The climax (from the Greek klímax, feminine, singular, “scale”, pronounced: “clìmacs”), also called ascending gradation (gradatio in Latin), is a rhetorical figure that consists in arranging several elements of speech according to an order based on the increasing intensity of their meaning (ascending climax) to create an effect of progression that enhances the expressiveness of the speech. If the intensity is decreasing, we speak instead of anticlimax or descending climax.

In other words, it is a rhetorical procedure that consists in the disposition of phrases, nouns and adjectives in a “scale” progression, that is, according to an ascending gradation, to suggest a progressively more intense effect: e.g. good, better, excellent (from the normal degree of the adjective one passes to the comparative degree and finally to the superlative degree); two, three, four (which constitutes the simplest gradation, since it is implemented on a numerical level).

A similar procedure is particularly effective especially in poetry, where the intensification of the concept through the natural progression from the weakest to the strongest word is significantly increased by the phonic and rhythmic values of the words.


Anti-climax, or negative gradation, is a rhetorical figure consisting of a list of terms or locutions with successive negative intensity. The term, from ancient Greek, literally means “against scale”. An example of anti-climax is the following:

“He ate three sausage sandwiches, then drank half a glass of wine, wiped his handkerchief on his lips, wiped himself, turned around, was tired, and fell asleep on the grass.”

The use of this rhetorical figure is usual in both poetry and fiction. Very useful for expressing movement, the situation changing in a decreasing way and the final calm, when everything is over. The juxtapositions of words and concepts can be done in different ways, the important thing is that there is, however, the intensity that diminishes, to activate, in the reader, that expectation of the end of a tension or a strong idea.

If used by the writer with taste and moderation, it can be appreciated during a writing. Therefore, it is advisable to take it into account, as it is a form with an important value in the descriptive phase of a literary work. A style that creates images in the reader.

Notify of

Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Scroll to Top