Pathopoeia ( path-o-poy’-a): A general term for speech that moves hearers emotionally, especially as the speaker attempts to elicit an emotional response by way of demonstrating his/her own feelings (exuscitatio). Melanchthon explains that this effect is achieved by making reference to any of a variety of pathetic circumstances: the time, one’s gender, age, location, etc.

“I am worn out, hungry, homeless, cold, and sick. I need help. Can I stay in this shelter tonight? Can I have some hot soup? Can I see a doctor?”  I heard this last night, and I hear some version of it nearly every night, at the homeless shelter where I work. I wanted to answer “Yes” to all the questions, but I couldn’t, and it broke my heart.

We can provide shelter.  We can provide meals, but we can’t provide any kind of medical assistance. When will I be able to answer “Yes, yes, yes” to those three basic life-sustaining questions? Shelter? Food? Medicine?

Well, now it’s your turn to answer: Will you volunteer? Will you be on call? Will you answer “Yes” when a homeless person asks “Can I see a doctor?” Will you help? What is your answer? Is it “Yes”?

  •  Post your own pathopoeia on the “Comments” page!

 Definition courtesy of “Silva Rhetoricae” (

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