Gradatio (Rhetoric)

Gradatio (Rhetoric)

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Gradatio is a rhetorical term for a sentence construction in which the last word(s) of one clause becomes the first of the next, through three or more clauses (an extended form of anadiplosis). Gradatio has been described as the marching or climbing figure of speech. Also known as incrementum and the marching figure (Puttenham)

Jeanne Fahnestock points out that gradatio could be described as "one of the patterns of topic/comment or given/new organization identified by 20th-century text linguists, where the new information closing one clause becomes the old information opening the next" (Rhetorical Figures in Science, 1999).


From the Latin, "gradationem" ascent by steps; a climax.


  • "They call for you: The general who became a slave; the slave who became a gladiator; the gladiator who defied an Emperor. Striking story."
    (Joaquin Phoenix in the film Gladiator, 2000)
  • "Men often hate each other because they fear each other; they fear each other because they don't know each other; they don't know each other because they can not communicate; they can not communicate because they are separated."
    (Martin Luther King, Jr., Stride Toward Freedom: The Montgomery Story, 1958)
  • "In the loveliest town of all, where the houses were white and high and the elms trees were green and higher than the houses, where the front yards were wide and pleasant and the back yards were bushy and worth finding out about, where the streets sloped down to the stream and the stream flowed quietly under the bridge, where the lawns ended in orchards and the orchards ended in fields and the fields ended in pastures and the pastures climbed the hill and disappeared over the top toward the wonderful wide sky, in this loveliest of all towns Stuart stopped to get a drink of sarsaparilla."
    (E.B. White, Stuart Little. Harper, 1945)
  • "One voice can change a room. And if it can change a room, it can change a city. And if it can change a city, it can change a state. And if it can change a state, it can change a nation. And if it can change a nation, it can change a world."
    (Barack Obama, presidential campaign speech in Des Moines, Iowa, November 5, 2012)
  • "The only graceful way to accept an insult is to ignore it; if you can't ignore it, top it; if you can't top it, laugh at it; if you can't laugh at it, it's probably deserved."
    (Russell Lynes)
  • "We glory in tribulations also: knowing that tribulation worketh patience; and patience, experience; and experience, hope: and hope maketh not ashamed; because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us."
    (Paul, Romans 5:3)
  • "If you sow a thought, you reap an act. If you sow an act, you reap a habit. If you sow a habit, you reap a character. And if you sow a character, you reap a destiny."
    (anonymous, quoted by Samuel Smiles in Life and Labor, 1887)
  • "She abandoned religion for mesmerism, mesmerism for politics, and politics for the melodramatic excitements of philanthropy."
    (Vivian in Oscar Wilde's "The Decay of Lying," 1891)
  • "Design must have had a designer. That designer must have been a person. That person is GOD."
    (William Paley, Natural Theology, 1963)
  • "All our knowledge brings us nearer to our ignorance,
    All our ignorance brings us nearer to death,
    But nearness to death no nearer to God."
    (T. S. Eliot, Chorus from The Rock, 1934)
  • "It takes an egg to make a hen
    It takes a hen to make an egg
    There is no end to what I'm saying
    It takes a thought to make a word
    And it takes a word to make an action."
    (Jason Mraz, "Life is Wonderful")

Shakespeare's Use of Gradatio

  • "My conscience hath a thousand several tongues,
    And every tongue brings in a several tale,
    And every tale condemns me for a villain."
    (William Shakespeare, King Richard III, 1591?)
  • "For your brother and my sister no sooner met but they looked; no sooner looked but they loved; no sooner loved but they sighed; no sooner sighed but they asked one another the reason; no sooner knew the reason but they sought the remedy; and in these degrees have they made a pair of stairs to marriage which they will climb incontinent, or else be incontinent before marriage… "
    (Rosalind to Orlando in William Shakespeare's As You Like It, Act Five, scene 2)

Pronunciation: gra-DA-see-o