What is Anti Climax or Bathos: Definition, Features and examples


Anti Climax or Bathos is a figure of speech in which there is a descent from the lofty to the mean thought in order to excite laughter or ridicule. Of course, there is exactly no gradual descent, but rather a sudden or abrupt fall. It is the opposite of the climax.

In his essay on Bathos, or Of the Art of Sinking in Poetry, Alexander Pope is found to have used the term to indicate an ‘unintentional descent from a state of pathos, passion, or elevation.’ The purpose of an anti-climax is, however, comical or contemptuous, and the figure is used to provoke laughter or fun or to excite ridicule.

Features of Anti Climax:

The essential features of an anti-climax are thus :
(i) A series of words or ideas are presented.
(ii) The most impressive word or idea comes first.
(iii) The least impressive word or idea comes last.
(iv) There is a sudden fall from the most impressive word or idea to the least idea or lower level of excitement.
(v) The purpose is to excite ridicule, contempt, or laughter.


(i) She lost her husband, her children, and her handkerchief.
This is an example of anti-climax. Here from ‘husband and children’, there is a sudden fall to “handkerchief’, and the purpose is to excite contempt for the woman concerned.

(ii) “Who, in the course of one revolving moon,
Was lawyer, statesman, fiddler, and buffoon.” -Dryden
This is an instance of anti-climax. Here the fall to the mean thought ‘buffoon’ from ‘lawyer’ and ‘statesman’ is sudden and serves to excite ridicule for the person who had such a sweeping and ridiculous change in his profession.

(iii) “Puffs, powders, patches, Bibles, billet-doux.’ — Pope
In this example, we see the fall from ‘Bibles’ to ‘billet-doux’ is sudden and excites laughter.)

(iv)The soldier fights for glory, and a shilling a day.

Here the fall from soldier’s ‘fight for glory’ to ‘ a shilling’. Here the fall is very abrupt, and the effect is often either intentionally or unintentionally humorous.

(v) What female heart can gold despise?
What cat’s averse to fish ? -Gray
Here is a sudden fall from ‘female heart’ to ‘cat’ for the purpose of ridiciding feminine love for gold.

Also read; Asyndeton and Polysyndeton: Definition, Examples and their Importance

Also read; Oxymoron: Definition, Meaning and Examples of Oxymoron

Also read; Chiasmus: Definition, Features, and Examples of Chiasmus