Figures of Speech Conceit

Figures of Speech Conceit

In literature, a conceit is a literary device that involves an extended metaphor or a comparison between two seemingly dissimilar things. A conceit often connects disparate or contrasting ideas in a more elaborate and extended manner.

One famous example of conceit can be found in John Donne’s metaphysical poem “A Valediction: Forbidding Mourning,”.  Here, he compares the connection between two lovers to a compass. Donne uses the conceit of the compass to illustrate the idea that even when physically apart, the souls of the lovers remain connected and complete each other.

Functions of Conceit: 

  1. Comparative Insight: It offers unconventional comparisons, often drawing parallels between dissimilar elements.
  2. Emotional Intensity: Conceit heightens emotional impact by using elaborate and extended metaphors. This intensifies the reader’s engagement with the text.
  3. Intellectual Engagement: It challenges readers to think critically and intellectually.
  4. Expressive Style: Writers use conceit to reveal their creativity. This adds flair to their prose or poetry and establishes a distinctive authorial voice.


ইউটিউবে ভিডিও লেকচার দেখুনঃ

1. “Thou counterfeit’st a bark, a sea, a wind; 

For still thy eyes, which I may call the sea, 

Do ebb and flow with tears; the bark thy body is, 

Sailing in this salt flood; the winds, thy sighs; 

Read More: Literary Term Comedy

Who, raging with thy tears, and they with them, 

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Without a sudden calm, will overset 

Thy tempest-tossed body.”[ Romeo and Juliet, Shakespeare]

Ans: This is an instance of conceit. Here, Juliet is compared to a boat in a storm. The comparison is an extended metaphor where her eyes are compared to a sea, her tears to a storm; her sighs to the stormy winds and her body to a boat in a storm. The function of this conceit is to surprise and shock the readers by making farfetched comparisons.

2. “If they be two, they are two so As stiff 

Twin compasses are two; [NTR exam-2016] 

Thy soul, the fix’d foot, makes no show 

To move, but doth, if th’ other do.

And though it in the center sit, 

Yet, when the other far doth roam, 

It leans, and hearkens after it, 

And grows erect, as that comes home.” [“A Valediction: Forbidding Mourning”, Donne]

Ans: This is one of Donne’s most famous ingenious conceits. Here, the souls of the lover and his beloved are compared to the two legs of a compass. The lover compares his beloved’s soul to the “fixed foot” and his soul to the other foot. The bodies of lovers may be separate like the two legs of a compass but are always joined at the top, which reminds us of the spiritual union of the two lovers. The function of the conceit is to make readers look at things in a new way.

3. “Oh stay! three lives in one flea spare 

Where we almost, yea more than married are. 

This flea is you and I, and this

Our marriage-bed and marriage-temple is” [“The Flea”, Donne] 

Ans: This is an example of conceit. Here the poet tells his beloved that she has no reason to deny him sexually as the flea has sucked blood from both of them, and their blood has mingled in its gut, so the flea has become their “wedding bed”, though they are not married yet. The function of the conceit is to make readers look at things in a new way.

Read More: Literary Term Elegy

Previous Years Questions and Solutions

NTRCA Exam – 2007, 2009

1. She is all states and all princes 

Nothing else is 

Princes doe but play us; compared to this 

All honour’s mimique.

Ans. This is an example of conceit. Here, two dissimilar things are compared, and the comparison is startling, far-fetched and fanciful. Here lover is compared to all princes and the beloved to all states. The function of the conceit is to make readers look at things in a new way.

Riya Akter
Riya Akter
Hey, This is Riya Akter Setu, B.A (Hons) & M.A in English from National University.


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