pragmatographia pragmatographia
 prag-ma-to-gra'-fi-a from Gk. pragma, "that which has
been done" and graphe, "writing"
the counterfait action, description of actions

The description of an action (such as a battle, a feast, a marriage, a burial, etc.). A kind of enargia.
This figure is frequently used in drama for exposition or to report what has happened offstage.
Horatio reports to Hamlet the appearance his father's ghost:

Horatio: Season your admiration for a while
With an attent ear, till I may deliver,
Upon the witness of these gentlemen,
This marvel to you.
Hamlet: For God's love let me hear!
Horatio: Two nights together had these gentlemen,
Marcellus and Barnardo, on their watch,
In the dead waste and middle of the night,
Been thus encount'red: a figure like your father,
Armed at point exactly, cap-a-pe,
Appears before them, and with solemn march
Goes slow and stately by them; thrice he walk'd
By their oppress'd and fear-surprised eyes
Within his truncheon's length, whilst they, distill'd
Almost to jelly with the act of fear,
Stand dumb and speak not to him. This to me
In dreadful secrecy impart they did,
And I with them the third night kept the watch,
Where, as they had delivered, both in time,
Form of the thing, each word made true and good,
The apparition comes. I knew your father,
These hands are not more like.
—Shakespeare, Hamlet 1.2.92-211

Related Figures

Related Topics of Invention

  • Subject and Adjuncts
    Since description typically takes the form of delineating the attributes of something, it is therefore the use of this topic of invention, by which one identifies the characteristics (or adjuncts) of a given subject.
See Also

  Sources: Peacham (1577) O4v; Putt. (1589) 246 ("pragmatographia," "the counterfait action")

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Gideon O. Burton, Brigham Young University
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