From "Absurd, the" to "Couplet".
Subcategory of the comic. Includes equal rates of the comic and the tragic. E.g. absurd drama.
A type of verse measured by the number of accents in each line. Most English poetry is accentual-syllabic, i.e. its rhythm arises from the number and alternation of its stressed and unstressed syllables as organized into feet. Accentual verse is used e.g. in Beowulf.
A confusion between a work of art and its results, i.e. what it is and what it does. Evaluating a work of art in terms of its results in the mind of the audience is supposed to be a critical error. Applies both to prose and poetry.
In French prosody a tetrametre line of twelve syllables. In English verse the equivalent is the iambic hexametre. Alexandrine is not common in English verse because of its length. E. Spenser used it for the last line of his Spenserian stanza in The Faerie Queene. Also used by R. Bridges in The Testament of Beauty. Also used in A. Pope's Essay on Criticism: "A needles Alexandrine ends the song, / Thát, líke | à wóund|èd snáke, | drágs ìts | slów léngth àlóng".
(From Greek: speaking otherwise). A story in verse or prose with a double meaning, a primary surface meaning and a secondary under-the-surface meaning. It can be read, understood and interpreted at two or more levels. E.g. E. Spenser's Faerie Queene, N. Hawthorne's The Marble Faun or G. Orwell's Animal Farm.
(From Latin: repeating and playing upon the same letter). A figure of speech which repeats consonants at the beginning of words or stressed syllables. The device is older than rhyme and is commonly used. E.g. S. T. Coleridge's "Kubla Khan": "Five miles meandering with a mazy motion".
(From Greek: recognition). Defined in Aristotle's Poetics as the moment of recognition of truth when ignorance gives way to knowledge. According to Aristotle, the ideal moment of anagnorisis coincides with peripeteia, or reversal of fortune. E.g. In Sophocles's Oedipus Rex when Oedipus discovers he has himself killed Laius.
(From Greek: carrying up or back). A rhetorical device which repeats a word or a group of words at the beginning of successive clauses. Common in many literary forms. E.g.: G. Chaucer's Troilus and Criseyde: "Swich fyn hath, lo, this Triolus for love! / Swich fyn hath al his grete worthynesse! / Swich fyn hath his estat real above, / Swich fyn his lust, swich fyn hath his noblesse"!
(From Greek: beaten back). A metrical foot comprising two unstressed syllables followed by one stressed. The opposite of a dactyl. The anapaest, like the iamb, produces a rising rhythm. A running and galloping foot used to create the illusion of swiftness and action. E.g. T. S. Coleridge's "Metrical Feet": "Wìth à leáp | ànd à boúnd | thè swìft Á | nàpaèsts thróng".
The character opposing the hero or protagonist in drama or fiction. E.g. in W. Shakespeare's Othello, Iago is antagonist to the Moor.
A non-hero. The antithesis of a dashing, brave and resourceful hero. The anti-hero is given the vocation of failure, he is incompetent, unlucky, clumsy and stupid. E.g. Tristam in L. Sterne's Tristam Standy, Jim Dixon in K. Amis's Lucky Jim or Jimmy Porter in J. Osborne's Look Back in Anger.
Derived from the name of the Greek god Apollo. Apollo was the messenger of the gods and the presiding deity of music, medicine, youth and light. Sometimes identified with the sun. Apollonian is supposed to signify "sunny" and "serene".
(From Greek: turning away). A figure of speech addressing a thing, a place, an abstract quality, an idea or a dead or absent person as if this were present and capable of understanding. E.g. W. Wordsworth's "London 1812": "Milton! Thou should'st be living at this hour...".
(From Greek: original pattern). A prototype; a basic model from which copies are made. A paradigm; the abstract idea of a class of things representing the most typical characteristics shared by the class. An archetype is atavistic and universal, the product of the collective unconscious inherited from our ancestors. Established character types are e.g. the self-made man, the femme fatale, the damsel in distress, the social climber, the guilt-ridden figure in search of expiation etc.
Also called "vocalic rhyme". A rhetorical device repeating close together similar vowel sounds to achieve an effect of euphony. E.g. W. Owen's "Strange Meeting": "It seemed that out of battle I escaped / Down some profound dull tunnel, long since scooped / Through granites which titanic wars had groined".
(From Greek: unconnected). A rhetorical device omitting conjunctions, articles and even pronouns for the sake of speed and economy. E.g. J. Milton's Paradise Lost: "The first sort by their own suggestion fell / Self-tempted, self-depraved; man falls, deceived / By the other first; man therefore shall find grace, / The other none...".
Spectators; recipients of a play. Also used to denote readers of any literary form.
Also called "ballade". A complex Old French verse form comprising three eight-line stanzas rhyming ababbcbc and a four-line envoi rhyming bcbc. The last line of the first stanza serves as the refrain repeated in the last line of each stanza and of the envoi. The ballade was used e.g. by F. Villon.
A verse form comprising unrhymed lines in iambic pentametre. It is the most commonly used English verse form because it is the closest to the natural flow of everyday speech. Used especially for reflective and narrative poems. Also much used by the Romantic poets and in much of the nineteenth century poetry. Used e.g. in Milton's Paradise Lost.
The rebellious character type. The Byronic hero is mysterious, gloomy and superior in his passions and powers to the common run of humanity. He is isolated, secretive, but absolutely self-reliant. Driven by an enormous, nameless guilt towards an inevitable doom. Pursues his own ends according to his self-generated moral code against any opposition, human or supernatural. With a strong erotic interest. Introduced by G. G. Byron first in his Childe Harold, fully developed in Manfred. E.g. Heathcliff in E. Brontë's Wuthering Heights.
(From Greek: dissonance). The opposite of euphony. A rhetorical device using deliberately harsh sounds to achieve a particular effect. E.g. A. Tennyson's Morte D'Arthur: "Dry clashed his harness in the icy caves / And barren chasms, and all to left and right / The bare black cliff clanged round him, as he based / His feet on juts of slippery crag that rang / Sharp-smitten with the dint of armed heels".
(From Latin: cutting). A break or pause in a line of poetry, usually dictated by the natural rhythm of the language. Caesura near the beginning of the line is called initial, near the middle of the line medial and near the end of the line terminal. Often marked by punctuation. Used to emphasize formality on one hand, or to slacken the tension of formal metrical patterns on the other. E.g. W. B. Yeats's "Sailing to Byzantinum": "That is no country for old men. || The young / In one another's arms, || birds in the trees / — Those dying generations — || at their song, / The salmon-falls, || the mackerel-crowded seas, / Fish, flesh, or fowl, || commend all summer long / Whatever is begotten, || born, || and dies...".
(From Greek: overturning). The tragic denouement of a play or story. E.g. In Shakespeare's Othello, the Moor's murder of Desdemona and his own suicide.
(From Greek: purgation). Defined in Aristotle's Poetics as the therapeutic effect of a tragedy on the spectator. "Tragedy through pity and fear effects purgation of such emotions".
(From Greek: a placing crosswise). A reversal of grammatical structures in successive phrases. E.g. A. Pope's Essay on Man: "His time a moment, and a point his space".
The part of a story or play at which a crisis is reached and resolution achieved.
(From Greek: merrymaking). Defined in Aristotle's Poetics as a form dealing in an amusing way with ordinary characters in everyday situations. Comedy uses humble style and beings with misfortune to end up with joy. The term is used to denote a play rather than a novel or poem. Comedy includes: comedy of humours, comedy of manners, comedy of morals, burlesque, black comedy, drawing-room comedy, farce, romantic comedy, tragi-comedy and others. E.g. W. Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream (romantic comedy), O. Wilde's The Importance of Being Earnest (comedy of manners) or J. M. Synge's The Playboy of the Western World.
A figure of speech repeating identical consonant sounds before and after different vowels. E.g. "slip - slop; creak - croak; black - block".
Two successive rhyming lines. Also used as a part of more complex stanza forms, e.g. as a conclusion to the sonnet, as part of ottava rima and as part of rhyme royal. Also used for epigrams.
Abrams, M. H. A Glossary of Literary Terms. 7th ed. Fort Worth: Harcourt College Publishers, 1999.
Vodičková, Milena, John Back. An Introduction to Literature. Olomouc: Univerzita Palackého, 2000.