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Literary terms used in studying Shakespeare


the repetition of a leading vowel or consonant sound in a phrase


an implied or indirect reference to a person, event, or thing or to a part of another text


address to an absent or imaginary person or thing


a literary device in that an actor speaks to the audience; he/she is not heard by the other characters who are on stage with him or her

blank verse

unrhymed iambic pentameter

comic relief

a humorous or farcical interlude in a serious literary work or drama, especially a tragedy, intended to relieve the dramatic tension or heighten the emotional impact by means of contrast


a fanciful poetic image, especially an elaborate or exaggerated comparison (metaphor) that gets developed beyond the initial mention of it.

dramatic irony

when the audience knows something about what is happening that the characters do not

dynamic character

character who changes, grows or develops during the literary work

external conflict

character in conflict with other characters or society

flat character

character who shows only one side or one characteristic of his or her personality


a character who interacts with another character with very different qualities for the purpose of emphasizing those differences. This is a juxtaposition of unlike characters.


to present an indication or a suggestion of what will happen later on


exaggeration is used for emphasis or effect

iambic pentameter

poetic rhythm co nsisting of 10 beats in a pattern of unstressed, then stressed syllables.

internal conflict

character in conflict with self


Incongruity (difference) between what might be expected and what actually occurs


putting two unlike things close together to emphasize the differences between them


a figure of speech in which a word or phrase that ordinarily designates one thing is used to designate another - a comparison of two unlike things


substitution of a term naming an object closely associated with the word in mind for the word itself


in a drama, a long speech made by one person, often monopolizing a conversation.


the feeling or atmosphere of a literary work


incongruous or contradictory terms are combined


a seemingly contradictory statement that may nonetheless be true


inanimate objects or abstractions are endowed with human qualities or are represented as possessing human form


a phrase that deliberately exploits confusion between similar-sounding words for humorous or rhetorical effect

rhyming couplet

two consecutive lines of iambic pentameter that rhyme

round character

character who shows multiple characteristics of his or her personality


two essentially unlike things are compared, often in a phrase introduced by like or as


a speech of a character in a play while the speaker is alone, to show the audience what the character is thinking.

static character

character who does not change or develop during the literary work

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