Hamlet Literary Terms

Ambiguity uncertainty in meaning
Anti-hero a central character in a story, movie, or drama who lacks conventional heroic attributes.
Aside A dramatic convention by which an actor directly addresses the audience but it is not supposed to be heard by the other actors on the stage.
Catharsis A purifying or figurative cleansing of the emotions, especially pity and fear, described by Aristotle as an effect of tragic drama on its audience
Characterization An author or poet’s use of description, dialogue, dialect, and action to create in the reader an emotional or intellectual reaction to a character or to make the character more vivid and realistic. Careful readers note each character’s attitude and thoughts, actions and reaction, as well as any language that reveals geographic, social, or cultural background.
Classicism principles and styles admired in the classics of Greek and Roman literature, such as objectivity, sensibility, restraint, and formality.
Climax That point in a plot that creates the greatest intensity, suspense, or interest; usually the point at which the conflict is resolved
Comic relief An amusing scene, incident, or speech introduced into serious or tragic elements, as in a play, in order to provide temporary relief from tension, or to intensify the dramatic action.
Conceit An elaborate or unusual comparison–especially one using unlikely metaphors, simile, hyperbole, and contradiction
Conflict A struggle between opposing forces
Connotation All the meanings, associations, or emotions that a word suggests
Denounement the point at which the plot of a novel or drama is finally resolved; the outcome or solution of a complex sequence of events
End stop A poetic line that has a pause at the end, reflects normal speech patterns, and are often marked by punctuation
Epiphany A moment of sudden revelation or insight
Existentialism A philosophical theory or approach that emphasizes the existence of the individual person as a free and responsible agent determining their own development through acts of the will.
Exposition A narrative device, often used at the beginning of a work that provides necessary background information about the characters and their circumstances.
Flat characters Minor characters in a work of fiction who do not undergo substantial change or growth in the course of a story. Not much detail is given about these characters. (static)
Foil A character who is in most ways opposite to the main character (protagonist) or one who is nearly the same as the protagonist. The purpose of the foil character is to emphasize the traits of the main character by contrast only
Foreshadowing A narrative device that hints at coming events; often builds suspense or anxiety in the reader.
Hamartia The error, misstep, frailty or flaw that causes the downfall of a tragic hero. Also sometimes called the “tragic flaw.” Translates “Missing the mark.”
Hubris Excessive pride or arrogance that results in the downfall of the protagonist of a tragedy
Hyperbole A figure of speech that uses exaggeration to express strong emotion, make a point, or evoke humor
iambic A line of poetry that contains five iambic feet.
Imagery Description that appeals to the senses (sight, sound, smell, touch, taste)
juxtaposition Placement of two things closely together to emphasize comparisons or contrasts
motif (n.) a principal idea, feature, theme, or element; a repeated or dominant figure in a design
pathos A quality in a work of art that causes a emotional response (often pity or sorrow in the Greek tradition)
Pentameter A line of verse consisting of five metrical feet
Protagonist Main character in a dramatic or narrative work, usually trying to accomplish some objective or working toward some goal.
Blank Verse Unrhymed iambic pentameter
Rising Action A series of events that builds from the conflict. It begins with the inciting force and ends with the climax.
Round character A fully developed fictional character created by the author. The writer reveals the character’s physical and personality traits as well as the character’s background.
Setting The context in time and place in which the action of a story occurs.
Soliloquy A dramatic or literary form of discourse in which a character talks to himself or herself or reveals his or her thoughts without addressing a listener.
Tragedy A dramatic composition, often in verse, dealing with a serious or somber theme, typically that of a great person destined through a flaw of character or conflict with some overpowering force, as fate or society, to downfall or destruction.
Verbal irony A figure of speech in which what is said is the opposite of what is meant
Tone Attitudes and presuppositions of the author that are revealed by their linguistic choices (diction, syntax, rhetorical devices)
Puns word play , A pun is a play on words. Puns usually use words that have a double meaning or that sounds the same but have different meaning
Hero Central character that embodies a culture’s values and overcomes trials to achieve their goals (spiritual, material or personal).
Prose written or spoken language in its ordinary form, without metrical structure.

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