Greek Tragedy vs Shakespearean Tragedy

Greek Tragedy vs Shakespearean Tragedy

Greek tragedy vs Shakespearean tragedy

A tragedy is a genre of drama, flourished in Greek literature, became famous in Elizabethan literature where Marlowe and Shakespeare brought it into English literature. Tragedy is a type of drama that presents a serious subject matter, in a single story, about human suffering, followed by sorrowful or dreadful events in a dignified manner causing a downfall of protagonist.

Elizabethan tragedies have same concept of tragedy like Greek tragedy but there are little differences. Mostly they have similarities in major terms but mainly, Shakespeare made it different from Greek tragedies in broader context. Below are the main differences between Greek tragedy and Shakespearean tragedy.

Differences between Greek tragedy and Shakespearian tragedy:

Both, Greek tragedies and Shakespearean tragedies show fall of protagonist who holds a high position in a society. Their heroes are from kings, princes, dukes, military generals or a noble man of a society who holds position in a society.

Ancient Greek tragedies were written by Sophocles, Euripides, and Aeschylus and they were modeled upon religious groundings. Elizabethan tragedies were written mostly Marlowe and Shakespeare.

Greek tragedies always follow beginning, middle and end but on the other hand Shakespearean tragedies do not follow proper beginning. In Shakespearean tragedy, A tragedy can start from any scene.

Greek tragedies were based on theocentric vision and mostly they carried religious themes where destiny was controlled by divine powers and it was impossible for a protagonist to escape from fate. In Greek tragedies, fall of character is due to destiny that plays role in the play.

In Shakespearean tragedy character is destiny; the character of an individual is responsible for the downfalls of an individual. In the play, Othello, the downfall of protagonist Othello was due to his own error of judgment that killed his beloved wife because of extreme jealousy. Shakespeare believed that a downfall of hero is not only controlled by fate but misjudgment of a protagonist can bring fall on him.

Greek tragedies carry limited number of characters mostly they are three who perform on stage but Shakespearean tragedies have sufficient number of characters on the stage.

In both tragedies, female characters were not allowed on stage but the roles of females were performed by men on stage.

Greek tragedies involve use of chorus; who participate in play and describes some scene only by singing like scene of bloodshed or opening of the play like prologue. A chorus is a band only for singing and dancing and they do not participate in other actions of the play.

Shakespearean tragedies do not have chorus band.

Greek tragedies were based on single plot but Shakespearean tragedies include subplots.

Greek tragedies follow three unities: unity of action, unity of time, and unity of place but Shakespearean tragedies do not follow three unities.

There is no space for comic scene in Greek tragedies but there are comic scenes in Shakespearean tragedies. In Greek tragedies, Chorus provide relief for the audience where as in Shakespearean tragedies, comic scenes provide relief to the audience.

There is much use of supernatural elements in Shakespearean tragedies like use of witches in Macbeth or in Hamlet; the Ghost of Hamlet’s father is supernatural, and similarly Caesar’s spirit in his play Julius Caesar; whereas Greek avoided these elements.


What is a Sonnet? (Definition, Characteristics, & History)

What is a sonnet?

What is a Sonnet?

The word “Sonnet” came from an Italian word “Sonetto“. It means “a little song”. A sonnet is a short poem of 14 lines. The basic theme of sonnet revolves around love and emotions. It is a perfect poetic style for expressing a single idea or thought. In this literary genre, poets attribute special love and feelings to their beloved. During old literature, mostly poets were court poet. Their writings were on topics like, knights, heroes, legends, and kings but this was a unique change in history of literature when poets started writing to attributes their beloveds. .  More precisely, it originated in Italy from Dante Alighieri. He wrote number of sonnets for his beloved, named Beatrice.

Background of Sonnet Writing

Giacomo da Lentini is the founder of Sonnet. He was the head of Sicilian School under Emperor Frederick II. He wrote almost 250 sonnets. Petrarch constituted Sonnet in 14th century as major form of Love poetry. Later France, Spain and England adopted it in 16th century and Germany in 17th century. Sonnet took form from Italian and it got significance as a form of poetry in 13th century.  More precisely, it originated in Italy from Dante Alighieri. He wrote number of sonnets for his beloved, named Beatrice. Sonnet further developed in 14th century, when Francesco Petrarch made it prominent, through the poems he wrote about a woman named Laura.

Wyatt and Surrey brought sonnet to England. It happened when they went for diplomatic visit to Italy and learnt the sonnet writing. They started sonnet writing when they came back. Wyatt wrote sonnet in 1557. After his death, Surrey took his lead.  Surrey’s sonnets were mostly an adaptation of the works of Petrarch. In 1950s, Spenser and Shakespeare mastered the sonnet. They changed its structure to suit their several desires. After sometime, their form of it became famous. In the mid 17th century, John Milton wrote sonnets about events, people and occasions but the theme of his sonnets was also Love. He was alone and afloat in the durable wane of sonnet.

The English revival continued well into the 19th century with Elizabeth Barrett Browning and Christina Rossetti introducing female interest into sonnet. The 20th century was full of developed sonneteers. The poets from different countries wrote memorable sonnets. Some of the most prominent sonnet writers from that time include, Robert Frost and Robert Lowell from America, England’s W.H Auden, Dylan Thomas, Seamus Heaney and John Crowe Ransom, and Edwin Morgan from Scotland.

Characteristics of Sonnet Writing

Sonnet pattern of Petrarch consists of two parts: an octave (first part of sonnet consisting of eight lines) and sestet (second part of sonnet consisting of six lines). Wyatt followed him in style and wrote 32 sonnets in same pattern. In between octave and sestet, there was a pause marked space on paper. There was a change in thought in sestet; sometime called as volta or the turn of thought.

English sonnet consists of 14 lines with first 12 lines divided into 3 quatrains. Surrey brought this change to Elizabethans’ sonnets. These quatrains contain four lines each. The poet writes about a problem or theme in these three quatrains, each quatrain carry single thought followed by next quatrain and then he resolves it in the final two lines. The last two lines are called “Couplet“. It has a regular rhyme scheme. All the poets wrote sonnet in iambic pentameter. A Sonnet helps the poet to explore strong emotions and express them.

Iambic Pentameter:  Iambic Pentameter is a style of writing in poetry where each line is five feet long. Each feet contains two syllable, one is stressed and second in unstressed. In simple way each line carry ten syllables: five stressed and five unstressed. Look at the example

“Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?” (Shakespeare)

(Shall+I) (com+par) (Thee+to) (a+ sum) (mer’s+day)

Rhyme Scheme of Sonnet Writing by Different Sonneteers

Petrarch: [a b b a a b b a] (octave) + [c d c d c d] (sestet)

Surrey: [a b a b] + [a b a b] + [a b a b] + [e e]

Sidney: [a b b a] + [a b b a] + [c d c d] + [e e]

Spenser: [a b a b] + [b c b c] + [c d c d] + [e e]

Shakespeare: [a b a b] + [c d c d] + [e f e f] + [g  g]

Sonnet writing in Latin Literature

In Latin literature, Giacomo da Lentini created sonnet. Other poets of that time to write sonnets include Dante Alighieri, Guido Cavalcanti, Petrarch and Michelangelo.

The typical Italian sonnet had its structure in two parts. The two parts together made a complete argument. The first part is octave that describes a problem or question. The second one is sestet that provides a solution. Normally, the solution or resolution starts from the ninth line. It is called turn or Volta. In Sonnets that do not exactingly follow this structure, still the ninth line mostly indicates a turn by a difference in the tone of the writing.

The pattern of ABBA ABBA was the model for Italian sonnets, later. The sestet had two choices: CDE CDE and CDC CDC. After some time, other variations were presented. These included rhyming schemes such as CDCDCD.

Let us look at two famous Latin sonneteers Francis Petrarch and Dante Alighieri.

Francis Petrarch (1304-74)

Petrarch was an Italian scholar and poet. He was born in Tuscan, Italy, on July 20th, 1304. Mainly he was fond of writing Latin literature. The thing that made him famous was his Italian poetry. The numbers of sonnets that he had written are almost 366. He is a father of sonnet writing. Francesco Petrarch introduced Italian or Petrarchan sonnet. His sonnets were admired and simulated in Europe and became a model for lyrical poetry. The subject of his sonnets was Laura, his beloved. There is a little information in his poetry about Laura. He mentioned in a poem that she refused him, because she was already married. He expresses his feelings in love poems.

He travelled around Europe and served as an ambassador. Due to which he got the name, “The first tourist”.

Due to his great work, many famous poets, like William Wordsworth and Sir Thomas, follow his form of poetry. Other English language poets became popular for translating Italian petrarchan sonnets into English.

The basic structure of sonnets of Petrarch is:

– It comprises of fourteen lines of poetry.

– These lines are divided into two parts.

– First eight lines are octave and second six lines are sestet.

– The octave follows a specific rhyme scheme of ABBA, ABBA.

– The sestets may have different patterns like CDCDCD or CDDCEE.

This structure is “Sicilian Sestet”, directly used by Petrarch himself. His famous poetry works include Canzoniere (“Songbook”) and the Trionfi (“Triumphs”). He died in 1374.

Dante Alighieri

Dante Alighieri was an Italian poet. He was born in Italy. The exact year of his birth is unknown but people conclude it to be 1265, between May and June. This inference is because of certain clues found about his birth in his poems. There is not much information about Dante’s education too. He might had been homeschooled or got his education from a church or monastery. The only thing that is apparent that he studied Tuscan poetry.

His poetry book, Divine Comedy, was originally called Comedìa and in modern Italian: Commedia and later named Divina by Giovanni Boccaccio. Divine Comedy is broadly taken as the most important poem of the Middle Ages. It is the greatest literary work in the Italian language. In this long narrative literary work, which had three parts, he journeys through Hell, Purgatory, and Paradise. He writes about different people guiding him through these places. This work is both stylistic and thematic. It played important role in establishment of Italian language as a literary language. Dante’s wrote most of literature after his exile in 1301. Works of Dante include De Monarchia, De vulgari eloquentia (meaning “On the Eloquence of Vernacular”), La Vita Nuova, Convivio (meaning “The Banquet”), etc.

He was a great influence on Geoffrey Chaucer, John Milton, Alfred Tennyson, and including many others. He did the first use of “terza rima” or the interlocking three-line rhyme scheme. People describe him as the father of the Italian language. In Italy, Italians refer to him as il Sommo Poeta (meaning “the Supreme Poet”).

Dante died in Ravenna in 1321 possibly from malaria.

Dante, Petrarch, and Boccaccio are called the tre corone (meaning “three crowns”) of Italian literature.

Sonnet writing in English literature

The sonnet is a unique form of poetry. It became famous and prominent especially in western literature, in which it has maintained its appeal for major poets for five centuries. Sonnet seemed to originate in 13th century and spread to Tuscany in 14 century, where it reached its highest expectations.

Sir Thomas Wyatt and Henry Howard introduced the sonnet in England in 16th century. This period was marked as a golden period of sonnet.

The course, which was adaptation of Italian literature, was not rich in forms and structure. Therefore, the arrival of Elizabethan sonnets has changed the form and rhyme scheme of sonnet. The rhyme scheme of English sonnet was ABAB CDCD EFEF. After this change, the sonnet became rich in rhymes but the greater numbers of rhymes had made it a less demanding form. By the time, forms of sonnet developed and the writers started writing about different topics, apart from love.

John Donne wrote his religious sonnet and John Milton wrote sonnets on the subject of politics and religion. He also wrote on personals themes, like his own blindness.

The modern sonnet had been extended to all the subjects of poetry. Still many English writers, including William Wordsworth, John Keats, and Elizabeth Barrett continued to write Petrarchan sonnets.

Elizabeth Barrett Browning resuscitated the love sonnet sequence in 19th century.

Sir Thomas Wyatt

Sir Thomas Wyatt was a lyric poet, ambassador and a politician in 16th century. He was born in 1503, at Alligator Castle. He was the first poet who introduced sonnet to English literature. His literary work was published after his death. He wrote many sonnets but most of his work consisted of translations and imitations of Italian poet Petrarch.

The subject of his sonnets was like those of Petrarch’s, but the rhyme schemes were different. Petrarch’s sonnets contained an octave followed by sestet, with various rhyme schemes. Wyatt’s octave was the same but his sestet scheme was CDDCEE. His poetry manifests classical and Italian models. His several poems are about romantic love. Wyatt wrote 96 love poems but the most famous were his 31 sonnets in English. Ten of them were the translations from Petrarch’s work. His poems were short in length but impressive and other writers appreciated his writings.

Wyatt also wrote songs, epigrams, and sonnets about his own experiences. He died on October11th, 1542.

Henry Howard, Earl of Surrey (1516-1547)

Henry Howard, famously known as Surrey, was an English poet, politician and nobleman. He was born in 1516. He is one of the founders of English poetry.

His father was Thomas Howard, Earl of Surrey. When his father became Duke of Norfolk in 1524, the son adopted the courtesy title of “Earl of Surrey “. Because of his father’s powerful position, he played an active and prominent role in court life. He served as a soldier in France and in Scotland.

Surrey was the friend of Sir Thomas Wyatt. He and his friend Wyatt were the first who wrote English sonnets. Later, William Shakespeare used their form. They were called as fathers of sonnet due to their splendid translation of Petrarch’s sonnets.

After Wyatt’s death, Surrey continued his work. Most of his early work was the translation of Petrarchan sonnets. Later he introduced new rhyme scheme like ABA, CDCD, EFEF, GG.  William Shakespeare adopted this form. He died on January 13, 1547 in London.

Thomas Watson (1555-1592)

Thomas Watson was an English lyric poet. He was born at London, in 1555. He studied at Oxford University. He enjoyed most of his life in abroad. He spent seven years in France and Italy. Then he studied law in London. He was actually a scholar and did translation. He studied law but he never practiced it because he was not interested in law. His true passion was literature. In 1581, his first composition was published which was the Latin version Antigone of Sophocles. He also translated Tasso’s Pastoral play of Aminla in Latin. It was published in 1585.

Watson appeared as an English poet in 1582. He published his Hekatompathia this year. It was a collection of 100 parts, in which he wrote about the pains and sorrows of a lover. He also had shown his expression towards love. The interesting thing about these poems is that, these are written in the manner of sonnets but they are having triple sets of seven-line stanza. Due to his excellent work, he was a best Latin poet of England, in 1587.

He started working in both, English and Latin, in 1590. His last and best book, “The Tears of France” was published in 1593. This is the collection of 60 sonnets.

After Wyatt and Surrey, he was first who introduced imitation of Petrarch into English poetry.

He is one of the excellent love poets among the Elizabethan writers.

He was too young when he died in 1592.

Sir Philip Sidney (1554-1586)

Sir Philip Sidney was born on November 30, 1554, in Kent, England. He studied at Christ church and then at Oxford university. He went to England for gaining more knowledge of Latin, Italian and French. Due to political family background, he went to German Emperor, as an ambassador in 1577, when he was 22. He was also the member of the parliament in 1581, 1584-85. Sidney was also interested in law, ancient and modern history, medicines and poetry. He started writing poetry and prose but he did not allow publishing of his work.

Sidney also wrote to his beloved. He fell in love with a woman named Penelope Devereux. He composed a sonnet sequence “Astrophel and Stella”. Penelope is Stella (a star) and Sidney is Astrophel (a star lover). The theme of his sonnets is also love, in which he shows his unending love for her. Just like Petrarch, who wrote about Laura.

Penelope was first engaged to Sidney but late she got married to Lord Rich, in 158. Sidney was worried and upset. He overcame his sorrow through his words. After two years, he also got married. Later he wrote for his own delight and for his close friends.

On September 22, 1586, he volunteered to serve in an action to prevent the Spaniards. During this, he was badly injured as a bullet shattered his thigh. His wound became infected and he was ready to die. In his last hours, he confessed: “There came to my remembrance a vanity wherein I had taken delight, whereof I had not rid myself”. It was the Lady Rich. But I rid myself of it, and presently my joy and comfort returned. He was buried at St. Paul’s Cathedral in London on February 16, 1587, with great honour.

Edmund Spenser (1552-1599)

Edmund Spenser was born at London, in 1552. He belongs to a Midlands family of Spencer. He go admission in a grammar school and entered in the school as a “poor” boy. He learnt about Latin, Greek and Music. Spenser got Bachelor of Arts degree in 1573 and Master of Arts in 1576.

During the university period, he gained wide knowledge about Italian, French and English literature. His knowledge provided him ways to compose his own literary form. Spenser was the greatest of English poets, who had canonized England by his impressive poems.

In 1595, he published his great composition “Amoretti” . It was a collection of eighty-eight sonnets, in which he wrote about his marriage with Elizabeth Boyle. He mentioned the difficulties he suffered before and after his marriage. His poems are mostly autobiographical and based on the personal experience of poet. He died on January 13, 1599 and buried with ceremony in Westminster Abbey.

William Shakespeare (1564-1616)

William Shakespeare is the most influential writer in all of English literature. He was born in 1564, at Warwickshire, England. His father belonged to a middle-class and he was a glove- maker. Shakespeare got admission in grammar school but he left the school very soon because of certain reasons. He got married in 1582, with an old woman, who has three children with her. In 1590, he travelled to London and left his family behind. There, he worked as an actor and playwright. Soon, he became the most famous playwright in England.

His poems consist of various themes like love, beauty, jealousy, passage of time and mortality. He wrote almost 154 sonnets that he published in 1609. First 126 are the address to a young man, last 28 refers to a woman. His first 17 poems are “Procreation sonnets“. In those, he is addressing to a young man and spurring him to marry and have children. He is telling the man so, in order to commemorate his beauty by passing it to next generation.

Shakespeare’s sonnets are almost all constructed of three quatrains followed by a final couplet. He wrote all the sonnets in iambic pentameter. The rhyme scheme of Shakespearean sonnet is ABAB CDCD EFEF GG. He died at the age of 52, in 1616. Sonnet has gone through many stages like any other literary form and now includes writing in all subjects of human life.

About Authoress: The article “Characteristics and History of Sonnet Writing” is written by Sayeda Javaria. (

Figures of Speech: Figurative language

figurative language, figure of speech

The use of figurative language or figures of speech goes back to ancient time. We can find the use of figurative language in writings of Aristotle, Homer, Quintilian and Horace. They were among the first writers who theorized about the function and use of figurative language

What is figurative language?

Figurative language is a language based on non-literal meaning of some or all of the words used. There are numerous types of figures of speech: The definition of figurative language contrasts with literal language, which includes only the “surface” or dictionary meanings of used words. Figurative language is usually context based language and requires the listener or reader to recognize some extra nuances, context, allusions, etc. in order to understand the second meaning. However, figurative language is commonly used by native speakers they can understand it very easily.

Figurative language is language that uses figures of speech like simile, metaphor, personification. Figurative language is a language that carries its meaning in its hidden background and reader relies on context to understand the meaning of figurative language.

The major function of figurative language is to convey the writer’s message to the readers in comprehensible way.

Figures of speech vs Imagery

Some writers consider imagery as is a type of figurative language but this in not so. Imagery is a use of vivid and descriptive language to please the reader’s senses and commonly used to depict places, things, and emotions in such a way that it looks more appealing to the readers sense. William Wordsworth and ST Coleridge were best poets who depict the nature in a beautiful way to portrait the beauty of nature. They used imagery to beautify their poetry.

Commonly Used Figures of Speech: Types

To understand figurative language first readers have to understand individual terms of figures of speech like simile, metaphor, personification etc.. There are various types of figures of speech.


The word simile came from the Latin word similis which means like or likeness. Simile is an expression of similarity between different object. .A simile compares two separate concepts, ideas things, or objects through the use of a clear connecting word such as “like” or “as.”  When we place two things side by side to compare with regard to some quality common to them we use simile. Comparisons words like and as, are used to compare similarity between tow objects.

Common examples of simile are:

  • His heart is as hard as rock.
  • Can you jump like a monkey?
  • He is busy as a bee.
  • Ali is brave as a lion.
  • Watching English film was like watching grass grow.


The word metaphor came from a Greek word meta-over, phero-carry. It literally meaning are a “carrying over”.  A metaphor is implied comparison between two things. Metaphors only makes sense when the similarities between the two objects being compared are obvious or readers comprehend the association between the two compared objects. Simile differs from metaphor; in simile, instead of stating that one object is another object (like in metaphor), states that one thing is as another object. (a sense of comparison)

Common examples of metaphor are:

  • Hi is a jackal, he will not accompny us in dark.
  • Time is money we have to save it..
  • My only son is my sunshine.
  • Ali was a roaring lion in during fight, though now he is calm.


We use oxymoron to couple contradictory words to achieve or express some complex or new meanings. An oxymoron is the association or bringing together of two words or phrases having opposite meaning.

Common examples of oxymoron are:

Jacky is a wisest fool character in the drama.

Here the word wisest fool is an oxymoron where two opposite words are coined together to get modified meaning.


Hyperbolic language is mostly used by poets who want to elevate the value and significance of something. Hyperbole is a deliberate exaggeration of the truth, used to highlight the significance of something or sometime used to create a comic effect by exaggerating the trivial matter or something of low value. An example of a hyperbole is to say that a hill top was touching the sky. No hill top literally touches sky, but to say “hill top height was thousand meters” doesn’t effectively communicate how much height that hill top has.


Personification is the beauty tool for literature. It adds beauty to the text and appeals readers’ mood and creates more interest in readingIn personification, human traits are attributed to non-human things or to some abstract ideas.

Examples of personifications are:

“Opportunities knocksat the door but once”

“Death lays his icy handson kings”

In above sentence, the words knock and lays his icy hands are the traits of human being are attributed to abstract ideas.


Irony is a figure of speech in which the actual meaning is just the contrary of that which is literally conveyed by the language used. Irony is reverse of what is stated. It can be a dramatic irony (in drama scene where audience know but actors doesn’t), situational irony (in physical action), or verbal irony (only in saying/ wording).

Example: In Shakespeare’s’ drama ‘Othello’ Iago is called an honest Iago which is used in ironical sense because he not not an honest.


Idioms are the short phrases that do not carry surface meaning but they have some implied meaning set by the spoken society and have common significance in spoken language. These phrases are confusing if the reader or listener is experiencing it first time. It is difficult to guess from the context but these are learned in a culture. Idioms are non-literal turns of phrase so common that most people who speak the same language know them.

Some examples are mentioned below.

A hot potato

Meaning: A difficult task or something difficult to deal

Example: Learning how to drive a car is not a hot potato.

A piece of cake

Meaning: Something that is very easy.

Example: The quiz was a piece of cake (very easy) so all of the students passed it with an A grade. 


Onomatopoeias are words used to imitate sounds in poetry. Usually poet make common use of Onomatopoeias in their poetry, and are frequently used to form symbolism, imagery or repetition, which often point to the theme or message of the poem.

We will quote Edgar Allan Poe’s poem “The Bells” in which poet uses onomatopoeia to set up a mood of content and then fear in his poem, which gradually become more frightening as death comes nearer:

“Hear the loud alarum bells,
Brazen bells!
What a tale of terror, now, their turbulency tells!
In the startled ear of night
How they scream out their affright!
Too much horrified to speak,
They can only shriek, shriek,
Out of tune…
How they clang, and clash, and roar!”


The synecdoche word is derived from syn-with, ekdoche-succession, literally meaning “the understanding of one thing by another”. Synecdoche is a figure of speech in which a part of something is used to refer to its whole or a whole to. For example, abc for English alphabets.

Example in a sentence:

Kalidasa is Shakespeare of India.


The word metonymy is derive from the Greek words mate—after ; onoma—a name, literally meaning substitution of name for example gray hair used for old age, throne for monarchy. In metonymy, a concept, idea or object is referred to not by its original name.

Example in a sentence:

The pen is mightier than the sword.

The word pen is used for author and the word sword used for soldier.


Alliterations are the figures of speech in which the initial consonant sound repeats in a group of words, such as the “h” sound in: “How high his honour holds his haughty head” Alliteration is used to create a musical effects in poetry. One more example of alliteration is:

“The fair breeze blew, the white foam flew, the furrow followed free”


 Assonance is the repetition of the vowel sounds in nearby words, such as the “ee” sound: “the squeaky wheel gets the grease.” Similar to alliteration, assonance also repeats sounds to create a musical effect in poetry.


An apostrophe is a figure of speech commonly used in literature to address directly to an inanimate object, or abstract idea.

Example in poetry:

O Solitude, where are the charms

That sages have seen in thy face”


Pun is the way to use a word in such a sense that it gives two meanings to a word to make the people laugh,


An ambassador is a gentleman who lies abroad for the good of his country.

In above example the word lies is used as a pun as it has two meanings and makes a sense of fun for the readers.


Allusion is a text reference which refers that text to some othe text, author, person place, or an object. It can be in both forms: explicit or implicit. “We’ve entered a Garden of Eden” is an example of allusion to the biblical place.


Symbolism  is a use of a word  to represent something entirely different from the actual meanings as red rose symbolizes the love.

Examples in sentence:

By using the image of the ones country’s flag to is used to represent patriotism and a love for one’s own country.

Black color represents fear and death in literature.

A chalkboard is used to represent education.

An owl is used to represent wisdom.

Shakespeare symbolizes world in a word stage.


Epigram is a short pity saying expressing antithetical ideas or exciting surprise is called epigram

Example in a sentence:

The child is a father of the man.

Art lies in concealing art.

Different Types of Literature

types of literature

What is Literature?

Literature generally can be any written work, but it especially is an artistic or intellectual work of writing. The usage of language in literature is sometimes different from the way it is ordinarily used. The difference is the use of artistic tools to create aesthetic beauty in a text. Literature is the depiction of the society.  It is a great tool to teach the morality to a society. There are different types of literature through which different writers serve their own ends. Here is the detailed study about types of literature.

Types of Literature

These are the main types of literature: Drama, Fable, Autobiography, Biography, Poetry, Prose, Science Fiction, and Journalistic Literature.


Drama is a play in literature, and a playwright composes it. It portrays fictional or non-fictional stories. To explain away certain events, characters, or stories, a drama is produced, using dialogues or actions. It can be performed on stage, radio or on big screens as in films. Conflicts, emotions and impressive characters are required to produce a high-quality drama. There are many forms of drama but some of the most common are: comedy, tragedy, musical drama and melodrama. Let us have a brief explanation of these types of drama.

1. Comedy: Comedy is a type of drama, which is lighter in tone. Its purpose is to make the audience laugh and amuse them. It has a happy ending. Very unusual circumstances are there coupled with quick and witty remarks. People consider it as the most entertaining and fun form of drama and literature. An example of a comedy drama is ’The Comedy of Errors’ by William Shakespeare.

2. Tragedy: Tragedy is the type of drama that has a dark theme. It portrays suffering, pain, longing, and often death. An example of a tragedy drama is ‘Romeo and Juliet’ by William Shakespeare.

3. Musical Drama: A musical drama tells a story with dialogues, songs, music, and dance. These things convey the emotions in the drama. An example of a musical drama is ‘A Star is Born’, which starred Lady Gaga.

4. Melodrama: Melodrama is a kind of drama that portrays exaggerated emotions like tension or excitement. It arouses the same emotions in the audience and makes them indulged in it. The situation and the dialogues are more important in a melodrama than action. An example of a melodrama is ‘Still Life, Brief Encounter’ by Noel Coward.


Writers write a fable when the intention is to provide the audience with a moral story. A fable usually uses animals as characters to convey the story. In Fables, animals act like humans and are able to speak and understand reasoning. They are a personification of human characteristics and their nature. An example of a fable is the famous story of ‘The Tortoise and the Hare’, which almost every child has heard in his childhood.


 Autobiography is an interesting thing to read because of its teller of the story is the one, about who the story is. The character himself is the writer and describes his life from his own original perspective and experiences. It gives you an insight on the person that is writing it, because they share their true-life events and thoughts. Mostly, famous people write autobiographies to tell their story to their fans and the world. A famous and spectacular example of autobiography is ‘The Diary of a Young Girl’, a book by Anne Frank.


Biography in literature tells the story of a person from another person’s perspective. Someone else writes it rather than the subject himself. The writer could be somebody close to the person or somebody who had studied about that person. Biography is different from a resume because it enlightens the audience with different aspects of a person’s life. A great example of biography is ‘Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption’, by Laura Hillenbrand.


Poetry in literature is a composition of rhythm, sound, and lyrics. The definition of poetry by one of the greatest poets in history, William Wordsworth, is “the spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings”. (1) The poet composes poetry in sort of a song to develop emotions and imaginations in the listeners’ hearts and minds. Poetry is aesthetic. The poet chooses words carefully, so the listeners can relate themselves to it. The four main types of poetry are haiku, free verse, sonnets, and acrostic poems. An example of one of the most beautiful books of poetry is ‘Ariel’, by Sylvia Plath.


Prose in literature is that form of literature, which is somewhat plain and simple. It has no special grammar structure or a writing pattern to follow. It is written in a usual tone, forming into a natural speech or a conversational tone. Nothing is specific in prose. Paragraphs or sentences can be long or short. Examples of prose include novels, newspapers, textbooks, etc.

Science Fiction

Science fiction, also called “sci-fi,” is a genre of literature where most of the things are imaginary. The stories are about the future technology. These fiction stories also have a relationship to real science laws, because science considers those things possible in future, according to the scientific laws. Science fictions are sometimes true and sometimes they are just imaginations based on assumptions. Some examples of science fiction are, ‘The Time Machine’ by H. G. Wells, ‘Spies in Disguise’ by Blue Sky Studios, ‘A Wrinkle in Time’ by Madeleine L’Engle, etc.

Journalistic Literature

Journalistic Literature is a sort of nonfiction. In literary journalism, the journalist gathers information and then creates and publishes. It combines the facts and reporting with some clever strategies and narrative techniques. These techniques make the reports more engaging and interesting. People call literary journalism also Narrative or New Journalism. Some of the most prominent literary journalists of past and present are Mark Singer, Richard Rhodes, Jack London, Stephen Crane, Tom Wolfe, Henry Mayhew, etc. (2)

History of English Literature​

history of english literature

History of English Literature starts with the emergence of English language. Like any other language, English Language has gone through different periods of evolution. It evolved over centuries and made a very rapid transformation in its form. English literature that we have in Modern Era is very different from the Chaucerian Period or before this. How it transformed over the time and what terms were allotted to different periods: We will have a detailed study period wise.  The main literary periods of ‘history of English literature’ are as follows:

Name of Literary Eras of English Literature:

Pre-Chaucerian Period (500-1340)

The Age of Chaucer (1340-1400)

From Chaucer to Tottel’s Miscellany (1400-1557)

The Renaissance-The Age of Shakespeare (1557–1625)

Puritan Age-The Age of Milton (1625-1660)

The Age of Dryden (1660-1700)

Augustan literature-The Age of Pope (1700–1745)

The Age of Johnson (1745-1798)

The Age of Wordsworth (1798-1837)

Victorian literature (1837–1901)

The Present Age (1901-present)

Let us look at these English literary eras in detail to understand history of English literature.

Pre-Chaucerian Period (500-1340)

Pre-Chaucerian literature is the literature written before the period of Chaucer. The two major periods, the literature of this time comprises of are, Anglo Saxon and Anglo Norman.

(a) ANGLO-SAXON PERIOD (450–1066)

History of English literature normally starts with Anglo-Saxon period. The English Literature written during Anglo-Saxon period is the Old English Literature. This literary period was of 600 years. Old English Literature include works of diverse genres like chronicles,  sermons, heroic poetry, translations of Bible, hagiography, legal writings, riddles, and many more. 400 total manuscripts that have survived from this period and are of special interest.  (1) The compilation of the manuscripts of poetry from the Anglo-Saxon period is in these four major manuscripts: the Exeter Book, the Junius Manuscript, the Vercelli Book, and the Beowulf manuscript. The most notable manuscript from prose is Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, which is a historical record. (2) Prominent writers from this literary period include Alfred the Great, Aldhelm, Alcuin, Aelfric Bata, Aelfric of Canterbury, Bede, Cynewuf, Caedmon, Wulfstan, etc. In addition, Hygeburg, who was a female writer and a nun, is the first Englishwoman known to compose a complete literary writing. (3)

(b) ANGLO-NORMAN PERIOD (1066-1340)

Anglo-Norman literature is the literature written at the time of Anglo-Norman period. It is in the Anglo-Norman language. This language took form during the time 1066–1204, when the England and Duchy of Normandy came together to make the Anglo-Norman empire. The literature of this time was rich in writing the legends and lives of saints. It also included epic poetry, romance poetry, lyric poetry, fables, Fableaux, writings on history, hagiography, religious tales, Didactic literature, drama, satire etc. The most famous manuscripts from this period include Brut, The Owl and the Nightingale, The Ormulum, Arthur and Merlin, Tristan and Iseult, La gageure, Anglo-Norman Sermon, Voyage de Saint Brandan, Piers Plowman, Roman de Renart, etc. Prominent writers from this literary period include; Layamon, Robert Biket, Geoffrey of Monmouth, Béroul, Thomas, Nicole Bozon, etc. (4)

The Age of Chaucer (1340-1400)

The Age of Chaucer is considered a major period of development in history of English Literature. It was the start of new English language and literature. Geoffrey Chaucer was a poet and an author of English language. In his brief life of 57 years, he contributed significantly in the development of English. For this reason, his has the title of “Father of English Literature”The Canterbury Tales is his most prominent wok. The age of Chaucer faced various religious, social, political challenges. The churches, which used to have authority, were corrupted and people were starting to go against the commands of the church. People started to think more openly and without the restrictions of church and hence their writing style changed too. The theme of writings was moving from romance and fables to more humanistic. There were no dramas or novels written in that time. Prose and poetry were getting more importance.

The most famous works from the age of Chaucer include The Book of the Duchess, The House of Fame, The Legend of Good Women, and Troilus and Criseyde. Chaucer’s book, Treatise on the Astrolabe, has technical writing which shows that he was good at science too as he was in English literature. (5) Other main authors of the age of Chaucer are, William Langland, John Gower, Giovanni Boccaccio and John Trevisa. (6) These are the other major works of Chaucer’s period: Piers Plowman, Confessio Amantis, Decameron, Vox Clamantis, The Knight’s Tale, Famous Women, etc. Though the Age of Chaucer was a short period, but it made great impact on English literature and changed its direction. It laid basis of modern English language and literature.

From Chaucer to Tottel’s Miscellany

After the death of Chaucer, the conditions in England became very unfavourable. There were political conflicts and war. Thus, the 15th century does not have much of literary productiveness. Some poets who tried to imitate Chaucer’s style produced some manuscripts but because those were imitative, they did not hold a much permanent value. From these people, the most prominent were Thomas Occleve and John Lydgate, who wrote The Governail of Princes and Stories of Thebes However, the poet, William Dunbar’s ‘Dance of the Seven Deadly Sins’ is very original with humour, vigour and homely pathos. In prose, there was more work done. Reginald Pecock’s ‘Bloke of Faith’ proved to be a landmark in English prose. One great thing that happened during this period was the establishment of first English printing press. William Caxton did it at Westminster in 1476.

Other important works that started at a later time of this period include English New Testament, the complete English Bible of Miles Coverdale, Pastime of Pleasure, etc. Sir Thomas More’s Utopia is typical and thorough writing of this period. It was translated from Latin in 1551 and it described an ideal society.  At the end of this period, stand out two names, Sir Thomas Wyatt and Henry Howard, Earl of Surrey. They have the honour of bringing love-poetry and Sonnet to English literature. Surrey was also the first writer to use ten-syllable verse, which also has the name of blank verse. In 1557, Tottel’s Miscellany, a compilation of miscellaneous English poems, came out. Almost half of the poems in this collection were of Wyatt and Surrey. Tottel’s Miscellany, published just a year before Elizabeth’s period, marked the dawn of new era, as it was . (7)

The Age of Shakespeare or The Renaissance (1557–1625)

The age of Shakespeare started with the start of Elizabeth’s reign in 1558. It ends with the death of James I. in 1625. This period is the golden age of English literature because of the productiveness of it. This period brought massive changes in the history of English literature. The Age of Shakespeare is divided into two periods: The Age of Elizabeth and The Jacobean Age.

(a) THE AGE OF ELIZABETH (1558-1603)

With the reign of Elizabeth, the English literature started to flourish. The first publication, which marked the start of this golden age, was Shepheardes Calender by Edmund Spenser in 1579. In the first half of the Elizabeth era, there was composition of little verses of any value. Spenser was the most celebrated poet of this era and he was called as the poet’s poet. He had a remarkable influence on the poetry that followed after him. Elizabethan literature was also the golden age of drama too as Shakespeare was present there. Shakespeare plays were in a range of different genres. Those included tragedies like Hamlet or Othello etc, comedies like As You Like It, historic plays like Richard III etc.  Other writers of Elizabethan literature include Sir Philip Sidney, Thomas Campion, Sackville, Norton, Thomas Kyd, etc. Famous literary works of this era include The Faerie Queene, Astrophel and Stella, The Defence of Poetry, Gorboduc, The Spanish Tragedy etc.

(b) THE JACOBEAN AGE (1603-1625)

The Jacobean Age was the era of James I . The literature written during this period is Jacobean Literature. Shakespeare wrote some of his prominent plays during this period. Those plays include King Lear (1605), Macbeth (1606), and The Tempest (1610).  Jacobean literature, as compared to the Elizabethan literature, was dark. It is because, Shakespeare wrote his so-called problem plays like All is Well that Ends Well and famous tragedies in this era. John Webster, who was a dramatist, often portrayed the problem of evil in his dramas. This period’s comedy consisted of the bitter satire from Ben Jonson and the diverse writings from John Fletcher and Francis Beaumont. Popular works of this time include Volpone, Bartholomew Fair, The Knight of the Burning Pestle, The White Devil, The Changelin, etc. King James Bible was the most prominent prose work of Jacobean Literature. (8)

The Age of Milton or Puritan Age (1625-1660)

In the age of Milton, Puritanism grew as a moral and social force. Puritans were the ancestors of Wycliffe and Lollards. They had very strict opinions regarding life and behaviour of people. The works of Puritan age are mostly sombre in character. There is sense of sadness, gloom and pessimism, as there was political and religious confusion, and King Charles I was also killed. This era is also known as Late Renaissance. Poetry was the main focus of this era and the most contribution made in this period was by John Milton. Milton was the last greatest poet of the Renaissance period. He published many writings before 1660. These works include L’Allegro, Il Penseroso, Comus and Lycidas. There were other poets too: The Metaphysical Poets and Cavalier Poets. The metaphysical poets were the people of learning. These poets include John Donne, George Herbert, Richard Crashaw, Andrew Marvell, Thomas Traherne, Henry Vaughan, etc.

The Cavalier poets were supporters of King Charles I during the English Civil War. These poets include Robert Herrick, Richard Lovelace, Thomas Carew and Sir John Suckling. Cavalier poets used “classical and allegory allusions”. Roman authors like Horace, Cicero and Ovid influenced these poets. Metaphysical poetry was spiritual. Metaphysical poets wrote poetry with “far-fetched or unusual similes or metaphors”. The famous works of age of Milton include Songs and Sonnets, The Hesperides and Noble Numbers, The Sun Rising, Colasterion, Tetrachordon, etc. (9)

The Age of Dryden (1660-1700)

The second name of Age of Dryden is the Restoration Age because of the restoration of monarchy in England. This era started when Charles II returned to throne. Because people had spent a lot of time restricted in Puritan period, after it there was an immense reaction against it. Moderation and decency started dissipating. Faithlessness, betrayal and recklessness became fashionable, and the people who still had some goodness were laughed at. All of this had a definite impact on literature of Restoration era. Literature became intellectual rather than imaginative or emotional. Though it was often brilliant, it was bit hard and insensitive. Even poetry became prosaic and was lacking imagination. Examples of which include Sodom from Earl of RochesterThe Country Wife by William WycherleyTwo Treatises on Government by Locke, etc.

Apart from this, there were still people like Dryden who saved this era. Dryden was the main influential poet, literary critic, translator, and playwright who represented this period.  His most prominent work is the mock-heroic MacFlecknoe. More works from him include the two great doctrinal poems, Religio Laid and The Hind and the Panther, Love Triumphant or Nature Will Prevail, The Wild Gallant, etc. Other notable writers from this time are John Bunyan, Edmund Waller, Sir John Denham, Samuel Butler, Jeremy Collier, John Gay, etc. Prominent works from this time include Hudibras, The Wild Gallant, Grace Abounding, The Pilgrim’s Progress, The Life and Death of Mr. Badman, The Holy War, etc. John Milton published his most appreciated piece of writing Paradise Lost during this era.

The start of novel writing was also during this era. Aphra Behn, the female author of Oroonoko, is considered to be the first novelist in England. (10)

The Age of Pope or Augustan literature (1700–1750)

Alexander Pope is the most prominent poet of this era and that is why it is The Age of Pope. It also has the name of “the Age of Enlightenment” or “Age of Reason” as judgement of everything was on rational and scientific grounds. Moderation was standard behaviour, and anything extravagant was not very acceptable. The writers of this age stayed close to the style of ancient writers, and that for them was good writing. This era was also the Classical Age of poetry. It was poetry of criticism and argument. Writers rote it for interest of society and there was no use of imagination or love of nature expressed. However, as the era progressed, great poets like Pope came forward and wrote everlasting poems. Examples of which are, The melancholy of James Thomson, ‘The Seasons’ Edward Young’s Night Thoughts. Mock-heroic poetry was also very prominent. Alexander Pope’s Rape of the Lock and The Dunciad are still greatest examples of mock-heroic poetry.

In drama, George Lillo and Richard Steele composed very high moral forms of tragedy. In those, the characters were entirely middle class or working class. Opera was also becoming popular in England at this time. In prose, ‘The Spectator’ of Joseph Addison and Richard Steele dominated the initial period. It was a British periodical essay containing 2500 words each. There was more work on novels too. Daniel Defoe’s novels Roxana, Moll Flanders and Robinson Crusoe are of importance. Other authors of this era include Jonathan Swift, Samuel Richardson, Henry Fielding, Tobias Smollett, etc. Other important works of this period include Roderick Random, Gulliver’s Travels, A Modest Proposal, the Drapier Letters, Pamela; or Virtue Rewarded, Joseph Andrews, Shamela, Clarissa, Tom Jones, etc. (11)

The Age of Johnson (1750-1798)

Age of Johnson is the name of this era because of prominent work of Samuel Johnson in this era. Johnson was an English writer who provided long lasting contributions to English literature. He was a poet, essayist, moralist, literary critic, biographer, editor and lexicographer. “A Dictionary of the English Language” by Johnson was published in 1755 after nine years of writing. Literary people describe it as “one of the greatest single achievements of scholarship”. Richard Brinsley Sheridan is another name of this era who went on to become most prominent playwright of this time. His famous works that were instant success include The Rivals and The School for Scandal. Other emerging Irish authors of this age include Oliver Goldsmith and Laurence Sterne. Their works include The Vicar of Wakefield, The Deserted Village The Good-Natur’d Man, She Stoops to Conquer, etc. Also written in this era was Frances Burney’s Evelinawhich was one of the first ‘novels of manners’.

The genre of “sentimental novel” or “novel of sensibility” formed during this period. This era observes the intellectual and emotional perceptions of sensibility, sentiment, and sentimentalism. Sentimentalism began as a fashion in both prose and poetry fiction in 18th century. That is why “The Age of Sensibility” is another name of this period. Most prominent sentimental novels from this age include Vicar of Wakefield, Tristram Shandy, The Man of Feeling, etc. The genre of Gothic fiction emerged too by Horace Walpole’s novel “The Castle of Otranto”. It combines components of romance and horror. Ann Radcliffe presented the dark figure of the gothic villain. This figure later advanced into the Byronic heroThe Mysteries of Udolpho by Ann is an example of this genre. (12)

The Age of Wordsworth (1798-1837)

This era also has the name of Romantic Era in history of English literature. William Wordsworth was an English Romantic poet. He, in collaboration with Samuel Taylor Coleridge helped to mark the start of the Romantic Age in English literature, by jointly publishing “Lyrical Ballads” in 1798. That is why the period starting from that year is called the Age of Wordsworth. This age was big on Romanticism. It was an artistic, literary, and intellectual movement. Other early Romantic poets include the initiate of Romantic Movement Robert Burns, the painter William Blake, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Robert Southey, the journalist Thomas de Quincey, etc. The most prominent romantic writings of this early generation include “Rime of the Ancient Mariner“,  “Lines Composed a Few Miles Above Tintern Abbey“, “Resolution and Independence“, “Ode: Intimations of Immortality from Recollections of Early Childhood” and The Prelude, which is an autobiographical epic.

This age was a riot against classical rules of literary composition. It was also a rebel against the dominion of intellect and reason and was in support of imagination and wonder. The Romantic poets of second generation include Lord Byron, Percy Bysshe Shelley, Felicia Hemans and John Keats. Their works include Ode to the West Wind, To a Skylark, Adonaïs, Ode to a Nightingale, Ode on a Grecian Urn, To Autumn, etc. Romanticism influenced novels too. One of the most celebrated novelists of this period was Sir Walter Scott. His historical romances inspired painters, composers, and writers all through Europe. Waverley is his first historical novel. Another novelist, Jane Austen’s story line in novels is fundamentally comic. Her most celebrated works are Pride and Prejudice and Emma. Another famous novel of this period is Frankenstein by the author Mary Shelley. (13)

Victorian literature (1837–1901)

Victorian literature is the literature that evolved in period of Queen Victoria. The literature of this era was a mix of romanticism and realism. This age is great in both poetry and prose. The greatest poet of the Victorian period was Alfred Lord Tennyson. Alfred’s poetry was romantic and reflected the age perfectly with its mixture of social conviction and religious confusion. S. Eliot described him as “the greatest master of metrics as well as melancholia”. Tennyson’s famous works include poetry of short lyrics Break, Break, Break, The Charge of the Light Brigade, Tears, Idle Tears and Crossing the Bar. He also wrote blank verse poetry including Ulysses, Idylls of the King, and Tithonus. Other famous poets of Victorian age were Robert Browning and his wife, Elizabeth Barrett Browning. Dramatic monologues were Browning’s speciality. W.S. Gilbert was famous in this era too and was the writer of comic verses. His most celebrated work is his fourteen comic operas.

America also produced two greatest poets of 19th century Emily Dickinson and Walt Whitman. The novels of this era were also doing great. Children’s literature, like Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll, came about too. Charles Dickens became most famous novelist from this era. His famous works include Bleak House, Oliver Twist, etc. Thomas Hardy was a realist and a prominent figure of this era, and is famously known for his The Mayor of Casterbridge. Other writers of Victorian’s age include William Makepeace Thackeray, The Brontë sisters, Emily, Charlotte and Anne, Elizabeth Gaskell, Anthony Trollope, H.G. Wells, Robert Louis Stevenson, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry James etc. Notable works of this time are The Princess Casamassima, The Time Machine, Kidnapped, Jane Eyre, Sherlock Holmes, Dorothy, Leaves of Grass, etc. (14)

The Present Age (1901-present)

The present age is also the age of Modernism in history of English literature. A major literary movement, Modernism, started with the dawn of the twentieth-century. Irish writers played an important part in this period. The most important Irish writers of this age are James Joyce and Samuel Beckett. Modernist writers from America include T.S. Eliot, Ezra Pound, William Faulkner, etc. Modernists from Britain Include Joseph Conrad, E.M. Forster, Dorothy Richardson, Virginia Woolf, D.H. Lawrence, etc. The modernist authors wanted to break the traditional ways of writing and experiment with other literary forms of expression to make it new. Thomas Hardy was the major poet in the initial years of the twentieth-century. He was not a modernist but played the role of a transitional figure between the ages of Victorian and ModernismHenry James was another important transitional figure. Sister Carrie was the first most celebrated novel of this period. It was published by Theodore Dreisser in 1900.

Major poetry from this age includes The Tower by noble prize winner W.B. Yeats, “Prufock”, “The Wasteland”, “The Cantos”, etc. Important prose includes The Playboy of the Western World, Hay Fever, Ulysses, The Old Wives’ Tale, A Room with a View, The Man who was Thursday, The Rock, etc. Radio drama also started in the Twentieth-century. In the closing years of Twentieth-century, the literary genre of science fiction became significant. Prominent writers of this genre include Sir Arthur C. Clarke, Adams, Robert Heinlein, Doris Lessing, Margaret Atwood, Ian Banks, etc. 2001: A Space of Odyssey and The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy are the prominent examples of this genre. (15)

About Authoress: The article “History of English Literature” is written by Sayeda Javaria. (

What is literature?

What is Literature? The word ‘Literature’ is a modified form of a Latin word (literra, litteratura or litteratus) that means ‘writing formed with letters’. Let us look at what is literature in definition.

Literature generally can be any written work, but it especially is an artistic or intellectual work of writing. It is one of the Fine Arts, like Painting, Dance, Music, etc which provides aesthetic pleasure to the readers. It differs from other written works by only its one additional trait: that is aesthetic beauty. If a written work lacks aesthetic beauty and serves only utilitarian purpose it is not literature. The entire genre like poetry, drama, or prose is blend of intellectual work and aesthetic beauty of that work. When there is no any aesthetic beauty in any written work that is not literature.

Definition of literature according to different writers

 Throughout the history of Literature, many of the great writers have defined it and expressed its meaning in their own way. Here are the few famous definitions by timeless celebrated authors.

Virginia Woolf: “Literature is strewn with the wreckage of those who have minded beyond reason the opinion of others.”

Ezra Pound: “Great literature is simply language charged with meaning to the utmost possible degree.”

Alfred North Whitehead: “It is in literature that the concrete outlook of humanity receives its expression.”

Salman Rushdie: “Literature is where I go to explore the highest and lowest places in human society and in the human spirit, where I hope to find not absolute truth but the truth of the tale, of the imagination and of the heart.”

Henry James: “It takes a great deal of history to produce a little literature.”

Lewis“Literature adds to reality, it does not simply describe it. It enriches the necessary competencies that daily life requires and provides; and in this respect, it irrigates the deserts that our lives have already become.”

Oscar Wilde: “Literature always anticipates life. It does not copy it but moulds it to its purpose. The nineteenth century, as we know it, is largely an invention of Balzac.”

Chesterton: “Literature is a luxury; fiction is a necessity.”

Forster“What is wonderful about great literature is that it transforms the man who reads it towards the condition of the man who wrote.” (1)

All of these definitions of literature by great writers present different aspects of it, and shows that in how many ways it can be effective.

Literature: A depiction of society

It might sound strange that what is literature’s relation with a society could be. However, literature is an integral part of any society and has a profound effect on ways and thinking of people of that society. Actually, society is the only subject matter of literature. It literally shapes a society and its beliefs. Students, who study literature, grow up to be the future of a country. Hence, it has an impact on a society and it moulds it.

 Literature literally does the depiction of society; therefore, we call it ‘mirror of society’. Writers use it effectively to point out the ill aspects of society that improve them. They also use it to highlight the positive aspects of a society to promote more goodwill in society.

The essays in literature often call out on the problems in a country and suggest solutions for it. Producers make Films and write Novels to touch subjects like morals, mental illnesses, patriotism, etc. Through such writings, they relate all matters to society. Other genre can also present the picture of society. We should keep in mind that the picture illustrated by literature is not always true. Writers can present it to change the society in their own ways.

The effects of literature on a society:

 The effects of literature on a society can be both positive and negative. Because of this, the famous philosophers Aristotle and Plato have different opinions about its effect on society.

Plato was the one who started the idea of written dialogue. He was a moralist and he did not approve of poetry because he deemed it immoral. He considered poetry as based on false ideas whereas the basis of philosophy came from reality and truth. (4) Plato claims that, “poetry inspires undesirable emotions in society. According to him, poetry should be censored from adults and children for fear of lasting detrimental consequences” (Leitch & McGowan). He further explains it by saying, “Children have no ability to know what emotions should be tempered and which should be expressed as certain expressed emotions can have lasting consequences later in life”. He says, “Strong emotions of every kind must be avoided, in fear of them spiralling out of control and creating irreparable damage” (Leitch & McGowan).  However, he did not agree with the type of poetry and wanted that to be changed.

Now Aristotle considers literature of all kinds to be an important part of children’s upbringing. Aristotle claims that, “poetry takes us closer to reality. He also mentioned in his writings that it teaches, warns, and shows us the consequences of bad deeds”. (5) He was of the view that it is not necessary that poetry will arouse negative feelings.

Therefore, the relation of literature with society is of utter importance. It might have a few negative impacts, through guided studying which we can avoid. Overall, it is the best way of passing information to the next generation and integral to learning.

Definition and Types of Irony

What Is Irony?

Irony is a situation in which there is a contrast between expectation and reality. We use irony to create a contrast between appearances and underlying truths. For example, the difference between what something appears or someone says to mean very different from its literal meaning. Irony is associated with both humor and tragedy.

The term irony came into English language in the sixteenth century and came from the French word “ironie” and before that, from the Latin word “ironia” which means “feigned ignorance.”

Definition and types of irony

Types of Irony

There are four main types of irony: Dramatic irony, Comic irony, Situational irony and Verbal Irony.

Dramatic irony

It is also known as tragic irony, this is when an author lets their reader know about something that a character does not. For example, a man is going to attend a wedding party and he is much hungry and thinking that he will enjoy a great meal there. He gets early, go to market, buy good shoes and clothes and prepare himself for the evening party, but readers know that the date for the party was 16th June and today is 17th June. He goes there and found no one is there, looks on watch and cries. Here readers were aware about the future happening of the man. Similarly, in Shakespeare’s Othello, Othello trusts Iago—but the audience knows better. Learn more about dramatic irony in complete guide here.

The stages of dramatic irony

There are three stages of dramatic irony: Installation, Exploitation, and Resolution.

Installation: In this stage, the information is presented to the audience or readers, but withheld from the characters. 

Exploitation: In this stage, the author uses this imbalance to heighten curiosity and tension. 

Resolution: In this final stage, the characters find out the truth. 

Example of Dramatic Irony from Othello

Othello, written by Shakespeare, is one of the most pitiful tragedies because of the use of dramatic irony. We see how Iago is spoiling the life of Othello but he himself calls Iago best friend. We know how Iago manipulate every situation to get his own ends. Iago framed Desdemona, and we know she was innocent, but we are powerless to stop Othello; he has resolved to murder his wife. Othello considers him a friend and he has been plotting Othello’s demise during the whole play.

Othello was not aware that Iago is the one who is pulling his strings, but we know very well. We also know that he is the man who convinces Roderigo to kill Cassio, even as we witness him pretend to help Cassio after Roderigo wounds him. Only we see Iago kill Roderigo before revealing the truth. During the whole play, we know about Iago’s plotting but Othello was entrapped into his web calling him a best friend, and we witnessed a dramatic irony in this way.

Comic irony

Comic irony is used to create humorous effect—such as in satire. It is also a type of irony and comes in many forms, and can derive from ironic statements by characters or narrators in a work of fiction. It can also arise from the situation presented in the work. Irony, which creates comic effects, is known as comic irony.  Writers divide irony into many types. Any of these types can play the role of comic irony. A verbal irony or situational irony can create humorous effects.  

A classic example of verbal irony used by Jane Austen, in her novel Pride and Prejudice, to create comic effects that occurs in the opening lines. The novel starts with the remark that “it is a truth universally acknowledged that a single man in possession of a good fortune, must be in want of a wife.” However, this statement is intended ironically: the female characters are chiefly concerned to marry a single man of good fortune.

Situational irony

This situation happens in a play when an expected result is subverted. For example, a man gets early to catch a bus, reaches at stop before time and feels happy that today his boss will appreciate him. When he listen the horn of bus, he feels much happy, gets into bus and comes to know that he forget his purse at home, he goes back to home and gets late again for the duty.

Situational irony in The Gift of the Magi

In short story, The Gift of the Magi, by O. Henry, we come across a situational irony when a wife sells her hair to buy a chain for her husband’s watch, and on the other hand her husband sells his watch to buy a combs for her hairs. Both of them have made sacrifices in order to buy gifts for one another, but in the end, the gifts are of no use. The real gift (winning others heart) show how much they are ready to give up their best belongings to win their love for one another.

Verbal irony

This is a verbal statement where a speaker means something very different from what he or she is saying. When a person want to say something in a bad response and he says thank you very much, It is verbal Irony. Some of the Examples of verbal irony are written below.

Examples of verbal Irony

Here are some phrases you might hear in everyday conversation that are the pure examples of verbal irony. These short phrase or sentences are always spoken in a context of a conversation.

If a boss orders his driver to clean the side mirror of his car and after cleaning driver says sir I have cleaned all the mirrors. Boss looks into mirrors and says, “These are clear as mud”: mean driver have not cleaned them properly.

Some more examples are below

 “Friendly as a rattlesnake”

“About as much fun as a root canal”

“Thank you so much” (in response of something bad)

Literary Terms Used in English Drama

What is a Literary Term?

Literary term is a technique or a device used by a write to tactfully emphasize, embellish, or strengthen their compositions. We can define Literary term in many ways. It is a tool to coin new thought and meaning into a word or an action. Literary terms also include name of different structures and formats in a given text like plot or diction of a literary piece. Writers utilize utmost meaning of a word by their different techniques, and they make their writing more appealing and interesting with full of figurative language and imagery.

literary terms used in English drama

Literary Terms Used to English Drama


Drama is any literary work that tells a story that usually involves actors on stage in front of a live audience. It is possible to read and comprehend works of drama; however, the full expression of drama is in the context of its performance on the stage.


The plot of a drama is a sequence of events that occur during the course of that drama and the way in which they are presented on the stage. According to Aristotle, plots must be in three parts: beginning, middle, and end; each event in the plot causes the next event to happen.


Theme is the central idea revealed in a literary text. Usually main theme of a literary work can be expressed in one word, such as love, war, heroism, hypocrisy, society, revenge, hate, wealth, etc. A literary work may have more than one theme in a single text. Usually, theme is not stated plainly in the text, but it is expressed through the characters’ actions, words, and thoughts.


The protagonist is the main character of a work of literature: drama, novel, story, or a heroic poem. It may b a male character or a female, for male character, word hero is also used and in same way heroin is used for female protagonist. Sometime a drama or play may have more than one protagonist or may be without a protagonist or sometime this character remains hidden.


Character is a person or anything that has an active role on stage of a drama. Sometime it may be an animal, an object, a tree or an illusionary character.


Characterization is the way of describing and creating characters in drama. Characterization usually includes personality traits of an individual character and includes both descriptions of a character’s physical attributes as well as the personality of a character. It also includes the way that characters act, think, behave, and speak.


Catastrophe is dramatic action that is done after tragedy or tragic event. It is a momentous tragic event ranging from bad luck to extreme misfortune or ruin of tragic hero. It may be due to fate, intrigue of a villain, or due to hamartia of the hero.


Aristotle linked the term catharsis to dramatic tragedy. It is release of the emotions such as sadness, fear, and, pity through viewing a tragedy and it involves the change of extreme emotion to lead to internal restoration and renewal. In this way spectators learned to display emotions at a proper amount and minimize extreme outbursts of emotion in their routine life.


This term is used for a group of singers and dancers who perform on stage and their performance or song predicts future happening in the drama and connects part of drama. In Elizabethan drama chorus spoke the prologue of the drama.  It was most common part of drama in Greek tragedies.


The climax of a literary work is the very peak of tension nearly after the mid of the drama from which the conclusion comes down. In a tragedy, the climax reveals the protagonist’s greatest weaknesses or change in his mind, and this situation create curiosity among viewers and they expect something unusual.


In literary works, tone is the attitude or approach that the author takes toward the main theme of drama or any other literary piece. The tone of literary work may be humorous, distant, intimate, solemn, ironic, condescending, sentimental, arrogant, etc.


Satire is a genre of literature that is used to ridicules problems in society, businesses community, government, and individuals in order to highlight attention to certain vices, abuses, and follies, for the sake of improvements. Sarcasm and irony are usually key tools of satire. Satirists also use analogy, parody, and juxtaposition to highlight their points.


Exposition is the beginning of a drama in which characters are introduced through a prologue, a chorus song or through dialogue depending on the plot of the drama.


Conflict is a state of clash between the ideas and choice in minds of the characters. They cannot choose the right way and get stuck between true and fake.


The denouement is a final part of the drama just after the climax in which there is resolution for any conflicts left in the plot. All the loose threads of the plot are tied up and secrets are revealed in this last part.

 Tragic Comedy

Tragic comedy is a form of drama in which there is a mixture of comedy in a tragedy. In a tragedy, comedy is used to release the catharsis of the audience. Comedy is used in tragedy where audience are not able to see a tragic scene for a long time.


A fool is a character in a drama who acts as a joker in the drama. In tragedies, fools are created to neutralize the emotions of the audience or readers.


Thought mean what a character thinks or feels during the play. It may be an individual thought or it may be of multiple characters. Sometime, a character depicts the whole society that means he is reflecting thought of that society.


Diction is a choice of words and a language medium by which characters reveal thoughts and feelings.


“It is an imitation of an action that is serious, complete in itself and have a certain magnitude arousing the emotions of pity and fear resulting in catharsis”


Hamartia is a special term first used by Shakespeare for the downfall of protagonist due to his error of judgment. It may be due to his wrong decision unconsciously or he fails to judge what is right or what is wrong.


It is the turning point of the play where audience observes unpredictable change in the play.

Comedy of Manner

Comedy of manner is the form of comedy on the life style and pursuits of elite class.

Domestic Comedy

Domestic comedy is the comedy of common people depicting their pursuits and general routine life in their domestic domain.


 A soliloquy is a monologue in which a character speaks out in a loud voice when he is alone. In this way audience can know what is happening next in the play.


The term stereotype is used for conservative ideas in a play about a character, setting or plot.


A motif is a repeating theme in the play. Some play or stories have more than one theme. The theme that is repeating in many section of the play is called motif.

How To Answer a Literary Question?

Are you worried to answer a literary question? Here are the few tips in this article that can build confidence in students to write a well-structured answer for a question.  

how to answer a literary question

How to Answer a Literary question?

Theme is the key part of the question. When students are writing an answer, first they have to ponder on the main theme of the question. This is very important. Usually, students do not read the whole statement of the question and they just start writing whatever comes to their mind. It is all due to the lack of time. Students have so many questions to attempt so they cannot afford so much time. At that time, students need to draw the complete structure of the question. They must make an outline of the question before going to write down the answer directly. Students may have a lot of ideas about the asked question but it is necessary for them to figure out the most important content that they are supposed to write. Always divide your answer into three main parts.

  • Introduction
  • Main Body
  • Conclusion

Introduction and conclusion in any question are of vital importance. Because if students do not introduce any question at opening of answer or do not conclude it at closing end then it will create a bad impression for the examiner. They must follow the alpha and omega of asked question.

We know that all words have different meanings and they are used in various contexts in questions. Let us discuss those various words that would be asked in an exam and what their meanings could be.

Different Types of Question Asked in Exams


This is very common term. The word define means students are to provide a definition of asked term e.g., Renaissance in mentioned below question. When student are writing about definition they need to state a proper and a precise definition. It should be authentic one and clear in wording. This question is asked in three ways. Examiner can ask definition generally or in students own wording so student is free to put forward his ideas and can choose wording freely according to his choice. He may put other authors’ definitions for reference to strengthen his point of view. When an examiner asks a specific definition by any author, then students are bound to define it according to the author’s ideas. Students may use their own wording but they cannot put their own ideas into the definition.

Q: Define Renaissance in few lines.

Q: Define Renaissance in your own wording.

Q: How John defines Renaissance in his book; “The Medieval Literature”?


Some time an examiner asks students to describe something. It means students have to give complete information about something e.g., how it looks or how it happened. Students have to give a complete description in descriptive format. This question may be asked in this way.

Q: Describe the theme of above picture according to the plot.


The term ‘explain’ means students have to clarify topic detail as how and why. Students have to write the complete detail of the thing or term asked in a question. Things should be mentioned in proper layout and for this chronological order is the suitable form. This question needs thorough details and students should be careful for the proper order. They must make an outline for long answer; distribute it into short sections to avoid mixing of ideas. They should take start from introduction and then main boy and fininally they are to conclude their answer in proper way.


Another way of asking a question is to elaborate something or idea. It means a statement that students have to expand it to make it clearer. They have to explore all areas of it. They have to draw a complete picture and elaborating every segment of that picture. For example, if students are talking the Renaissance Period in England so they are to elaborate every aspect that is involved in the renaissance. Students have to take start from very beginning of the renaissance in Italy and then flourishing in England by university wits and how it got significance in that era.

𝗖𝗿𝗶𝘁𝗶𝗰𝗮𝗹𝗹𝘆 𝗔𝗻𝗮𝗹𝘆𝘇𝗲

Such questions are frequently asked in literature to critically analyze the idea, situation, or thing. Sometime students get confused and they start criticizing something asked in question but it never means to criticize anything. It generally means they have to talk about the positive and negative aspect of that thing according to their own thought. For good critical analysis, they should include references by authentic writers to strengthen their point of view. One thing should be kept in mind that do not criticize any author for his negative comments but students are to consider it as it could be true. If one author is praising poetry and second is against it so students should refer both but do not criticize any of them individually but they are to analyze it by comparing both.


Compare means students are to compare one thing with another. Students are to focus on the similarities and dissimilarities between two things. For example, in question, they are asked to compare fiction and drama.

𝗖𝗼𝗺𝗺𝗲𝗻𝘁 𝗼𝗿 𝗢𝗽𝗶𝗻𝗶𝗼𝗻

This question is typically answered by the students to share his own point of view regarding anything asked in the question. It means that what is the opinion of the student regarding asked question. What are the views of the candidate? Students, in answer, can use the word ‘I’ or ‘according to me’ while giving their opinion.


Demonstrate is a practical term which show how with an example to illustrate. Students are to give a complete demonstration of anything explained by examples.