Shakespeare Literary Devices and Terms

Monologue
A long, uninterrupted speech (in a narrative or drama) that is spoken in the presence of other characters. Unlike a soliloquy and most aides, a monologue is heard by other characters.

Soliloquy
A speech, usually lengthy, in which a character, alone on stage, expresses his or her thoughts aloud. The soliloquy is a very useful dramatic device, as it allows the dramatist to convey a character’s most intimate thoughts and feelings directly to the audience.

Pun
A play on two words similar in sound but different in meaning. Originally, puns were a common literary trope in serious literature, but after the eighteenth century, puns have been primarily considered a low form of humor.

Dramatic Irony
involves a situation in a narrative in which the reader knows something about present or future circumstances that the character does not know.

Double Entendre
(French, “double meaning”): The deliberate use of ambiguity in a phrase or image–especially involving sexual or humorous meanings.

Imagery
A common term of variable meaning, imagery includes the “mental pictures” that readers experience with a passage of literature.

Oxymoron
Using contradiction in a manner that oddly makes sense on a deeper level. The richest literary oxymora seem to reveal a deeper truth through their contradictions.

Alliteration
Repeating a consonant sound in close proximity to others, or beginning several words with the same vowel sound.

Assonance
Repeating identical or similar vowels (especially in stressed syllables) in nearby words. Assonance in final vowels of lines can often lead to half-rhyme.

Consonance
A special type of alliteration in which the repeated pattern of consonants is marked by changes in the intervening vowels–i.e., the final consonants of the stressed syllables match each other but the vowels differ.

Hyperbole
Exaggeration or overstatement.

Allusion
A casual reference in literature to a person, place, event, or another passage of literature, often without explicit identification. Allusions can originate in mythology, biblical references, historical events, legends, geography, or earlier literary works. Authors often use allusion to establish a tone, create an implied association, contrast two objects or people, make an unusual juxtaposition of references, or bring the reader into a world of experience outside the limitations of the story itself.

Extended Metaphor
A comparison between two unlike things that continues throughout a series of sentences in a paragraph or lines in a poem.

Simile
An analogy or comparison implied by using an adverb such as like or as.

Metaphor
A comparison or analogy stated in such a way as to imply that one object is another one, figuratively speaking.

Personification
Animals, ideas, and inanimate objects are given human character, traits, abilities, or reactions.

Symbolism
Frequent use of words, places, characters, or objects that mean something beyond what they are on a literal level.

Foil
A character who serves to contrast or emphasize opposing traits in another character.

Iamb
A unit or foot of poetry that consists of a lightly stressed syllable followed by a heavily stressed syllable. Some words in English naturally form iambs, such as behold, restore, amuse, arise, awake, return, Noel, support, depict, destroy, inject, inscribe, insist, inspire, unwashed.

Pentameter
When poetry consists of five feet in each line, it is written in pentameter. Each foot has a set number of syllables.