Paraphrase Tool


Updated Mar 11, 2023

Understanding the Rhetorical Device of Sustentatio


In the world of rhetoric, a vast array of techniques and strategies are employed to effectively persuade and captivate an audience. One such technique is known as sustentatio, a powerful rhetorical device that can elevate the impact and memorability of a speech or written work. In this article, we will delve into the concept of sustentatio, explore its purpose, and provide accurate examples to help you grasp its significance.

What is Sustentatio?

Sustentatio, derived from the Latin word "sustentare" meaning "to sustain," is a rhetorical device that involves the artful repetition of a specific idea or phrase throughout a speech or text. This repetition serves to reinforce the central theme, emphasize key points, and leave a lasting impression on the audience or reader. By using sustentatio, speakers and writers can create a sense of rhythm and resonance, making their message more memorable and persuasive.

Examples of Sustentatio

To better understand the power of sustentatio, let us examine a few examples from famous speeches and literary works:

1. Martin Luther King Jr. - "I Have a Dream"

In his iconic speech, Martin Luther King Jr. employed sustentatio to emphasize his vision of racial equality and justice. The recurring phrase "I have a dream" not only reinforced his central message but also created a rhythmic pattern, engaging the audience emotionally. By repeating this phrase throughout his speech, King ensured that his words resonated deeply with his listeners and left a lasting impact.

2. William Shakespeare - "Macbeth"

Shakespeare masterfully employed sustentatio in his tragedy, "Macbeth." One of the most famous examples is the recurring line, "Fair is foul, and foul is fair." This repetition not only sets the eerie tone of the play but also highlights the theme of deception and moral ambiguity. By using sustentatio, Shakespeare effectively conveys the unsettling atmosphere and the corrupt nature of the characters.

3. John F. Kennedy - Inaugural Address

In his inaugural address, President John F. Kennedy utilized sustentatio to emphasize the importance of civic duty and unity. The phrase "Ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country" was repeated to drive home the message of personal responsibility and collective action. By employing sustentatio, Kennedy inspired a sense of patriotism and motivated the nation to work together for the greater good.

The Impact of Sustentatio

By employing sustentatio, speakers and writers can amplify the impact of their message in several ways:

1. Emphasizing Key Points

Sustentatio allows speakers and writers to highlight crucial ideas or arguments by repeating them throughout their discourse. This repetition ensures that the core message remains at the forefront of the audience's mind, making it more likely to be remembered.

2. Creating Rhythm and Resonance

The repetitive nature of sustentatio creates a rhythmic pattern that captures the audience's attention and engages them emotionally. By establishing a melodic cadence, speakers and writers can evoke a powerful response and make their words more memorable.

3. Enhancing Persuasiveness

Through the use of sustentatio, speakers and writers can enhance the persuasiveness of their arguments. By repeating key phrases or ideas, they reinforce their message and make it more convincing to the audience, increasing the likelihood of acceptance or action.


Sustentatio is a valuable rhetorical device that can elevate the impact and effectiveness of speeches and written works. By employing repetition to emphasize key points, create rhythm, and enhance persuasiveness, speakers and writers can leave a lasting impression on their audience or readers. Whether it be Martin Luther King Jr.'s dream of equality, Shakespeare's eerie portrayal of deception, or Kennedy's call to civic duty, sustentatio has played a pivotal role in shaping some of history's most influential speeches and literary works. So, the next time you find yourself captivated by a powerful message, take a moment to appreciate the artful use of sustentatio behind it.


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