Student Resources
Glossary

 

A   B   C   D   E   F   G   H   I   L   M   N   O   P   Q   R   S   T   U   V  

A

abstract language
words which represent broad qualities or characteristics (e.g., interesting, good, fine, horrible, lovely)
allegory
an extended metaphor
alliteration
the repetition of initial consonant sounds in words close together (e.g. “ sad Sunday school superintendent stare")
allusion
a reference to another literary / artistic/ historic, work, author, character, or event (frequently biblical or mythological)
amphitheater
a semi-circular large, outdoor theater with seats rising in tiers from a central acting area
anecdote
a brief personal story used to illustrate a point
archaic language
language no longer in use
arena stage
(or Theater in the Round) a theater with seats surrounding the stage
argumentative essay
an essay that tries to prove a point by supporting it with evidence
aside
a brief comment by an actor, heard by the audience, but not the other characters on stage
antagonist
a character who seems to be the major force in opposition to the protagonist or main character
assonance
the repetition of internal vowel sounds in words close together (time line, free and easy)
atmosphere
the dominant mood or tone of setting
autobiography
an account of the author’s own life

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B

ballad
a narrative poem, usually sung or recited
blank verse
unrhymed iambic pentameter
box set
a stage set composed of “flats” or connected walls enclosing three sides of the stage, with an invisible “fourth wall” open to the audience

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C

character
a person in fiction, drama, or poetry
characterization
the development of characters in fiction, drama, or poetry
catastrophe
the reversal of the tragic hero’s good fortune in Greek Tragedy
catharsis
an emotional purging or cleansing experienced by an ancient Greek audience at the end of a tragedy
chorus
A group of actors in Greek drama who comment on the action of the play. The role of the chorus came directly from drama as religious ritual and dates from a time when there were no individual actors. What the chorus says about the action reflects the traditional values of ancient Greek culture. Chorus members chanted their lines together and moved as a unit from side to side on the stage.
climax
the turning point of plot in fiction or drama
comedy
The traditional plot of comedy is the reverse of tragedy. The protagonist, usually an ordinary person, has a problem. The plot of the play is an extrication from the problem and improvement of circumstances. The reversal of fortune is from bad to good; the falling action becomes a rising action with a happy ending.
complication
the building of the conflict in plot as part of the rising action
concrete language
words which represent specific, particular, graphic qualities and characteristics
conflict
the struggle of opposing external or internal forces. External conflict may be physical (characters against nature) or social (characters against each other or against society). Internal conflict is a struggle of opposing forces within a character.
connotation
the personal definition or association triggered by a word
consonance
repetition of final consonant sounds in words close together (short and sweet, struts and frets)
convention
an accepted or traditional feature of a work (e.g., the Greek Chorus, the Shakespearian aside, blank verse)
couplet
a pair of rhyming verse lines
crisis
the turning point of plot (closely related to “climax” which seems to complete its action)
critical essay
an essay which interprets and/or evaluates

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D

denotation
the literal, dictionary definition of a word
denouement
the resolution of the plot in fiction or drama (an “untying” of the complications at the end of the story line)
dialogue
conversation of characters in fiction or drama
didactic
teaching a lesson or having a “moral"
documentation
accounting for and giving credit to the origin of a source
dramatic monologue
In a dramatic monologue, the poet, like an actor in a play, speaks through the voice and personality of another person.
dramatis personae
the list of characters in a play

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E

Elizabethan
the era beginning with the reign of Elizabeth I, Queen of England from 1558 to 1603 and ending with the Puritan’s closing of the theaters in 1642
ellipsis (. . .)
indication of an omission of words in a quote
epic
a long narrative poem, usually depicting the values of a culture through the adventures of a hero
explication
a line by line explanation of a poem or other literary work
exposition
the introduction of essential characters, setting, circumstances of a story or play
expository essay
an essay which shares, explains, suggests, or explores information, emotion, and ideas
expressionism
a movement in drama which emphasizes subjectivity of perception

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F

falling action
the action which follows the crisis and climax (see also catastrophe, denouement, resolution, catharsis)
figurative language
language which expresses more than a literal meaning (e.g., metaphor, simile)
flat character
a character not fully developed who seems to represent a “type” more than a real personality (see also stock character)
foot
a combination of syllables which represent one measure of meter in a verse line
"fourth wall"
the invisible wall open to the audience in a box set (see also box set)
free verse
Poetry without standardized rhyme, meter, or structure. It is not formless, however, but relies on its own words and content to determine its best form.

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G

genre
a form or type of literature (e.g., fiction, poetry, drama, the essay)
groundlings
Members of an Elizabethan audience who paid a very low entrance fee and stood in the open area below and around the stage. Because they stood on the ground unprotected from the weather—they were called “groundlings,” a term meant to disparage their social standing as much as to describe their location in the theater.

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H

hubris
excessive pride which usually leads to the downfall of the tragic hero in Greek drama
hyperbole
an exaggeration in figurative language

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I

iambic
an unstressed/stressed combination of syllables in a metrical foot
image / imagery
descriptive language which helps us see, hear, smell, taste, or feel
inductive/deductive reasoning
inductive reasoning moves from observation of specific circumstances and makes a general conclusion; deductive reasoning takes a general truth and applies it to specific circumstances
interpretation
an analysis of a work to determine its meaning

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L

limerick
A five line poem. The first, second, and fifth lines rhyme (aaa - above) and so do the third and fourth (bb - above). The first, third, and fifth have the same verbal rhythm (meter) and length, and so do the second and fourth.
lyric poetry
characterized by the expression of the poet’s innermost feelings, thoughts, and imagination

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M

melodrama
plays with elaborate but oversimplified plots, flat characters, excessive sentiment, and happy endings
metaphor
an implied comparison of two apparently dissimilar things
meter
Describes rhythm in a poem. It refers to the pattern of stressed and unstressed syllables in a line of verse. The group of syllables making up one metrical unit is called a foot. The metrical feet most commonly used are iambic (unstressed - stressed), trochaic (stressed - unstressed), anapestic (two unstressed - one stressed), and dactylic (one stressed - two unstressed).
The number of feet in each line is described as monometer (one foot), dimeter (two feet), trimeter (three feet), tetrameter (four feet), pentameter (five feet), hexameter (six feet), heptameter (seven feet), and octometer (eight feet). The most common form of meter in poetry written in English is iambic (unstressed - stressed) pentameter (five feet)
microcosm
a smaller version or “little world"
monologue
a speech by a single character
mood
the atmosphere or tone of a work

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N

narrative essay
An essay that tells a story. Most essays of this type spring from an event or experience in the writer’s life.
narrative poem
a poem that tells a story
narrator
the voice of the speaker in a story
Neoclassicism
a movement which dominated during the eighteenth century and was notable for its adherence to the “forms” of classical drama

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O

ode
a formal lyric poem recited for ceremonial occasions
onomatopoeia
a word which sounds like what it represents (e.g., the “buzzing” of a bee)
orchestra
the playing area in an ancient Greek theater

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P

parados
the ode chanted by the chorus as they enter in Greek tragedy
paraphrase
to record someone else’s words in the writer’s own words
pentameter
five feet of verse line
personal essay
an essay which emphasizes a personal, subjective view
personification
giving human qualities to things non-human
Petrarchan Sonnet
The oldest form of the sonnet is the Italian or Petrarchan Sonnet (named for its greatest practitioner—Petrarch). Its rhyme scheme is usually an octave (eight lines) and a sestet (six lines). The octave usually follows a pattern of abbaabba. The concluding sestet may be cdecde or cdcdcd or cdedce.
plot
The structure of the story. It’s the pattern of twists and turns the story takes.
point of view
The perspective from which the narrator speaks to us. Generally, the pronoun which dominates the narration will signal which point of view is represented. The terms most commonly used to identify point of view are first person, third person, omniscient, objective, and shifting.
primary / secondary sources
A primary source is the original text or materials. A secondary source is commentary about that original material.
props
objects or items used by the actors on the stage
proscenium arch
a frame around the stage which separates the actors and the set from the audience
protagonist
the main character in a story or drama

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Q

quatrain
a four line stanza

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R

Realism
A movement in literature to represent life as it really is. It is often characterized by accurate depiction of ordinary people in their natural surroundings.
recognition
the point near the end of a classic tragedy when the protagonist recognizes the causes and consequences of his reversal
resolution
the final phase of the falling action in plot when things are returned to normal
reversal
the change from good to bad fortune in classic tragedy; from bad to good fortune in classic comedy
rhyme
when final vowel and consonant sounds in the last syllable of one word match those of another, usually at the end of lines
rhythm
The pattern of sound in a poem. The most structured form of rhythm is meter, the pattern of stressed and unstressed syllables.
rising action
that point in the plot when conflict and our emotional involvement intensifies
round character
a fully developed character with the complexities of real person

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S

satire
ridiculing stupidity, vice, folly through exaggeration and humor
scansion
analysis of the kind and number of metrical feet in a poem
script
the printed text of a drama
sentimentality
evoking a predictable emotional response with a clichéd prompt
set
structures on the stage which represent the setting of the play
setting
the environment in which the work takes place
Shakespearian Sonnet
The most popular form in English is the English or Shakespearian Sonnet. It is a fourteen line poem of three quatrains (four line units) and a final couplet (a two line unit) in the rhyme scheme abab cdcd efef gg. It presents the content of the poem in predictable ways. The first two quatrains will often present a problem. The third quatrain is often pivotal and will begin a reversal. The final couplet most often suggests a solution.
simile
is an announced comparison introduced with the words “like” or “as"
soliloquy
Delivered by a character alone on the stage, soliloquy
is a “thinking out loud” shared with the audience. They are usually statements of a philosophical, reflective nature, and they are highlights of Shakespeare’s plays.
sonnet
a fourteen line lyric poem usually in iambic pentameter
speaker
the narrator of a story or poem
stage directions
descriptions (in the text of the play) of the set, the props, voice and movements of the actors, and the lighting
stanza
a unit of lines in a poem which usually share a metrical or thematic pattern
stock character
a character not fully developed who seems to represent a “type” more than a real personality (see also flat character)
style
the choice of words and sentence structure which makes each author’s writing different
summary
the material condensed to its main points
surrealistic drama
seeks its truth in the irrationality of the unconscious mind
symbol
an object or action that represents more than itself
symbolist drama
seek its truth in symbols, myths, and dreams
syntax
the ordering of words in a sentence

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T

theme
is the overall meaning we derive from the poem, story, play, essay
thesis
the point of the essay
thrust stage
a stage that extends into the audience
tone
the attitude expressed by the writer toward the subject
tragedy
classic tragedy follows the plight of a noble person who is flawed by a defect and whose actions cause him to break some moral law and suffer downfall and destruction
tragic flaw
the tragic hero’s flaw (often excessive pride or “hubris") which leads directly to a reversal of his good fortune (catastrophe)
tragic hero
as defined by Aristotle, a man of noble stature who is admired by society but flawed
tragicomedy
a play that combines the elements of tragedy and comedy

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U

unities
The unities of time, place, and action as principles of dramatic composition have been hotly debated since Aristotle’s Poetics. In brief, unity of time suggests the action of the play occur in a 24 hour period; unity of place suggests the action occur in one place or location; and unity of action that all parts of the play should be related in a clear causal pattern.
unreliable narrator
a narrator who tells the story from a biased, erroneous perspective

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V

verse
a line or the form of poetry
voice
the personality or style of the writer or narrator that seems to come to life in the words

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