Sunday, 19 June 2011

Literary Terms

The chorus in Classical Greek drama was a group of actors who described and commented upon the main action of a play with song, dance, and recitation. Greek tragedy had its beginnings in choral performances, in which a group of 50 men danced and sang.

As the importance of the actors increased, the choral odes became fewer in number and tended to have less importance in the plot, until at last they became mere decorative interludes separating the acts. During the Renaissance the role of the chorus was revised. In the drama of Elizabethan England, for instance, the name chorus designated a single person, often the speaker of the prologue and epilogue, as in Christopher Marlowe’s Doctor Faustus.

The use of the group chorus has been revived in a number of modern plays, such as Eugene O’Neill’s Mourning Becomes Electra (1931) and T.S. Eliot’s Murder in the Cathedral (1935).

Hubris, also hybris, means extreme haughtiness, pride or arrogance. Hubris often indicates a loss of contact with reality and an overestimation of one's own competence or capabilities, especially when the person exhibiting it is in a position of power.

The word was also used to describe actions of those who challenged the gods or their laws, especially in Greek tragedy, resulting in the protagonist's fall.

Examples of hubris are often found in fiction, most famously in Paradise Lost, John Milton's depiction of the biblical Lucifer. Marlowe's play Doctor Faustus portrays the titular character as a scholar whose arrogance and pride compel him to sign a deal with the devil, and retain his haughtiness until his death and damnation, despite the fact that he could have easily repented had he chosen so.

Anagnorisis is a moment in a play or other work when a character makes a critical discovery. Anagnorisis originally meant recognition in its Greek context, not only of a person but also of what that person stood for. It was the hero's sudden awareness of a real situation, the realisation of things as they stood, and finally, the hero's insight into a relationship with an often antagonistic character in Aristotelian tragedy.

It appears in Shakespeare's The Winter's Tale plot, where a recognition scene in the final act reveals that Perdita is a king's daughter rather than a shepherdess, and so suitable for her prince lover.

An antagonist is a character, group of characters, or an institution, that represents the opposition against which the protagonist must contend. In other words, 'A person, or a group of people who oppose the main character, or the main characters.' In the classic style of story where in the action consists of a hero fighting a villain, the two can be regarded as protagonist and antagonist, respectively. The antagonist may also represent a major threat or obstacle to the main character by their very existence, without necessarily deliberately targeting him or her.

Captain Hook in Peter Pan, Professor Moriarty in Sherlock Holmes, The Sheriff of Nottingham in Robin Hood are examples.

Catharsis is a term in dramatic art that describes the "emotional cleansing" sometimes depicted in a play as occurring for one or more of its characters, as well as the same phenomenon as (an intended) part of the audience’s experience. It describes an extreme change in emotion, occurring as the result of experiencing strong feelings (such as sorrow, fear, pity, or even laughter). It has been described as a "purification" or a "purging" of such emotions. The Greek philosopher Aristotle was the first to use the term catharsis with reference to the emotions – in his work Poetics

. This is clearly evident in Oedipus Rex, where King Oedipus is confronted with ever more outrageous actions, until the catharsis/emptying generated by the death of his mother-wife, and by his own act of self-blinding.

Dramatic Irony
Dramatic irony is the device of giving the spectator an item of information that at least one of the characters in the narrative is unaware of (at least consciously), thus placing the spectator a step ahead of at least one of the characters. Dramatic irony has three stages - installation, exploitation, and resolution (often also called preparation, suspension, and resolution) - producing dramatic conflict in what one character relies or appears to rely upon, the contrary of which is known by observers (especially the audience; sometimes to other characters within the drama) to be true. In summary, it means that the reader/watcher/listener knows something that one or more of the characters in the piece is not aware of.

In Oedipus the King, the reader knows that Oedipus himself is the murderer that he is seeking; but Oedipus does not. In Romeo and Juliet, the other characters in the cast think Juliet is dead, but the audience knows she only took a sleeping potion.

In fiction, a foil is a character who contrasts with another character (usually the protagonist) in order to highlight various features of that other character's personality, throwing these characteristics into sharper focus.

A foil's complementary role may be emphasized by physical characteristics. A foil usually differs drastically. For example in Cervantes' Don Quixote, the dreamy and impractical Quixote is thin in contrast to his companion, the realistic and practical Sancho Panza, who is fat. Another popular fictional character, Sherlock Holmes, is tall and lean; his right-hand man Doctor Watson, meanwhile, is often described as "middle-sized, strongly built."

Poetic Justice
Poetic justice is a literary device in which virtue is ultimately rewarded or vice punished, often in modern literature by an ironic twist of fate intimately related to the character's own conduct.

English drama critic Thomas Rymer coined the phrase in The Tragedies of the Last Age Considere'd (1678) to describe how a work should inspire proper moral behaviour in its audience by illustrating the triumph of good over evil. Philip Sidney, in Defense of Poetry, argued that poetic justice was, in fact, the reason that fiction should be allowed in a civilized nation.

Shakespeare’s Hamlet and Dante's Divine Comedy contain examples of poetic justice.

The dénouement comprises events between the falling action and the actual ending scene of the drama or narrative and thus serves as the conclusion of the story. Conflicts are resolved, creating normality for the characters and a sense of catharsis, or release of tension and anxiety, for the reader. Etymologically, the French word dénouement is derived from the Old French word denoer, "to untie", and from nodus, Latin for "knot." Simply put, dénouement is the unraveling or untying of the complexities of a plot.

 Exemplary of a comic dénouement is the final scene of Shakespeare’s comedy As You Like It, in which couples marry, an evildoer repents, two disguised characters are revealed for all to see, and a ruler is restored to power. In Shakespeare's tragedies, the dénouement is usually the death of one or more characters.

The climax (or turning point) of a narrative work is its point of highest tension or drama or when the action starts in which the solution is given. Although it is not necessarily true, a climax is known in most forms of literature for being the final fight between the hero and villain. While this is true in most cases, the climax may be more of an epiphany the conflicted main character experiences, especially if the story does not have a villain in the first place.

The death of Caesar in Shakespeare's Julius Caesar is a well-known climax.

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