Literary Terms


Act
: A major division of the action of a play.


Allegory
: An allegory is a story of double meanings. In it one story is told in the guise of another story. John Dryden's 'Absalom and Achitophel' is a political allegory in verse that uses names of Biblical personages and events to mean the political situation of his time.


Aside
: A dramatic technique of speaking alone with the presence of another characters on the stage with a view to giving his/her own ideas, thoughts and feelings to the audience.


Ballad
: A narrative poem that tells a grave story through dialogue and action.


Blank Verse
: Poetry without rhyme.


Canto
: A part of a long poem.


Climax
: In a play or story, it is the peak point at which the rise of action ends and the fall of action begins.


Comic Relief
: The purpose of comic relief is to relieve the tension and heighten the tragic effect by contrast.


Couplet
: Two lines of verse rhyming together.


Denouement
: 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.


Diction
: The selection of words or language in a writing or speech.


Dirge
: A funeral hymn; a song expressing grief.


Dramatic monologue
: A form of poetry in which a single speaker speaks to a silent listener/listeners.


Elegy
: A lyric poem mourning for the death of an individual or lamenting over a tragic event.


Epic
: An extended narrative poem, exalted in style and heroic in theme.


Epilougue
: A poem or speech at the end of a play.


Epitaph
: Inscription on a tomb or a monument.


Fable
: Allegorical story of animal characters which teaches a moral for human beings.


Genre/Form
: A 'kind' or 'type' of literature such as tragedy, comedy, novel, essay etc.


Hamartia/Tragic Flaw
: An error or a flow for which the hero of a tragedy falls from the zenith of his success to the nadir of his misery.


Heroic Couplet
: A pair of iambic pentameter verse lines which rhyme together.


Hymn
: Song in praise of God.


Hyperbole
: Exaggerated statement not to be taken literally such as 'O Hamlet, thou hast cleft may heart in twain.'


Idyl
: A short poem describing simple, rural, pastoral scenes.


Irony
: It is a statement or a situation or an action which actually means the opposite of its surface meaning.


Lyric
: A short poem expressing personal thoughts and fellings of a single speaker.


Metaphor
: It is an implicit comparison between two dissimilar objects such as - Diana is a rose .


Novelette
: A short novel usually of thirty to forty thousand words. Example : Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness.


Ode
: A long lyric poem that is serious in sumbject and treatment, elevated in style, and elaborate in its stanzaic structure.


Oxymoron
: A figure in which contradictory words are placed side by side for raising a striking effect. Example: "I fear and hope, I burn and freeze in ice." (Wyatt)


Parable
: An allegorical story of human characters which teaches a religious moral.


Plot
: The logical arrangement of events designed to excite curiosity or suspense. It is the structure of a literary work.


Satire
: A literary attack on the follies and vices of an individual or a society with a view to correcting them through laughter and ridicule. Example: Pope's The Rape of the Lock.


Simile
: An explicit comparison between two unlike objects usually using 'like' or 'as' such as James is as brave as tiger.


Soliloquy
: A dramatic technique of speaking alone on the stage.


Sonnet
: A lyric poem of fourteen iambic pentameter lines. Sonnet is of three types such as Petrarchan, Shakespearean and Spenserian. The first eight lines of a Petrarchan sonnet are called 'Octave' and the last six lines of it are called 'sestet'. Shakespearean sonnet includes four stanzas and the last two lines (last stanza) of it are called 'couplet'.


Stanza
: A division of poem.