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Literary Terms One of the most essential and valuable topics in English literature. To understand literary by playing a great role in almost all the work. So, something is given. Important Literary Terms in English Literature Especially for the Students People will be very helpful.

Important Literary terms in English Literature :


The word "simile" came from the Latin word "simils" means "like". This, simile is used as a literary term to establish likeness between two opposite things. It is also called explicit comparison. Generally, the word "like" or "as" is used to expose similarity between to dissimilar things. For example, Seamus Henry's poem, in the "Follower" he says "My father worked with a horse-plough, His shoulders globed like a full sail stung Between the shafts and the forrow. Here the speaker compared his farmer father's shoulders with a Ship when it is round and forrow because of full length of wind. By this comparison, the speaker made it clear to the readers. The very picture of a full length ship and the moving shoulders of a farmer are automatically floating in the eyes of the readers when they are reading.


A figure of speech in which a single word is related to two other words with a different meaning. Example: 
"Or stain her honour or her new brocade."
         (Pope: The Rape of the Lock.)

Here "stain" is used to qualify both "honour" and "brocade" which are different in nature.


A kind of brief and brilliant expression intended to produce a shock of comic surprise by a comparison between dissimilar objects or concepts.


The three rules of dramatic structure. A play follows certain principles about time, place and action which are known as the unity of time, unity of place and unity of action. The unity of time, according to Aristotle, is the duration of a play which should be limited within a "single revolution of the sun" or twenty four hours. The unity of place means the closeness of the places at which the play takes place. Aristotle suggested that the scenes of a tragedy should be confined to a single small town. It means that a play should not have one scene in London, another in Dhaka and still another in Paris. It should not change its scenes from place to place. The unity of action means the compactness of the incidents of a play. Aristotle said that the incidents of a play should be connected with each other in such a way that nothing could be taken out of it without harming its wholeness. English dramatists maintained the unity of action with care but many of them violated the other two unities.


The central idea of a literary work most often suggested indirectly. For example, the main theme of Pride and Prejudice is love, of Othello jealousy. A work of literature may have more than one theme. For example, the themes of Great Expectations are great expectation, love, power of money, a child's growth, etc.


A figure of speech in which a part stands for the whole or a whole stands for the part. Example:
          The tortoise here and elephant unite,
    Transformed to combs, the speckled and the white.
           (Pope: The Rape of the Lock)
  Here tortoise and elephant (whole) stand for shell and tusk (part) respectively.


A thing which stands for something else. It is basically an image which, by virtue of recurrent uses, assumes its special meaning. Thus a rose stands for beauty, a dove for peace, etc.


A mode of expression in which information about the writer's personal life find place. In this type of writing, the writer's likes and dislikes are given importance. It is opposite to objectivity. For example, in Wordsworth's poetry one finds that Wordsworth, in his childhood, stole birds, eggs and a boat for childish pleasure. His poems also reveal that he loved nature and believed that God was present in nature. So Wordsworth was a subjective poet. But Shakespeare was an objective dramatist because he, in his plays, did never directly say what he was, what he liked or what he disliked.


A three-line verse unit in which all lines rhyme either with each other or with the lines of an adjoining tercet.

Terza Rima

A three-line stanza interlocked with adjoining stanzas according to the formula aba, bcb, cdc, and so on . The first twelve lines of each section of Shelley's "Ode to the West Wind" are arranged in four terza rima stanzas and the last two lines are in a couplet:

O wild West Wind, thou breath of Autumn's being,Thou, from whose unseen presence the leaves dead Are driven, like ghosts from an enchanter fleeing, (aba)

   Yellow, and black, and pale, and hectic red,Pestilence-stricken multitudes: O thou Who chariotest to their dark wintry bed The winged seeds, where they lie cold and low Each like a corpse within its grave, until Thine azure sister of the Spring shall blow  (bcbcdc)
Her clarion o'er the dreaming earth, and fill(Driving sweet buds like flocks to feed in air)With living hues and odours plain and hill: (ded)
Wild Spirit, which art moving ever


A figure of speech in which two contradictory words are put together. Example: "I fear and hope, I burn and freeze in ice".


A self-contradictory  statement that hides a rational meaning. Example: "Sweet are the uses of adversity". The surface meaning of this line appears contradictory as, generally, adversity is bitter. But as we go deeper we find the truth that adversity carries within itself the sweetness of advantages.


A figure in which lifeless objects or ideas are given life. Example: "And Joy, whose hand is ever at his lips / Bidding adieu.;" (Keats) Here "Joy" has been imagined as a living person.


In a literary work a plot is the logical arrangement of events designed to excite curiosity or suspense. It is the structure or scheme of a literary work.

Poetic Justice 

The natural judgement which gives the wicked his due punishment and the virtuous his due reward.

Pun or Paronomasia

A play upon words which are similar in sound but different in meaning. It occurs when a single word conveys two meanings. Here is an often quoted example from Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet (III,i): "Ask for me tomorrow and you shall find me a grave man". Here " grave man" may mean a man of grave disposition or a dead man. There is another variety of pun where two words of identical sounds but different spellings are used to convey two different meanings. For example: "Would that its tone could reach (arrive at) the rich (the wealth)." (Hood)


A foot of two unstressed syllables. [see Foot]


The sound pattern made by the rise and fall of the stresses in speech.


A doctrine which holds that art and literature should be free from classical and neoclassical rules and constraints. This literary doctrine had its origin in the Elizabethan Age. However, it revived with full force towards the end of the eighteenth century during the time of Wordsworth and Coleridge. The main features of romanticism are:
a) High imagination: The followers of this doctrine rejected the fact that writers should be earth-bound , realistic and factual. They sought an ideal condition for human beings in their high soaring, unlimited imagination.

b) Love of nature: Those who followed romanticism had a strong liking for Nature both for the beauty of external objects of it and for the meanings underlying them. They loved to seek the truth through sensuous perception of the objects of Nature.

c)Primitivism or spontaneity: These poets advocated those qualities of human beings which are inherent in them. They valued natural qualities and opposed those which are artificial.

d)Interest in the remote: These poets had deep interest in the past, especially in the ancient myths and medieval legends.

e)Simplicity in expression: These poets preferred simple and lucid language to all sorts of artificial, sonorous and bombastic language.

f)Revolutionary zeal: This doctrine opposed those beliefs which were traditional and worn out. These poets rebelled against the existing social order with a hope to establish a new, ideal society which would be more free and liberal.

g)Individualism: These poets, influenced by the French Revolution, regarded an individual more important than his society or his country. Innovation was given more importance than the traditionally accepted values.
h)Supernaturalism: These poets had an interest in the unseen and mysterious power.


A simile is an explicit comparison between two different things. Usually "as" and "like" are used in it. Example:
               We die
        As your hours do, and dry
         Like to the summer's rain;
Here in these lines human life has been compared to the summer's rain to suggest that a man's life is as brief as a drop of summer's rain that takes no time to be evaporated. Writers use similes very frequently as these help them illustrate their meanings.


A dramatic technique of speaking alone on the stage. It is a dramatic convention of exposing to the audience the intentions, thoughts and feelings of a character who speaks to himself while no one remains on the stage. For example, four lines of Hamlet's famous soliloquy are quoted here:
        To be, or not to be: that is the question: Whether't is nobler in the mind to suffer
        The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune,
             Or to take arms against a sea of troubles,

A soliloquy is different from an aside. Though, both in soliloquy and in aside only one character speaks, in aside some other characters remain present on the stage but in soliloquy none is allowed to be present on the stage. A soliloquy is also different from the dramatic monologue. The soliloquy is a dramatic technique but the dramatic monologue is a from of poetry in which a single speaker speaks to a silent listener who responds by physical gestures.


A division of a poem. It is the unit of structure in a poem. However, in some cases, the stanza is a unit of thought of a poem. There are several stanza patterns. They vary from each other according to their number of lines, length of each of the lines and rhyme scheme. The common English stanza patterns are Spenserian stanza, quatrain, ottava rima, rhyme royal, terza rima, and tercet.

Spenserian Stanza

A pattern of stanza consisting of nine verse lines of which the first eight are in iambic pentameter and the ninth is in iambic hexameter. Its rhyme scheme is ababbcbce. This stanza pattern is named after Edmund Spenser who invented it for the Faerie Queene. It is generally used for longer poems which need gracious and leisurely movement. Many other later poets have also used this pattern. Here is an example from Keats' "The Eve of St. Agnes".
      Anon his heart revives: her vespers done,
       Of all its wreathed pearls her hair she frees;
      Unclasps her warmed jewels one by one;
        Loosens her fragrant bodice; by degrees
        Her rich attire creeps rustling to her knees:
     Half-hidden, like a mermaid in sea-weed,
        Pensive awhile she dreams awake, and sees,
    In fancy, fair St. Agnes in her bed,
    But dares not look behind, or all the charm is fled.


A stanza form which consists of four lines. A short poem consisting of four lines is also called quatrain. The rhyme scheme of this stanza form may be aaba or aabb or abab or abba or abcb. (see Ballad stanza)
For example of four iambic pentameter rhyming aaba:
Ah. make the most of what we yet may spend,
Before we too into the Dust descend;
Dust into Dust, and under Dust to lie,
Sans Wine, sans Song, sans Singer, and sans End!
This stanza form is also known as "Rubaiyat Stanza" or "Omar Stanza"
For example of aabb:
Come live with me and be my love,
And we will all the pleasures prove
 That valleys, groves, hills, and fields,
Woods, or steepy mountain yields.
(C. Marlowe: "The Passionate Shepherd to His Love")

For example of abab:
    I wander thro' each charter'd street,
     Near where the charter'd Thames does flow,
    And mark in every face I meet
    Marks of weakness, marks of woe.
         (William Blake: " London ")

For example of abba:
        Who trusted God was love indeed
       And love Creation's final law---
      Tho' Nature, red in tooth and claw
      With ravine, shriek'd against his creed----
      (Tennyson: " In Memoriam"-----LVI)

For example of abcb:
      He prayeth best, who loveth best
     All things both great and small;
     For the dear God who loveth us,
    He made and loveth all.
        (S.T. Coleridge: "The Rime of the Ancient Mariner")

Ballad Stanza

A stanza consisting of four lines of which the first and third lines are in iambic tetrameter and the second and fourth lines are in iambic trimeter. The rhyme scheme is abcb. It is the most common stanza from in English. It is a type of quatrain. Some poets have, however, used this stanza form with variation of the number of lines. Here is an example of a normal ballad stanza:
     The fair breeze blew, the white foam flew,
      The furrow followed free;
       We were the first that ever burst
      Into that silent sea.
        (S. T. Coleridge: "The Rime of the Ancient Mariner")

Ottava Rima

A stanza of eight iambic pentameter lines rhyming abababcc. For example:
          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.
      Caught in that sensual music all neglect
     Monuments of unaging intellect.
     (W. B. Yeats: "Sailing to Byzantium")

Rhyme Royal

A stanza of seven iambic pentameter lines rhyming ababbcc. It is also known as Chaucerian Stanza as Chaucer was the first to use it.
For example:

They flee from me, that sometime did me seek,
With naked foot stalking in my chamber.
I have seen them, gentle, tame, and meek,
That now are wild, and do not remember
That sometime they put themselves in danger
To take bread at my hand; and naw they range,
Busily seeking with a continual change.

            (Thomas Wyatt: "They Flee from Me")


A figure of speech in which the sound of the words and phrases suggests the sense. For example:
       The fair breeze blew, the white foam flew,
         The furrow followed free;

               (Coleridge: "The Rime of the Ancient Mariner")

Objective Correlative 

An image which suggests a particular emotion associated with it. For example: The sentence 'He is Meer Zafar' evokes in the mind of the readers a sense that "He" is a betrayer. It is because betrayal is associated with the name Meer Zafar who betrayed Nawab Siraj-ud-Daula. So "Meet Zafar" is an objective correlative for betrayal. Thus, waste land is an objective correlative for spiritual death, rose is for love, nightingale's song is for suppressed agony, and so on.


A mode of expression in which the writer's personal life remains absent from his writing. Homer, Virgil and Shakespeare are famous objective writers because no information about their lives or their likes and dislikes is found in their writings.

Negative capability 

An ability that enable a writer to keep himself aloof from his writings. It is synonymous of objectivity. Keats who coined this phrase defines it as an ability which makes a writer "capable of being in uncertainties, mysteries, doubts, without any irritable reaching after fact and reason." Shakespeare had it as his personal life cannot be discovered from his plays. Keats claimed that he also had it. According to T.S. Eliot, this kind of writing is called impersonal writing.


"One of the dominant ideas in a work of literature."


Name of one thing used for another thing with which it is related. Thus, "the crown" is used for king; "the stage" is used for theatre; Shakespeare's name is used to mean his works.


The arrangement of "feet" [i.e stressed and unstressed syllables] in a verse line. A verse line is named according to the number of its foot. Example:

A line containing one foot is called monometer
A line containing two feet is called diameter
A line containing three feet is called trimeter
A line containing four feet is called tetrameter
A line containing five feet is called pentameter
A line containing six feet is called hexameter ( also called Alexandrine)
A line containing saven feet is called heptameter ( also called fourteener)
A line containing eight feet is called octameter

Note that each of these meters may again be different according to the use of various types of foot. A monometer line may be iambic monometer (Thus I / Pass by), trochaic monometer (Turning / Burning / Changing / Ranging), anapaestic monometer ('Tis in vain / They complain) dactylic monometer and so on. Similarly, a diameter may be iambic diameter, trochaic diameter, anapaestic diameter, dactylic diameter etc; a pentameter may be iambic pentameter, trochaic pentameter, anapaestic pentameter, dactylic pentameter and the like.


An implicit comparison between two different things. It is a compressed from of simile. Liza is a rose is example of metaphor as there is an implied comparison between the colour, softness, fragrance, etc. of the rose and those of Liza. It become a simile if the comparison is made explicit: Liza is like a rose.


The supernatural agents used in an epic or a mock-epic. For example, the whole battalion of the sylphs and nymphs under Ariel's command in The Rape of the Lock is called the machinery of it.

Literary Meaning

The dictionary or primary meaning of a word or sentence. [see Figurative Language]


A figure in which the negative statement suggests a very strong affirmative. For instance, "He is not a bad student" means he is a good student.


A statement or a situation or an action which actually means the opposite of its surface meaning. An often quoted example of irony is "Brutus is an honourable man" from Shakespeare's Julius Caesar. Antony says this in his oration over the dead body of Caesar. This appreciation of Brutus really means that Brutus who killed Caesar is an ignoble man. The first sentence of Pride and Prejudice is another example of irony:

"It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a single man
in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife."

After reading the novel one, however, finds that it is not the rich man who needs a wife but, quite opposite to it, it is the lady who needs a rich husband.


A formal prayer to the Muses for inspiration, help and guidance at the beginning of an epic. Virgil in Aeneid prays:
   "O Muse! the causes and the crimes relate;"
Usually the invocation in an epic goes together with the proposition of its subject.

Internal Rhyme

Rhyme within a verse line. Example:
When the voices of children are heard on the green,

        And laughihg is heard on the hill,
        My heart is at rest within my breast,
       And everything else is still.

Notice that the word "children" rhymes with "green" as "rest" rhymes with "breast".


A figure of speech which hints at something unpleasant instead of stating it plainly. For example:

 The hungry judges soon the sentence sign,
 And wretches hang that jurymen may dine;

The unpleasant meaning suggested in these lines is that dinner is more important to the judges than the life of the accused.


The collective use of images.


"Picture in words". It is a replica produced in the mind of the reader by sense perception. For example, the sentence, " The black cat is now in the dark room" reflects in our mind a picture of an animal which is not a dog or a tiger or a lion or any other four-footed animal but the small animal which is named as cat. We also understand that its colour is black. This picture of the black animal reflected in our mind is an image in this sentence.

Heroic Couplet

A pair of iambic pentameter verse lines which rhyme together.


But when to mis chief mor tals bend their will
How soon they find fit ins truments of ill!

Each of these lines consists of five iambic feet. In other words, each line consists of five pairs of syllables and in each pair the first syllable is unstressed and the second syllable is stressed. Such five feet arranged in a verse line are called iambic pentameter. When two such iambic pentameter lines end with similar sounds as in these lines they are called heroic couplet. Pope and Dryden are masters of this. [see Foot]


The four fluids of human body which, according to the ancient Greek theory, determine the personality of a man. The fluids are : blood, phlegm, black bile and yellow bile. These four fluids are analogous to the four basic elements----air, water, earth and fire. Thus blood is as hot and moist as air; phlegm is as cold and moist as water; black bile is as cold and dry as earth; yellow bile is as hot and dry as fire. According to the Hippocritic theories of physiology the predominance of any of these humours determines the character of an individual. For example, the predominance of blood makes a man sanguine, joyful and amorous. The predominance of phlegm makes a man phlegmatic, dull and cowardly. The predominance of black bile makes a man melancholic, thoughtful and sentimental. The predominance of yellow bile makes a man choleric, impatient and obstinate. Humour, therefore, means disposition or characteristic folly of a person.


Hamartia is an error or a flaw for which the hero of a tragedy falls from the zenith of his success to the nadir of his misery. It is also called tragic flaw. Dr. Faustus' thirst for unlimited power and pleasure in Dr. Faustus, king Lear's error of judgement in King Lear, Hamlet's indecision in Hamlet and Macbeth's high ambition in Macbeth are the causes of their tragic doom. Each of these flaws is known as hamartia. If the flaw is pride it is called hubris.

Genre or Form

A "type" or "Kind" of literature. The major genres are : poetry, drama, fiction, lyric, epic, mock-epic, tragedy, comedy, novel, short story, essay, etc.

Figures of Speech 

The ornaments of language. The most useful figures are---simile , metaphor, metonymy, synecdoche , personification, hyperbole, etc.The language that contains figures of speech is called figurative language which is different from literal or scientific language. Figures mean more than the literal meaning. For example, the language of the sentence "She sleeps Mike a log" is figurative because there is in it a figure of speech known as simile. "She" has been compared to a "log" for her deep sleep. Literally a "log" means "a dead piece of tree-trunk" but here it figuratively means a dead person suggesting "deep sleep".


The beginning of a play which informs what has already happened and hints at what will happen next. In it the background of the plot is revealed and the oncoming events are suggested. It is also called beginning.


Basically an adjective used before a person or a thing. For example, "his weary way", " lobouring clouds", "swift-footed Achilles", etc.


A part of a longer story. It is often complete in itself. For example, the part of Aeneid which deals with the love of Dido for Aeneas is an episode. An episode contributed to the total design of the narrative.


A brief and witty statement which is apparently self-contradictory .Example:

         "Our sweetest songs are those that tell of saddest thought."

Here "sweetest" and "saddest" oppose each other but as we go beneath the surface level, we find that the sadder the song the deeper the impression it makes.

Epic Smile 

An open comparison between two dissimilar objects of which one is fairly elaborated. It is called epic simile because the epic poets introduced the tradition of such similes. For example, in Book-xII of Iliad Hector has been compared to a boar and a lion:
           "He was like a wild-boar or a lion when he turns this way and that among the hounds and huntsmen to defy them in his strength."
In this simile the qualities of a boar and a lion are elaborated to suggest Hector's strength and bravery. Similarly in the following epic simile from Virgil's Aeneid, Dido has been compared to a wounded deer:
Sick with desire, and seeking him she loves,
From street to street the raving Dido roves.
So when the watchful shepherd, from the blind,Wounds with a random shaft the careless hind,
Distracted with her pain she flies the woods,
Bounds o'er the laws, and seeks the silent floods,
With fruitless care; for still the fatal dart
Sticks in her side, and rankles in her heart.

The restless wandering of the deer which has been wounded unwittingly is elaborated in detail to suggest the agony of love-sick Dido.

Main features of an epic simile:

  • It is elaborated in considerable detail. It is often complete in itself.
  • It is mainly drawn from nature and the primary qualities of the physical nature are suggested by it. In some exceptional cases, however, politics or literature or mythology is used for its source.
  • Usually it is functional and integrated to the narrative.
  • Generally it is used in epics.

Dramatis Personae

The characters in a Play.

Dramatic Irony

A dialogue or a situation in a play which conveys one meaning to the character or characters on stage and a different meaning to the audience. It is used both in tragedy and in comedy to heighten respective effects. For example, when Oedipus, in Oedipus Rax, says, "I, Oedipus, whom all men call grey" he knows that he is really great but the audience knows that he is the most ignoble.


A kind of writing intended to instruct.


The selection of words in a writing or speech. A particular writer chooses a particular type of words and phrases. For example, Milton uses bombastic, unusual, allusive and Latinized words but Orwell uses simple, lucid and common words. So the words chosen by a writer is called his diction.


The final scene of a drama or fiction in which all the problems are solved, all the knots are untied and a satisfactory explanation of the dramatic situations is given.


 The direct meaning of a word. It is called literal or dictionary meaning of a word. The denotation of the word "bird" is a feathered creature that can fly.


A metrical foot of three syllables of which the first one is stressed and the last two are unstressed.

In this verse line the first five feet are dactylic. The last foot is, however, a trochaic.


Two lines of verse rhyming together. The meaning of a couplet is supposed to be completed within itself. For example:

  Favours to none, to all she smiles extends;
        Off she rejects, but never once offends.

  Here the last word of the first lino and the last word of the second line have similar sounds. These lines are iambic pentameter lines. However, the couplet may be in all forms of meter.


 The indirect meaning of a word. It is the suggestion or associated significance implied by a word. Thus, the connotation of the word "bird" may be a swift moving girl having a sweet voice.


A figure in which two far fetched objects of very different nature are compared. It surprises its readers by its ingenious discovery and delights them by its intellectual quality. A famous example is Donne's comparison between two lovers' souls and the two arms of a pair of compasses in "A Valedictorian: Forbidding Mourning":
               If they be two, they are two so A stiff twin compasses are two;They soul, the fixed foot, makes no sho To move, but doth, if th' other do.

Comic Relief 

A humorous scene in between serious scenes of a tragedy. Its purpose is to relieve the tension and heighten the tragic effect by contrast. The comic scenes of Dr. Faustus are bright examples. Act-III, scene-IV, of this play is a comic relief. In it Wagner makes fun of the clown. This comic scene is preceded and followed by serious scenes marking Faustus' damnation.

Circumlocution or Periphrasis 

A roundabout way of stating or writing ideas. In it a lot of words are used where a few serve the purpose. For example:

The peer now spreads the glittering forfex wide,
To in close the Look; noe joins it, to divide.
Even then, before the fatal engine closed,
A wretched Sylph too fondly interposed;

The meaning expressed in these lines could have been expressed by a short sentence. Poets use it to impart undue importance which produces ironic laughter.


The peak of importance in a play or in a story. It is the point at which the rise of action ends and the fall of action begin. The climax of Macbeth, for example, is the point at which, so far ambitious and brave, Macbeth first gets afraid at the appearance of Banquo's ghost. It is the turning point of his fall. A statement may also have a climax. Example: "He smiles, he laughs and he roars". The climax is at the end of this sentence.


A doctrine of art and literature which was followed by the ancient Greeks and Romans. It is opposite to romanticism. Its main features are:

  • Restraint or control
  • Predominance of reason over emotion;
  • Importance to from rather than to content;
  • Symmetry or unity of design and aim;
  • Clarity, simplicity and balance;
  • Respect for tradition;
  • Precision;


A piece of literature which has, for its excellence, lived through out the history. As for example, Paradise Lost. The term is also used to mean all the literary products of Greece and Rome. Its adjective is classical which refers to Greek and Roman literature or any literature that possesses the qualities of Greek and Roman literature.


Chorus is a group of performers in a play who comment on the action and provide mood and atmosphere for it. Milton uses such a chorus in Samson Agonistes. The number of persons in a chorus may be reduced from a group to a single person; such a chorus is usually called single chorus. The Fool in King Lear is an example of a single chorus.


The inversion in the order of words or phrases when repeated. It is used to make the meaning more impressive. Example:
            "Beauty is truth, truth beauty,"
        Or,      "Fair is foul, and foul is fair;"


The purgation or purification of pity and fear. A dramatic presentation of suffering and defeat arouses pity and fear in the spectators to such an extent that a spectator, after watching such scenes, feels relieved of those emotions as after storm comes calmness and serenity.


The final scene of a tragedy in which the action ends with the death of the hero and other characters. Catastrophe takes place in the last scene of king Lear in which all the important characters----king Lear, Cordelia, Regan, Goneril, Edmund and Gloucester---die. In Othello it occurs when Othello kills Desdemona and then kills himself. The catastrophe of Hamlet is in the death of Hamlet Gertrude Claudius and Laertes. Catastrophe is the tragic outcome of a tragedy.


 A break in the rhythmic progression in a line of poetry. It is indicated by the mark "I I" as is shown in the following lines of Dryden's Absalom and Achitophel:

 In friendship false,  I I   implacable in hate,
 Resolved to ruin   I I   or to rule the state;

Caesura is used to bring variety in the natural rhythm. It also produces metrical subtlety and makes meanings sharp and distinct.

Blank Verse

Poetry consisting of iambic pentameter lines without rhyme at the end. An iambic pentameter line is a verse line of five iambic feet. For example, the following lines are iambic pentameter lines each consisting of five iambic feet; The last word of any of these lines does not rhyme with the last word of any of the consecutive lines. (see Iamb; Foot; Heroic Couplet):

How can I live without thee, how forgoThy sweet converse and love so dearly joined'To live again in these wild woods forlorn?Should God create another Eve, and IAnother rib afford, yet loss of theeWould never from my heart; no, no! I feelThe link of nature draw me; flesh of flesh,Bone of my bone thou art, and from thy stateMine never shall be parted, bliss or woe.


Repetition of a vowel sound without the recurrence of consonant sounds (which would make a rhyme). Love and dove is a case of rhyme as both vowels and consonants are repeated. But there is an assonance in write and ride as a vowel sound is repeated. For one more example notice the repetition of "o" in the following lines of Keats' "To Autumn":

Then in a wailful choir the small gnats mourn
Among the river swallows, borne aloft
Or sinking as the light wind lives or dies;

Like alliteration, assonance also imparts musical effects to the language in which it is used.


A word or a style of expression which has already been outdated For example:
Lord, thou hast examined me and knowest me.
Thou knowest all, whether I sit down or rise up;
 thou hast discerned my thoughts from afar.
Thou hast traced my journey and my resting places, and art familiar with all my paths.
Here the words "thou" for you, "knowest" for know, "hast" for has and "art" for are, are archaic words. A modern writer uses it to add gravity to his meanings. Coleridge uses it in many lines of "The Rime of the Ancient Mariner". For example:

            He prayeth well, who loveth well
            Both man and bird and beast.


A terse expression of a universal truth. Example:

   "Wives are young men's mistresses; companions for middle age; and old men's nurses."

The use of aphorisms reflects the depth of an author's personal experience. It is different from a proverb: a proverb is an anonymous expression of a general truth while an aphorism is one's personal experience. Proverbs are traditional but aphorisms are individual. "Man proposes, God disposes", is an example of a proverb.

Anti-Climax or Bathos

A statement in which there is a sudden fall from the serious to the trivial, from the sublime to the ridiculous. Example:

Not louder shrieks to pitying heaven are cast,
When husbands, or when lapdogs breathe their last;
Here is sudden fall of importance from husbands to dogs. Poets use anti-climax to produce humour.

A metrical foot comprising there syllables of which the first two are unstressed and the third is stressed. Example:
The use of anapaest gives swiftness to the movement of the verse line in which it is used. Poets create the illusion of swift-movement and action by its use.


An implicit or indirect reference to another work of art or literature, to a historical person or event. Example:
Not half so fixed the Trojan could remain,
While Anna begged and Dido raged in vain.

Here is an allusion to the dilemma of Aeneas, the hero of Virgil's Aeneid. Aeneas falls in love with Dido, the queen of Carthage. Dido implores Aeneas to marry her and get settled permanently in Carthage. Though Aeneas is deeply in love with her, he cannot ignore his duty to continue his voyage in search of a permanent empire for his future generation. He is torn between love and duty.This dilemma of Aeneas has been recalled here to suggest the intensity of Belinda's crisis. An allusion, which clarifies meanings and suggests a great deal in a few words, makes a work of literature difficult to understand but adds dignity to it.


Repetition of a consonant in two or more words. Notice the following line from pope's the Rape of the Lock:
Puffs, powders, patches, Bibles, billet-doux.

Here "p" has been repeated thrice and "b" twice. So there are two cases of alliteration in this line. Alliteration is used both in poetry and in prose for musical effects.



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