Act A major division in the action of a play. The ends of acts are typically indicated by lowering the curtain or turning up the houselights. Playwrights frequently employ acts to accommodate changes in time, setting, characters onstage, or mood
Allegory A narration or description usually restricted to a single meaning because its events, actions, characters, settings, and objects represent specific abstractions or ideas. Although the elements in an allegory may be interesting in themselves, the emphasis tends to be on what they ultimately mean.
Alliteration The repetition of the same consonant sounds in a sequence of words, usually at the beginning of a word or stressed syllable: “descending dew drops”; “luscious lemons.” Alliteration is based on the sounds of letters, rather than the spelling of words; for example, “keen” and “car” alliterate, but “car” and “cite” do not. Used sparingly, alliteration can intensify ideas by emphasizing key words, but when used too self-consciously, it can be distracting, even ridiculous, rather than effective.
Allusion: A brief reference to a person, place, thing, event, or idea in history or literature. Allusions conjure up biblical authority, scenes from Shakespeare’s plays, historic figures, wars, great love stories, and anything else that might enrich an author’s work. Allusions imply reading and cultural experiences shared by the writer and reader, functioning as a kind of shorthand whereby the recalling of something outside the work supplies an emotional or intellectual context.
... violent sorrow seems A modern ecstasy." Rich in assonance and alliteration and especially in imagery is Macbeths speech when he learns ... the normal order of words often for emphasis), eclipses (omitting certain words) and antithesis (setting one word or idea against another with the ... " yet who was guilty of treason. Again Lady Macbeths words to Duncan, Act I, Sc. vi "Your servants ever Have theirs, ...
Antagonist:The character, force, or collection of forces in fiction or drama that opposes the protagonist and gives rise to the conflict of the story; an opponent of the protagonist.
Apostrophe An address, either to someone who is absent and therefore cannot hear the speaker or to something nonhuman that cannot comprehend. Apostrophe often provides a speaker the opportunity to think aloud.
Archetype A term used to describe universal symbols that evoke deep and sometimes unconscious responses in a reader. In literature, characters, images, and themes that symbolically embody universal meanings and basic human experiences, regardless of when or where they live, are considered archetypes. Common literary archetypes include stories of quests, initiations, scapegoats, descents to the underworld, and ascents to heaven.
Catharsis Meaning “purgation,” catharsis describes the release of the emotions of pity and fear by the audience at the end of a tragedy. In his Poetics, Aristotle discusses the importance of catharsis. The audience faces the misfortunes of the protagonist, which elicit pity and compassion. Simultaneously, the audience also confronts the failure of the protagonist, thus receiving a frightening reminder of human limitations and frailties. Ultimately, however, both these negative emotions are purged, because the tragic protagonist’s suffering is an affirmation of human values rather than a despairing denial of them.
Conflict The struggle within the plot between opposing forces. The protagonist engages in the conflict with the antagonist, which may take the form of a character, society, nature, or an aspect of the protagonist’s personality.
Couplet Two consecutive lines of poetry that usually rhyme and have the same meter. A heroic couplet is a couplet written in rhymed iambic pentameter.
Enjambment In poetry, when one line ends without a pause and continues into the next line for its meaning. This is also called a run-on line.
Epigram A brief, pointed, and witty poem that usually makes a satiric or humorous point. Epigrams are most often written in couplets, but take no prescribed form
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Flashback A narrated scene that marks a break in the narrative in order to inform the reader or audience member about events that took place before the opening scene of a work.
Foreshadowing The introduction early in a story of verbal and dramatic hints that suggest what is to come later
Lyric A type of brief poem that expresses the personal emotions and thoughts of a single speaker or describes something. It is important to realize, however, that although the lyric is uttered in the first person, the speaker is not necessarily the poet. There are many varieties of lyric poetry, including the dramatic monologue, elegy, haiku, o