Important Literary Terms for Romeo and Juliet

Alliteration a pattern of sound that includes the repetition of consonant sounds. The repetition can be located at the beginning of successive words or inside the words. Poets often use alliteration to audibly represent the action that is taking place.
Allegory term loosely describes any writing in verse or prose that has a double meaning. An allegorical reading usually involves moral or spiritual concepts that may be more significant than the actual, literal events described in a narrative. Typically, an allegory involves the interaction of multiple symbols, which together create a moral, immoral, spiritual, or even political meaning.
Allusion a reference in a literary work to a person, place, or thing in history or another work of literature. Allusions are often indirect or brief references to well-known characters or events. Allusions are often used to summarize broad, complex ideas or emotions in one quick, powerful image.
Anecdote A short narrative account of an amusing, unusual, revealing, or interesting event. A good anecdote has a single, definite point, and the setting, dialogue, and characters are usually subordinate to the point of the story. Writers may use anecdotes to clarify abstract points, to humanize individuals, or to create a memorable image in the reader’s mind.
Apostrophe the act of addressing some abstraction or personification that is not physically present. Addressing something as if he object were real; this allows the speaker to think aloud. EX: Come, vial; Come, night; Back, foolish tears; Poor beguiled ropes.
Chiasums (kī aź məs) (from Greek, “cross” or “x”): A literary scheme in which the author introduces words or concepts in a particular order, then later repeats those terms or similar ones in reversed or backwards order. It involves taking parallelism and deliberately turning it inside out, creating a “crisscross” pattern. For example, consider the chiasmus that follows: “By day the frolic, and the dance by night.” If we draw the words as a chart, the words form an “x” (hence the word’s Greek etymology):
Dialogue conversation between characters and occurs in most works of literature.
Epilogue A conclusion added to a literary work such as a novel, play, or long poem. It is the opposite of a prologue. Often, the epilogue refers to the moral of a fable. Sometimes, it is a speech made by one of the actors at the end of a play asking for the indulgence of the critics and the audience. Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream contains one of the most famous epilogues.
Flashback a narrative technique that allows a writer to present past events during current events, in order to provide background for the current narration. By giving material that occurred prior to the present event, the writer provides the reader with insight into a character’s motivation and or background to a conflict. This is done by various methods, narration, dream sequences, and memories.
Foreshadowing Suggesting, hinting, indicating, or showing what will occur later in a narrative. Foreshadowing often provides hints about what will happen next. For instance, a movie director might show a clip in which two parents discuss their son’s leukemia. The camera briefly changes shots to do an extended close-up of a dying plant in the garden outside, or one of the parents might mention that another relative died on the same date. The perceptive audience sees the dying plant, or hears the reference to the date of death, and realizes this detail foreshadows the child’s death later in the movie.
Hyperbole an extravagant exaggeration; a figure of speech that is a grossly exaggerated description or statement. In literature, such exaggeration is used for emphasis or vivid descriptions. Clear exaggeration (metaphor) that lasts for several lines….EX: when Romeo goes on and on and on about how Juliet’s eyes light up the night.
Irony a literary term referring to how a person, situation, statement, or situational is not as it would actually seem. Many times it is the exact opposite of what it appears to be. There are many types of irony, the three most common being: verbal irony, dramatic irony, and cosmic irony. VERBAL IRONY occurs when either the speaker means something totally different than what he is saying or the audience realizes, because of their knowledge of the particular situation that the opposite of what a character is saying is true. VERBAL IRONY also occurs when a character says something in jest that, in actuality, is true. DRAMATIC IRONY occurs when facts are not known to the characters in a work of literature but are known by the audience. COSMIC IRONY suggests that God or fate controls and meddles with human lives.
Litotes understatement for intensification by denying the contrary of the thing being affirmed.
Metaphor A comparison stated in such a way as to imply that one object is another one. An example comes from an old television add urging teenagers not to try drugs. The camera would focus on a pair of eggs and a voice would state “This is your brain.” The eggs would be cracked and thrown onto a hot skillet, where the eggs would bubble, burn, and seethe. The voice would state, “This is your brain on drugs. ANY QUESTIONS?” The point of the comparison is fairly clear.
Parallelism When the writer establishes similar patterns of grammatical structure and length. For instance, “King Alfred tried to make the law clear, precise, and equitable.” The previous sentence has parallel structure in use of adjectives. However, the following sentence does not use parallelism: “King Alfred tried to make clear laws that had precision and were equitable.
Personification A figure of speech where animals, ideas or inorganic objects are given human characteristics. One example of this is “summer’s ripening breath (summer is not human and does not have breath). The morning smiles on the frowning night (addressing them as though they have faces.)
Simile a type of figurative language, language that does not mean exactly what it says, that makes a comparison between two otherwise unalike objects or ideas by connecting them with the words “like” or “as.” The reader can see a similar connection with the verbs resemble, compare and liken. Similes allow an author to emphasize a certain characteristic of an object by comparing that object to an unrelated object that is an example of that characteristic.
Symbol A word, place, character, or object that means something beyond what it is on a literal level. In literature, symbols can be cultural, contextual, or personal. EX: The name Montague.

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