The part of a story or play in which events may be so arranged as to progress towards the highest point of interest and the idea or incident occupying this distinctive position is called the climax. It is a Greek word signifying ladder. As applied to the structure of a tragedy, the term commonly means the turning point of the action.
It was first known use in 1538.
The examples of climax can be understood by the story of brother and sister.
“The brother wants her sister not to go the party as it lasted late at night and she had to complete her class work”.
“The sister insisted to go the party as she had already completed her class work”.
Above story narrates the conflict of opinion between them but two of them have equal point of interest i.e. not to miss the class.
Climax examples in literature:
The murder of Banquo, alongwith the escape of his son Fleance and the appearance of Banquo’s ghost at the emotionally climatic banquet scene events which shake the spirit of the hitherto successful protagonist may be regarded as the climax.
The climax occurs in Act iii, scene iv, as Hamlet kills Polonius, believing he has murdered Claudius in the midst of a sin.
In “King Lear”
The highest point of interest comes in drama when King Lear imagines that he and Cordelia can live as two birds in the forest which allows him to ignore the plight of their situation:
“We two alone will sing like birds i’th’cage.
When thou dost ask me blessing, I’ll kneel down
And ask of thee forgiveness; so we’ll live,
And pray, and sing, and tell old tales”…
Lear imagines some kind of alternative reality where he can undo the mistakes of his past and live happily with Cordelia, showing that he recognizes his wrongdoing towards her. However, there is no such opportunity for redemption, and the climax is made more pronounced by the note that Edmund gives to the captain which, as Edmund ominously states, contains his instructions concerning the captives. At this stage the audience still does not know what is going to happen to Lear and Cordelia, but everything points towards a tragic end, which makes this scene the climax of the play.
In “Oedipus Rex”
The climax of Oedipus the King occurs when Oedipus learns, quite contrary to his expectations, that he is the man responsible for the plague that has stricken Thebes. He is the man who killed his father and slept with his mother.
Anticlimax or Bathos
Both these terms are opposite to climax. It is a descent from the higher to the lower, from the sublime to the ridiculous. Its fall is usually unexpected and affect often humorous.
- “On the same day he lost his family, his fortune and his best suit of clothes”.
- He conquered provinces, kingdoms, but he suffered from a sore in his foot.
- Pope in his Essay on Man speaks of Bacon as:
“The wisest, brightest, meanest of mankind’.
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