Paraphrase Tool


Updated Mar 12, 2023

Understanding the Rhetorical Device of Metabasis


In the realm of persuasive writing and rhetoric, writers often employ various techniques to effectively communicate their ideas and sway their audience. One such powerful tool is the use of rhetorical devices. These devices enable writers to enhance their arguments, create a sense of flow, and engage their readers on a deeper level. In this article, we will explore the rhetorical device of metabasis, understanding its purpose, and analyzing some accurate examples.

What is Metabasis?

Definition and Purpose

Metabasis, derived from the Greek word "metabasis" meaning transition, is a rhetorical device that involves a transition or shift in thought or subject matter. It serves as a bridge between different sections or ideas within a piece of writing, guiding the reader smoothly through various arguments or concepts. Metabasis allows the writer to summarize previous points, introduce new perspectives, or present a change in direction, all while maintaining the coherence of the overall message.

Examples of Metabasis

To better understand the practical application of metabasis, let's explore some accurate examples from notable speeches and literary works:

  1. Example 1: Martin Luther King Jr.'s "I Have a Dream" speech

In this iconic speech, King uses metabasis to transition from discussing the injustices faced by African Americans to expressing hope for the future. He states, "Now is the time to rise from the dark and desolate valley of segregation to the sunlit path of racial justice." Here, King effortlessly shifts the focus from the struggles of the present to a vision of a brighter future, inspiring his listeners to join him in pursuing equality and justice.

  1. Example 2: William Shakespeare's "Macbeth"

Shakespeare employs metabasis in the famous soliloquy of Lady Macbeth. After initially encouraging her husband to commit regicide, she undergoes a transition in thought and expresses her guilt and remorse. Lady Macbeth says, "Out, damned spot! Out, I say! One, two, why then 'tis time to do't. Hell is murky!" This transition from plotting to feeling remorse highlights her psychological transformation and adds depth to her character.

  1. Example 3: Steve Jobs' Stanford Commencement Speech

In his inspiring speech, Steve Jobs uses metabasis to transition between different life experiences and lessons. He states, "Remembering that I'll be dead soon is the most important tool I've ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life." By shifting from personal anecdotes to a reflection on mortality, Jobs effectively captures the attention of the audience and emphasizes the significance of living a purposeful life.

The Impact of Metabasis

Enhancing Flow and Coherence

Metabasis plays a crucial role in improving the overall flow and coherence of a piece of writing. By smoothly transitioning between ideas or sections, writers can guide their readers through complex arguments or narratives. Metabasis helps prevent abrupt shifts or disjointedness, ensuring that the audience remains engaged and can easily follow the writer's train of thought.

Adding Emphasis and Depth

Furthermore, metabasis allows writers to add emphasis and depth to their message. By summarizing previous points or introducing new perspectives, writers can reinforce their arguments and present a more comprehensive view of the topic at hand. Metabasis serves as a tool for writers to make their ideas more persuasive and memorable, leaving a lasting impact on their audience.


In the realm of persuasive writing, rhetorical devices play a crucial role in capturing the attention of readers and effectively conveying ideas. Metabasis, as a powerful rhetorical device, enables writers to transition between different thoughts or subject matters, enhancing the flow, coherence, and impact of their writing. By understanding and utilizing metabasis, writers can create a more engaging and persuasive piece of work, leaving a lasting impression on their audience.


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