Analysis of Texts
Sam MacDuff
hubris (hybris)
Eponymous hero
A recognition or discovery, especially in tragedy for example, when
the hero understands the reason for his or her fall.
Aristotle’s term for the purgation or purification of pity and terror,
either as experienced by the audience or by the protagonist, or in the
sense of the cleansing of the action or conflict presented in the play.
The culmination of a conflict; a turning point, often the point of
greatest tension in a plot.
A literary work, especially a play, characterized by humour and/or by
a happy ending.
A struggle between a character and some obstacle or between internal
forces, such as divided loyalties.
A high point in the conflict that leads to the turning point.
The resolution or the outcome (literally, the "unknotting") of a plot.
A setting forth of information. In fiction and drama, introductory
material introducing characters and the situation.
A kind of comedy that inspires hilarity mixed with panic and cruelty
in its audience through an increasingly rapid and improbable series of
ludicrous confusions, physical disasters, and sexual innuendos among
its stock characters .
A physical movement, especially in a play.
The Greek word for error or failure, used by Aristotle in his Poetics to
designate the false step that leads the protagonist in a tragedy to his or
her downfall.
The Greek word for ‘insolence’ or ‘affront’, applied to the arrogance
or pride of the protagonist in a tragedy in which he or she defies
moral laws or the prohibitions of the gods.
A sudden reversal of a character's circumstances and fortunes,
usually involving the downfall of the protagonist in a tragedy, and
often coinciding with the ‘recognition’ or anagnorisis .
The pattern of events and situations in a narrative or dramatic work,
as selected and arranged both to emphasize relationships—usually of
cause and effect—between incidents and to elicit a particular kind of
interest in the reader or audience, such as surprise or suspense.
The chief actor in any literary work. The term is usually preferable to
hero and heroine because it can include characters for example,
villainous or weak ones who are not aptly called heroes or heroines.
A speech in a play, in which a character who is alone on stage speaks
his or her thoughts aloud.
A serious play showing the protagonist moving from good fortune to
bad and ending in death or a deathlike state.
A character whose qualities or actions serve to emphasize those of the
protagonist (or of some other character) by providing a strong contrast
with them.
A central character in a dramatic or narrative work who lacks the
qualities of nobility and magnanimity expected of traditional heroes
and heroines in romances and epics.
The hero or heroine after whom the play is named.
Analysis of Texts
Freytag’s Pyramid
In medias res
Dramatic irony
Comic relief
Ab ovo
Dramatis personae
Stock character
Revenge tragedy
Sam MacDuff
A secondary sequence of actions in a dramatic or narrative work,
usually involving characters of lesser importance (and often of lower
social status).
A sequence of five structural phases in a drama: introduction, rising
action, climax, falling action, and catastrophe.
The Latin phrase meaning ‘into the middle of things’, applied to the
common technique of storytelling by which the narrator begins the
story at some exciting point in the middle of the action, thereby
gaining the reader's interest before explaining preceding events by
analepses (‘flashbacks’) at some later stage.
A subtly humorous perception of inconsistency, in which an
apparently straightforward statement or event is undermined by its
context so as to give it a very different significance.
A form of irony in which the audience knows more about a character's
situation than the character does, foreseeing an outcome contrary to
the character's expectations, and thus ascribing a sharply different
sense to some of the character's own statements; in tragedies , this is
called tragic irony.
The interruption of a serious work, especially a tragedy , by a short
humorous episode. The inclusion of such comic scenes, characters, or
speeches can have various and complex effects, ranging from
relaxation after moments of high tension to sinister ironic brooding.
A state of mental uncertainty, with expectation of or desire for
decision, and usually some apprehension or anxiety; the condition of
waiting, esp. of being kept waiting, for an expected decision,
assurance, or issue.
Latin: from the very beginning.
The Latin phrase for ‘persons of the play’, used to refer collectively to
the characters represented in a dramatic work (or, by extension, a
narrative work).
A fictional character who stands as a representative of some
identifiable class or group of people.
A stereotyped character easily recognized by readers or audiences
from recurrent appearances in literary or folk tradition, usually within
a specific genre such as comedy or fairy tale. Common examples
include the absentā€ minded professor, the country bumpkin, the
damsel in distress, the old miser…
A kind of tragedy popular in England from the 1590s to the 1630s,
following the success of Thomas Kyd 's sensational play The Spanish
Tragedy ( c.1589 ). Its action is typically centred upon a leading
character's attempt to avenge the murder of a loved one, sometimes at
the prompting of the victim's ghost; it involves complex intrigues and
disguises, and usually some exploration of the morality of revenge.
The French term for a type, species, or class of composition.
A mixture of tragedy and comedy, usually a play with serious
happenings that expose the characters to the threat of death but that
ends happily.
Analysis of Texts
Sam MacDuff
A word of caution: beware of ‘pat definitions.’ Many literary terms are used in a bewildering
variety of ways and may have a number of distinct meanings. For example, the entry for
“genre” in the Concise Dictionary of Literary Terms points out that:
Much of the confusion surrounding the term arises from the fact that it is used
simultaneously for the most basic modes of literary art ( lyric , narrative , dramatic); for
the broadest categories of composition (poetry, prose fiction), and for more specialized
sub-categories, which are defined according to several different criteria including formal
structure ( sonnet , picaresque novel ), length ( novella , epigram ), intention ( satire ),
effect ( comedy ), origin ( folktale ), and subject-matter ( pastoral , science fiction ).
While some genres, such as the pastoral elegy or the melodrama , have numerous
conventions governing subject, style, and form, others—like the novel —have no agreed
rules, although they may include several more limited subgenres .
When faced with these difficulties (and there are many terms which are equally protean, such
as hamartia and catharsis), try to be as precise as you can about the sense in which you are
using the term. A good rule of thumb is that whenever there is ambiguity or uncertainty,
define your terms.
Source: most of these definitions are shortened from Concise Dictionary of Literary Terms by
Chris Baldick. You are advised to use this source to prepare for the terminology test and for
all the literary terminology you will need for the course. It is freely available at