A Shakespeare Mini Glossary
Part of the Shakespeare For Dummies Cheat Sheet
These terms help when you're reading Shakespeare's works to keep track of different types and parts of plays, the poetry styles Shakespeare often employed, and stage direction.
blank verse: Poetry in which the lines do not rhyme. Shakespeare used a mixture of prose, rhymed verse, and blank verse in his plays, but mostly he used blank verse.
comedy: A play in which the heroes do not die, but usually get married. Most comedies are lighthearted, but a few are somber until the final scene, when everyone is reconciled.
couplet: A pair of lines that rhyme. A couplet often marks the end of a scene or act.
exeunt (eg-ZOONT): Plural form of exit, used in stage directions when many people leave the stage at once.
flourish: A stage direction for a fanfare of drums and trumpets, usually announcing the entrance or exit of a king or queen.
history: A play that recounts historical events. Shakespeare’s history plays are historical fiction. He altered time, people, and events.
iambic pentameter: A form of verse in which every other syllable is stressed (as in dah-DUM) and each line contains five stressed syllables.
quatrain: A stanza of four lines, usually rhyming on alternate lines.
rhyme royal: A verse form of seven-line stanzas rhyming in the pattern ababbcc.
sennet: A stage direction for a trumpet fanfare, like a flourish.
soliloquy: A monologue that reveals a character’s inner thoughts and feelings.
sonnet: A poem of 14 lines that follows a particular rhyme scheme. Shakespeare included sonnets in a few of his plays, and he wrote 154 sonnets as a series. Most of Shakespeare’s sonnets rhyme in the pattern abab cdcd efef gg.
tragedy: A play in which the hero has a character flaw, such as pride, that leads to his death.