Epitheton, called of Quintillian Appositum, of others Adjectiuum: Is a figure ofr forme of speech, which joyneth Adjectives to those Substantives, to whom they do properly belong, and that either to praise or dispraise, to amplifie or extenuate.
To praise thus: O wonderfull clemencie, O most holy discipline. Hence it is, that we say: Gracious Princes, honorable Judges, reverend Fathers, prudent Counsellors, valiant Captaines, deare parents, vigilant Pastors, godly Ministers, faithfull friends, just Stewards, painfull labourers, & c.
Another: A Prince of singular prudence, of valiant courage, of incomparable magnanimitie, of invincible fortitude, of famous activitie, of most happy successe, & most fortunate dexteritie. Sometime the Epithet is put after his substantive, & that most elegantly, as in this example of Tertullian: We pray (saith he) for all Princes, that their life may be long, their kingdome secure, their court safe, their armies strong, their counsellers trustie, their people good, the whole world quiet, and whatsoever else that subject of Prince do desire to enjoy.
Many Epithets are often joyned to one Substantive, as for example: The judgements of almightie God are great, just, unsearchable, marvellous, and mightie.
So contrariwise, one Epithet may be applied to diverse Substantives, as may appear in this sentence converted: O happie Prince of such worthie Counsellers: O happie Counsellers of so worthie a Prince.
To dispraise thus: Wicked counsell, rash consent, and cursed
slaughter. To dispraise persons thus: Evil counsellers, unnatural parents, disobedient children, ignorant teachers, blinde guides, hipocriticall professors, & c.
To amplifie in praise thus: Heavenly musicke, famous memorie
, wonderfull art, glorious fame. In dispraise, insatiable avarice, wicked presumption, bloodie crueltie, divellish subtiltie, mad drunkennesse, horrible feare.
To extenuate thus: A small fault, a wicked cause, a feeble excuse, a momentary time. Lot useth this figure where he saith to the Angels: See now this cittie hereby to flie unto which is a litle one: he calleth it a litle one, that by extenuating the thing he desired, he might the sooner obtaine it.
The use of this figure.
Among all the forms of eloquution, there is no one exornation
either more generall or more excellent then this: for it carrieth alwaies with it, wheresoever it be applied a singular grace
2. Beautie of the sentence.
and majestie of matter, beside the beautie wherewith it garnisheth the sentence.
A Speciall regard ought to be had in the frame & conjunction of this figure, that ye Epithets be not unproperly or perversely
1. Unproperly or perversely applied.
applied, as to say: A valiant Phisitian, a reverend labourer, a coragious Counseller, which is a forme of speech very unproper and also very absurd.