Apostrophe (Greek ἀποστροφή, apostrophé, "turning away"; the final e being sounded) is an exclamatory figure of speech. It occurs when a speaker breaks off from addressing the audience (e.g. in a play) and directs speech to a 3rd party such as an opposing litigant or some other individual, sometimes absent from the scene. Often the addressee is a personified abstract quality or inanimate object. In dramatic works and poetry written in or translated into English, such a figure of speech is often introduced by the vocative exclamation, "O". Poets may apostrophize a beloved, the Muse, God, love, time, or any other entity that can't respond in reality.
"O, pardon me, thou bleeding piece of earth,
That I am meek and gentle with these butchers!
Thou art the ruins of the noblest man
That ever lived in the tide of times." William Shakespeare, Julius Caesar, act 3, scene 1
- "O God! God!" Hamlet, act 1, scene 2
- "Is this a dagger which I see before me, The handle toward my hand? Come, let me clutch thee! I have thee not, and yet I see thee still." Macbeth, act 2, scene 1
- "O happy dagger! This is thy sheath; there rust, and let me die." Romeo and Juliet, act 5, scene 3, 169–170.
- "To what green altar, O mysterious priest, / Lead'st thou that heifer lowing at the skies, / And all her silken flanks with garlands drest?" John Keats, "Ode on a Grecian Urn"
- "O eloquent, just, and mighty Death!" Sir Walter Raleigh, A Historie of the World
- "Thou hast the keys of Paradise, oh just, subtle, and mighty opium!" Thomas De Quincey, Confessions of an English Opium-Eater
- "Roll on, thou dark and deep blue Ocean – roll!" Lord Byron, Childe Harold's Pilgrimage
- "Thou glorious sun!" Samuel Taylor Coleridge, "This Lime Tree Bower"
- "Death, be not proud, though some have called thee / Mighty and dreadful, for thou art not so." John Donne, "Holy Sonnet X"
- "And you, Eumaeus..." Homer, the Odyssey 14.55, κτλ.
- "O My friends, there is no friend." Montaigne, originally attributed to Aristotle
- "Ah Bartleby! Ah Humanity!" Herman Melville, "Bartleby, the Scrivener"
- "O black night, nurse of the golden eyes!" Electra in Euripides' Electra (c. 410 BC, line 54), in the translation by David Kovacs (1998).
- "Then come, sweet death, and rid me of this grief." Queen Isabel in Edward II by Christopher Marlowe
- "apostrophe". Dictionary.com Unabridged. Random House. Retrieved 2017-01-12.
- Encyclopædia Britannica. 2 (11th ed.). 1911. p. 205. .
- Hays, J. Daniel; Duvall, J. Scott (1 September 2011). The Baker Illustrated Bible Handbook (Text Only ed.). Baker Books. p. 891. ISBN 978-1-4412-3785-9.
- Ford, Margaret L. (1984). Techniques of Good Writing. Irwin Pub. p. 27. ISBN 978-0-7725-5001-9. Retrieved 8 August 2013.
- Greenblatt, Stephen (2006). The Norton Anthology of English Literature. D (8 ed.). New York: Norton. p. 429.
- "Politics of friendship. (Cover Story)". American Imago. September 22, 1993.