Macbeth – Literary Terms

Tragedy A piece of literature that examines the downfall of a noble and dignified character.
Tragic flaw The quality that leads the character to his or her downfall.
Suspension of disbelief The act by which the reader willingly sets aside his or her skepticism in order to participate imaginatively in the work being read.
Blank verse Unrhymed verse written in iambic pentameter. An iamb is one unstressed syllable followed by one stressed syllable, as in the words to dance. The term pentameter indicates that there are five feet, or beats, to a line. Note the following example form Act one of Macbeth : Will I with wine and wassail so convince.
Soliloquy A speech of a character delivered while the speaker is alone (solus) and calculated to inform the audience or reader of what is passing in the character’s mind or to give information concerning other participants in the action which it is essential for the reader to know.
Aside A dramatic convention by which an actor directly or audibly addresses the audience but is not supposed to be heard by the other actors on the stage.
Comic Relief A humorous scene, incident, or speech in the course of a serious fiction or drama. Such comic intrusions are usually introduced by the author to provide relief from the emotional intensity and, by contrast, to heighten the seriousness of the story.
Paradox A statement which seems to be contradictory but is at the same time logical. It may be used to emphasize a particular theme or idea.
Freytag’s Pyramid A diagrammatic outline of the structure of a five-act tragedy (exposition, exciting force, rising action, climax, falling action, and catastrophe).
In medias res In the middle (the play begins in the middle of the action).
Pathetic Fallacy The crediting of nature with human qualities; when the environmental conditions reflect the emotional state of a scene or character.
Metaphor Compares two different things without using a word of comparison such as like or as
Simile Compares two different things using either like or as
Personification An idea, object, or animal is given the characteristics of a person
Hyperbole: An exaggeration or overstatement
Irony A contrast between what is stated and what is really meant, or between what is expected to happen and what actually does happen
Verbal irony Occurs when a writer or speaker says one thing and means something entirely different
Irony of situation Occurs when a situation turns out to be completely different from what we expect
Dramatic irony Occurs when a reader knows something that a character in a story does no know
Atmosphere The general mood or feeling established in a piece of literature.
Imagery Refers to words or phrases that describe something in a way that creates pictures, or images, that appeal to the reader’s senses.
Alliteration A sound effect in which initial consonant sounds are repeated Ex: “low”/”long” ; “cracks” / “crazes”
Anaphora The repetition of a word of phrase at the beginning of two or more lines, clauses, or sentences. Ex: I remember…. I remember….
Assonance A sound effect in which identical or similar vowel sounds are repeated in two or more words in close proximity to each other. Ex: “storms”/morning”
Consonance A sound effect in which identical or similar consonant sounds, occurring at the end of nearby words, are repeated with different intervening vowels.Ex: “crush”/”crash” and “add”/”read”
End-stopped line A line of poetry whose end coincides with the end of a phrase, clause, or sentence.
Enjambed line A line of poetry that completes its grammatical unity and meaning by going into the next line without a pause.
Rhyme A similarity in the sound patterns. The most familiar being the end rhyme that occurs between words at the ends of lines of poetry.
A slant, partial, or half rhyme Occurs when the rhyming sounds are only approximately (“dizzy”/”easy”), rather than exactly, alike.
Internal rhyme Occurs when words rhyme within a single line of verse.
Allusion A reference to another text or biblical story