by Michael J. Cummings...©
2003, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011
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Drama Play that depicts life as meaningless, senseless,
uncertain. For example, an absurdist playwright's story generally ends
up where it started; nothing has been accomplished and nothing gained.
The characters may be uncertain of time and place, and they are virtually
the same at the end of the play as they were at the beginning. Here is
how the genre came about: A group of dramatists in 1940's Paris believed
life is without apparent meaning or purpose; it is, in short, absurd, as
French playwright and novelist Albert Camus (1913-1960) wrote in a 1942
essay, "The Myth of Sisyphus." Parodoxically, the only certainty in life
is uncertainty, the absurdists believed. For more about absurdist drama,
see Waiting for Godot.
One of the main divisions of a play. Shakespeare's plays each have five
acts. Each act is subdivided into scenes. An act generally
focuses on one major aspect of the plot or theme. Between acts, stagehands
may change scenery, and the setting may shift to another locale.
Wise saying; proverb; short, memorable saying that expresses a truth and
is handed down from one generation to the next; short saying that expresses
an observation or experience about life; maxim; aphorism; apothegm. Examples
of adages are the following:
bed and early to rise makes a man healthy, wealthy, and wise.–Unknown
author, 16th Century.
Stage direction in a Shakespeare play (or a play by another author in Shakespeare's
time) indicating the coming of a battle; a call to arms.
a feather flock together [probably based on an observation of Robert
Burton (1577-1640) in The Anatomy of Melancholy: "Birds of a feather
will gather together."]
dowry is a bed full of brambles.–George Herbert, Outlandish Proverbs,
visitors smell in three days.–Benjamin Franklin.
is enough for a woman.–J. Ray, English Proverbs (1670).
in need is a friend indeed.–Of Latin origin.
learns to shave by shaving fools.–J. Ray, English Proverbs (1670).
form popularized in France in which each line contains twelve syllables
(and sometimes thirteen). Major accents occur on the sixth and twelfth
syllables; two minor accents occur, one before the sixth syllable and one
before the twelfth syllable. A pause (caesura) occurs
immediately after the sixth syllable. Generally, there is no enjambment
in the French Alexandrine line. However, enjambment does occur in English
translations of Alexandrine verse. The name Alexandrine derives
from a twelfth-century work about Alexander the Great that was written
in this verse format. Jean Baptiste
Racine was one of the masters of this format. Some English writers
later adapted the format in their poetry.
Literary work in which characters, events, objects, and ideas have secondary
or symbolic meanings. One of the most popular allegories of the twentieth
century was George Orwell's Animal
Farm, about farm animals vying for power. On the surface, it is
an entertaining story that even children can enjoy. Beneath the surface,
it is the story of ruthless Soviet totalitarianism. Other famous examples
of allegories are John Bunyan's Pilgrim's Progress and the fifteenth-century
morality play, Everyman.
Repetition of consonant sounds. Examples: (1) But now I am cabined,
bound into saucy doubts and fears.–Shakespeare. (2) Duncan is in his grave;
after life's fitful
he sleeps well–Shakespeare. (3) When
Housman. (Note that "one" has a "w" sound. (4) I sent thee late a rosy
Jonson. (Note that "wr" has an "r" sound.)
Reference to a historical event or to a mythical or literary figure. Examples:
(1) Sir Lancelot fought with Herculean strength. (Reference to the
mythological hero Hercules). (2) "I have met my Waterloo," the mountain
climber said after returning from a failed attempt to conquer Everest.
(Reference to the Belgian town where Napoleon lost a make-or-break battle).
(3) Since my elementary-school days, math has always been my Achilles
heel. (Reference to the weak spot of Achilles, the greatest warrior
to fight in the Trojan War. When his mother submersed him in the River
Styx after he was born, the magical waters made him invulnerable. His flesh
was impervious to all harm–except for the heel of a foot. His mother was
grasping the heel when she dipped him into the river. Because the river
water did not touch his heel, it was the only part of his body that could
suffer harm. He died when a poison-tipped arrow lodged in his heel. Hence,
writers over the ages have used the term Achilles heel to refer
to a person's most pronounced weakness.
A thing from a different period of history than that which is under discussion;
a thing that is out of place historically. Suppose, for example, that a
literary work about World War I says that a wounded soldier is treated
with penicillin to prevent a bacterial infection. The writer of the work
would deserve criticism for committing an anachronism, for penicillin and
other antibiotics did not come into use until 1941, twenty-three years
after the end of World War I.
(an uh dih PLOH sis) Figure of speech in which a word or phrase at the
end of a sentence, clause, or line of verse is repeated at or near the
beginning of the next sentence, clause, or line of verse. Here are examples:
pledged the country his loyalty; loyalty was his only possession.
(an ag NOR ih sis) In Greek drama, a startling discovery; moment of epiphany;
time of revelation when a character discovers his true identity. In the
Sophocles play Oedipus Rex,
anagnorisis occurs when Oedipus realizes who he is.
hath a thousand several tongues,
brings in a several tale,
condemns me for a villain.–Shakespeare, Richard III.
Literary work, film, character, setting, etc. that resembles another literary
work, film, character, setting, etc. The film West Side Story is
an analogue of Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet.
Stephen Spielberg's film Jaws is an analogue of Herman Melville's
novel Moby Dick.
Anapest and Anapestic
See Meter .
NAF uh ruh) Repetition of a word, phrase, or clause at the beginning
of word groups occurring one after the other. Examples: (1) Give me
wine, give me women and give me song. (2) For everything
there is a season . . . a time to be born, and a time to
die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted.–Bible,
Ecclesiastes. (3) To die, to sleep; to sleep: perchance to dream.–Shakespeare,
One of the most famous examples of anaphora in Shakespeare occurs in Act
II, Scene I, Lines 40-68.
(uh NAS truh fe) Inversion of the normal word order, as in a
man forgotten (instead of a forgotten man) or as in the opening
lines of Samuel Taylor Coleridge's "Kubla Kahn": In Xanada did Kubla
Kahn / A stately pleasure dome decree (instead of
In Xanadu, Kubla
Kahn decreed a stately pleasure dome). Here is another example, made
up to demonstrate the inverted word order of anastrophe:
In the garden green and dewy
Anecdote A little story,
often amusing, inserted in an essay or a speech to help reinforce the thesis.
A rose I plucked for Huey
note that accompanies text; footnote; comment.
in a story or poem who opposes the main character (protagonist). Sometimes
the antagonist is an animal, an idea, or a thing. Examples of such antagonists
might include illness, oppression, or the serpent in the biblical story
of Adam and Eve.
Antonomasia (an tihn
uh MAY zha) Identification of a person by an appropriate substituted phrase,
such as her majesty for a queen or the Bard of Avon for Shakespeare.
Antiphrasis (an TIF
ruh sis) See Irony, Definition 1.
of contrasting or opposing words, phrases, clauses, or sentences side by
side. Following are examples:
I am tall; you are short.
Aphorism Short, often
witty statement presenting an observation or a universal truth; an adage.
Examples: (1) Fish and visitors smell in three days–Benjamin Franklin.
(2) Many hands make light work.–John Heywood. (3) In charity there is no
excess–Francis Bacon. (4) Uneasy lies the head that wears the crown–William
Shakespeare. (See also Epigram.)
The world will little note nor long
remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here.–Abraham
Lincoln, "Gettysburg Address."
To err is human, to forgive divine.–Alexander
Pope, "Essay on Criticism."
Addressing an abstraction or a thing, present or absent; addressing an
absent entity or person; addressing a deceased person. Examples: (1) Frailty,
thy name is woman.–William Shakespeare. (2) Hail, Holy Light, offspring
of heaven firstborn!–John Milton. (3) God in heaven, please help me.
Novel (Bildungsroman) Novel that centers on the period
in which a young person grows up. This type of novel was pioneered by Johann
Wolfgang von Goethe (1749-1832) in his novel Wilhelm Meisters Lehrjahre
(Wilhelm Meister's Apprenticeship). An apprenticeship novel can
also be identified by its German name, bildungsroman, meaning novel
(roman) of educational development (bildungs).
(1) Original model or models for persons appearing later in history or
characters appearing later in literature; (2) the original model or models
for places, things, or ideas appearing later in history or literature;
(3) a primordial object, substance, or cycle of nature that always symbolizes
or represents the same positive or negative qualities.
of Definition 1: The mythical Hercules is an original model of a strong
man. Consequently, he is an archetype. Exceptionally strong men who appear
later in history or literature are said to be archetypical Hercules figures
because they resemble the original Hercules. Similarly, the biblical Eve
is an original model of a woman who tempts a man to commit sin. Thus, she
is an archetype. Temptresses who appear later in history or literature
are said to be archetypical Eve figures because they resemble the original
Eve. Examples of archetypical Eve figures include the housewife who goads
her husband to steal from his employer and the prostitute who tempts a
married man to have illicit sex. In Shakespeare’s play Macbeth,
Lady Macbeth is an archetypical Eve figure because she, like Eve, urges
her husband to commit sin–in the case of Macbeth, to commit murder. In
Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar, Brutus is an archetypical Judas (the apostle
who betrayed Christ) because Brutus betrays Caesar.
of Definition 2: The biblical Sodom and Gomorrah, as well as Babylon,
are original examples of cities corrupted by sin. Thus, they are archetypes.
Decadent cities–or cities perceived to be decadent–that appear later in
history or literature are said to be archetypical sin cities. Hollywood
and Las Vegas are examples.
of Definition 3: Rivers, sunlight, serpents, the color red and green,
and winter are examples of primordial things (existing since the beginning
of time) that are archetypes because they always symbolize the same positive
or negative qualities, according to Swiss psychiatrist Carl Gustav Jung
(1875-1961). Rivers represent the passage of time or life; sunlight represents
happiness, a new beginning, glory, truth, goodness, or God; the color red
represents passion, anger, blood, or war; the color green represents new
life, a new beginning, or hope; winter represents death, dormancy, or atrophy.
Tapestry hung on the stage to conceal scenery until the right moment. In
Shakespeare's Hamlet, an arras played a crucial role. Polonius hid
behind one to eavesdrop on a conversation between Hamlet and his mother,
Queen Gertrude. When Hamlet saw the tapestry move, he stabbed at it, thinking
King Claudius was behind it, and killed Polonius.
Romance Literary work in which a knight in the age of the legendary
King Arthur goes on a quest.
Words an actor speaks to the audience which other actors on the stage cannot
hear. Sometimes the actor cups his mouth toward the audience or turns away
from the other actors. An aside serves to reveal a character's thoughts
or concerns to the audience without revealing them to other characters
in a play. Near the end of Hamlet, Queen Gertrude raises a cup of
wine to her lips during the fencing match between Hamlet and Laertes. King
Claudius had poisoned the wine and intended it for Hamlet. In an aside,
Claudius–unwilling to warn Gertrude in an effort to preserve his innocence–says,
"It is the poison'd cup: it is too late."
Repetition of vowel sounds preceded and followed by different consonant
sounds. Use of "bite" and "like" in a line of poetry would constitute assonance.
Examples: (1) There are no tricks in plain and simple faith.–Shakespeare.
(2) But I am pigeon-livered, and lack gall to make oppression bitter.
(3) John met his fate by the lake.
Use of words or phrases in a series without connectives such as and
Examples (1) One cause, one country, one heart.–Daniel Webster. (2) Veni,
vidi, vici (Latin: I came, I saw, I conquered).–Julius Caesar.
Peninsula in southeastern Greece that included Athens. According to legend,
the King of Athens, Theseus, unified 12 states in Attica into a single
state dominated by Athenian leadership and the Athenian dialect of the
Greek language. The adjective Attic has long been associated
with the culture, language and art of Athens. The great period of Greek
drama, between the Sixth and Fourth Centuries, B.C., is known as the Attic
Period. Drama itself was invented by an Attic actor, Thespis,
who introduced speaking parts to accompany choral odes.
[oh BAHD] Joyful song about dawn and its beauty; morning serenade. One
of the finest aubades in literature occurs in Act II, Scene III, of Shakespeare's
play Cymbeline. It begins with the the famous words "Hark, hark!
the lark at heaven's gate sings" (Line 22).
Folk Poem that tells a story that centers on a theme popular with
the common people of a particular culture or place. Generally of unknown
authorship, a folk ballad passes by word of mouth from one generation to
the next. One of its key characteristics is a candence that makes the poem
easy to set to mustic and sing.
Literary Ballad that imitates a folk ballad. But unlike the folk
ballad, the literary ballad has a known author who composes the poem with
careful deliberation according to sophisticated conventions. Like the folk
ballad, it tells a story with a popular theme.
Lyric poem of French origin usually made up of three eight-line stanzas
and a concluding four-line stanza called an envoi that offers parting advice
or a summation. At the end of each stanza is a refrain. Each line of the
poem contains about eight syllables. The rhyme scheme of the eight-line
stanza is ababbcbc.
rhyme scheme of the envoi is bcbc.
des dames du temps jadis" is an excellent example of the genre.
Originally, a Celtic poet who sang epic poems while playing a harp. In
time, bard was used to refer to any poet. Today, it is often used
to refer to William Shakespeare (the Bard of Avon).
Fable See Fable.
See Apprenticeship Novel.
Inflated, pretentious speech or writing that sounds important but is generally
Lay Fourteenth Century English narrative poem in rhyme about courtly
love. The poem contains elements of the supernatural. The English borrowed
the Breton-lay format from storytellers in Brittany, France. A lay is a
medieval narrative poem originally intended to be sung.
an adjective describing anyone or anything from Brittany. "The Franklin's
Tale," a story in Geoffrey Chaucer's The Canterbury Tales, is an
example of a Breton lay.
Literary work, film, or stage production that mocks a person, a place,
a thing, or an idea by using wit, irony, hyperbole, sarcasm, and/or understatement.
For example, a burlesque may turn a supposedly distinguished person into
a buffoon or a supposedly lofty subject into a trivial one. A hallmark
of burlesque is its thoroughgoing exaggeration, often to the point of the
absurd. Cervantes used burlesque in Don
Quixote to poke fun at chivalry and other outdated romantic ideals.
Among English writers who used burlesque were Samuel Butler (Hudibras)
and John Gay (The Beggar’s Opera). Burlesque is a close kin of parody.
The latter usually ridicules a specific literary work or artistic production.
Pause in a line of verse shown in scansion by two vertical lines ( || ).
Complete works of an author. When reasonable doubt exists that an author
wrote a work attributed to him, scholars generally exclude it from the
author’s canon. Such doubt sometimes arises when a centuries-old work–for
example, a play, poem, or novel–has survived intact to the present day
without an author’s byline or other documentation proving that a particular
author wrote it.
Major division division of an epic poem, such as Dante's Divine
Comedy. The word is derived from the Latin cantus (song).
Literary work or cartoon that exaggerates the physical features, dress,
or mannerisms of an individual or derides the ideas and actions of an organization,
institution, movement, etc. The word is derived from the Italian caricare,
load, exaggerate, surcharge, fill to excess. In literature,
caricature is a form of burlesque.
Carpe Diem Latin expression
meaning seize the day. Literary works with a carpe diem theme
tell readers to enjoy life while they can. In other words, they should
eat, drink and be merry and not worry about dying. Sir John Falstaff, the
fun-loving and hard-drinking knight in Shakespeare's Henry IV Part I,
Henry IV Part II, and The Merry Wives of Windsor believed in
carpe diem. An example of a poem with a carpe diem theme is Andrew Marvell's
"To His Coy Mistress."
Catalexis See Meter.
of a stage play.
Catastrophe (1) Denouement,
or conclusion, of a stage tragedy; (2) denouement of any literary work.
In published Shakespeare plays in earlier times, a single word on the bottom
of the right side of every page. This word was the first word appearing
on the next page.
In literature and art, a purification of emotions. The Greek philosopher
Aristotle (384-322 B.C.) used the term to describe the effect on the audience
of a tragedy acted out on a theater stage. This effect consists in cleansing
the audience of disturbing emotions, such as fear and pity, thereby releasing
tension. This purgation occurs as a result of either of the following reactions:
(1) Audience members resolve to avoid conflicts of the main character–for
example, Oedipus in Oedipus Rex and Creon in Antigone–that
arouse fear or pity or (2) audience members transfer their own pity and
fear to the main character, thereby emptying themselves of these disquieting
emotions. In either case, the audience members leave the theater as better
persons intellectually, morally, or socially. They have either been cleansed
of fear of pity or have vowed to avoid situations that arouse fear and
pity. In modern usage, catharsis may refer to any experience, real or imagined,
that purges a person of negative emotions.
In the drama of ancient Greece, sleeveless outer garment, or cloak, worn
by some actors.
SHAN te; alternate spellings: chantey, shantey, shanty) In earlier
times, a song sung by sailors that kept time with the work they were doing,
such as tugging on a rope to hoist a sail. The length of chanteys varied
in relation to the length of the tasks being performed.
Character, Flat Character
in story who has only one prominent trait, such as greed or cruelty.
Character, Round Character
in a story who has many aspects to his or her personality. The character
may have a good side and a bad side; he or she may be unpredictable.
Character in a literary work who does not change his or her outlook in
response to events taking place.
Tale of courtly love. In such tales, nights exhibit nobility, courage,
and respect for their ladies fair, and the ladies exhibit elegance, modesty,
and fidelity. Although knights and ladies may fall passionately in love,
they eschew immoral behavior. In conflicts between good and evil, justice
prevails. Geoffrey Chaucer's "The Knight's Tale," the first story in The
Canterbury Tales, is an example of a chivalric romance.
(pronounced ki AZ mis) Words in a second clause or
phrase that invert or transpose the order of the first clause or phrase.
Here are examples:
I come from
the rural north, from the urban south comes she.
(Greek Play) Bystanders in a Greek play who present odes
on the action. A parode (or parados) is a song sung by the
chorus when it enters. A stasimon is a song sung during the play,
between episodes of action. The chorus generally had the following roles
in the plays of Sophocles and other Greek playwrights: (1) to explain
the action, (2) to interpret the action in relation to the law of the state
and the law of the Olympian gods, (3) to foreshadow the future, (4) to
serve as an actor in the play, (5) too sing and/or dance, and (6)
to give the author's views. In some ways, the chorus is like the narrator
of a modern film or like the background music accompanying the action of
the film. In addition, it is like text on the film screen that provides
background information or identifies the time and place of the action.
John is a
good worker, and a bright student is Mary.
A fop their
passion, but their prize a sot.–Alexander Pope.
lovely, love is flowerlike–Samuel Taylor Coleridge.
[KRON ih kler]: recorder of medieval events; historian
Scandaleuse [kron EEK skan duH LOOZ]: Literary work centering on
gossip and intrigue at the court of a king.
In literature, a tradition espousing the ideals of ancient Greece and Rome:
objectivity, emotional restraint, systematic thinking, simplicity, clarity,
universality, dignity, acceptance of established social standards, promotion
of the general welfare, and strict adherence to formal rules of composition.
A classical writer typically restrained his emotions and his ego while
writing in clear, dignified language; he also presented stories in carefully
structured plots. Classicism remained a guiding force in literature down
through the ages. Writers in the 15th,
16th and 17th
centuries, as well as the first half of the 18th Century, highly esteemed
classical ideals. In the mid-18th Century, writers began to rebel against
classical ideals in what came to be known as the Romantic Movement, or
which advocated emotional freedom, imaginative thinking, and individuality
in writing. However, neither classical nor romantic writing was always
entirely faithfully to its ideals. For example, a classical writer may
have exhibited emotional effusion from time to time or expressed himself
with language less than dignified; conversely, a romantic writer may have
exhibited emotional restraint and cool objectivity on occasion. Writers
today continue to use many of the principles of both the classical and
romantic schools of writing.
expression. Examples: raining cats and dogs, snug as a bug in
a rug, chills running up and down my spine, warm as toast,
and sweet. Writers should avoid using clichés whenever possible.
Climax High point
in a story. In Hamlet, this point occurs when Hamlet and Laertes
duel with swords and mortally wound each other. In classic detective stories,
this point usually occurs when Sherlock Holmes, Charlie Chan, Hercules
Poirot, etc., lay out the evidence and finger the killer.
Closet Drama A drama
written to be read rather than acted on a stage. An example is
Agonistes, by John Milton, a 1671 tragedy about the final days of the
biblical hero Samson.
Comedy (Stage) Play
with a happy ending. The stage comedies in ancient and Renaissance times
did not always contain humor, the staple of the modern stage and film comedy,
but they did end happily. By contrast, a stage tragedy
always ends unhappily.
of Manners Comedy that ridicules
the manners (way of life, social customs, etc.) of the privileged and fashionable
segment of society. An example is Oliver Goldsmith's She
Stoops to Conquer, in which Goldsmith pokes fun at the English upper
class. The play uses farce (including many mix-ups) to ridicule the class-consciousness
of 18th Century Englishmen.
Novel See Apprenticeship
Poetry Poetry with lines arranged to resemble a familiar object,
such as a Christmas tree. Concrete poetry is also called shaped verse.
Conflict The struggle
in a work of literature. This struggle may be between one person and another
person or between a person and an animal, an idea or a thing. It may also
be between a person and himself or herself (internal conflict). In Shakespeare's
the conflict is manifold. Hamlet struggles against the villain Claudius,
against the unbecoming conduct of his mother, and against his conscience
Philosophique Philosophical novel
or philosophical story, a genre Voltaire
is credited with inventing. His contes philosophiques (which include
and Zadig) are characterized by a “swift-moving adventure story
in which characterization [counts] for little and the moral (or sometimes
immoral) lesson for much” (Brumfitt, J.H. Voltaire: Candide.
Oxford, England: Oxford University Press, 1968, Page 9.)
Coronach Funeral song
(dirge) in Scotland and Ireland. In addition to being sung, it was sometimes
played on bagpipes.
Boots worn by actors in ancient Greece to increase their height and, thus,
visibility to theater audiences. Singular: cothurnus.
Two successive lines of poetry with end rhyme.
Coup de Théâtre
(pronounced KOO duh tay AH truh) (1) Startling development in a drama that
is unforeseen and unmotivated; (2) a cheap plot development intended solely
to create a sensation.
Couplet, Heroic Two
successive end-rhyming lines in iambic pentameter.
is an example:
offence from am'rous causes springs,
Dactyl and Dactylic See
contests rise from trivial things
(Lines 1 and
2, The Rape of the Lock, by Alexander Pope)
The outcome or resolution of the plot, occurring after the climax. In a
murder mystery, the denouement may outline the clues that led to the capture
of a murderer. In a drama about family discord, it may depict the reconciliation
of family members after a period of estrangment–or the permanent dissolution
of family ties if the drama reaches a climax in which the discord worsens.
Ex Machina See Machine.
In Greek drama, the character second in importance to the main character,
Conversation in a play, short story, or novel. A literary work on a single
topic presented in the form of a conversation. Plato's Republic,
and Phaedo are examples of literary works that are dialogues.
Word choice; the quality of the sound of a speaker or singer. Good diction
means that a writer pleases the eye of a reader or the ear of a listener.
Adjective describing a literary work intended to teach a lesson or a moral
Greater See Dionysus.
Rural See Dionysus.
Patron god of Greek drama; god of wine and vegetation. Dionysus, called
Bacchus by the Romans, was the son of Zeus and one of the most important
of the Greek gods. Dionysus died each winter and was reborn each spring,
a cycle his Greek devotees identified with the death and rebirth of nature.
He thus symbolized renewal and rejuvenation, and each spring the Greeks
celebrated his resurrection with ceremonies that eventually included drama
contests. The most prestigious of these festivals was the Greater Dionysia,
held in Athens for five days and participated in by playwrights such
as Sophocles, Aeschylus, Aristophanes, and Euripides. Festivals held in
villages and small towns were called the Rural Dionysia.
In the drama of ancient Greece, a choral hymn that praised Dionysus,
god of wine and revelry, and sometimes told a story. In his great workPoetics,
Aristotle wrote that dithyrambs inspired the development of Greek tragic
plays, such as those of Sophocles. The first "play" supposedly took place
in the 6th Century B.C. when Thespis, a member of a chorus, took the part
of a character in a dithyramb. The action shifted back and forth between
him and the chorus. See also Thespian.
Doggerel Trivial or
Book [DOOMS day book] official census of the English people and
their possessions, notably land, which was completed in 1086 at the behest
of King William I (William the Conqueror).
DOP l gayng er) In folklore, the spirit double of
a living person. Among well-known writers who have used doppelgängers
in their works are Fyodor Dostoevski and E.T.A. Hoffman. A doppelgänger
is not the same as a ghost; the latter is an apparition of a dead person.
Literary work with dialogue written in verse and/or prose and spoken by
actors playing characters experiencing conflict and tension. The English
word drama comes from the Greek word "dran," meaning "to do."
Irony Failure of a character to see or understand what is obvious
to the audience. The most notable example of dramatic irony in all of literature
occurs in Oedipux Rex, by Sophocles, when Oedipus fails to realize
what the audience knows–that he married his own mother.
Monologue: Poem that presents a moment in which a narrator/speaker
discusses a topic and, in so doing, reveals his feelings and state of mind
to a listener or the reader. Only the speaker, talks–hence the term monologue,
meaning "single (mono) discourse (logue)." During his discourse,
the speaker intentionally and unintentionally reveals information about
himself. The main focus of a dramatic monologue is this personal information,
not the speaker's topic. A dramatic monologue is a type of character study.
Perhaps the most famous dramatic monologue in English literature is Robert
Browning's "My Last Duchess."
Personae List of the characters in a play. Such a list is found
at the beginning of each Shakespeare play, as well as the plays of other
Show Part of play performed in gestures, without speech; pantomime.
In Shakespeare's plays, "dumb show" appears as a stage direction.
Edition and Issue:
Terms describing published versions of newspapers and magazines. A newspaper
printed on a specific date, such as August 22, is an issue. However, the
August 22 issue of the newspaper may go through several printings: one
at 6 a.m., for example, and one at 2 p.m. and one at 10 p.m. The 2 p.m.
version would update or revise news in the 6 a.m. version--or add new stories;
the 10 p.m. version would update or revise news in the 2 p.m. version--or
add new stories. The newspapers printed at 6 a.m., 2 p.m., and 10 p.m.
would all be editions of the August 22 issue.
Rational: Acting in oneself’s best interests (that is, acting
selfishly) by selecting what appears to be the most beneficial of all the
choices available. Russian writer Nikolay Gavrilovich Chernyshevsky (1828-1889)
centered various writings on this subject. His great contemporary, Fyodor
Mikhailovitch Dostoevsky (1821-1881), attacked rational egoism in his novel
From the Underground. There are two types of rational egoism, which
are as follows:
Belief that a person’s nature, or biological makeup, will always cause
him to act in his own self-interest. In other words, a person has no free
will; he will always end up choosing what he perceives is best for him.
Suppose, for example, that two persons each have a toothache and a fear
of dentists. After reviewing the alternatives, the first person decides
to go to the dentist to have the tooth extracted because he perceives that
the latter course will cause him less pain and distress in the long run.
The second person, after reviewing the alternatives, decides to pull the
tooth himself because he perceives that this course of action—despite the
pain and greater risk of complications that self-treatment poses—will cause
him less mental trauma than a dentist’s treatment. In both cases, there
is no real "decision." What the persons do is dictated by their genetic
makeup and other determining factors, according to proponents of this theory.
The rational egoists Dostoevsky criticizes—most
notably Chernyshevsky—maintained that one always acted in his own self-interest,
as in psychological egoism, but also ought to investigate the available
alternatives or options in order to make the most informed choice. However,
there is a conflict here. On the one hand, psychological egoism presumes
that a person has no free will. On the other hand, normative egoism implies
that a person has at least a modicum of free will and, after educating
himself, acts with "enlightened self-interest." Nevertheless, Chernyshevsky
believed that a person had no free will regardless of how he went about
making his choice.
Normative Egoism: Belief
that a person will act in his own best interests if he first thoroughly
educates himself about the choices available. In this type of egoism, the
second person in the example above would presumably decide to go to a dentist
because, after educating himself about both alternatives, he would realize
that professional treatment is more likely to produce a positive outcome.
A somber poem or song that praises or laments the dead. Perhaps the finest
elegy in English literature is Thomas Gray's "Elegy
Written in a Country Churchyard."
Pertaining to the time when Elizabeth I reigned as queen of England. Elizabeth,
born in 1533, reigned from 1558 until her death in 1603. Elizabethan
may be used to describe the literature of the period (for example, Elizabethan
poems and Elizabethan plays) or anything else associated with the age (such
as Elizabethan costumes, Elizabethan customs, Elizabethan music, and so
In ancient Greece, a poem in the form of a choral song praising a victor
in the Olympic games. (2) In modern usage, any speech, essay, poem, etc.,
that praises a person.
the sense of one line of verse over to the next line without a pause. In
the first four lines of "My Last Duchess," by Robert Browning, enjambment
joins the second and third lines (I call / That) and the third and
fourth lines (Pandolf's hands / Worked):
last Duchess painted on the wall,
direction in a play manuscript indicating the entrance
onto the stage of a character or characters.
if she were alive. I call
a wonder, now: Frà Pandolf's hands
a day, and there she stands.
Long poem in a lofty style about the exploits of heroic figures. Homer's
and Odyssey, as well as the Old English
poem Beowulf, are examples of epics.
Conventions Literary practices, rules, or devices that became commonplace
in epic poetry. Among the classical conventions Milton
used are the following:
The invocation of the muse, in which a writer requests divine help in composing
Funeral hymn or ode; dirge
Telling a story with which readers or listeners are already familiar; they
know the characters, the plot, and the outcome. Most of the great writers
of the ancient world–as well as many great writers in later times, including
Shakespeare–frequently told stories already known to the public. Thus,
in such stories, there were no unexpected plot twists, no surprise endings.
If this sounds strange to you, the modern reader and theatergoer, consider
that many of the most popular motion pictures today are about stories already
known to the public. Examples are The Passion of the Christ, Titanic,
Ten Commandments, Troy, Spartacus, Pearl Harbor,
Beginning the story in the middle, a literary convention known by its Latin
term in media res (in the middle of things). Such a convention
allows a writer to begin his story at an exciting part, then flash back
to fill the reader in on details leading up to that exciting part.
Announcing or introducing a list of characters who play a major role in
the story. They may speak at some length about how to resolve a problem
(as the followers of Satan do early in Paradise Lost).
Conflict in the celestial realm. Divine beings fight and scheme against
one another in the epics of Homer and Vergil, and they do so in Paradise
Lost on a grand scale, with Satan and his forces opposing God and his
Use of dramatic irony. Dramatic irony is a figure of speech in which a
character in a story fails to see or understand what is obvious to the
audience. Dramatic irony appears frequently in the plays of the ancient
Greeks. For example, in Oedipux Rex, by Sophocles,
dramatic irony occurs when Oedipus fails to realize what the audience knows–that
he married his own mother. In Paradise Lost, dramatic irony occurs
when Adam and Eve happily go about daily life in the Garden of Eden unaware
that they will succumb to the devil's temptation and suffer the loss of
Paradise. Dramatic irony also occurs when Satan and his followers fail
to understand that it is impossible ultimately to thwart or circumvent
divine will and justice.
Wise or witty saying expressing a universal truth in a few words. Following
are examples of epigrams from Shakespeare:
choice in rotten apples.–The Taming of the Shrew: Act I, Scene I.
(1) Quotation inserted at the beginning of a poem, a novel, or any other
literary work; (2) a dedication of a literary work or a work of art such
as a painting; (3) words inscribed or painted on a monument, building,
A goodly apple
rotten at the heart, O, what a goodly outside falsehood hath!–The Merchant
of Venice: Act I, Scene III.
They are as
sick that surfeit with too much as they that starve with nothing.–The
Merchant of Venice: Act I, Scene II.
How far that
little candle throws his beams! So shines a good deed in a naughty world.–The
Merchant of Venice: Act V, Scene I.
engenders not a storm.–Henry VI, Part III: Act V, Scene III.
no debts.–Troilus and Cressida: Act III, Scene II.
O! it is excellent
to have a giant's strength, but it is tyrannous to use it like a giant.–Measure
for Measure: Act II, Scene II.
In Shakespeare, a short address spoken by an actor at the end of a play
that comments on the meaning of the events in the play or looks ahead to
expected events; an afterword in any literary work.
(Plural: Epinicia): In ancient Greece, a choral ode celebrating
an athletic victory. For additional information, click
Scene or incident in a literary work.
Letter written by an apostle in the New Testament of the Bible; any letter,
especially an informal or instructive one.
Epistolary Novel Novel
in which a character (or characters) tells the story through letters (epistles)
sent to a friend, relative, etc. For example, in Mary Shelley's
Captain Robert Walton writes letters to his sister to bring her up to date
on his expedition in the Arctic. After his ship takes Victor Frankenstein
aboard, he listens to Frankenstein’s story and writes it down in letter
Inscription on a tomb or a written work praising a dead person; any commemoration,
eulogy, or remembrance.
Epitasis The part
of a stage play that develops the characters, plot, and theme. The epitasis
follows the protasis.
(or Epithalamium, Epithalamy) Poem or song honoring the bride and
groom on the day of their wedding. The term is derived from Greek words
referring to the bedroom of a woman. In ancient times, an epithalamion
was performed in front of the bridal chamber. However, epithalamion
can also refer to a song performed during the wedding ceremony. Surviving
fragments of the Greek poetess Saphho (610-580 B.C.) indicate that she
wrote wedding songs called epithalamia. In Rome, the great lyric
poet Catullus (84-54 B.C.) wrote epithalamions. In the Renaissance, English
poets such as John Donne, Sir Philip Sydney, Ben Jonson, Robert Herrick,
and Richard Crashaw wrote epithalamions. Many critics believe Edmund Spenser's
"Epithalamion"–written in 1595 on the occasion of his second marriage–is
the greatest English poem in this genre. Percy Bysshe Shelley (1792-1822)
wrote a famous epithalamion, which used as its title the Latin word for
One of the hallmarks of the style of the Greek epic poet Homer is the epithet,
a combination of a descriptive phrase and a noun. An epithet presents a
miniature portrait that identifies a person or thing by highlighting a
prominent characteristic of that person or thing. In English, the Homeric
epithet usually consists of a noun modified by a compound adjective, such
as the following: fleet-footed Achilles, rosy-fingered dawn,
sea, earth-shaking Poseidon, and gray-eyed Athena. The
Homeric epithet is an ancient relative of such later epithets as Richard
the Lion-Hearted, Ivan the Terrible, and America the Beautiful.
Homer repeated his epithets often, presumably so the listeners of his recited
tales could easily remember and picture the person or thing each time it
was mentioned. In this respect, the Homeric epithet resembles the leitmotiv
of opera composer Richard Wagner (1813-1883). The leitmotiv was a repeated
musical theme associated with a character, a group of characters, an emotion,
or an idea.
(1) Statement summarizing the content of a book, essay, report, etc. (2)
Person or object that embodies all the qualities of something
d'escalier (es PRE duh SKAL yay): Slow wit. Used to characterize
a person who thinks of the ideal reply or retort after leaving a conversation
and going upstairs (escalier). On the stairs, the ideal reply occurs to
Short, nonfiction composition on a single topic. The typical essay contains
500 to 5,000 words, although some essays may contain only 300 words and
others 10,000 or more words. Examples of essays are newspaper or magazine
articles that inform readers about current events, newspaper or magazine
editorials that argue for or against a point of view, movie reviews, research
papers, encyclopedia articles, articles in medical journals, and articles
in travel magazines. There are four types of essays: those that inform
the reader without taking a position; those that argue for or against a
point of view; those that describe a person, place, thing, or idea; and
those that tell a true story. Essays often require extensive research to
support claims made by the writer of the essay.
Speech or written work paying tribute to a person who has recently died;
speech or written work praising a person (living, as well as dead), place,
thing, or idea.
Word or phrase that softens the hard reality of the truth, such as senior
citizen for old person, passed away for died,
for lie, previously owned car for used car, collateral
damage for civilian deaths during war, and pleasingly plump
for fat. The U.S. Central Intelligence Agency once used the euphemism
Evaluation Committee for assassination team. In general, good
writers avoid euphemisms.
Ornate, high-flown style of speaking or writing.
Stage direction in a play manuscript indicating that
a military attack is taking place. The opening of Scene II in Act III of
Shakespeare's King John contains such a stage direction.
narrative in verse or prose that teaches a moral lesson or reinforces a
doctrine or religious belief.
e unt] Stage direction in a play manuscript indicating the
of two or more characters from the stage.
Omnes..[EX e unt] Stage direction
in a play manuscript indicating the
all the characters from the stage.
Stage direction in a play manuscript indicating the departure
of a character from the stage.
uh doss): In a drama of ancient Greece, the exit scene; the final part
of the play
Expressionism In literature,
expressionism is a writing approach, process, or technique in which a writer
depicts a character’s feelings about a subject (or the writer’s own feelings
about it) rather than the objective surface reality of the subject. A writer,
in effect, presents his interpretation of what he sees. Often, the depiction
is a grotesque distortion or phantasmagoric representation of reality,
for the character or writer must reshape the objective image into his mind's
image. However, there is logic to this approach for these reasons: (1)
Not everybody perceives the world in the same way. What one person may
see as beautiful or good another person may see as ugly or bad. Sometimes
a writer or his character suffers from a mental debility, such as depression
or paranoia, which alters his perception of reality. Expressionism enables
the writer to present this altered perception. An example of a character
who sees reality through his mind's eye is Joseph K., the protagonist of
Franz Kafka's novel The Trial.
In a story, the part of the plot that introduces the setting and characters
and presents the events and situations that the story will focus on. Exposition
also refers to an essay whose primary purpose is to inform readers rather
than to argue a point.
Story that teaches a lesson or rule of living. The characters are usually
animals that speak and act like humans. The most famous fables are those
attributed to Aesop, a Greek, Thracian, Phrygian, Babylonian, or Lydian
storyteller or a group of storytellers who assigned the name Aesop
to a collection of fables popularized in Greece. Aesop's fables are sometimes
referred to as beast fables.
Short verse tale with coarse humor and earthy, realistic, and sometimes
obscene descriptions that present an episode in the life of contemporary
middle- and lower-class people. The fabliau uses satire and cynicism, along
with vulgar comedy, to mock one or several of its characters. Not infrequently,
the ridiculed character is a jealous husband, a wayward wife, a braggart,
a lover, a proud or greedy tradesman, a doltish peasant, or a lustful or
greedy clergyman. Plot development often depends on a prank, a pun,
a mistaken identity, or an incident involving the characters in intrigue.
The fabliau was popular in France from 1100 to 1300, then went out of fashion.
Chaucer revived the format in The Canterbury Tales to write “The
Miller’s Tale,” “The Reeve’s Tale,” “The Cook’s Tale,” “The Shipman’s Tale,”
and The Summoner’s Tale.” It is not entirely clear whether the fabliau
was a pastime of the upper classes as a means to ridicule their social
inferiors or of the middle and lower classes as a means to poke fun at
Copy In Shakespeare's time, a play manuscript after it has been
Type of comedy that relies on exaggeration, horseplay, and unrealistic
or improbable situations to provoke laughter. In a farce, plotting takes
precedence over characterization.
of Speech Word, phrase or sentence that (1) presents a “figure”
to the mind of the reader, (2) presents an imaginative or unusual use of
words that the reader is not to take literally, or (3) presents a special
arrangement or use of words or word sounds that create an unusual effect.
Ordinary language that does not contain a figure of speech is called literal
language. Language that contains a figure of speech is called figurative
language. Figurative language is also sometimes called imagery because
it presents an image to the mind. Consider the following sentences:
The leaves blew across the lawn.
Notice that the second sentence presents
a figure to the mind of the reader: The leaves are dancing as if they were
people. Obviously, the writer does not mean that the leaves literally danced.
However, they “figuratively” danced. Now consider the following additional
The leaves danced across the lawn.
Mr. Piper harvested a bushel of
green vegetables. (Literal language)
The repetition of the "p" in the second
sentence is considered a figure of speech because it presents a sound to
the mind. This glossary contains definitions of various figures of speech.
The most common figures of speech are Alliteration,
Peter Piper picked four pecks of
peppers. (Figurative language)
Device in which a writer describes significant events of an earlier time
or actually returns the plot to an earlier time. Flashback enables the
author to inform the reader of significant happenings that influence later
action. Vehicles that writers use to return to earlier times include dreams,
memories, and stories told by the narrator or a character.
Stage direction in a play manuscript for music introducing the entrance
or exit of a king or another important person. The music may consist of
a short trumpet passage.
(1) A secondary or minor character in a literary work who contrasts or
clashes with the main character; (2) a secondary or minor character with
personal qualities that are the opposite of, or markedly different from,
those of another character; (3) the antagonist in a play or another literary
work. A foil sometimes resembles his or her contrasting character in many
respects, such as age, dress, social class, and educational background.
But he or she is different in other respects, including personality, moral
outlook, and decisiveness. In Sophocles’ play Antigone, Ismene is
a foil of Antigone, her sister. Ismene is easygoing, soft-spoken, and willing
to keep her place. Antigone, on the other hand, is headstrong, outspoken,
and unwilling to keep her place. Creon is also a foil of Antigone, and
Antigone is a foil of Creon. Creon represents government law and male dominance;
Antigone represents the moral law and female rights. They clash. In so
doing, one foil sets off the other. Their quarreling helps to reveal their
A folio is a sheet of printing paper folded once to form four separate
pages for printing a book. To better visualize a folio, hold before you
a standard sheet of typing paper and fold it as you would a letter..You
now have a rectangular piece of paper. Hold it so it opens from right to
left. What you are looking at is Page 1. Now turn the flap from right to
left to open the rectangle. You are now looking at Pages 2 and 3 separated
by a crease. When you close the right flap over the left, you will be looking
at Page 4. A folio was considerably larger than a quarto.In
1623, friends and admirers of Shakespeare compiled a reasonably authentic
collection of 36 of Shakespeare's plays in a folio edition of more than
900 pages that was entitled Mr. William Shakespeare's Comedies, Histories
& Tragedies. The printer and publisher was William Jaggard, assisted
by his son Isaac. This edition became known as The First Folio. Because
of the authenticity of this collection, later publishers used it to print
copies of the plays. Other folios were printed in 1632, 1663 and 1685.
In 1664, a second printing of the 1663 folio included the first publication
of Pericles, Prince of Athens.
Stories, songs, and sayings transmitted by memory (that is, orally) rather
than by books or other printed documents, from one generation to the next.
Folklore thrives indepently of polished, sophisticated literature in the
form of ballads, fairytales, superstitions, riddles, legends, fables, plays,
nursery rhymes, and proverbs. Englishman William Thoms invented the term
in 1846. Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm, German scholars who studied folklore
in the early 1800's, compiled many tales based on their research, including
the stories of Briar-Rose (Sleeping Beauty) and Rumpelstiltskin.
In the courts of England in Shakespeare's time, a fool was a comic figure
with a quick tongue who entertained the king, the queen, and their guests.
He was allowed to–and even expected to–criticize anyone at court. Many
fools were dwarfs or cripples, their odd appearance enhancing their appeal
and, according to prevailing beliefs, bringing good luck to the court.
Actors William Kempe and Richard Armin became London celebrities for their
performances as fools in Shakespeare's plays. Armin wrote a book about
fools entitled Foole Upon Foole; or Six Sortes of Sottes.Egypt's
pharaohs were the first rulers to use fools, notably Pygmies from African
territories to the south.
Foot and Feet (Meter)
Device a writer uses to hint at a future course of action. The words a
heart trouble in the first line of “The Story of an Hour,” by Kate
Chopin, refer to a condition of the main character, Mrs. Mallard, and foreshadow
the story's ironic ending, in which Mrs. Mallard dies from shock when her
husband–whom she thought dead–walks through the front door. Because of
foreshadowing in the opening paragraph of the story, the ending becomes
believable. Shirley Jackson also uses foreshadowing in the second paragraph
of her outstanding short story “The Lottery” in the following sentence:
Martin had already stuffed his pockets full of stones, and the other boys
soon followed his example, selecting the smoothest and roundest stones.
. . . This sentence foreshadows the stoning scene at the end of the
story. Another example of foreshadowing occurs in the prologue of Shakespeare's
and Juliet. An actor called “the chorus” recites a sonnet in which
he describes the bitter hatred separating the Montagues and Capulets and
identifies Romeo and Juliet as lovers who had the misfortune to be born
into warring families: “From forth the fatal loins of these two foes [the
Montagues and the Capulets] / A pair of star-cross’d lovers take their
life" (Lines 5-6). Take their life appears to have a double-meaning:
first, that they come into existence; second, in a foreshadowing of events
to come, that they go out of existence by taking their own lives.
Papers In Shakespeare's time, the original manuscript of a playwright
which was later edited.
Tale Story with a plot structure in which an author uses two or
more narrators to present the action. The first narrator sets the scene
and reports to the reader the details of a story told by a character. (In
some frame tales, the first narrator reports the details of several stories
told by several narrators.) In Mary Shelley's Frankenstein, Captain
Robert Walton–a minor character–is the first
narrator. He sets the scene and listens to the story told by Victor Frankenstein,
the main character. All of the information Walton reports to the reader
is in the form of letters written to his sister. Thus, Frankensteinis
a frame tale in that it is like a framed painting: Walton's story is the
frame, and Frankenstein's story is the painting. Some frame tales–such
as Chaucer's Canterbury Tales and Boccaccio's The Decameron–have
several narrators telling stories "inside the frame." One famous frame
tale–the Arabian Nights (also called The Thousand and
One Nights)–has only one narrator, a sultan's
bride named Scheherazade, who tells many tales "inside the frame," including
the well-known stories of Sindbad the Sailor, Aladdin and his magic lamp,
and Ali Baba and his magical command "Open sesame!"
Verse Form of poetry that ignores standard rules of meter
in favor of the rhythms of ordinary conversation. In effect, free verse
liberates poetry from conformity to rigid metrical rules that dictate stress
patterns and the number of syllables per line. French poets originated
free verse (or vers libre) in the 1880s, but earlier poems of American
poet Walt Whitman (1819-1892) and other writers exhibited characteristics
of free verse. Although free verse generally contains no metrical patterns
it may contain other types of patterns. For examples, see
Lilacs Last in the Door-Yard Bloom'd."
Excessive boasting; incessant bragging. Perhaps the most famous braggart
in all of literature is Sir John Falstaff, the rotund knight (Henry
IV Part I, Henry IV Part II)
who is brave in words but timid in deeds.
Type or kind, as applied to literature and film. Examples of genres are
romance, horror, tragedy, adventure, suspense, science fiction, epic poem,
elegy, novel, historical novel, short story, and detective story.
Anglo-Saxon minstrel who sang or recited poetry. Gleemen traveled from
place to place but sometimes found employment in the court of a monarch.
(NO mik) Adjective describing writing that contains wise, witty sayings
(GAWL yerd) Wandering student of Medieval Europe who made merry and wrote
earthy or satiric verses in Latin. Goliards sometimes served as jesters
Fiction Literary genre focusing on dark, mysterious, terrifying
events. The story unfolds at one or more spooky sites, such as a dimly
lit castle, an old mansion on a hilltop, a misty cemetery, a forlorn countryside,
or the laboratory of a scientist conducting frightful experiments. In some
Gothic novels and short stories, characters imagine that they see ghosts
and monsters. In others, the ghosts and monsters are real. The weather
in a Gothic story is often dreary or foul: There may be high winds that
rattle windowpanes, electrical storms with lightning strikes, and gray
skies that brood over landscapes. The Gothic genre derives its name from
the Gothic architectural style popular in Europe between the 12th and 16th
centuries. Gothic structures–such as cathedrals–featured cavernous interiors
with deep shadows, stone walls that echoed the footsteps of worshippers,
gargoyles looming on exterior ledges, and soaring spires suggestive of
a supernatural presence. See also
Book on the lives of saints; scholarly study of the lives of saints.
Serious character flaw of the main character (protagonist) of a Greek tragedy.
Often, this flaw is great pride, or hubris. But it
may also be prejudice, anger, zealotry, poor judgment, an inherited weakness,
or any other serious shortcoming.
[OH bwah] Stage direction in a play manuscript indicating that entering
characters are playing hautboys, which are Elizabethan oboes.
Heptameter See Meter.
of two rhyming lines in iambic pentameter.
Following is an example:
offence from am'rous causes springs,
contests rise from trivial things
(Lines 1 and
2, The Rape of the Lock, by Alexander Pope)
Comedy Comedy that relies on wit and subtle irony or sarcasm. High
comedy usually focuses on the everyday life of upper classes. It is generally
verbal rather than physical. See also Low Comedy.
A clergyman's talk that usually presents practical moral advice rather
than a lesson on a scriptural passage, as in a sermon.
or Hybris Great pride that brings about the downfall of a character
in a Greek drama or in other works of literature.
Eight-line stanza (French).
Exaggeration; overstatement. Examples: (1) He [Julius Caesar] doth bestride
the narrow world like a Colossus, and we petty men walk under his...huge
legs.–Shakespeare. (Caesar has become a giant.) (2) Ten thousand oceans
cannot wash away my guilt. (3) Oscar has the appetite of a starving lion.
Idyll Poem focusing
on the simplicity and tranquillity of rural life; prose work with a similar
focus. Idyll is derived from the Greek eidýllion (little
picture or image). The Greek poet Theocritus (300-260 B.C.) developed this
Iamb and Iambic See
In a Shakespeare play, an introductory event that precedes Act 1. For additional
information, see The Taming
of the Shrew.
Res Latin phrase for in the middle of things. It means that
a story begins in the middle of the plot, usually at an exciting part.
The writer of the story later uses flashback to
inform the reader of preceding events. The Greek poet Homer originated
this technique in his two great epics, The
Conflict See Conflict.
Inversion See Anastrophe.
In everyday conversation, a person
would say, "I plucked a rose for Huey in the green and dewy garden."
of the Muse In ancient Greece and Rome, poets generally requested
a muse (goddess) to fire them with creative genius when they began long
narrative poems, called epics, about godlike heroes and villains. This
request appeared in the opening lines of their poems. In Greek mythology,
there were nine muses, all sisters, who were believed to inspire not only
poets but also historians, flutists, dancers, singers, astronomers, philosophers,
and other thinkers and artists. If one wanted to write a great poem, play
a musical instrument with bravado, or develop a grand scientific or philosophical
theory, he would ask for help from a muse by “invoking the muse.” The muse
of epic poetry was named Calliope [kuh LY uh pe].
Ipse Dixit Dogmatic
or arbitrary statement made without supporting evidence. This Latin term
means He said [it] himself.
(1) Saying the opposite of what is meant, or verbal irony; (2) result or
ending that is the opposite of what is expected, or situational irony;
(3) situation in which the audience attending a dramatic presentation grasps
the incongruity of a situation before the actors do, or dramatic irony.
Examples: (1) "What a beautiful day," Maxine said, opening her umbrella.
(2) In the movie Planet of the Apes, an astronaut who lands on another
where intelligent apes rule discovers a startling irony at the end of the
movie: When looking over a vast wasteland, he sees the head of the Statue
of Liberty and realizes he was on earth all the time. Apparently, a nuclear
war had destroyed humankind while he was time-traveling. While in his Einsteinian
time warp, the apes had evolved to an almost human level. (3) In Oedipus
Rex, by Sophocles, Oedipus is unaware that he has married his own mother
even though the audience is well aware of the incestuous union.
Vocabulary understood by members of a profession or trade but usually not
by other members of the general public. Cerebrovascular accident
is medical jargon for stroke; perp is police jargon for perpetrator,
a person who commits a crime. Jargon can also refer to writing or speech
that makes no sense–gibberish.
Jeu d'esprit (Pronounce
the eu like the oo in wood; pronounce esprit as uh
SPREE) Witty writing; clever wording; jest; pun, ingenious turn of phrase.
A literary work with jeu d'esprit is quick-witted but not necessarily
profound. The literal English translation of this French term is play
of the spirit or play of intelligence.
Jeu de mots (Pronounce
the eu like the oo in wood; pronounce de as duh;
pronounce mots as moh) Pun; play on words.
minstrel in medieval England and France who sang songs (his own or those
written by others) and told stories.
Kenning Compound expression,
often hyphenated, representing a single noun. For example, the Old English
epic Beowulf uses the two-word term whale-road to refer to
the sea or ocean. Other examples of kennings include devil's helper
for sinner and widow-maker for gun.
Laurel Wreath Wreath
woven of the large, glossy leaves of the laurel tree. It was customary
in ancient Greece to crown a champion Olympic athlete, poet, or orator
with a laurel wreath for outstanding achievement. Over the years, other
nations and cultures adopted this custom. Today, the phrase to win one's
laurels is often used figuratively to indicate that an athlete, scholar,
or stage performer has earned distinction in his or her field.
Lay Medieval narrative
poem, written in couplets, for singing by a minstrel
to the accompaniment. A lay had eight syllables in each line.
Leitmotiv See Epithet
Lexis The complete
vocabulary of a language or a field of study.
Creation of a positive or opposite idea through negation. Examples: (1)
I am not unaware of your predicament. (2) This is no small problem.
(3) I'm not forgetful that you served me well.–John Milton.
Comedy Comedy that relies on slapstick and horseplay. It often
focuses on the everyday life of lower classes. Low comedy is generally
physical rather than verbal. See also High Comedy.
Poetry (1) Poetry that presents the deep feelings and emotions
of the poet as opposed to poetry that tells a story or presents a witty
observation. Sonnets, odes, and elegies are examples of lyric poems.
Wordsworth, John Keats, Percy
Bysshe Shelley, and William Blake
are among the writers of lyric poetry. Shakespeare's
sonnets are lyric poems, although his verse plays are not; they tell
a story. Lyric poetry often has a pleasing musical quality. (2) Poetry
that can be set to music. The word lyric derives from the Greek
lyre, a stringed instrument in use since ancient times.
Armlike device in an ancient Greek theater that could lower a "god" onto
the stage from the "heavens." The Greek word for machine, mechane, later
gave rise to a pejorative Latin term, deus ex machina (god from a machine),
to describe a contrived event in a literary work or film. A contrived event
is a plot weakness in which a writer makes up an incident–such as a detective
stumbling upon an important clue or a hero arriving in the nick of time
to save a damsel in distress–to further the action. The audience considers
such events improbable, realizing that the writer has failed to develop
the plot and the characters in such a way that their actions spring from
their motivations. The term (pronounced DAY ihs ex MAHK in uh orDE
ihs ex MAHK in uh) is usually used adverbially, as in The policeman
arrived deus ex machina to overhear the murderder admit his guilt
to his hostage. However, it can also refer to a character who becomes
the "god from the machine."
The world as a whole; the universe. See also Microcosm.
Opus Great work; masterpiece; an author's most distinguished work.
Latin: magnum, great; opus, work.
Unintentional use of an inappropriate word similar in sound to the appropriate
word, often with humorous effect. The word derives from the name Mrs.
Malaprop, a character in The Rivals, a 1775 play by Richard
Brinsley Sheridan. Sheridan invented her name from the French words mal
à propos, loosely translated as badly chosen, not
right for the occasion, or not appropriate. Mrs. Malaprop has
the habit of using near-miss words. For example, she observes that she
does not have much affluence over her niece and refers to contiguous
countries as contagious countries. However, almost two centuries
before Sheridan presented a character who mixed up words in this way, Shakespeare
introduced characters who did so–most notably Dogberry in Much Ado About
Nothing. Examples of Dogberry's malapropisms are the following:
Comparisons are odorous.
In the drama of ancient Greece, a face covering with exaggerated features
and a mouth device to project the voice. Actors wore masks to reveal emotion
or personality; to depict the trade, social class or age of a character;
and to provide visual and audio aids for audience members in the rear of
Our watch, sir, have indeed
two auspicious persons." (apprehended,
O villain! thou wilt be condemned
into everlasting redemption for this.
of Revels In Shakespeare's time, a government censor who examined
all plays for offensive material.
Literary work or film that uses maudlin sentimentality and stereotypical
Type of autobiography in which the writer focuses primarily on the people
(often famous personages) with whom he or she came into contact.
Comparing one thing to an unlike thing without using like, as or
The iron tongue of midnight hath told twelve.–Shakespeare. (The striker
or clapper of the bell is being compared to the tongue of a speaking human
being.) (2) The sea being smooth, how many shallow bauble boats dare sail
upon her patient breast .–Shakespeare. (The sea is being compared to a
woman with a "patient breast.") (3) I am a man whom Fortune hath cruelly
scratched.–Shakespeare. (Fortune is being compared to an entity that can
be cruel.) (4) In battle, the soldier is a tiger. (5) Michael Casey's face
is a map of Ireland.
Poetry See "To His Coy Mistress"
on this web site.
In verse and poetry, meter is a recurring pattern of stressed (accented,
or long) and unstressed (unaccented, or short) syllables in lines of a
set length. For example, suppose a line contains ten syllables (set length)
in which the first syllable is unstressed, the second is stressed, the
third is unstressed, the fourth is stressed, and so on until the line reaches
the tenth syllable. The line would look like the following one (the opening
line of Shakespeare’s “Sonnet 18") containing a pattern of unstressed and
stressed syllables. The unstressed syllables are in blue and the stressed
syllables in red.
Each pair of unstressed and stressed
syllables makes up a unit called a foot. The line contains five
feet in all, as shown next:
foot containing an unstressed syllable followed by a stressed syllable
(as above) is called an iamb. Because there are five feet in the
line, all iambic, the meter of the line is iambic pentameter.
The prefix pent in pentameter means five (Greek: penta,
five). Pent is joined to words or word roots to form new words
indicating five. For example, the Pentagon in Washington has five sides,
the Pentateuch of the Bible consists of five books, and a pentathlon in
a sports event has five events. Thus, poetry lines with five feet are in
feet in verse and poetry have different stress patterns. For example, one
type of foot consists of two unstressed syllables followed by a stressed
one. Another type consists of a stressed one followed by an unstressed
one. In all, there are five types of feet:
||Unstressed + Stressed
||Stressed + Unstressed
||Stressed + Stressed
||Unstressed + Unstressed + Stressed
||Stressed + Unstressed + Unstressed
The length of lines–and thus the
meter–can also vary. Following are the types of meter and the line length:
is determined by the type of foot and the number of feet in a line. Thus,
a line with three iambic feet is known as iambic trimeter. A line with
six dactylic feet is known as dactylic hexameter. Consider now the
following two lines from William Blake’s poem “The Tyger”:
Tyger Tyger burning bright
These lines contain trochaic feet–stressed
+ unstressed, as in TYger
the final foot of each line is incomplete, containing only a stressed syllable.
The absence of the unstressed syllable is called catalexis, and
and night are called
catalectic feet. The meter of these
lines is trochaic tetrameter–tetrameter because they each contain three
complete feet and one incomplete foot, for a total of four feet.
In the forests of the night
Substitution of a word or phrase to stand for a word or phrase similar
in meaning. Examples: (1) In Shakespeare's time, the crown was anti-Catholic.
("Crown" stands for Queen Elizabeth I.) (2) The White House was severely
criticized for its opposition to the tax increase. ("White House" stands
for the president or the president and his advisers.) (3) Wall Street welcomes
the reduction in interest rates. ("Wall Street" represents investors.)
(4) Sweat, not wealth, earned her the respect of her peers. ("Sweat" stands
for hard work.)
A tiny world within the macrocosm. Often a microcosm
represents ideas and activities present in the macrocosm. In Herman Melville's
novel Moby Dick, the whaling
ship The Pequod is a microcosm. In William Golding's novel The
Lord of the Flies, the island on which children take on the negative
characteristics of adults in the world at large is a microcosm. In Shirley
Jackson's short story “The Lottery,” the village is a microcosm representing
backward ideas in the world at large, or macrocosm. In the movie Titanic,
the ship is a microcosm carrying the same kind of people–heroes and cowards,
saints and sinners–present in the macrocosm.
Roving medieval musician who sang and recited poetry.
Mise en Scène
[meez on sen] In a stage play, the stage set (including the walls, furniture,
etc.) and the arrangement of the actors; the process of arranging the set
and the actors.
Monometer See Meter.
Recurring theme in a literary work; recurring theme in literature in general.
Maltreatment of women is a motif that appears in “Hills Like White Elephants,”
a short story by Ernest Hemingway; “The Story of an Hour,” a short story
by Kate Chopin; and “The Chrysanthemums,” a short story by John Steinbeck.The
love of money as the root of evil is a motif that occurs in many works
of literature. See also Epithet.
Work that parodies the serious, elevated style of the classical epic poem–such
as The Iliad or The
Odyssey, by Homer–to poke fun at human follies. Thus, a mock-epic
is a type of satire; it treats petty humans or insignificant occurrences
as if they were extraordinary or heroic, like the great heroes and events
of Homer's epics. Alexander Pope's "The
Rape of the Lock" is generally considered the finest example of the
mock-epic in the English language.
Allegorical drama of the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. It teaches
a lesson about how Christians should live and what they must do to save
their souls. A morality play is, in effect, a sermon that is acted out.
The characters of a typical morality play include personifications of virtues
(such as hope and charity), vices (such as pride and sloth), or other qualities,
as well as personifications of objects (such as money) or activities (such
as death or fellowship). In addition, God and angels may appear as characters.
is generally considered the finest work of this type.
Reason or reasons behind a character's action; what induces a character
to do what he does; motives. In Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet,
love motivates the title characters. In Shakespeare's Macbeth, ambition
(lust for power) motivates the title character and his wife to murder the
who tells a story.
In literature, an extreme form of realism that developed
in France in the 19th Century. It was inspired in part by the scientific
determinism of Charles Darwin, an Englishman, and the economic determinism
of Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, both Germans. Four Frenchmen–Hippolyte
Taine, Edmond and Jules Goncourt, and Emile Zola–applied the principles
of scientific and economic determinism to literature to create literary
naturalism. According to its followers, literary naturalism stresses the
(1) Heredity and environment are
the major forces that shape human beings. In other words, like lower animals,
humans respond mainly to inborn instincts that influence behavior in concert
with–and sometimes in opposition to–environmental influences, including
economic, social, cultural, and familial influences. For example, in August
Strindberg's play Miss Julie, the title
character responds partly to her inborn female instinct for male companionship
and partly to her environmentally induced hatred of men. Consequently,
she both desires and despises Jean, causing her deep internal conflict.
Naturalist writers generally achieve
only limited success in adhering to Tenet 4. The main problem is that it
is next to impossible for a writer to remain objective and detached, like
a scientist in a laboratory. After all, a scientist analyzes existing natural
objects and phenomena. A naturalist writer, on the other hand, analyzes
characters he created; they may be based on real people, but they themselves
are not real. Thus, in bringing these characters to the stage or the printed
page, the naturalist writer brings a part of himself–a subjective part.
Also, in their use of literary devices–such as Strindberg’s use of symbols
Miss Julie to support his theme–naturalist writers again inject
their subjective selves into the play. In real life, would Miss Julie own
a dog that mates with a pug, symbolizing and foreshadowing her brief sexual
encounter with Jean? Would she force her fiancé to jump over a horsewhip
that symbolizes her effort to dominate him?
(2) Human beings have no free will,
or very little of it, because heredity and environment are so powerful
in determining the course of human action.
(3) Human beings, like lower animals,
have no soul. Religion and morality are irrelevant. (Strindberg, an atheist
when he wrote Miss Julie, later converted to Christianity under
the influence of the writings of Emanuel Swedenborg.)
(4) A literary work should present
life exactly as it is, without preachment, judgment, or embellishment.
In this respect, naturalism is akin to realism. However, naturalism goes
further than realism in that it presents a more detailed picture of everyday
life. Whereas the realist writer omits insignificant details when depicting
a particular scene, a naturalist writer generally includes them. He wants
the scene to be as “natural” as possible. The naturalist writer also attempts
to be painstakingly objective and detached. Rather than manipulating characters
as if they were puppets, the naturalist writer prefers to observe the characters
as if they were animals in the wild and then report on their activity.
Finally, naturalism attempts to present dialogue as spoken in everyday
life. Rather than putting “unnatural” wording in the mouth of a character,
the naturalist writer attempts to reproduce the speech patterns of people
in a particular time and place.
Neologism [ne ALL
uh jizm] Word or phrase–or a new meaning for an existing
word or phrase–that is accepted into a dictionary. For example, the word
was a neologism in 1762 when John Montagu–a British nobleman who had served
as First Lord of the Admiralty–placed slabs of meat between two pieces
of bread as a snack to sustain him while he was seated at a table in a
24-hour gambling marathon. His snack caught on and, because he held the
rank of Earl of Sandwich, it was named after him. Examples of neologisms
that have entered the dictionary in the last 50 years include
hitter, beatnik, nerd, e-mail, cyberspace, and 9/11.
of words and phrases enter the English language each year to name an invention,
a development, a process, a trend. For example, the word parachute
was coined upon the invention of a device that enabled a person to jump
from an airplane and fall slowly to the earth. Cellular phone and
entered the dictionary after the invention of a telephone that enabled
a person to communicate over long distances through a wireless device.
(from the Czech word robota, meaning forced labor) was coined
to describe mechanical "beings" that could perform tasks normally carried
out by humans. In 2003, Merriam-Webster's Collegiate Dictionary
accepted the word pleather to describe a plastic material resembling plastic.
William Shakespeare has been credited with coining many words because no
word existed in his day to express what he wanted to say. Among these words
are dauntless, fashionable, alligator, bedroom, pander, outbreak, laughingstock,
the naked truth, amazement, leapfrog, madcap, frugal, articulate, immediacy,
advertising, investment, puke, and zany.
New Comedy See Old
(a term derived from the Latin word nihil, meaning nothing)
is a philosophy that calls for the destruction of existing traditions,
customs, beliefs, and institutions and requires its adherents to reject
all values, including religious and aesthetic principles, in favor of belief
in nothing. The term was coined in the Middle Ages to describe religious
heretics. It was resurrected in mid-19th Century Russia to describe radicals
and revolutionaries. Supporters of this philosophy saw it as a stage in
the struggle against tyranny and injustice. Ivan
Turgenev made nihilism a household world in Russia with the publication
of Fathers and Sons
in 1861. Its main character–the nihilist Bazarov–became the most famous
nihilist in the world, even though he was fictional.
Mythological, legendary, biblical, or historical personages alluded to
in literature because of their heroic qualities. The Nine Worthies include
(1) Hector, the Trojan hero slain by
Achilles; (2) Alexander
the Great, the Macedonian general who conquered the Persians and marched
through Asia; (3) Joshua,
the successor of Moses; (4) David,
the slayer of Goliath and second king of Israel and Judah; (5) Judas
Maccabeus, a great Jewish general who defeated Syrian armies and purified
and restored the temple in Jerusalem; (6) Julius
Caesar, the great Roman general and political leader; (7) King
Arthur, ruler of Camelot in the Arthurian legends; (8) Charlemagne,
king of the Franks and Holy Roman Emperor; and (9) Godfrey
of Bouillon, one of the leaders of the First Crusade in the Holy Land.
In Love's Labour's Lost, Shakespeare
presents an entertainment in which characters take the parts of the Nine
Noble Savage Since
ancient times, writers have often depicted aboriginal or uncivilized people
as noble–untainted by the corrupt ways of civilization. Greek and Latin
authors, such as Homer and Ovid, were sympathetic to some primitive peoples
in their writings. In 1672, the English poet, critic and dramatist John
Dryden coined the term noble savage in a play called The Conquest
of Granada. Between 1760 and 1780, the French writer and philosopher
Jean-Jacques Rousseau popularized the concept of the noble savage in his
writings. In Moby-Dick, Herman
Melville developed this motif with three “noble savages”: the harpooners
Queequeg, Tashtego, and Daggoo. For example, he depicts Queequeg–a tattooed
savage who sells shrunken heads–as being more tolerant and benevolent than
the civilized Christian whalers.
de Plume Pen name; pseudonym. Writers often use noms de plume
to hide their identity or their sex–or to simplify a hard-to-remember or
hard-to-pronounce name. Among writers who used noms de plume were Samuel
Langhorne Clemens (Mark Twain), William Sydney Porter (O. Henry), Eric
Blair (George Orwell), Sir Arthur Thomas Quiller-Couch (Q), François
Marie-Arouet (Voltaire), and Amandine-Aurore Lucile Dudevant (George Sand).
Novel Long fictional
story told in prose. Novels typically have more characters than a short
story and a more complicated plot that might take place in various settings,
sometimes over a period of months or years. Examples of novels are The
Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Moby Dick, The Great Gatsby, David Copperfield,
Babbitt, Crime and Punishment, and The Scarlet Letter.
Novella Short prose
tale that often has satire and a moral. Sometimes novellas were collected
into a single work that used a frame tale to establish
a theme common to all of them. The stories then were told "inside the frame"
and became part of it. Boccaccio's Decameron contains novellas.
Novelette Prose work
shorter than a novel but longer than a short story. Examples of novelettes
are Robert Louis Stevenson's The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr.
Hyde and Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness.
of an author to keep his opinions and preachments out of a poem, a play,
a short story, a novel, or any other literary work that he writes. Modern
readers tend to admire objectivity in an author.
Ockham's Razor Principle
expressed by William of Ockham (1285-1349), a German Franciscan priest,
that the simplest solution is the best.
Octameter See Meter.
First eight lines of a Petrarchan, or Italian,
sonnet. Petrarch's sonnets each consist of an eight-line stanza (octave)
and a six-line stanza (sestet). The first stanza presents a theme, and
the second stanza develops it. The rhyme scheme is as follows: (1) first
stanza (octave): ABBA, ABBA; (2) second stanza (sestet): CDE, CDE.
In ancient Greece, a lyric poem on a serious subject that develops its
theme with dignified language intended to be sung.
Romantic: Dignified but highly lyrical (emotional) poem
in which the author speaks to a person or thing absent or present.
(OO vrah) The complete works of an author, a composer, a painter, etc.
is a French word for work. See also Canon.
Comedy In Greece of the Fifth Century, BC, a genre of comedy
that displayed great imagination and used cutthroat satire, caricature,
and sometimes vulgar dialogue to ridicule public figures, politics, ideas,
trends, and institutions. Aristophanes was the unsurpassed master
of old comedy. In the Fourth Century, old comedy was succeeded by a lighter,
less caustic form of comedy that centered on fictional characters drawn
from everyday life rather than on public figures, politics, and so on.
This genre was appropriately labeled new comedy.
Unrhyming verse, without stanzas, with a caesura (pause) in the middle
of each line. The lines contain caesuras to represent the pauses that speakers
normally use in everyday speech. Thus, each line is divided into two parts.
Each part is called a hemistich (HEM e stick), which is half a line
of verse. A complete line is called a stich. Each hemistich contains two
stressed (accented) syllables and a varying number of unstressed (unaccented)
syllables. Following are the opening three lines of Beowulf in Old
English, with the space in the middle representing the caesura.
With a Space for the Caesura
Gar-Dena in geardagum,
||Lo. we have heard
of the glory in days of old
||of the Spear-Danes,
of the kings of the people,
|hu ða æþelingas
||how the athelings
did deeds of valor.
Headdress worn by some actors in ancient Greece to increase their height
and, thus, visibility to theater audiences.
Figure of speech in which (1) a word mimics a sound or (2) an arrangement
of words in a rhythmic pattern suggests a sound or an image. Examples
of No. 1: burp, varoom, oink, crackle, moo, hiss, gong, thud, splash,
zip, creak, boom, slurp, crunch, quack, twitter, honk, hoot, squeak, buzz,
Plural of opus, Latin for work. An opera is a play set to
music. The words are sung and sometimes presented in dialogue that resembles
conversation but sounds like singing.
Speech delivered with great emotion to spur listeners to action.
Writing [OH she ohss] Extremely wordy writing in which the author
is too lazy to edit for conciseness.
Combining contradictory words to reveal a truth. Oxymoron is a form of
paradox. However, unlike paradox, oxymoron places opposing words side by
side. Examples: (1) Parting is such sweet sorrow.–Shakespeare. (2)
Working in a coal mine is living death. (3) The hurricane turned
the lush island retreat into a hellish paradise.
Use of body movements and facial expressions by actors to convey a message
Parabasis (puh RAB
uh sis) In the drama of ancient Greece, an ode in which the chorus addresses
the audience to express opinions of the author, including his views on
politics, social trends, and other topics.
Parodos (PAIR uh doss)
In the drama of ancient Greece, a song sung by the chorus
when it enters; also, the moment when the chorus enters.
Contradictory statement that may actually be true. Paradox is similar to
oxymoron in that both figures of speech use contradictions to state a truth.
However, paradox does not place opposing words side by side, as oxymoron
does. Examples: (1) They called him a lion. But in the boxing ring, the
was a lamb. (2) For slaves, life was death, and death was
(PAIR uh no MAY zhuh) Pretentious term for pun.
Imitation of a literary work or film–or the style used by a writer or filmmaker–in
order to ridicule the work and its writer or producer. The Austin Powers
movies are parodies of spy films.
Poem Poem focusing on some aspect of rural life. It may center
on the love of a shepherd for a maiden, on the death of a friend, or on
the quiet simplicity of rural life. The writer of a pastoral poem may be
a highly educated city dweller who longs for the peace and quiet of the
country or who extolls the virtues of a shepherd girl. Pastoral
is derived from the Latin word pastor, meaning shepherd.
Name See Nom de Plume.
In the drama of ancient Greece, a prism having surfaces painted with pictures.
When it revolved, it changed the scenery on a stage.
(also peripetia or peripety) In a stage tragedy in ancient
Greece, a sudden reversal of fortune from good to bad.
a literary work, a narrator or speaker who presents the work to the reader.
The persona may be an active character in the work, or he may be an unidentified
narrator or commentator. The persona may or may not represent the views
of the author. In the short stories of Edgar Allan Poe, the persona--the
person describing the action in first-person point of view--is often a
In some cases,
the persona is not even human.
(1) Concluion of a speech in which the speaker summarizes the main points.
(2) Long, pompous speech; bombastic speech.
Giving humanlike qualities or human form to objects and abstractions. Personification
is a form of metaphor. Examples: (1) Thou has done a deed whereat valor
will weep.–Shakespeare. (Notice that valor, an abstraction,
weeps.) (2) Fortune brings in some boats that are not steered–Shakespeare.
(3) Because I could not stop for Death, He kindly stopped for me.
–Emily Dickinson. (4) The house pleaded for a new coat of paint.
Speech that bitterly denounces, blames, accuses, or insults a person; speech
that viciously attacks a person or his ideas. The word Philippic
is derived from the Greek Philippikos (belonging to Philip).
In 351 BC, the Athenian orator Demosthenes (384-322 BC) began making speeches
against the encroachment of King Philip of Macedon (382-336) on Greek territory.
These speeches became known as "Philippics."
Novel Novel that presents the episodic adventures (each a story
in itself) of a roguish character as he travels from place to place and
meets a variety of other characters, some of them also travelers. The episodes
often center on feats of derring-do and romantic escapades.
Expression of grief or sorrow in a poem. Such an expression is said to
plaintive, a word that is a cousin of the word plaintiff,
a legal term for a person who brings a suit, or complaint, in a
court of law against a defendant.
The events that unfold in a story; the action and direction of a story;
the story line.
Important work by Aristotle written about 335 B.C. It analyzes Greek theater
and outlines its origin and development. One of its theses is that literature
and other forms of art imitate the activity of humans. Tragedy is the higher
form of the playwright's craft, Aristotle says, because it imitates the
action of noble persons and depicts lofty events. Comedy, on the other
hand, focuses on ordinary humans and events.
Language that expresses powerful emotions and ideas in a stanza or stanzas
that may use rhythm and rhyme, as well as other rhetorical devices. For
a full discussion of prose, poetry, and verse, click
Introduction to a play or another literary work. In Shakespeare's Henry
V, a chorus (one person) speaks a prologue that encourages the
audience members to use their imaginations to create what an Elizabethan
stage cannot: battlefields, clashing swords, the might of warriors. Shakespeare
writes, "Think when we talk of horses, that you see them printing their
proud hoofs i' the receiving earth."
In the drama of ancient Greece, a prologue that
begins the play with dialogue indicating the focus or theme of the play.
or Prompt Copy In Shakespeare's time, the edited version of a play
in which an acting company inserted stage directions.
(1) The stage of a theater; (2) the part of the stage extending out toward
the audience; (3) the arch over the stage that separates the stage from
the audience. The proscenium arch helps create the illusion that the audience
viewing a play is looking into real world just as the frame around a television
screen helps TV viewers do the same.
Language of everyday speech and writing. For a full discussion of prose,
poetry, and verse, click here.
(Greek Play) Main character in an ancient Greek play who usually
interacts with the chorus. In a tragedy, the protagonist is traditionally
a person of exalted status–such as a king, a queen, a political leader,
or a military hero–who has a character flaw (inordinate pride, for example).
This character flaw causes the protagonist to make an error of judgment.
Additionally, the typical protagonist experiences a moment of truth in
which he or she recognizes and acknowledges his or her mistakes, failures,
(Modern Sense) Main character of a novel, play, or film.
Opening part of a stage drama that introduces the characters and focus
of the play.
See Nom de Plume.
Play on words; using a word that sounds like another word but has a different
meaning. Examples: (1) Marriage is a wife sentence. (2) They went and told
the sexton and the sexton tolled the bell.–Thomas Hood.
A quarto is sheet of printing paper folded twice to form eight separate
for printing a book. To better visualize a quarto, hold before you a standard
sheet of typing paper and fold it as you would a letter. You now have a
rectangular piece of paper. Fold the paper again to form it into a square
(or near square). Now unfold the paper and
lay it flat before you. Notice that the sheet of.paper
now has four sections on one side and four on the other. In Shakespeare's
time, printing paper was folded in this way. Each of the four sections
on one side became a page, and each of the .four
sections on the other side became page. Thus, there were eight pages in
all. Each of these pages was about a foot high. William Shakespeare's plays
were first published in quarto and folio texts. Some
of the quarto texts are based on inferior, unauthorized copies of Shakespeare's
plays. For example, an unscrupulous publisher named John Danter, hoping
to make money by selling Romeo and Juliet, used notes taken during
a performance of the play to piece together a copy of it for sale in a
1597 quarto edition. What resulted was Shakespeare "as you hate him"–full
of errors and inconsistencies.
Stanza or poem of four lines. A quatrain usually has a rhyme scheme, such
as abab, abba, or abcb.
Writing instrument used before the invention of the fountain pen, the ballpoint
pen, and other writing instruments. A quill was the hollow, rigid shaft
of a bird’s feather. The word “pen” is derived from the Latin name for
“feather”–“penna.” Shakespeare and other writers of his day used a variety
of quills that they dipped in an ink container (inkwell) on a stand
(standish) that held all the writing materials. If a writer’s pocket
lacked jingle, he invested in a goose quill. If he could afford something
better, he invested in a swan quill. Writers or artists who needed quills
to produce fine lines purchased crow quills. Quills from ducks, eagles,
turkeys, hawks and owls also served as “word processors,” producing plays,
poems, and sometimes revolution. Quills were the writing instruments of
choice between 500 A.D. and 1850 A.D. (In the ancient world, writers used
a variety of other instruments to write history, literature, announcements,
bureaucratic records, and so on. These instruments included shaped twigs
or branches that impressed words into clay, mallet-driven chisels that
etched words in stone, brushes that wrote on pottery and other smooth surfaces
(such as plaster and animal skins), sharpened bone or metal that inscribed
words on wax surfaces, and sharpened reed stems dipped in ink that wrote
on papyrus, an Egyptian water plant whose pith (the soft center of a stem)
was dried and pressed to make thin sheets suitable for receiving impressions.
The introduction of the quill in the 500's (an event recorded by St. Isidore,
a Spanish theologian) greatly eased the task of writers, much as personal
computers did when they replaced typewriters in the last half of the 20th
Writing flaw in which unnecessary wording is used. Examples: Wrong:
Her dress was green in color. Right: Her dress was green.
The president will arrive at 3 p.m. this afternoon.
Right: The president
will arrive at 3 p.m. Wrong: Please repeat that statement again.
Please repeat that statement.
Re-Enter Stage direction
in a play manuscript indicating the re-entrance onto the stage of a character
Group of words repeated at key intervals in a poem, such as Dylan Thomas's
"Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good
In literature, a movement that stressed the presentation of life as it
is, without embellishment or idealization. However, it was not as extreme
in this presentation as Naturalism.
Quick, witty, often amusing reply; a conversation full of witty replies;
verbal fencing or sparring.
Art of effectively using words in speech and writing; the study of language
and its rules. Rhetoric can also refer to insincere or deceptive
language, as in this sentence: The senator promised to tell the truth,
but in his news conference he spouted nothing but political rhetoric.
Consonant A special type of rhyme (consonance) in which pairs of
words with different vowel sounds have the same final consonants. Example:
End Rhyme in which the final syllable (or syllables) of one line
mimic the sound of the final syllable (or syllables) of another line.
Eye Form of rhyme in which the pronunciation of the last
syllable of one line is different from the pronunciation of the last syllable
of another line even though both syllables are identical in spelling except
for a preceding consonant. For example, the following end-of-line word
pairs would constitute eye rhyme: cough, rough; cow,
mow; daughter, laughter; rummaging, raging.
Feminine Rhyme in which the final two syllables of one line mimic
the sound of the final two syllables of another line. Examples: repeat,
deplete; farrow, narrow;
Internal Rhyme that occurs inside a line. Example: The knell
of the bell saddened me.
Masculine Rhyme in which the final yllable of one line mimics the
sound of the final yllable of another line. Examples: black,
back; hell, well; shack, black.
à Clef [ro MAH na KLEH] Novel in which real persons are
thinly disguised as fictional characters with fictional names. For example,
if an author wrote a roman à clef about the private lives of movie
stars, he would base the novel on the lifestyles of real actors and actresses
but give them fictitious names.
Medieval Long poem resembling an epic in its focus on heroic
deeds. Unlike an epic, however, a medieval romance is light in tone, and
its content is at times fantastic and magical. In a medieval romance chivalrous
knights pay homage to lovely ladies. The knights are often pure in heart
and soul, although sorely tempted by the wiles of beautiful women. There
may be merriment and singing. An example of a medieval romance is Sir
Gawain and the Green Knight.
In literature, a movement that championed imagination and emotions as more
powerful than reason and systematic thinking. “What I feel about a person
or thing,” a romantic poet might have said, “is more important than what
scientific investigation, observation, and experience would say about that
person or thing.” Intuition–that voice within that makes judgments and
the aid of reason–was
a guiding force to the romantic poet. So was nature. Romanticism began
in the mid-1700's as a rebellion against the principles of classicism.
Whereas classicism espoused the literary ideals of ancient Greece and Rome–objectivity,
emotional restraint, and formal rules of composition that writers were
expected to follow–romanticism promoted subjectivity, emotional effusiveness,
and freedom of expression . “I want to write my way,” the romantic poet
might have said, “not the way that writers in ancient times decreed that
I should write.” In English literature, Wordsworth
and his friend, Samuel Taylor Coleridge,
were pioneers in the development of the Romantic Movement. However,
neither romantic nor classical writing was always entirely faithfully to
its ideals. For example, a classical writer may have exhibited emotional
effusion from time to time whereas a romantic writer may have exhibited
emotional restraint on occasion. Writers today continue to use many of
the principles of both the classical and romantic schools of writing.
Lyric poem consisting of three stanzas with a total of fifteen lines. Lines
9 and 15 are the same--that is, they make up a refrain. Line 9 occurs at
the end of the second stanza and line 15 at the end of the third stanza.
These lines are very short and rhyme only with each other and not with
any other lines. In a rondeau, all lines except 9 and 15 generally contain
eight syllables each. Click here
to see an example of a rondeau.
Form of verbal irony that insults a person with insincere praise. For example,
a cruel person might tell a homely woman wearing dowdy clothes, "I see,
Miss America, that you are wearing the latest Dior ensemble."
work that attacks or pokes fun at vices and imperfections; political cartoon
that does the same. Satire may make the reader laugh at or feel disgust
for the person or thing satirized. The TV program Saturday Night Live
often uses satire to expose abuses and follies.
Play In the drama of ancient Greece, a play that pokes fun at a
serious subject involving gods and myths; a parody of stories about gods
or myths. Fragments of Sophocles's satyr play Ichneutae (Trackers)
survive along with his seven complete tragedies.
Plot outline of a play, opera, motion picture, or TV program.
(1) Part of an act of a play; (2) a settingin
a literary work, opera, or film; (3) a theater stage in ancient Greece
or Rome; (4) part of a literary work, opera, or film that centers on one
aspect of plot development.
One of the
main divisions of a play. Shakespeare's plays each have five acts. Each
act is subdivided into scenes. An act generally focuses on one major aspect
of the plot or theme. Between acts, stagehands may change scenery, and
the setting may shift to another locale.
Fiction Literary genre focusing on how scientific experiments,
discoveries, and technologies affect human beings for better or worse.
Science fiction differs from pure fantasy in that it presents events that
appear to be scientifically plausible. Traveling to another galaxy in a
spaceship is scientifically plausible. Riding to the moon on a winged horse
is not scientifically plausible.
Old English poet often attached to a monarch's court. A scop composed and
recited his own poetry.
Sennet Stage direction
in a play manuscript to signal a trumpet flourish that ntroducess the entrance
of a character, such as the entrance of King Lear (Act 1) in Shakespeare's
A flaw in a literary work or film in which the author relies on tear-jerking
or heart-wrenching scenes rather than writing talent or cinematic skill
to evoke a response in readers.
A clergyman's talk centering on a scriptural passage.
Final six lines of a Petrarchan, or Italian, sonnet. Petrarch's sonnets
each consist of an eight-line stanza (octave) and a six-line stanza (sestet).
The first stanza presents a theme, and the second stanza develops it. The
rhyme scheme is as follows: (1) first stanza (octave): ABBA, ABBA; (2)
second stanza (sestet): CDE, CDE.
Poem with six stanzas of six lines each, followed by a stanza with three
lines (tercet). A Provençal troubadour, Arnaut Daniel, developed
the sesinta, which was written in unrhymed iambic pentameter.
Setting is the environment in which a story unfolds. It includes (1) the
time and period of history, (2) the place, (3) the atmosphere, (4) the
clothing, (5) the living conditions, and (6) the social climate. Sometimes
the setting is extremely important. For example, the atmosphere can influence
characters in a ghost story; the living conditions can influence characters
in a story about class conflicts or life in prison.
Verse See Concrete Poetry.
Word inserted in a quoted statement in a research work (essay, magazine
article, doctoral thesis, book, etc.) to indicate that the quotation contains
an error. Sic appears in brackets after the error. Following is
an example of the use of sic:
wrote in his diary that "my critics refuse to acknowledge that the econommy
[sic] is improving."
Comparing one thing to an unlike thing by using like, as,
or than. Examples: (1) The barge she sat in, like a burnished
throne, burned on the water.–Shakespeare. (2) And the muscles of his brawny
arms are strong as iron bands–Longfellow. (3) His hand was small and cold;
it felt like wax.–Margaret Truman. (4) In the morning the dust hung like
fog, and the sun was as red as ripe new blood–John Steinbeck.
Recitation in a play in which a character reveals his thoughts to the audience
but not to other characters in the play.
Solus Stage direction
in a play manuscript indicating a character is alone on the stage.
Form of lyric poetry invented in Italy that has 14 lines with a specific
rhyme scheme. The Italian Petrarchan sonnet consists of an eight-line stanza
(octave) and a six-line stanza (sestet). The first stanza presents a theme,
and the second stanza develops it. The rhyme scheme is as follows: (1)
first stanza (octave): ABBA, ABBA; (2) second stanza (sestet): CDE, CDE.
The Shakespearean sonnet (also called the English sonnet) has three
four-line stanzas (quatrains) and a two-line unit called a couplet. A couplet
is always indented; both lines rhyme at the end. The meter of Shakespeare's
sonnets is iambic pentameter (except
in Sonnet 145). The rhyming lines in each stanza are the first and third
and the second and fourth. In the couplet ending the poem, both lines rhyme.
All of Shakespeare's sonnets follow the same rhyming pattern.
Curtal Shortened or contracted sonnet. A curtal sonnet consists
of eleven lines instead of the usual fourteen for the standard Shakespearean
or Petrarchan sonnet. An example of a curtal sonnet is "Pied
Beauty," by Gerard Manley Hopkins.
In a comedy (a play or an opera), a maid or servant girl involved in intrigue
affecting the central characters. She usually has a quick tongue, common
sense, and a good sense of humor. One of the most famous soubrettes in
the history of theater is Suzanne in The Marriage of Figaro (play
by Beaumarchais and opera by Mozart).
genre with a setting in the Southern United States that vests its stories
with foreboding and grotesquerie. Begun in the twentieth century, Southern
Gothic replaces the romanticism of nineteenth-century Gothic works with
realism. However, southern Gothic retains the disturbing elements of earlier
Gothic works, whether in the form of a deranged character, a forbidding
forest, or a sense of impending doom. Among the writers associated with
this genre are Flannery O'Connor, William Faulkner, Carson McCullers, and
Spondee and Spondaic
Slip of the tongue in which a speaker transposes the letters of words.
little thrigs is a spoonerism for three little pigs.
Stanza A stanza with eight lines in iambic
pentameter and a ninth line in iambic hexameter.
Edmund Spenser (1552-1599) originated this format in his great allegorical
poem The Faerie Queene. The rhyme scheme of the stanza is ababbcbcc.
STASS uh mon): In a Greek play, a scene in which the chorus
sings a song, uninterrupted by dialogue.
Register In Shakespeare's time, a book in which the English government
required printers to register the title of a play before the play was published.
The full official name of the Stationers' Register was the Hall
Book of the Worshipful Company of Stationers.
Lines that form a division or unit of a poem. Stanzas generally have four
Character in a literary work or film who thinks or acts according to certain
unvarying patterns simply because of his or her racial, ethnic, religious,
or social background. A stereotype is usually an image that society projects
or imposes on every member of a group as a result of prejudice or faulty
information. Examples of stereotypes are the Irish drunk, the Italian mobster,
the dishonest car salesman, the plain-Jane librarian, the shyster lawyer,
the Machiavellian politician, and the dumb blonde.
(stik uh MITH e uh) In a stage play brief, alternating lines of dialogue
spoken in rapid-fire succession. It occurs frequently in Greek drama, especially
when characters are arguing or expressing strong emotions. Following is
an example of stichomythia in The Clouds, by Aristophanes, in which
two characters–Unjust Cause and Just Cause–are insulting each other:
Unj. You are a dotard and absurd.
Sturm und Drang (Storm
and Stress): In Eighteenth Century Germany, a literary movement characterized
by a rejection of many classical literary conventions (in particular the
unities adhered to strictly by French
writers but often ignored by William Shakespeare), by great passion and
enthusiasm, by disquiet and impatience, and by an exposition of folk themes.
Just You are debauched and shameless.
Unj. You have spoken roses of me.
Just And a dirty lickspittle.
Unj. You crown me with lilies.
Just And a parricide.
Unj. You don't know that you are
sprinkling me with
Just Certainly not so formerly,
but with lead.
Unj. But now this is an ornament
Just You are very impudent.
Unj. And you are antiquated.
Style is the way an author writes a literary work. It manifests itself
in the author’s choice of words and phrases, the structure of sentences,
the length of paragraphs, the tone of the work, and so on. Just as painters,
singers, and dancers have different styles, so too do authors. One author
may use a great deal of dialogue while another author uses little. Some
authors use difficult vocabulary; others use simple vocabulary. Ernest
Hemingway uses simple words, but the story they tell may be complex. Charles
Dickens describes people with unusual names and memorable characteristics.
Uriah Heep has slimy hands; Mr. Murdstone, who is vicious and cruel, dresses
in black. To describe people and places, the author of Beowulf
uses a special figure of speech called a kenning. A kenning combines two
nouns, usually separated by a hyphen, to create an image. Thus, sea
becomes whale-road and boat becomes wave-traveler.
Secondary or minor plot in a story usually related to the main plot.
Anxiety about what will happen next in a story. In Poe's short story "The
Pit and the Pendulum," the main character is strapped to a board in
a dark cell while a pendulum in the form of a steel blade swings over him.
With each swing, the pendulum descends closer to his body. The reader is
kept in suspense about how the character will free himself.
In a literary work or film, a person, place, thing or idea that represents
something else. Writers often use a snake as a symbol for evil, as in Nathaniel
Hawthorne's "Young Goodman Brown." Commonly used
symbols include the eagle (strength), a flag (patriotism), and the sea
Omitting letters or sounds within a word. The word bos'n as a shortened
version of boatswain (a naval officer) is an example of syncope.
Substitution of a part to stand for the whole, or the whole to stand for
a part. Examples: (1) The Confederates have eyes in Lincoln's government.
(The word "eyes" stands for spies.) (2) Jack bought a new set of wheels.
("Wheels" stands for a car.) (3) The law pursued the bank robbers
from Maine to Florida. ("Law" stands for police.)
of an adjective associated with one sensation to describe a noun referring
to another sensation. Examples: (1) a cold voice; (2) The closer the roses
got to death, the louder their scent (Toni Morrison, Beloved, Knopf,
needless repetition. See also prolixity and redundancy.
poetry, a unit of three lines that usually contain end rhyme. (Examples
of tercets are the three-line stanzas of terza rima, defined below.)
Terza Rima Italian
verse form invented by Dante Alighieri (1265-1321).
consists of a series of three-line stanzas in which Line 2 of one stanza
rhymes with Lines 1 and 3 of the next stanza. The rhyme scheme progresses
in the following pattern: aba, bcb, cdc, ded, efe, ghg, and so on. The
following English translation of the first lines from the Divine Comedy–with
the original Dante lines on the right–demonstrate the rhyme scheme:
Along the journey of our life half
way.................Nel mezzo del cammin di
In the drama of ancient Greece, four plays (three tragedies
and one satyr play) staged by a playwright during
a drama competition. (See Dionysus.)
I found myself again in a dark wood.................mi
ritrovai per una selva oscura
Wherein the straight road no longer
lay.............ché la diritta via
Ah, tongue can never make it understood:........Ahi
quanto a dir qual era è cosa dura
So harsh and dense and savage to
selva selvaggia e aspra e forte
That fear returns in thinking on
nel pensier rinova la paura!
It is so bitter death is hardly worse....................Tant'è
amara che poco è più morte;
But, for the good it was my chance
to gain,........ma per trattar del ben ch'i'
The other things I saw there I'll
de l'altre cose ch'i' v'ho scorte
English translation: Dale, Peter.
Divine Comedy. London: Anvil Press, 1996.
Tetrameter See Meter.
Greek Open-air structure in which plays were performed. The stage
faced the afternoon sunlight to illuminate a performance while allowing
the audience to view the action without squinting. A Greek theater consisted
of the following:
Building behind the stage. First used as a dressing area for actors (and
of the Absurd Term coined in 1965 by critic Martin Eslin to describe
the plays of Samuel Beckett and other writers who believed that life is
meaningless. For more information about this genre, see Waiting
exit area for actors), the skene eventually became a background showing
Extensions or annexes on the sides of the skene.
Acting area, or stage, in front of the skene.
Ground-level area where the chorus performed. It
was in front of the proscenium.
Passage on the left or right through which the chorus
entered the orchestra. (Also, a song sung by the chorus
when it entered or the moment when the chorus enters.
Altar in the center of the orchestra used to make sacrifices to Dionysus.
Tiered seating area built into a hillside in the shape of a horseshoe.
Armlike device on the skene that could lower a "god" onto the stage from
Main idea of a literary work; the thesis.
Actor or actress. Also, an adjective referring to any person or thing pertaining
to Greek drama or drama in general. The word is derived from Thespis,
the name of a Greek of the 6th Century B.C. who was said to have
been the first actor on the Greek stage.
Prevailing mood or atmosphere in a literary work. One may compare the tone
of a poem, a novel, a play, or an essay to the tone of the human voice
as it projects the emotions of the speaker or to the appearance of the
sky as it dispenses rain or sunlight. Thus, the tone of a literary work
may be joyful, sad, brooding, angry, playful, and so on. The tone of Thomas
Gray's "Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard" is somber; the tone
of Voltaire's Candide
is mocking and sarcastic; the tone of Shakespeare's
Merry Wives of Windsor is jocund and farcical.
Tiring House In Shakespeare's
time, dressing rooms of actors behind a wall at the back of the stage.
tire means to dress–that is, to attire oneself. Sometimes,
the wall of the tiring house could stand as the wall of a fortress under
Torches Stage direction
in a Shakespeare play indicating that entering characters are carrying
(Greek) Verse drama written in elevated language in which a noble
falls to ruin during a struggle caused by a flaw (hamartia)
in his character or an error in his rulings or judgments. Following are
the characteristics of a Sophocles tragedy: (1) It is based on events that
already took place and with which the audience is familiar. (2) The protagonist
is a person of noble stature. (3) The protagonist has a weakness and, because
of it, becomes isolated and suffers a downfall. (4) Because the protagonist's
fall is not entirely his or her own fault, the audience may end up pitying
him or her. (5) The fallen protagonist gains self-knowledge. He has a deeper
insight into himself and understands his weakness. (6) The audience undergoes
a purging of emotions, after experiencing pity, fear, shock and other strong
feelings. The people go away feeling better. (7) The drama usually unfolds
in one place in a short period of time, usually about a day.
Play that has tragic events but ends happily. Examples are Shakespeare's
Merchant of Venice, The Two Noble Kinsmen,
and Pericles, Prince of Tyre.
Belief that every human being has inborn knowledge that enables him to
recognize and understand moral truth without benefit of knowledge obtained
through the physical senses. Using this inborn knowledge, an individual
can make a moral decision without relying on information gained through
everyday living, education, and experimentation. One may liken this inborn
knowledge to conscience or intuition. American author Henry David Thoreau
believed that this inborn knowledge served as a moral guiding force–that
this inner knowledge was a higher, transcendent form of knowledge than
that which came through the senses. Because Thoreau and his fellow transcendentalists
trusted their own inner light as a moral guiding force, they exhibited
a fierce spirit of self-reliance. They were individualists; they liked
to make decisions for themselves. If the government adopted a policy or
a law that offended their consciences, they generally reacted strongly.
Thoreau's essay “Civil Disobedience” expresses
his reaction and measured response to government dictums that legitimized
slavery and the Mexican War. Transcendentalism did not originate with Thoreau
or his fellow American transcendentalists but with the German philosopher
Emanuel Kant. He used the German word for transcendental to refer
to intuitive or innate knowledge–knowledge which is a priori rather
than a posteriori.
(1) Play, novel, poem, skit, film, opera, etc., that trivializes a serious
subject or composition. Generally, a travesty achieves its effect through
broad humor and through incongruous or distorted language and situations.
Examples of works that contain travesty are Cervantes’s Don
Quixote de La Mancha and Shakespeare’s A
Midsummer Night’s Dream (the Act V staging of Pyramis and Thisbe
by the bumbling tradesmen). Literary works that mock trivial or unimportant
subjects are not travesties; travesties mock only serious, dignified, or
noble subjects. (2) A work in literature, music, or art that is so poorly
done that it fails to meet even the minimum standards for style, technique,
form, etc. (3) Any gross distortion or misrepresentation of a procedure,
a custom, an approach, a method, a system, or a course of action. For example,
a trial in which the judge is incompetent and the jury is biased may be
termed a travesty.
Trochee and Trochaic
Figure of speech; figurative language.
Lyric poet/musician of southern France or northern Italy; minstrel.
Sunt Ubi sunt is Latin for where are. The term
is applied to poetry that laments the passing of people, places, things,
or ideas by rhetorically asking where they are now in order to call attention
to the inexorable passage of time and the inevitability of death, decay,
and obsolescence. François Villon's "Ballade
des dames du temps jadis" is a fine example of this genre.
Three key elements of dramatic structure: time, place, and action. These
unities, formulated in part by Aristotle in his commentary on Greek drama
and in part by the Italian Renaissance humanist Lodovico Castelvetro, suggested
that a play should have one setting with a single plot thread that unfolds
in one short time period, about a day. However, some playwrights began
ignoring these ancient rules. Shakespeare observed them in some of his
plays but ignored them in others. For example, in The
Winter's Tale, Shakespeare not only shifts the setting, but he
also leaps ahead 16 years.
Appealing to readers and audiences of any age or any culture. For example,
although Robert Louis Stevenson's The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and
Mr. Hyde is set in London of the late 19th Century, its message–that
each human being has a good side and dark side–applies and appeals to people
today in every country. Likewise, the central conflict of Sophocles’s Antigone,
the individual vs the state (or moral law vs man-made law), has remained
relevant since its first performance more than 2,400 years ago.
Having the appearance of truth; realism. In a fictional work, a
writer creates unreal characters and situations and asks the reader to
pretend that they are real. To help the reader in this task, the writer
tells his tale in such a way that he makes it seem credible–that is, he
gives it “verisimilitude.” Verisimilitude is derived from the Latin
words veritas (truth) and similis (similar).
Thus, verisimilitude in a literary work confers on it the quality of appearing
true or similar to the truth.
Collection of lines (as in a Shakespeare play) that follow a regular, rhythmic
pattern. For a full discussion of prose, poetry, and verse, click
Form of poetry popularized mainly in France in the 16th Century. It usually
expressed pastoral, idyllic sentiments in imitation of the Italian villanella,
a type of song for singers and dancers that centered on rural, peasant
themes. When French writers such as Joachim du Bellay (1522-1560) and Philipe
Desportes (1546-1606) began writing villanelles, these poems did not have
a fixed format. However, when Jean Passerat (1534-1602) wrote a villanelle
whose format caught the fancy of critics, that format became the standard
for all future villanelles. The format is as follows:
of Stanzas: six
Within Stage direction
in a play manuscript indicating that a person speaking or being spoken
to is behind a door or inside a room
Each Stanza: three in each of the first five stanzas, four in the last.
A three-line stanza is called a tercet; a four-line stanza, a quatrain.
two lines, the first and third of the first stanza, must be repeated in
the other stanzas. Here is the pattern: Line 1 of the first stanza is repeated
as Line 3 of the second stanza, as Line 3 of the fourth stanza, and as
Line 3 of the sixth stanza. Line 3 of the first stanza is repeated as Line
3 of the third stanza, Line 3 of the fifth stanza, and Line 4 of the sixth
in the first five stanzas; abaa in the last stanza. "Do
not Go Gentle into That Good Night," by Dylan Thomas, is an example
of a villanelle.
Use of one word (usually an adjective or a verb) to serve two or more other
words with more than one meaning. Example: The dance floor was square,
and so was the bandleader’s personality. Explanation: Square
describes the dance floor and the bandleader’s personality with different