English Literature Drama terms

Dramatic Terms

Denouement
The resolution of the plot of a literary work. 

Deus ex machina
A god who resolves the entanglements of a play by supernatural intervention. 

Dialogue
The conversation of characters in a literary work. 

Diction
The selection of words in a literary work. 

Dramatic monologue
A type of poem in which a speaker addresses a silent listener. 

Dramatis personae
Latin for the characters or persons in a play. 

Exposition
The first stage of a fictional or dramatic plot, in which necessary background information is provided. 

Fable
A brief story with an explicit moral provided by the author. 

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Dramatic Terms

Falling action
In the plot of a story or play, the action following the climax of the work that moves it towards its denouement or resolution.

Fiction
An imagined story, whether in prose, poetry, or drama. 

Figurative language
A form of language use in which writers and speakers convey something other than the literal meaning of their words. 

Flashback
An interruption of a work's chronology to describe or present an incident that occurred prior to the main time frame of a work's action. 

Foil
A character who contrasts and parallels the main character in a play or story.

Foot
A metrical unit composed of stressed and unstressed syllables.

Foreshadowing
Hints of what is to come in the action of a play or a story. 

Fourth wall
The imaginary wall of the box theater setting, supposedly removed to allow the audience to see the action. 

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Dramatic Terms

Fourth wall
The imaginary wall of the box theater setting, supposedly removed to allow the audience to see the action. 

Gesture
The physical movement of a character during a play. 

Hyperbole
A figure of speech involving exaggeration. 

Iamb
An unstressed syllable followed by a stressed one

Image
A concrete representation of a sense impression, a feeling, or an idea. 

Imagery
The pattern of related comparative aspects of language, particularly of images, in a literary work. 

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Dramatic Terms

Irony
A contrast or discrepancy between what is said and what is meant or between what happens and what is expected to happen in life and in literature. 

Literal language
A form of language in which writers and speakers mean exactly what their words denote. 

Metaphor
A comparison between essentially unlike things without an explicitly comparative word such as like or as.

Meter
The measured pattern of rhythmic accents in poems. 

Metonymy
A figure of speech in which a closely related term is substituted for an object or idea. 

Monologue
A speech by a single character without another character's response. 

Narrator
The voice and implied speaker of a fictional work, to be distinguished from the actual living author.

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Dramatic Terms

Onomatopoeia
The use of words to imitate the sounds they describe. Words such as buzz and crack are onomatopoetic. 

Parody
A humorous, mocking imitation of a literary work, sometimes sarcastic, but often playful and even respectful in its playful imitation. 

Pathos
A quality of a play's action that stimulates the audience to feel pity for a character. 

Personification
The endowment of inanimate objects or abstract concepts with animate or living qualities. 

Plot
The unified structure of incidents in a literary work. 

Point of view
The angle of vision from which a story is narrated. 

Props - Articles or objects that appear on stage during a play

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Dramatic Terms

Protagonist
The main character of a literary work

Quatrain
A four-line stanza in a poem, the first four lines and the second four lines in a Petrachan sonnet. 

Recognition
The point at which a character understands his or her situation as it really is. 

Resolution
The sorting out or unraveling of a plot at the end of a play, novel, or story. 

Reversal
The point at which the action of the plot turns in an unexpected direction for the protagonist.

Rising action
A set of conflicts and crises that constitute the part of a play's or story's plot leading up to the climax

Satire
A literary work that criticizes human misconduct and ridicules vices, stupidities, and follies. 

Setting
The time and place of a literary work that establish its context. 

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Dramatic Terms

Simile
A figure of speech involving a comparison between unlike things using like, as, or as though. 

Soliloquy
A speech in a play that is meant to be heard by the audience but not by other characters on the stage. 

Stage direction
A playwright's descriptive or interpretive comments that provide readers (and actors) with information about the dialogue, setting, and action of a play. 

Staging
The spectacle a play presents in performance, including the position of actors on stage, the scenic background, the props and costumes, and the lighting and sound effects. 

Stanza
A division or unit of a poem that is repeated in the same form--either with similar or identical patterns or rhyme and meter, or with variations from one stanza to another. 

Style
The way an author chooses words, arranges them in sentences or in lines of dialogue or verse, and develops ideas and actions with description, imagery, and other literary techniques. 

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Dramatic Terms

Subject
What a story or play is about; to be distinguished from plot and theme

Subplot
A subsidiary or subordinate or parallel plot in a play or story that coexists with the main plot. 

Symbol
An object or action in a literary work that means more than itself, that stands for something beyond itself. 

Synecdoche
A figure of speech in which a part is substituted for the whole.

Syntax
The grammatical order of words in a sentence or line of verse or dialogue. 

Tercet
A three-line stanza

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Dramatic Terms

Theme
The idea of a literary work abstracted from its details of language, character, and action, and cast in the form of a generalization.

Tone
The implied attitude of a writer toward the subject and characters of a work.

Tragedy
A type of drama in which the characters experience reversals of fortune, usually for the worse. 

Tragic flaw
A weakness or limitation of character, resulting in the fall of the tragic hero

Tragic hero
A privileged, exalted character of high repute, who, by virtue of a tragic flaw and fate, suffers a fall from glory into suffering. 

Understatement
A figure of speech in which a writer or speaker says less than what he or she means; the opposite of exaggeration. 

Unities
The idea that a play should be limited to a specific time, place, and story line. 

Villanelle
A nineteen-line lyric poem that relies heavily on repetition. 

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