Literary Terms and Macbeth

Foil In fiction, a foil is a character that possesses qualities which are in sharp contrast to those of another character. This highlights the traits of the other character. Foil is a term that is generally employed to develop a contrast, and draw a comparison to show a difference between two things. In literature, we observe that a foil is a secondary character that contrasts with a major character and enhances the significance of the major character. (Banquo as a foil for Macbeth)
Paradox A paradox in literature refers to the use of concepts or ideas that are contradictory to one another, yet, when placed together hold significant value on several levels. “Fair is foul, and foul is fair”
Imagery In literature, one of the strongest devices is imagery wherein the author uses words and phrases to create “mental images” for the reader. Imagery helps the reader to visualize more realistically the author’s writings.. Imagery is not limited to only visual sensations, but also refers to igniting kinesthetic, olfactory, tactile, gustatory, and auditory sensations as well. (Some in Macbeth are the images of blood and clothing as well as beetles humming and crickets chirping – also light and dark)
Simile Similes are one of the most commonly used literary devices; referring to the practice of drawing parallels or comparisons between two unrelated and dissimilar things, people, beings, places and concepts. Similes are marked by the use of the words ‘as’ or ‘such as’ or ‘like’ making it explicit. “[They] were as cannons overcharged with double cracks…”
Metaphor A metaphor refers to a meaning or identity ascribed to one subject by way of another. In a metaphor, one subject is implied to be another so as to draw a comparison between their similarities and shared traits. Simply put, it is an implied comparison as in “She is a rose” . In Macbeth, “Their candles are all out..”
Allusion An allusion is a figure of speech whereby the author refers to a subject matter such as a place, event, or literary work by way of a passing reference. It is up to the reader to make a connection to the subject being mentioned. From Macbeth: “Or memorize another Golgotha”
Personification Personification is one of the most commonly used and recognized literary devices. It refers to the practice of attaching human traits and characteristics with inanimate objects, phenomena and animals.From Macbeth:
Alliteration Alliteration is a literary device where words are used in quick succession and begin with letters belonging to the same consonant sound group. From Macbeth: “Now I am cabined, cribbed, confined”
Hyperbole A hyperbole is a literary device wherein the author uses specific words and phrases that exaggerate and overemphasize to create a larger-than-life effect and overly stress a specific point. From Macbeth: “That tears shall drown the wind…”
Apostrophe A form of personification -speaking to an inanimate object as if it were a person. From Macbeth: “Stars, hide your fires…
Tragedy … is a serious work of literature that narrates the events leading to the downfall of a tragic hero, who is usually of noble birth and in almost every way displays noble qualities. His downfall is a result of a tragic flaw or fatal character weakness.
Irony of Situation Situational irony. irony involving a situation in which actions have an effect that is opposite from what was intended, so that the outcome is contrary to what was expected. Ex. Macduff’s choice to go to England for “Fair” reasons was interpreted as “foul” by his wife.
Verbal Irony The use of irony in literature refers to playing around with words such that the meaning implied by a sentence or word is actually different from the literal meaning. Often irony is used to suggest the stark contrast of the literal meaning being put forth. The deeper, real layer of significance is revealed not by the words themselves but the situation and the context in which they are placed.
Dramatic Irony Dramatic irony is when the words and actions of the characters of a work of literature have a different meaning for the reader than they do for the characters. This is the result of the reader having a greater knowledge than the characters themselves. In Macbeth, the reader is aware of the loss of Macduff’s family before he is and therefore sees the testing of Macduff by Malcolm in a different light.
Aside- a term specific to a play A remark or passage by a character in a play that is intended to be heard by the audience but unheard by the other characters in the play.
Soliloquy – a term specific to a play An act of speaking one’s thoughts aloud when by oneself or regardless of any hearers, especially by a character in a play; this is usually a long reflective speech
Blank Verse – specific to the play Shakespeare’s principal mode of writing. These are lines of poetic verse, without rhyme, but each line has a set rhythm or meter of iambic pentameter.- five feet of short/long stresses (the heartbeat)
Rhymed couplet Two lines of the same length that rhyme and complete one thought. There is no limit to the length of the lines.

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