AP Shakespeare Poetry Vocabulary

Allegory
Symbolic narrative in which surface details imply a secondary meaning; often takes form of story in which characters represent moral qualities

Alliteration
Repetition of consonant sounds, especially at beginning of words

Anapest
Two unaccented syllables followed by an accented one (comprehend; intervene)

Antagonist
Character or force against which a main character struggles

Assonance
Repetition of similar vowel sounds in sentence or line (“I rose and told him of my woe”)

Ballad
Narrative poem written in four-line stanzas, characterized by swift action and narrated in direct style

Blank verse
Line of poetry or prose in unrhymed iambic pentameter

Blazon
Catalog of attributes; standardized description of the womanly body parts

Caesura
Strong pause within a line of verse

Character
Imaginary person that lives in a literary work; literary characters may be major or minor, static or dynamic

Characterization
Means by which writers present and reveal a character

Closed form
Type of form or structure in poetry characterized by regularity and consistency in such elements

Connotation
Personal and emotional associations called up by a word that go beyond its dictionary meaning

Convention
Customary feature of a literary work such as use of rhyme in a sonnet

Couplet
Pair of rhymed lines that may or may not constitute a separate stanza in a poem

Dactyl
Stressed syllable followed by two unstressed ones; flut-ter-ing or blue-ber-ry

Denotation
Dictionary meaning of a word

Dialogue
Conversation of characters in literary work

Diction
Selection of words in a literary work

Dramatic monologue
Type of poem in which speaker addresses silent listener

Elegy
Lyric poem that laments the dead

Elision
Omission of an unstressed vowel or syllable to preserve meter of line of poetry

Enjambment
Run-on line of poetry in which logical and grammatical sense carries over from one line to the next

End-stopped line
Grammatical and logical sense completed within line

Epic
Long, narrative poem that records the adventures of a hero; typically chronicle the origins of civilization and embody its central values

Epigram
Brief, witty poem; often satirical

Falling meer
Poetic meters such as trochaic and dactylic that move or fall from stressed to an unstressed syllable

Figurative language
Form of language use in which writers and speakers convey something other than literal meaning of their words; hyperbole, metaphor, metonymy, simile, synecdoche, and understatement

Foot
Metrical unit composed of stressed and unstressed syllables; iambic foot represented by unaccented syllable followed by an accented one

Free verse
Poetry without regular pattern of meter or rhyme

Hyperbole
Figure of speech involving exaggeration

Iamb
Unstressed syllable followed by a stressed one (today)

Image
Concrete representation of a sense, impression, feeling, or idea

Imagery
Pattern of related comparative aspects of language in a literary work

Irony
Contrast or gap between what is said and what is meant or between what happens and what is expected to happen

Verbal irony
Characters say opposite of what they mean

Irony of circumstance
Opposite of what is expected happens

Dramatic irony
Character speaks in ignorance of situation or event known to audience or to other characters

Literal language
Form of language in which writers and speakers mean exactly what their words denote

Lyric poem
Type of poem characterized by brevity, compression, and the expression of feeling

Metaphor
Comparison between essentially unlike things without a word such as “like” or “as” (My love is a red, red rose)

Meter
Measured pattern of rhythmic accents in poems

Metonymy
Figure of speech in which closely related term is substituted for object or idea (We have remained loyal to the crown)

Monologue
Speech by one character

Narrative poem
Poem that tells a story

Narrator
Voice and implied speaker of fictional work, to be distinguished from actual living author

Octave
Eight-line unit, which may constitute a stanza or section of a poem

Ode
Long, stately poem in stanzas of varied length, meter, and form; usually serious poem on an exalted subject

Onomatopoeia
Use of words to imitate the sounds they describe (buzz or crack)

Open form
Type of structure or form in poetry characterized by freedom from regularity and consistency in such elements as rhyme, line length, and metrical pattern

Parody
Humorous, mocking imitation of a literary work

Personification
Endowment of inanimate objects or abstract concepts with human qualities or actions

Plot
Organization of incidents in a literary work

Point of view
Perspective from which story is narrated

Protagonist
Main character of a literary work

Quatrain
Four-line stanza in a poem

Rhetorical question
Question to which an overt answer is not expected; used to set up an explanation they are about to provide and trigger a reader’s mental response

Rhyme
Matching of final vowel or consonant sounds in two or more words

Rhythm
Recurrence of accent or stress in lines of verse

Rising meter
Poetic meters such as iambic and anapestic that move or ascend from an unstressed to a stressed syllable

Romance
Type of narrative fiction or poem in which adventure is a central feature and in which an idealized version of reality is presented

Satire
Literary work that criticizes human misconduct and ridicules vices, stupidities, and follies

Sestet
Six-line unit of verse constituting a stanza or section of a poem; the last six lines of an Italian sonnet

Setting
Time and place of a literary work that establish its context

Simile
Figure of speech involving comparison between unlike things using like, as, or as though

Sonnet
Fourteen-line poem in iambic pentameter; English sonnets have a rhyme scheme of abab cdcd efef gg

Spondee
Metrical foot represented by two stressed syllables (knick-knack)

Stanza
Group of lines which form division of a poem

Structure
Design or form of literary work

Style
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

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

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

Symbol
Object or action in a literary work that means more than itself; that stands for something beyond itself

Synecdoche
Figure of speech in which part is substituted for the whole (Lend me a hand)

Syntax
Grammatical order of words in a sentence or line of verse or dialogue

Tercet
Three-line stanza

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

Tone
Implied attitude of a writer toward the subject and characters of a work

Understatement
Figure of speech in which a writer or speaker says less than what he or she means; converse of exaggeration

Meiosis
Figure of speech in which a writer or speaker says less than what he or she means; converse of exaggeration

Litotes
Figure of speech in which a writer or speaker says less than what he or she means; converse of exaggeration