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Literature,5/e
RobertDiYanni

GlossaryofDramaTerms
Allegory
Asymbolicnarrativeinwhichthesurfacedetailsimplyasecondarymeaning.
Allegoryoftentakestheformofastoryinwhichthecharactersrepresentmoral
qualities.ThemostfamousexampleinEnglishisJohnBunyan'sPilgrim'sProgress,
inwhichthenameofthecentralcharacter,Pilgrim,epitomizesthebook's
allegoricalnature.KayBoyle'sstory"Astronomer'sWife"andChristinaRossetti's
poem"UpHill"bothcontainallegoricalelements.
Alliteration
Therepetitionofconsonantsounds,especiallyatthebeginningofwords.Example:
"Fetchedfresh,asIsuppose,offsomesweetwood."Hopkins,"IntheValleyofthe
Elwy."
Antagonist
Acharacterorforceagainstwhichanothercharacterstruggles.CreonisAntigone's
antagonistinSophocles'playAntigoneTeiresiasistheantagonistofOedipusin
Sophocles'OedipustheKing.
Aside
Wordsspokenbyanactordirectlytotheaudience,whicharenot"heard"bythe
othercharactersonstageduringaplay.InShakespeare'sOthello,Iagovoiceshis
innerthoughtsanumberoftimesas"asides"fortheplay'saudience.
Assonance
Therepetitionofsimilarvowelsoundsinasentenceoralineofpoetryorprose,as
in"Iroseandtoldhimofmywoe."Whitman's"WhenIHeardtheLearn'd
Astronomer"containsassonantal"I's"inthefollowinglines:"Howsoon
unaccountableIbecametiredandsick,/TillrisingandglidingoutIwander'doffby
myself."
Catastrophe
Theactionattheendofatragedythatinitiatesthedenouementorfallingactionof
aplay.OneexampleistheduelingsceneinActVofHamletinwhichHamletdies,
alongwithLaertes,KingClaudius,andQueenGertrude.
Catharsis
Thepurgingofthefeelingsofpityandfearthat,accordingtoAristotle,occurinthe
audienceoftragicdrama.Theaudienceexperiencescatharsisattheendofthe
play,followingthecatastrophe.
Character
Animaginarypersonthatinhabitsaliterarywork.Literarycharactersmaybe

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majororminor,static(unchanging)ordynamic(capableofchange).In
Shakespeare'sOthello,Desdemonaisamajorcharacter,butonewhoisstatic,like
theminorcharacterBianca.Othelloisamajorcharacterwhoisdynamic,exhibiting
anabilitytochange.
Characterization
Themeansbywhichwriterspresentandrevealcharacter.Althoughtechniquesof
characterizationarecomplex,writerstypicallyrevealcharactersthroughtheir
speech,dress,manner,andactions.Readerscometounderstandthecharacter
MissEmilyinFaulkner'sstory"ARoseforEmily"throughwhatshesays,howshe
lives,andwhatshedoes.
Chorus
AgroupofcharactersinGreektragedy(andinlaterformsofdrama),who
commentontheactionofaplaywithoutparticipationinit.Theirleaderisthe
choragos.Sophocles'AntigoneandOedipustheKingbothcontainanexplicitchorus
withachoragos.TennesseeWilliams'sGlassMenageriecontainsacharacterwho
functionslikeachorus.
Climax
Theturningpointoftheactionintheplotofaplayorstory.Theclimaxrepresents
thepointofgreatesttensioninthework.TheclimaxofJohnUpdike's"A&P,"for
example,occurswhenSammyquitshisjobasacashier.
Comedy
Atypeofdramainwhichthecharactersexperiencereversalsoffortune,usuallyfor
thebetter.Incomedy,thingsworkouthappilyintheend.Comicdramamaybe
eitherromanticcharacterizedbyatoneoftoleranceandgenialityorsatiric.
Satiricworksofferadarkervisionofhumannature,onethatridiculeshumanfolly.
Shaw'sArmsandtheManisaromanticcomedyChekhov'sMarriageProposalisa
satiriccomedy.
Comicrelief
Theuseofacomicscenetointerruptasuccessionofintenselytragicdramatic
moments.Thecomedyofscenesofferingcomicrelieftypicallyparallelsthetragic
actionthatthescenesinterrupt.ComicreliefislackinginGreektragedy,butoccurs
regularlyinShakespeare'stragedies.OneexampleistheopeningsceneofActVof
Hamlet,inwhichagravediggerbanterswithHamlet.
Complication
Anintensificationoftheconflictinastoryorplay.Complicationbuildsup,
accumulates,anddevelopstheprimaryorcentralconflictinaliterarywork.Frank
O'Connor'sstory"GuestsoftheNation"providesastrikingexample,asdoesRalph
Ellison's"BattleRoyal."
Conflict
Astrugglebetweenopposingforcesinastoryorplay,usuallyresolvedbytheend
ofthework.Theconflictmayoccurwithinacharacteraswellasbetween
characters.LadyGregory'soneactplayTheRisingoftheMoonexemplifiesboth
typesofconflictasthePolicemanwrestleswithhisconscienceinaninnerconflict
andconfrontsanantagonistinthepersonoftheballadsinger.
Connotation
Theassociationscalledupbyawordthatgoesbeyonditsdictionarymeaning.
Poets,especially,tendtousewordsrichinconnotation.DylanThomas's"DoNot
GoGentleintoThatGoodNight"includesintenselyconnotativelanguage,asin
theselines:"Goodmen,thelastwaveby,cryinghowbright/Theirfraildeeds
mighthavedancedinagreenbay,/Rage,rageagainstthedyingofthelight."
Convention
Acustomaryfeatureofaliterarywork,suchastheuseofachorusinGreek
tragedy,theinclusionofanexplicitmoralinafable,ortheuseofaparticular
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rhymeschemeinavillanelle.Literaryconventionsaredefiningfeaturesof
particularliterarygenres,suchasnovel,shortstory,ballad,sonnet,andplay.
Denotation
Thedictionarymeaningofaword.Writerstypicallyplayoffaword'sdenotative
meaningagainstitsconnotations,orsuggestedandimpliedassociational
implications.InthefollowinglinesfromPeterMeinke's"AdvicetoMySon"the
referencestoflowersandfruit,breadandwinedenotespecificthings,butalso
suggestsomethingbeyondtheliteral,dictionarymeaningsofthewords:
Tobespecific,betweenthepeonyandrose
Plantsquashandspinach,turnipsandtomatoes
Beautyisnectarandnectar,inadesert,saves
...
andalwaysservebreadwithyourwine.
But,son,
alwaysservewine.
Denouement
Theresolutionoftheplotofaliterarywork.ThedenouementofHamlettakesplace
afterthecatastrophe,withthestagelitteredwithcorpses.Duringthedenouement
Fortinbrasmakesanentranceandaspeech,andHoratiospeakshissweetlinesin
praiseofHamlet.
Deusexmachina
Agodwhoresolvestheentanglementsofaplaybysupernaturalintervention.The
Latinphrasemeans,literally,"agodfromthemachine."Thephrasereferstothe
useofartificialmeanstoresolvetheplotofaplay.
Dialogue
Theconversationofcharactersinaliterarywork.Infiction,dialogueistypically
enclosedwithinquotationmarks.Inplays,characters'speechisprecededbytheir
names.
Diction
Theselectionofwordsinaliterarywork.Awork'sdictionformsoneofitscentrally
importantliteraryelements,aswritersusewordstoconveyaction,reveal
character,implyattitudes,identifythemes,andsuggestvalues.Wecanspeakof
thedictionparticulartoacharacter,asinIago'sandDesdemona'sverydifferent
waysofspeakinginOthello.Wecanalsorefertoapoet'sdictionasrepresented
overthebodyofhisorherwork,asinDonne'sorHughes'sdiction.
Dramaticmonologue
Atypeofpoeminwhichaspeakeraddressesasilentlistener.Asreaders,we
overhearthespeakerinadramaticmonologue.RobertBrowning's"MyLast
Duchess"representstheepitomeofthegenre.
Dramatispersonae
Latinforthecharactersorpersonsinaplay.Includedamongthedramatis
personaeofMiller'sDeathofaSalesmanareWillyLoman,thesalesman,hiswife
Linda,andhissonsBiffandHappy.
Exposition
Thefirststageofafictionalordramaticplot,inwhichnecessarybackground
informationisprovided.Ibsen'sADoll'sHouse,forinstance,beginswitha
conversationbetweenthetwocentralcharacters,adialoguethatfillstheaudience
inoneventsthatoccurredbeforetheactionoftheplaybegins,butwhichare
importantinthedevelopmentofitsplot.
Fable
Abriefstorywithanexplicitmoralprovidedbytheauthor.Fablestypicallyinclude
animalsascharacters.Theirmostfamouspractitionerinthewestistheancient
GreekwriterAesop,whose"TheDogandtheShadow"and"TheWolfandthe
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Mastiff"areincludedinthisbook.
Fallingaction
Intheplotofastoryorplay,theactionfollowingtheclimaxoftheworkthat
movesittowardsitsdenouementorresolution.ThefallingactionofOthellobegins
afterOthellorealizesthatIagoisresponsibleforplottingagainsthimbyspurring
himontomurderhiswife,Desdemona.
Fiction
Animaginedstory,whetherinprose,poetry,ordrama.Ibsen'sNoraisfictional,a
"makebelieve"characterinaplay,asareHamletandOthello.Characterslike
RobertBrowning'sDukeandDuchessfromhispoem"MyLastDuchess"are
fictionalaswell,thoughtheymaybebasedonactualhistoricalindividuals.And,of
course,charactersinstoriesandnovelsarefictional,thoughthey,too,maybe
based,insomeway,onrealpeople.Theimportantthingtorememberisthat
writersembellishandembroiderandalteractuallifewhentheyusereallifeasthe
basisfortheirwork.Theyfictionalizefacts,anddeviatefromreallifesituationsas
they"makethingsup."
Figurativelanguage
Aformoflanguageuseinwhichwritersandspeakersconveysomethingother
thantheliteralmeaningoftheirwords.Examplesincludehyperboleor
exaggeration,litotesorunderstatement,simileandmetaphor,whichemploy
comparison,andsynecdocheandmetonymy,inwhichapartofathingstandsfor
thewhole.
Flashback
Aninterruptionofawork'schronologytodescribeorpresentanincidentthat
occurredpriortothemaintimeframeofawork'saction.Writersuseflashbacksto
complicatethesenseofchronologyintheplotoftheirworksandtoconveythe
richnessoftheexperienceofhumantime.Faulkner'sstory"ARoseforEmily"
includesflashbacks.
Foil
Acharacterwhocontrastsandparallelsthemaincharacterinaplayorstory.
Laertes,inHamlet,isafoilforthemaincharacterinOthello,EmiliaandBiancaare
foilsforDesdemona.
Foot
Ametricalunitcomposedofstressedandunstressedsyllables.Forexample,an
iamboriambicfootisrepresentedby',thatis,anunaccentedsyllablefollowedby
anaccentedone.Frost'sline"WhosewoodstheseareIthinkIknow"containsfour
iambs,andisthusaniambicfoot.
Foreshadowing
Hintsofwhatistocomeintheactionofaplayorastory.Ibsen'sADoll'sHouse
includesforeshadowingasdoesSynge'sRiderstotheSea.So,too,doPoe's"Cask
ofAmontillado"andChopin's"StoryofanHour."
Fourthwall
Theimaginarywalloftheboxtheatersetting,supposedlyremovedtoallowthe
audiencetoseetheaction.Thefourthwallisespeciallycommoninmodernand
contemporaryplayssuchasHansberry'sARaisinintheSun,Wasserstein'sTender
Offer,andWilson'sFences.
Gesture
Thephysicalmovementofacharacterduringaplay.Gestureisusedtoreveal
character,andmayincludefacialexpressionsaswellasmovementsofotherparts
ofanactor'sbody.Sometimesaplaywrightwillbeveryexplicitaboutbothbodily
andfacialgestures,providingdetailedinstructionsintheplay'sstagedirections.
Shaw'sArmsandtheManincludessuchstagedirections.SeeStagedirection.
Hyperbole
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Afigureofspeechinvolvingexaggeration.JohnDonneuseshyperboleinhispoem:
"Song:GoandCatchaFallingStar."
Iamb
Anunstressedsyllablefollowedbyastressedone,asintoDAY.SeeFoot.
Image
Aconcreterepresentationofasenseimpression,afeeling,oranidea.Imagery
referstothepatternofrelateddetailsinawork.Insomeworksoneimage
predominateseitherbyrecurringthroughouttheworkorbyappearingatacritical
pointintheplot.Oftenwritersusemultipleimagesthroughoutaworktosuggest
statesoffeelingandtoconveyimplicationsofthoughtandaction.Somemodern
poets,suchasEzraPoundandWilliamCarlosWilliams,writepoemsthatlack
discursiveexplanationentirelyandincludeonlyimages.Amongthemostfamous
examplesisPound'spoem"InaStationoftheMetro":
Theapparitionofthesefacesinthecrowd
Petalsonawet,blackbough.
Imagery
Thepatternofrelatedcomparativeaspectsoflanguage,particularlyofimages,ina
literarywork.ImageryoflightanddarknesspervadeJamesJoyce'sstories"Araby,"
"TheBoardingHouse,"and"TheDead."So,too,doesreligiousimagery.
Irony
Acontrastordiscrepancybetweenwhatissaidandwhatismeantorbetween
whathappensandwhatisexpectedtohappeninlifeandinliterature.Inverbal
irony,characterssaytheoppositeofwhattheymean.Inironyofcircumstanceor
situation,theoppositeofwhatisexpectedoccurs.Indramaticirony,acharacter
speaksinignoranceofasituationoreventknowntotheaudienceortotheother
characters.FlanneryO'Connor'sshortstoriesemployalltheseformsofirony,as
doesPoe's"CaskofAmontillado."
Literallanguage
Aformoflanguageinwhichwritersandspeakersmeanexactlywhattheirwords
denote.SeeFigurativelanguage,Denotation,andConnotation.
Metaphor
Acomparisonbetweenessentiallyunlikethingswithoutanexplicitlycomparative
wordsuchaslikeoras.Anexampleis"Myloveisared,redrose,"
FromBurns's"ARed,RedRose."LangstonHughes's"DreamDeferred"isbuilt
entirelyofmetaphors.Metaphorisoneofthemostimportantofliteraryusesof
language.Shakespeareemploysawiderangeofmetaphorinhissonnetsandhis
plays,ofteninsuchdensityandprofusionthatreadersarekeptbusyanalyzingand
interpretingandunravelingthem.CompareSimile.
Meter
Themeasuredpatternofrhythmicaccentsinpoems.SeeFootandIamb.
Metonymy
Afigureofspeechinwhichacloselyrelatedtermissubstitutedforanobjector
idea.Anexample:"Wehavealwaysremainedloyaltothecrown."SeeSynecdoche.
Monologue
Aspeechbyasinglecharacterwithoutanothercharacter'sresponse.SeeDramatic
monologueandSoliloquy.
Narrator
Thevoiceandimpliedspeakerofafictionalwork,tobedistinguishedfromthe
actuallivingauthor.Forexample,thenarratorofJoyce's"Araby"isnotJames
Joycehimself,butaliteraryfictionalcharactercreatedexpresslytotellthestory.
Faulkner's"ARoseforEmily"containsacommunalnarrator,identifiedonlyas
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"we."SeePointofview.
Onomatopoeia
Theuseofwordstoimitatethesoundstheydescribe.Wordssuchasbuzzand
crackareonomatopoetic.ThefollowinglinefromPope's"SoundandSense"
onomatopoeticallyimitatesinsoundwhatitdescribes:
WhenAjaxstrivessomerock'svastweighttothrow,
Thelinetoolabors,andthewordsmoveslow.
Mostoften,however,onomatopoeiareferstowordsandgroupsofwords,suchas
Tennyson'sdescriptionofthe"murmurofinnumerablebees,"whichattemptsto
capturethesoundofaswarmofbeesbuzzing.
Parody
Ahumorous,mockingimitationofaliterarywork,sometimessarcastic,butoften
playfulandevenrespectfulinitsplayfulimitation.ExamplesincludeBobMcKenty's
parodyofFrost's"DustofSnow"andKennethKoch'sparodyofWilliams's"Thisis
JusttoSay."
Pathos
Aqualityofaplay'sactionthatstimulatestheaudiencetofeelpityforacharacter.
Pathosisalwaysanaspectoftragedy,andmaybepresentincomedyaswell.
Personification
Theendowmentofinanimateobjectsorabstractconceptswithanimateorliving
qualities.Anexample:"Theyellowleavesflauntedtheircolorgailyinthebreeze."
Wordsworth's"Iwanderedlonelyasacloud"includespersonification.
Plot
Theunifiedstructureofincidentsinaliterarywork.SeeConflict,Climax,
Denouement,andFlashback.
Pointofview
Theangleofvisionfromwhichastoryisnarrated.SeeNarrator.Awork'spointof
viewcanbe:firstperson,inwhichthenarratorisacharacteroranobserver,
respectivelyobjective,inwhichthenarratorknowsorappearstoknownomore
thanthereaderomniscient,inwhichthenarratorknowseverythingaboutthe
charactersandlimitedomniscient,whichallowsthenarratortoknowsomethings
aboutthecharactersbutnoteverything.
Props
Articlesorobjectsthatappearonstageduringaplay.TheChristmastreeinADoll's
HouseandLaura'scollectionofglassanimalsinTheGlassMenagerieareexamples.
Protagonist
ThemaincharacterofaliteraryworkHamletandOthellointheplaysnamedafter
them,GregorSamsainKafka'sMetamorphosis,PaulinLawrence's"RockingHorse
Winner."
Quatrain
Afourlinestanzainapoem,thefirstfourlinesandthesecondfourlinesina
Petrachansonnet.AShakespeareansonnetcontainsthreequatrainsfollowedbya
couplet.
Recognition
Thepointatwhichacharacterunderstandshisorhersituationasitreallyis.
Sophocles'OedipuscomestothispointneartheendofOedipustheKingOthello
comestoasimilarunderstandingofhissituationinActVofOthello.
Resolution
Thesortingoutorunravelingofaplotattheendofaplay,novel,orstory.See
Plot.
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Reversal
Thepointatwhichtheactionoftheplotturnsinanunexpecteddirectionforthe
protagonist.Oedipus'sandOthello'srecognitionsarealsoreversals.Theylearn
whattheydidnotexpecttolearn.SeeRecognitionandalsoIrony.
Risingaction
Asetofconflictsandcrisesthatconstitutethepartofaplay'sorstory'splotleading
uptotheclimax.SeeClimax,Denouement,andPlot.
Satire
Aliteraryworkthatcriticizeshumanmisconductandridiculesvices,stupidities,and
follies.Swift'sGulliver'sTravelsisafamousexample.Chekhov'sMarriageProposal
andO'Connor's"EverythingThatRisesMustConverge,"havestrongsatirical
elements.
Setting
Thetimeandplaceofaliteraryworkthatestablishitscontext.Thestoriesof
SandraCisnerosaresetintheAmericansouthwestinthemidtolate20th
century,thoseofJamesJoyceinDublin,Irelandintheearly20thcentury.
Simile
Afigureofspeechinvolvingacomparisonbetweenunlikethingsusinglike,as,or
asthough.Anexample:"Myloveislikeared,redrose."
Soliloquy
Aspeechinaplaythatismeanttobeheardbytheaudiencebutnotbyother
charactersonthestage.Iftherearenoothercharacterspresent,thesoliloquy
representsthecharacterthinkingaloud.Hamlet's"Tobeornottobe"speechisan
example.SeeAside.
Stagedirection
Aplaywright'sdescriptiveorinterpretivecommentsthatprovidereaders(and
actors)withinformationaboutthedialogue,setting,andactionofaplay.Modern
playwrights,includingIbsen,Shaw,Miller,andWilliamstendtoincludesubstantial
stagedirections,whileearlierplaywrightstypicallyusedthemmoresparsely,
implicitly,ornotatall.SeeGesture.
Staging
Thespectacleaplaypresentsinperformance,includingthepositionofactorson
stage,thescenicbackground,thepropsandcostumes,andthelightingandsound
effects.TennesseeWilliamsdescribestheseinhisdetailedstagedirectionsforThe
GlassMenagerieandalsoinhisproductionnotesfortheplay.
Stanza
Adivisionorunitofapoemthatisrepeatedinthesameformeitherwithsimilar
oridenticalpatternsorrhymeandmeter,orwithvariationsfromonestanzato
another.ThestanzasofGertrudeSchnackenberg's"Signs"areregularthoseof
RitaDove's"Canary"areirregular.
Style
Thewayanauthorchooseswords,arrangestheminsentencesorinlinesof
dialogueorverse,anddevelopsideasandactionswithdescription,imagery,and
otherliterarytechniques.SeeConnotation,Denotation,Diction,Figurative
language,Image,Imagery,Irony,Metaphor,Narrator,Pointofview,Syntax,and
Tone.
Subject
Whatastoryorplayisabouttobedistinguishedfromplotandtheme.Faulkner's
"ARoseforEmily"isaboutthedeclineofaparticularwayoflifeendemictothe
Americansouthbeforethecivilwar.ItsplotconcernshowFaulknerdescribesand
organizestheactionsofthestory'scharacters.Itsthemeistheoverallmeaning
Faulknerconveys.
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Subplot
Asubsidiaryorsubordinateorparallelplotinaplayorstorythatcoexistswiththe
mainplot.ThestoryofRosencrantzandGuildensternformsasubplotwiththe
overallplotofHamlet.
Symbol
Anobjectoractioninaliteraryworkthatmeansmorethanitself,thatstandsfor
somethingbeyonditself.TheglassunicorninTheGlassMenagerie,therocking
horsein"TheRockingHorseWinner,"theroadinFrost's"TheRoadNotTaken"all
aresymbolsinthissense.
Synecdoche
Afigureofspeechinwhichapartissubstitutedforthewhole.Anexample:"Lend
meahand."SeeMetonymy.
Syntax
Thegrammaticalorderofwordsinasentenceorlineofverseordialogue.The
organizationofwordsandphrasesandclausesinsentencesofprose,verse,and
dialogue.Inthefollowingexample,normalsyntax(subject,verb,objectorder)is
inverted:
"WhosewoodstheseareIthinkIknow."
Tercet
Athreelinestanza,asthestanzasinFrost's"AcquaintedWiththeNight"and
Shelley's"OdetotheWestWind."Thethreelinestanzasorsectionsthattogether
constitutethesestetofaPetrarchanorItaliansonnet.
Theme
Theideaofaliteraryworkabstractedfromitsdetailsoflanguage,character,and
action,andcastintheformofageneralization.SeediscussionofDickinson's
"Crumblingisnotaninstant'sAct."
Tone
Theimpliedattitudeofawritertowardthesubjectandcharactersofawork,as,for
example,FlanneryO'Connor'sironictoneinher"GoodCountryPeople."SeeIrony.
Tragedy
Atypeofdramainwhichthecharactersexperiencereversalsoffortune,usuallyfor
theworse.Intragedy,catastropheandsufferingawaitmanyofthecharacters,
especiallythehero.ExamplesincludeShakespeare'sOthelloandHamlet
Sophocles'AntigoneandOedipustheKing,andArthurMiller'sDeathofaSalesman.
SeeTragicflawandTragichero.
Tragicflaw
Aweaknessorlimitationofcharacter,resultinginthefallofthetragichero.
Othello'sjealousyandtootrustingnatureisoneexample.SeeTragedyandTragic
hero.
Tragichero
Aprivileged,exaltedcharacterofhighrepute,who,byvirtueofatragicflawand
fate,suffersafallfromgloryintosuffering.Sophocles'Oedipusisanexample.See
TragedyandTragicflaw.
Understatement
Afigureofspeechinwhichawriterorspeakersayslessthanwhatheorshe
meanstheoppositeofexaggeration.ThelastlineofFrost's"Birches"illustrates
thisliterarydevice:"Onecoulddoworsethanbeaswingerofbirches."
Unities
Theideathataplayshouldbelimitedtoaspecifictime,place,andstoryline.The
eventsoftheplotshouldoccurwithinatwentyfourhourperiod,shouldoccur
withinagivegeographiclocale,andshouldtellasinglestory.Aristotlearguedthat
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Sophocles'OedipustheKingwastheperfectplayforembodyingtheunities.
Villanelle
Anineteenlinelyricpoemthatreliesheavilyonrepetition.Thefirstandthirdlines
alternatethroughoutthepoem,whichisstructuredinsixstanzasfivetercetsand
aconcludingquatrain.ExamplesincludeBishop's"OneArt,"Roethke's"The
Waking,"andThomas's"DoNotGoGentleintoThatGoodNight."

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