Anadiplosis is a literary device that literally means “doubling back” in Greek. This device is defined as the last word in a clause being repeated as the first word in the next clause. Many authors and poets use anadiplosis for emphasis, to help the audience understand the import of what is being said. The repetition may also have helped students in ancient times remember poems or songs that they had to commit to memory for their lessons. Those giving speeches may use anadiplosis to create either ascending or descending emphasis.
The use of anadiplosis is often saved for when a speaker or author needs to grab the audience’s attention. Most cases of anadiplosis lead to some kind of climax, with each repeated phrase pushing upward from the last. For instance, the phrase “I would but run away. Run away, perhaps today. Perhaps today I will. I will run away.” The end of each sentence in this verse is repeated as the beginning of the next sentence. Each sentence also progresses the intentions of the speaker.
The above example reads something like a journey. The speaker seems almost fanciful in the first phrase. He or she is only idly thinking about running away. By the second sentence, this plan is becoming more concrete. The third and fourth sentences cement this decision, as this person is determined to embark on some kind of journey. When read aloud, the reader feels the need to speed up as the sentences progress. This is one of the more poetic characteristics of anadiplosis — it often pushes action forward, leap-frogging over itself to get there.
Some cases of anadiplosis can be compared to building blocks instead of rising action. For instance, in the Bible, John 1:1 says, “In the beginning there was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” This example repeats a single phrase at the beginning of each clause instead of repeating different clauses. This example builds the definition of the Word instead of pushing action forward. By the end of the phrase, the reader understands that the Word and God are the same thing and that both are extremely important.
Poets and authors may also use anadiplosis to create descending action. For instance, in the film Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back, the character of Yoda says “Fear leads to anger. Anger leads to hate. Hate leads to suffering.” In this example, each repetition falls downward, leading to something darker than the last.