Romeo and Juliet Important Literary Terms and Dramatic Conventions

Alliteration The repetition of the same initial sound in two or more consecutive or closely associated words.
Alliteration Example “From Fourth the Fatal loins of these two Foes””Now old Desire Doth in his Deathbed lie” (Prologue. 4-5).
Allusion A reference to a literary or historical person or event to explain a present situation. There are many allusions to mythology in Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet.
Allusion Example “She’ll not be hit/With Cupid’s arrow” (1.1.194-136).
Antithesis The balancing of two contrasting ideas, words, phrases or sentences. An antithesis is often expressed in a sentence where parallel structure is used to express the contrasting ideas.
Antithesis Examples “My only love sprung from my only hate,Too early seen unknown, and known too late” (1.5.135-136).
Aside A brief remark by a character that is intended to be heard by the audience or one other character on the stage but not by the other characters present. An aside is usually delivered in an undertone (a “psst…” kind of voice). This convention is valuable to a playwright because it is a way of letting the audience know what a character is really thinking or feeling in contrast to what he or she pretends to be feeling or thinking in the presence of others.
Blank Verse Poetry written in unrhymed iambic pentameter. This is the most common form of verse in Shakespeare’s plays.
Comic Relief A humorous scene or speech in the middle of a serious drama that is meant to provide relief from emotional intensity and, by contrast, to heighten the seriousness of the main story.
Couplet A pair of rhymed lines in iambic pentameter. Because there was not stage curtain in the Globe theater, couplets often signaled the exit of character, a farewell, a blessing or prophesy, or the end of a scene in a poem, a pair of lines that are the same length and usually rhyme and form a complete thought. Shakespearean sonnets usually end in a couplet.ROMEO: “Farewell. Thou canst not teach me to forget.BENVOLO: I’ll pay that doctrine, or else die in debt.” (1.1.223-224).
Dynamic Characters A character that changes as a result of the story’s events
Static Character A character that does not change much in the course of a story
Foil A character who is used as a contrast to another character. Shakespeare is able to intensify the qualities of two characters this way. I think about what characters in Romeo & Juliet might be act as foils.
Chorus 1 person who comes out on the stage alone to explain what the play is about (the prologue).In Romeo & Juliet, the chorus comes out at the beginning of Act 1 and Act 2.
Foreshadowing The use of clues- words, descriptions, actions, events- that an author includes to prepare readers for situations that will happen later in the story.
Verbal Irony When a character says one thing but really means another
Dramatic Irony When the audience knows something important that the characters do not
Situational Irony When the outcome of a situation is the opposite of what is expected
Metaphor A figure of speech that implies or states a comparison between two unlike things saying something “is” something else. “It is the East, and Juliet is the sun!” (2.2.2).
Monologue A long, uninterrupted speech spoken in the presence of other characters. They are valuable dramatic conventions because they offer the audience insight to a character’s personal qualities, as expressed through, what he/she talks about, how he/she talks about it, and so forth. Mercutio’s famous speech about Queen Mab in Act 1 is a monologue.
Oxymoron A contrast of two contradictory terms for the sake of emphasis.”Oh brawling love, oh loving hate” (1.1.162). “Parting is such sweet sorrow” (2.2.184).
Personification A figure of speech which gives human characteristics to non-human things. Many characters in Romeo & Juliet speak of love (an idea or emotion) as a person. “Alas that love, whose view is muffled still, Should without eyes see pathways to his will!” (1.1.157-158).
What does this quote mean?”Alas that love, whose view is muffled still, Should without eyes see pathways to his will!” (1.1.157-158). Romeo has in mind the old saying, “Love is blind,” which really means those who are in love do not see the faults of those they love. Romeo personifies love, saying it is like a person who can see how to get what he wants even though he is blindfolded.
Prose Writing that reflects ordinary speech. It has no formal structure or rhyme. Usually written in full sentences and follows regular patterns of punctuation. Shakespeare writes most of his plays in verse(a.k. poetry). It is generally reserved for comic passages. Most of prose passages in Romeo & Juliet are spoken by servants, but Mercutio’s comic banter is written in prose, too. Prose, as a rule, is used for the lighter moments of the play.
Simile A figure of speech that compares two unlike things, usually using the words “like” or “as.” “It seems she hangs upon the cheek of nightLike a rich jewel in an Ethiop’s ear” (1.5.42-43).
Soliloquy A lengthy speech spoken by a character alone on the stage. They convey a character’s most intimate thoughts and feelings directly to the audience. Unlike an aside, soliloquys are given when there are no other actors on stage.
Sonnet A lyric poem fourteen lines long written in iambic pentameter. The lines are rhymed and follow a specific pattern for the Shakespearean sonnet- abab cdcd efef gg – Both prologues are examples of sonnets, as is the first exchange between Romeo and Juliet at the Capulet ball.
Tragedy A type of drama of human conflict which ends in defeat and suffering. Often the main character (dignified, noble) has a tragic flaw (weakness of character, wrong judgment) which leads to his or her destruction. Sometimes the conflict is with forces beyond the control of the character- fate, evil in the world, etc.
Exposition Introduces the mood and the conditions existing at the beginning of the play. The time and place are identified as well as the main characters and their positions, circumstances, and relationships to one another.
Exciting Force Also known as the complication or initial incident. The exciting force is what “gets things going” in the play. It is the event that begins the conflict that will continue throughout the play. This is part of the rising action.
Rising Action The series of events which lead up to the climax. These events progress and intensify the interest of the audience. The rising action will involve more than one act of the play.
Climax The turning point of the play. From this point forward, the Shakespearean hero moves to his or her inevitable death.
Falling Action The events that occur from the climax to the hero’s death. Like the rising action, the falling action involves more than one act
Catastrophe The consequences of the hero’s previous actions with result in the hero’s death. It is characteristically simple and brief.
In a Shakespearean tragedy, the six elements are found in the following acts:Act 1 Act 2Act 3Act 4Act 5Act 6 Act 1: Exposition, Exciting Force, Rising ActionAct 2: Rising ActionAct 3: Rising Action, Climax, Falling ActionAct 4: Falling ActionAct 5: Falling Action, CatastropheAct 6: Catastrophe
Meter The pattern of syllables in a line of poetry
Poetic Foot Two syllables together
Iamb A foot that has two syllables with one unstressed followed by one STRESSED. If you tap it out, ta TUM, ta TUM, ta TUM, ta TUM, it sounds like the human heartbeat
Examples of Iamb in everyday language: aWAY, reTURN, aLARM, eVOLVE, aBUSE, deSTROY, beLONG
Iambic Pentameter A line of poetry that has five iambs in it
Iambic Pentameter Line ten syllables= five pairs of alternating unstressed and stressed syllablesi WENT to TOWN to BUY a LOAF of BREADnow IS the WIN terOF ourDIS conTENT RichardIII(1.1.1)Shakespeare’s plays were written mostly in iambic pentameter, which is the most common type of meter in English poetry.
Rhyme Scheme The pattern of rhyming line in a poem. Use lower case letters to indicate which lines rhyme and the pattern of end lines rhymes.
Quatrain A stanza or poem of four lines
Shakespearean Sonnet 1. A lyric poem (one that expresses personal feelings) that is 14 lines long2. Three quatrains and a final couplet3. rhyme scheme of abab cdcd efef gg4. These rhyme schemes may be ear-rhymes: one that rhymes in sound (kiss and bliss) or sight rhymes: they rhyme in looks (move and love)5. Generally written in iambic pentameter6. Sonnet is a poetic form often used to write about love7. When Romeo and Juliet meet they speak just fourteen lines before their first kiss. These fourteen lines make up a shared sonnet, with a rhyme scheme of abab cdcd efef gg

You Might Also Like