Macbeth Literary Terms (Lovera)

tragedy (Aristotle’s definition) A tragedy is the imitation of an action that is serious and also, as having magnitude, complete in itself; in appropriate and pleasurable language;… in a dramatic rather than narrative form; with incidents arousing pity and fear, wherewith to accomplish a catharsis of these emotions.Tragedy involves a protagonist of high estate (“better than we”) who falls from prosperity to misery through a series of reversals and discoveries as a result of a “tragic flaw,” generally an error caused by human frailty. Aside from this initial moral weakness or error, the protagonist is basically a good person: for Aristotle, the downfall of an evil protagonist is not tragic (Macbeth would not qualify). In Aristotelian tragedy, the action (or fable) generally involves revolution (unanticipated reversals of what is expected to occur) and discovery (in which the protagonists and audience learn something that had been hidden). The third part of the fable, disasters, includes all destructive actions, deaths, etc. Tragedy evokes pity and fear in the audience, leading finally to catharsis (the purgation of these passions).
Shakespearean Tragic Hero The tragic hero errs by action or omission; this error joins with other causes to bring about his ruin. According to Bradley, “This is always so with Shakespeare. The idea of the tragic hero as a being destroyed simply and solely by external forces is quite alien to him; and not less so is the idea of the hero as contributing to his destruction only by acts in which we see no flaw.” Bradley’s emphasis on the tragic flaw implies that Shakespeare’s characters bring their fates upon themselves and thus, in a sense, deserve what they get. It should however be noted that in some of Shakespeare’s plays (e.g. King Lear), the tragedy lies less in the fact that the characters “deserve” their fates than in how much more they suffer than their actions (or flaws) suggest they should.
tragic flaw
Freytag’s Pyramid
exposition background; the “way it is” when the play opens; the status quo; the action is in a state of equilibrium
inciting incident upsets the status quo, or equilibrium; sets the conflict (rising action) in motion
climax/crisis/turning point The point at which the opposing forces that create the conflict interlock in the decisive action on which a plot will turn. Crisis is applied to the episode or incident wherein the situation of the protagonist is certain to either improve or worse. Point of no return. An observable moment where there is a definite change of direction.
tragic force The action that sets the falling action in motion. It is closely related to the climax and has the same relation to the falling action as the inciting incident does to the rising action.
falling action the hero loses power, control; the downfall
catastrophe The conclusion of the action; usually ends in death; a new status quo; a new equilibrium. Suffering
imagery a collection of the complex images that an author creates
image the author’s descriptive use of words that elicit any or all of the five senses in order to convey meaning
blood imagery
clothing imagery
light/dark imagery
foil A foil is any characther who, through contrast, serves to underscore the distinctive characteristics of another character. Implicit in this definition is the idea that when contrasting two characters, the point of reference from which one is contrasting is the same. In other words, the category/idea around which the contrast is made.
double A double is any character who, through comparison, underscores the similar traits of another character. A double is a character who is a mirror image of another character. A double does not have the same characteristics of another.
soliloquy a soliloquy is a speech delivered while the speaker is alone on stage, calculated to inform the audience of what is passing in the character’s mind
dramatic monologue A dramatic monologue is when the character is speaking to an identifiable but silent listener at a dramatic moment in a speaker’s life. It reveals a “soul in action”.
blank verse Blank verse ins rhymed but otherwise regular verse, usually iambic pentameter. This form, generally accepted as that best adapted to dramatic verse in English, is commonly used for long poems whether dramatic, philosophic, or narrative.
comic relief comic relief is a humorous scene, incident, or speech in the course of a serious fiction or drama, introduced to provide relief from emotional intensity and, by contrast, to heighten the seriousness of the story
iambic pentameter An iamb is a foot consisting an unaccented (unstressed) syllable and an accented (stressed) syllable. It is the most common rhythm in English verse. Pentameter is a line of verse of five feet. Iambic pentameter would be then 5 feet of iambs, or 5 units of unstressed/stressed, so that the line would have 1- syllables.
scansion a system for describing conventional rhythms by dividing the lines into feet, indicating the locations of accents and counting the syllables

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