ Glossary