foil: a set of characters who are purposefully presented to be similar in some ways but
completely opposite in others in order to highlight particular character traits. In Hamlet, Claudius and Old Hamlet are foil characters because they were both kings of Denmark, but each had opposite moral tendencies.
purpose: the functional reason for the character to be in the story
round: a character that is described in detail in a work
static: a character that does not change throughout the course of a narrative
conflict: the opposition between two characters (such as a protagonist and an antagonist),
between two large groups of people, or between the protagonist and a larger problem such as forces of nature, ideas, public mores, and so on.
external conflict: a conflict that occurs outside of the protagonist
man vs. man: a conflict between two characters
man vs. nature: a conflict between the protagonist and an element of nature
man vs. society: a conflict between the protagonist and the socially accepted
behaviors of a society
internal conflict: a conflict that occurs inside a character’s mind, heart or
man vs. himself: a conflict such as a decision that must be reached, that occurs
within a character, usually the protagonist
man vs. fate: a conflict that demonstrates man’s desire to oppose the forces of
scop (shope): an Old English term for poet. In Anglo-Saxon culture, the scop had the important
job of singing about the accomplishments of his patron and his people. The scop functioned as both an entertainer and as an historian.
sestet: six lines of poetry together in a stanza.
sonnet: fourteen-lined poem with a particular pattern of rhyme and idea progression:
Shakespearean (English): three quatrains; each rhymed differently, with a final,
independently rhymed couplet that makes an effective, unifying climax to the whole. Its rhyme scheme is abab, cdcd, efef, gg. Typically, the final two lines follow a "turn" or a "volta," (sometimes spelled volte, like volte-face) because they reverse or turn from the original line of thought to take the idea in a new direction.
Petrarchan (Italian): an eight line stanza (called an octave) followed by a six line
stanza (called a sestet). The octave has two quatrains rhyming abba, abba, the first of which presents the theme, the second further develops it. In the sestet, the first three lines reflect on or exemplify the theme, while the last three bring the poem to a unified end. The sestet may be arranged cdecde, cdcdcd, or cdedce.
Spencerian: contains three quatrains which are interlocked by the repetition in both the
second and third quatrains of a rhyme from the quatrain that immediately precedes it.
a b a b - End words of first quatrain in alternating rhyme.
b c b c - End words of second quatrain in alternating rhyme,
with repetition of the last rhyme in the first quatrain.
c d c d - End words of third quatrain in alternating rhyme,
with repetition of the last rhyme in the second quatrain.
e e - Heroic couplet.
stanza: a poem’s ‘paragraph’ or grouping of lines.
tercet: a three-line stanza
villanelle: a 19-line poem that is structured in five tercets with a final quatrain. The repetition
of lines 1 and 3 of the first stanza continues in the other stanzas to create the rhythm.
alliteration: repeating a consonant sound in close proximity to others, or beginning several
words with the same vowel sound.
cacophony: unharmonious sounds within a poem (opposite = euphony)
caesura: a pause in a line of poetry
consonance: repetition of internal vowel sounds in close proximity words
euphony: harmonious sounds within a poem (opposite = cacophony)
meter (scansion): the pattern of stressed and unstressed syllables in a line of poetry
foot: A basic unit of meter consisting of a set number of strong stresses and light
stressed syllable: one that is spoken with more emphasis
unstressed syllable: one that is spoken with less emphasis
free verse: poetry that has no regular meter, rhyme, or number of syllables on a line
onomatopoeia: The use of sounds that are similar to the noise they represent for a rhetorical or
artistic effect. For instance, buzz, click, rattle, and grunt make sounds akin to the noise they represent.
rhyme: a matching similarity of sounds in two or more words, especially when their accented
vowels and all succeeding consonants are identical.
eye rhyme (sight rhyme): two words that look as if they would rhyme due to similar
internal vowels but do not (pint / lint; move /love)
feminine rhyme: a rhyming set of words in which the final syllable is unstressed
(feather / heather). Creates a soft sound.
internal rhyme: a poetic device in which a word in the middle of a line rhymes with a
word at the end of the same metrical line
masculine rhyme: a rhyming set of words in which the final syllable is stressed or both
words are stressed one-syllable words (hit/fit). Creates a powerful punch of a
rhyme scheme: the pattern of end rhyme in a poem that is typically rendered with
letters of the alphabet signifying like rhymes.
slant rhyme (approximate rhyme, near rhyme): rhymes created out of words with
similar but not identical sounds. In most of these instances, either the vowel segments are different while the consonants are identical (soul/all), or vice versa (moon/fool).
allusion: A reference in literature to a person, place, event, or another passage of
literature, often without explicit identification. Allusions can originate in mythology, the Bible, historical events, or legends. Authors often use allusion to establish a tone, create an implied association, contrast two objects or people, or make an unusual juxtaposition of references. Authors assume that the readers will recognize the original sources and relate their meaning to the new context.
conceit: a fairly elaborate figure of speech, especially an extended comparison involving
metaphor: a comparison or analogy stated in such a way as to imply that one object is another
one, figuratively speaking. The comparison is usually between two unlike objects.
extended metaphor: a metaphor that is sustained for several lines /stanzas of a
poem or the entire poem
implied metaphor: a metaphor that is suggested (his stomach growled) rather
than stated directly (his hunger is a tiger).
motif: a recurring element, such as a type of incident, a device, a reference, or verbal formula,
which appears frequently in a work of literature
personification: a type of metaphor in which an object is given human qualities (“The sun
wept golden tears.”)
simile: a comparison that suggests two things are similar, using “like” or “as” (Time folds as
wrinkles at the corner of the universe’s eye.)
epic / heroic simile: Like a regular simile, an epic simile makes a comparison between
one object and another using "like" or "as." However, unlike a regular simile, which appears in a single sentence, the epic simile mainly appears in the genreof the epic and it may be developed at great length, often up to fifty or a hundred lines.
symbol: a word, place, character, or object that means something beyond its literal meaning ()
antithesis: opposing ideas presented in similar-sounding language. (“There is no king who has
speaker: the narrative voice in a poem that speaks of his or her situation or feelings. It is a
convention in poetry that the speaker is not the same individual as the historical author of the poem.
tone: The means of creating a relationship or conveying an attitude. By looking carefully at the
choices an author makes (in characters, incidents, setting; in the work's stylistic choices and diction, etc.), careful readers often can isolate the tone of a work and sometimes infer from it the underlying attitudes that control and color the story or poem as a whole
volta / turn: a change in thought, direction, or emotion in a poem
act: a large section of a drama containing a number of scenes. Most plays have five acts.
aside: a statement made by a character that is meant only for the audience or reader
chorus: In ancient Greek drama, (1) A group of singers who stand alongside or off stage from
the principal performers in a dramatic or musical performance. (2) The song or refrain that this group of singers sings. In other works of drama, the chorus serves as a narrator at the beginning of a scene. See Oedipus Rex by Sophocles or Shakespeare’s Hamlet
comedy: any play or narrative poem in which the main characters manage to avert an
impending disaster and have a happy ending. The comedy did not necessarily have to be funny, and indeed, many comedies are serious in tone. Shakespeare’s All’s Well That Ends Well.
dramatic structure: Act I (exposition); Act II (rising action); Act III (climax); Act IV (falling
action); Act V (resolution/denouement)
history: a play that presents historical information. Shakespeare’s Richard III.
scene: a smaller section of an act. Most acts have 3-7 scenes.
soliloquy: a monologue spoken by an actor at a point in the play when the character believes
himself to be alone. The technique frequently reveals a character's innermost thoughts, including his feelings, state of mind, motives or intentions. The soliloquy often provides necessary but otherwise inaccessible information to the audience.
tragedy: a serious play in which the chief figures, by some peculiarity of character, pass