Write Well

Writing is an art and studies have shown that one can actually be a better writer through constant practice and by emulating best practices. Here in this section, common errors in grammar and writing are presented for readers to learn how to write efficiently. TABLE OF CONTENT 1.PRECISE STEPS TO ANALYZING A POEM.  2.COMMON LITERARY ...

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images (4)Writing is an art and studies have shown that one can actually be a better writer through constant practice and by emulating best practices. Here in this section, common errors in grammar and writing are presented for readers to learn how to write efficiently.








The following is a summary of what I consider concise steps to follow in analyzing a poem. Questions often come from any of these areas. When that happens, you should know where to lay the emphasis.


It is a general outline of what the poem is all about or what you call the surface meaning .At the first reading, concentrate on understanding the poem. Try to establish the subject-matter of the poem: the kind of experience the poet is dealing with and the sequence of thoughts or images which are being conveyed to you.

Here also you consider the poetic voice, of who is speaking in the poem. It may either be that of the poet or a character in the poem called persona-This helps to get the tone, mood and the overall intention of the poem. It is however not in all cases that the poem carries the ideas of the poet.


How has the poet structured his poem? Not necessarily in terms of stanza and verses, but the progression of the ideas in the poem. Other questions are: How are the stanzas organized? Is it a sonnet? Petrarchan or Italian sonnet consists of 8 line octave and the second and concluding part of 6 lines called sestet. The form refers to the kind of poetry a poet uses to organize his thoughts and ideas-it could be a sonnetcouplets, blank verse, lyric poem, ode, elegy, narrative poem. Etc. Lyric-Expresses an individual’s thoughts and feelings. Usually short and the common subject is love-sonnets, odes, and elegies come under it.MORE DETAILS BELOW:

Odes-An ode is an elaborate lyric poem often extending over several stanzas, usually addressed to a person, object or idea. Odes are usually serious poems that praise the person or thing addressed and meditate upon its qualities.

Elegies– An elegy is a poem that mourns someone’s death. The term is also sometimes applied more to a solemn, contemplative poem.

Narrative Poetry– Narrative poem tells a story. Before novels became popular in the 18th century, stories were usually told in verse and even after the advent of the novel, many poets continued to write narrative verse. The two main forms of narrative poetry are epic and ballad.

Another consideration is the characteristics that permeate the poem. Is the poem reflective, argumentative, and persuasive or even dramatic?

The Structure refers to the overall arrangement of a poem. This can include the poem’s form, but also includes such elements as the sequence and coherence of ideas (e.g. how the poem begins and ends.)


The subject matter of a poem is the main idea of the poem or what the poem is all about. One should be able to capture this in a sentence. The themes or concerns however are recurring issues that run through the poem. One formula of identifying a theme is that it must appear or recur in more than one place in a poem, especially for a poem that is relatively long. In most cases, it is not out of place to have a poet having almost the same set of themes recurring in most of his poems. Hardy’s poetry follows this trend.


The term imagery is sometimes used broadly to refer to any aspect of a piece of writing that appeals to the readers’ senses-sight (visual),taste(gustatory),touch(tactile),smell(olfactory),hearing(auditory).The term also refers specifically to the use in literature of comparisons, especially similes, metaphors and personification, symbolism etc

Simile, metaphor, personification,symbolism and others fall under imagery as a genre. The basic fact is that all these traditional figurative devices or figures of speech compare two things, one abstract and the other concrete. Temptation which an abstract thing could be represented by an apple in this expression: The unsuspecting lover bit the forbidden apple.

In nutshell, decide and comment on the literary devices that you find distinctive and consider why the poet uses them or has chosen them. What effects do they create in the poem and how effective are they in conveying the message of the poem? Please note that you are not rewarded for simply identifying a device, but for commenting on why the poet is using it , its literary effects and to what extent it has been effective.


The tone is the emotion behind the voice of the poet or the speaker in the poem. It could be angry, reflective, and full of melancholy, joyful, bitter, and ironic. The tone tells us how the poet or the narrator feels. The mood is the effect the poem creates on the reader, while the atmosphere is the effect of the combination of the mood and tone of the poem. Usually the tone to a large extent determines the mood, but there are situations where the poet may ironically vary the two. The setting of the poem too, both physical and abstract could determine the atmosphere created in a poem.


Rhyme- occurs when the last one or two syllables of two or more lines of poetry have a matching sound. Note that a pair of matching sound of rhyming lines is called a couplet.Sometimes, rhymes help to give a poem a lively, jaunty rhythm. There are also times when rhymes are used to either compare or contrast each other.

Others like onomatopoeia (imitation of actual sound to create the right effect), assonance(repetition of vowel sound e.g. Pat, cat, rat), caesura, repetitionalliteration, enjambment (when one line continues into the next), end-stop (when the end of a line coincides with a grammatical pause, usually indicated by a punctuation mark)are also useful.

Rhythm-is a broad term for the pace or movement of a poem.Metre is a more precise term referring to the patter of stressed and unstressed syllables in a line of poetry.The patterns are iambic, trochaic, dactylic, anapestic and spondaic.

Please note that metre can be difficult and in an exam it is not worth spending time trying to work out the metre of a poem if it is not clear to you quite quickly.You should still be able to make some comment on the rhythm of the poem. Just try to imagine how the poem would sound when read aloud and think about the effects produced of enjambements,caesuras,end-stops.Does the rhythm appear fast, slow/ Look for sudden changes in the rhythm and relate all these to the meaning  or some themes in the poem


The words used are put to a rather economical use in a poem. As a result, poets choose words with particular care, being conscious of their suggestive power and effects.

Levels of Formality-The first consideration is the level of formality. Is the language formal or not? Formal language tends to be associated with more serious subjects and also with older texts. If there is evidence of informality, one could find a more relaxed language and tone. You may consider why the poet has chosen to use informal lexis. Although informality is more common in modern poetry, it can occur in older poems. The lexis here is often made up of colloquialismsclichésand slangs etc. all to create the right effect.

Connotation-The connotations of a word are its associations-the emotions, sensations and attitudes that it evokes. Words can have positive or negative connotations, but should be careful about the exact meaning being conveyed. Example of positive connotation could be found in : Then came the jolly Summer, being dight in a thin silken cassock coloured green. An example of negative connotative usage is: Come, darkest night, becoming sorrow best.

Archaism-A poet may decide to employ some elements of archaism in his work to create an effect of something grand, elevated or ancient. Examples are words like thou, wither.etc.

Neologisms-This falls under the poetic licence a poet has to invent words to serve its purpose. To know a word which emanates from the poet, the basic step is to check its availability in a good dictionary.

Allusions –Referencesmade by a poet to areas outside his field to enrich his work.

(Classical allusion is a reference to mythical details especially from Greek tales and heroes. Biblical   allusion is a reference to stories from the Bible while Contemporary allusion is a reference to issues and happenings during the time of the writer.)

Ambiguity-Language has more than one possible meaning. Poets use language in an especially concentrated way,and words and phrases  often have more than one level of meaning.


Poets at times deviate from the rule of grammar to create the needed effect. It may be in form of a Poetic Licence.

Word Class-A poem may creatively use or change the traditional or normal grammatical class of a word to create the desired effect. For example a noun may be converted to serve as a noun. E g. I bread the whole generation. The word, bread is traditionally a noun, but here has been converted to a verb.

Types of sentence-Observe the kind of sentence employed in a poem e.g. declarative (stating usually in a positive or direct manner e.g. He will join the road show.)

Foregrounding-when particular words are highlighted for emphasis.

Exclamatory sentence-(Oh, he lost it!); Interrogative or rhetorical question (How else could the world be formed?)

Sentence Length

The length of a sentence whether long or short is of great significance in appreciating a poem .A rather long windy statement could connote the complexity of the thought the poet wants to express or the spontaneity of the feelings being expressed. Note how the abruptness of a short sentence could mean suppression of feelings. However, note how the sentence length relates with the theme(s) of the poem.

Word Order

The word order used in a poem usually allows for some words to be fore grounded (brought to the attention of the reader) E.g. Childlike, I danced in a dream. In the extract the word, Childlike is isolated and marked out by a comma, thus it is foregrounded. Another common example is the use of inversion in a sentence structure. E.g. To the market he went is different from he went to the market (The first sentence emphasizes market, while the second one emphasizes he).

Syndetic listing- words listed by conjunction.Eg I grieve, and dare not show..

Asyndetic listing-without any conjunction.Eg Or be more cruel, love.

Non-Standard Grammar

This also falls under poetic licence. It could be a reflection of the background of the poet, which has to be used to create the desired effect.


Tense may be significant if it changes creatively in the poem. Each tense, especially the basic ones such the Past, Present and Past convey different effects.

NB: Please note that all devices are meant to enhance the meaning of a poem. In most cases, almost all devices point towards a theme. Devices are not used or placed in isolation. You are not rewarded for merely identifying a device, but for commenting on its literary effects.





Absurd, Theatre of the Absurd-A style of writing that mirrors the confusion, illogicality, inharmony of the 21st Century world  as reflected on the stage with caricature-like characters and disjointed plot.E.g, Samuel Beckett’s Waiting for Godot .

Accent-The effect of the emphasis placed on a syllable in a word.

Auditory imagery– Figurative way of appealing to one’s sense of hearing in a poem.Eg. The voice like the rough flow of huge waterfalls.

Aesthetics-The philosophy of taste or appreciation of beauty.

Alienation Effect-Is the effect in a play intended to remind the spectators that what being watched on stage is not real.

Allegory-is a device in which characters or events represent or symbolize ideas and concepts.  A reason for this is that allegory has an immense power of illustrating complex ideas and concepts in a practical and concrete way. This device is common in Christian religious literature where   Satan symbolizes evil and God symbolizes good.E.g Pilgrim’s Progress by John Bunyan

Alliteration-Repetition of the same initial consonant sound.E.g. Around the house the flakes fly faster.

Allusion-Referring to characters and events in mythology (classical allusion), history (classical allusion), bible (biblical allusion).Eg.Bowing ‘New Sabbath’ or ‘Mount Ephraim’. (Biblical allusion)

Alternate rhyme-When the end of two lines are alternated, usually in abab, rhyme scheme pattern.

Ambiguity-A style of giving double interpretation to a word.

Anachronism-A mistake in dating or timing or placing an event in wrong historical setting.Eg.Imagine a reference to a computer in a Shakespearean play!

Analogy-A comparison not necessarily using simile or metaphor.Eg.There is an analogy of the morally loose lifestyle of the Romans and Americans of today.

Anti climax-A false climax or weak repetition with the objective of extending or stretching excitement.

Antagonist-character in conflict with hero: a major character in a book, play, or movie whose values or behaviour are in conflict with those of the protagonist or hero.

Aphorism-A solemn, concise observation or statement.Eg power is mightier than the sword.

Apostrophe –An address or appeal to a person or inanimate object that is incapable of replying.E.g.Thou sun, why thou smite me?

Art for Art’s sake-The belief that a work of art be judged solely for its aesthetic value rather than for any economic interest.

Aside-A long speech where a character expresses his thoughts aloud on stage with other characters present, but could not hear him.

Autobiography-An account of one’s life written by oneself as distinct from Biography (written by another person).

Assonance-Repetition of vowel sounds, especially when found between words and syllables.Eg.Wet is the pet of the rent.

Augustan-Having to do with the period, early part of 19th century, when writers attempt to copy and imitate the grandeur associated with the reign of Augustus Ceasar.


Ballad-A narrative poem, folk in origin, anonymous, simple and direct with historical, romantic, tragic or supernatural setting.

Bathos-A writing that descends from being serious to something, funny or anti-climatic.

Blank verse-An unrhymed verse in English.

Biography-An account of somebody’s life story written by another person.

Burlesque-A form of mocking or satirizing of a serious matter or style by imitating in an incongruous or odd way.


Caesura-A pause usually marked by a comma, semi-colon, colon,hyphen or dash in the middle of a line in of verse.

Cast-The actors or other performers in a drama, dance or other artistic production.

Caricature-An exaggerated or unrealistic portrayal of a character that is easily recognizable.

Catastrophe-The change producing the final event in a play, usually the decisive misfortune in a tragedy.

Catharsis-Based on the principle that a play is an imitation of real life and as such the audience should be purged of some feelings (usually defined as pity and fear) that takes place at the end of a tragedy.

Characterization-The way or manner of portraying characters.

Chorus-An innovation  of the Greek drama, where a body of performers recite or chant verses commenting on events as they unfold. In modern drama, the chorus is often represented as a narrator.

Chanson-a poem of varied metrical forms or a French satirical cabaret song of the 20th century or song

Comedy of Manners-Another name for Comedy of Errors.A satiric play which mirrors the lifestyle of some Victorian personalities.

Comic Relief-An interlude in the midst of a serious play meant to make the audience laugh or feel relaxed.

Cliché-An over-used phrase mostly found in verbal communication.Eg.At the same time, last but not the least.

Climax-The peak or turning point in a story.

Comedy-A play of entertaining kind representing persons or situations in real life presented in a comical manner.

Conceit-Elaborate, extended comparison between apparently unrelated objects particularly in Metaphysical Poetry.

Context-The background or setting from which a story is told.

Couplet-The matching of same sound at the end of the last two lines of a poem.



Dactyll-A foot containing one stressed syllable followed by two unstressed.

Diction-The study of the choice and arrangement of words in a work of art.

Denouement-The unraveling or resolution of the plot of play or novel at the end.

Deus Ex Machina-A practice in some classical plays, where a god is let down on to the stage to bring about resolution at the end of a play.

Dialect-The form of a major language, could be a substandard one spoken in a particular region.

Didactic-Having to do with the moral lesson found in a work of art.

Dialogue-The words spoken by characters in a book, movie,or play or a section of a work that contains spoken words.

Dirge-A song of mourning or lamentation, especially one about death or intended for a funeral.

Dramatic Irony-A situation where the audience know more than the characters on stage.



Elegy-A mournful song sung during burial or composed in memory of somebody.

Elements-The four elements which are adjudged to affect the affairs of men namely earth, air, fire and water.

End-Stop-An abrupt stop or pause at the end of a line of a verse.

Enjambement-Continuation of the sense or meaning from one line of verse to the next without pause.

Epic-A long, narrative poem, rendered in elevated language chronicling the heroic exploits of heroes.

Epigram-A brief, pointed and often witty statement, found in all forms of literature.Eg.”No one is completely unhappy at the failure of his best friend.”(Groucho Marx)

Epitaph- Awriting on a tombstone.

Epistle-Along letter didactic in purpose.

Epilogue-Short section at the end of a book or a literary work, sometimes detailing the fate of its characters or a concluding speech in a theatre that an actor addresses to the audience.

Eulogy-A composition written in praise of a person or thing.

Euphemism-Saying something harsh in a pleasant manner.E.g He was given the order to erase the criminal (Erase means to kill).

Evocative-Calling out or invoking certain feelings and memories.

Exposition-The unraveling of the plot .



Fable-A short story devised to convey a useful moral lesson, often using animals that act symbolically like human beings.

Farce-A play that sets out to provoke laughter by employing funny characters in absurd situations.

Feminist criticism-The literary and critical theory that explores the bias in favour of the male gender in literature and which approaches all literature from a feminist viewpoint.

Figures of speech-Expressions which have deeper meaning than their literal sense.

Foot-A unit usually marked as a syllable in a poem.

Folktale-A story or legend passed down orally from one generation to the next, thus becoming part of a community’s tradition or oral history.

Free verse-A poem with no regular rhyme or rhythm.

Flashback-A scene or event from the past that appears in a narrative out of chronological order ,to fill information or explain something in the present.

Foreshadowing-An event, situation or information which gives a hint about a later event.


Genre-The three main divisions of English literature, namely prose, prose and drama.

Gothic-A style of writing that explores horrific, ghostly setting and situations. Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte employs gothic literature for example.

Grotesque-A form of art that mixes the realistic and the one that appeals to fantasy.


Hero/heroine-The principal person in a literary work

Heroic couplet-A kind of poem, usually mock-heroic with two ends of verses rhyming sound-wise.

Humour– An element of something or content meant to cause amusement and excitement in a work of art.

Hyperbole-Exaggeration in art to create an effect.

Hubris-A flaw in character that would eventually lead to the downfall of a character.


Hendiadys– literary device expressing an idea by means of two words linked by “and,” instead of a grammatically more complex form such as an adverb qualifying an adjective. Everyday examples of hendiadys are the expressions “nice and soft,” rather than “nicely soft,” and “good and tight.”Harangue– A long story narrating a series of complicated events .



Imagery-Literary comparison of using something concrete to explain an abstract idea.

Intrigue-Sometimes used in reference to the plot of a play or novel.

Irony-A form of satire or ridicule where the opposite meaning is implied.

Interlude-A short play, piece of music or other entertainment during a break in the performance of a long work.


Litotes-Saying something unpleasant in a mild manner.Eg.She is on the big side (When you mean ,she is a fat person.)

Legend-A story passed one from time immemorial, which is supposed to be a history of a people, but with whose historical validity could not be proven.

Lyric-A verse meant to be sung as a song especially with a lyre. A short poem with personal, passionate feelings, and song-like.

Lullaby-A kind of soothing song meant to make a baby sleep.

Lineation-arrangement of lines in verse form.

Literati-A body of imaginative men and women of letters.

Limerick-A five –line humorous poem, with a peculiar rhythm and lewd subject.


Malapropism-A derivation from Mrs.Malaprop,a character from Sheridan’s The Rivals. There is muddled use of long or complex words in the wrong place or context.

Medieval-Another name for the period, the Middle Ages or a period between Dark Ages and the Renaissance,10th-15th century.

Meiosis-Understatement-A kind of irony in which a negative understatement is employed for emphasis.Eg.

Melodrama-A play written to appeal to popular taste, marked by exciting incidents, with definable characters and a happy ending.

Metaphor-A kind of imagery where direct comparison is made.Eg. She is the pillar of the class.

Metaphysics-The study of the world beyond the physical or terrestrial.

Metaplesis-a figurative expression in which a statement is made and then withdrawn.

Metre-The poetic rhythm division into regular feet.

Metonymy-A figure of speech, which is a form of symbolism where an attribute of something is used to represent for the thing itself

Mimetic-Imitation of sort

Mime-Use of gestures to communicate in drama.

Muses-The goddesses often ascribed as the inspiration for writers.

Myth-A traditional story expressing the religious beliefs  of a people especially its origin. The Greek mythology of stories of Hercules, Zeus is very common.

Mythology-A group of myths that belong to a particular people or culture and deals with ancestors ,heroes, gods ,history and other supernatural beings and happenings.

Motivation-Explanation of the behaviour of characters especially the motive for their actions.

Monologue-The words spoken by an a actor, usually spoken to oneself.

Motif-A theme in a story, especially one that can be represented by a visible object.


Narrative Poem-A poem that is long and usually tells a story.

Narrative Technique-The approach a narrator decides to tell his story

Nemesis-Is the Greek goddess of revenge or retribution .In literature generally, the word refers to the principle of poetic justice where evil is justly rewarded.

Neologism-A word uniquely coined by a writer to create an effect. The word may negate the principle of grammar etc.

Novel-A prose fiction with substantial length, which elaborately explores various themes.

Novella-A fictional prose work that is longer than a short story, but shorter than a novel.


 Opera-A dramatic work, where music is a dominant part of performance, with actors singing rather than reciting their lines.

Olfactory imagery-An appeal to readers’ sense of smell in a literary work.

Omniscient narrator-A narrator in a novel who knows and sees all that is happening in the plot of the novel.

Ode-A lyric poem, long poem, expressing exalted emotion usually celebrating a thing.

Onomatopoeia-Poetic imitation of the actual sound of an object in a poem.Eg.bang,bang,bang.

Oxymoron-Words of opposite meanings are yoked or joined together to create an effect.Eg. agony favour.


Panegyric-Usually a kind of poetry composed  to eulogize or praise a personality.

Pantheism-The belief that God is everything and that God and the universe are one. A belief popularized by Romantic poets which often associates the attribute of God with that of nature.

Pantheon-The whole body of gods considered as a unit.

Parable-Usually an allegory in form of a short narrative through which a moral lesson is conveyed.Eg the parable of the Prodigal Son in the Bible.

Paradox-A statement contrary to general opinion which on a first look appears foolish, but which when given a second look contains some truth.E.g Child is the father of man.

Parody-A humorous imitation of a serious work.e

Paralellism-Juxtapostions of words or phrases in a poem to create an effect of contrast.

Pastoral-Literature that deals with country life, usually describing the idyllic life of shepherds who fall in love and pass time singing and playing songs. As You Like it by Shakespeare is based on this kind of life.

Pathos-Moments in literature when a strong feeling of pity and sorrow is invoked.

Periphrasis-An elegant way of calling a word by another name. This is often found in the Mock Heroic poems.

Persona-A character in a poem especially his voice as distinct from that of  the poet.

Personification-Giving human attributes to inanimate objects.E.g .Be happy when fortune smiles on you.

Picaresque-A type of prose fiction with a simple plot divided into separate episodes that features the adventures of a roguish hero.

Plot-The manner in which events are arranged in a story.

Poetic licence-The right of poets to manipulate language and established truths for the sake of art. For example, there is an instance where Shakespeare ascribes coastline to a country that is landlocked.

Polysyndeton-Repetition of conjunctions in the use of multiple conjunctions or coordinate clauses in close succession.E.g. The bad news caused her to weep and cry and wail.

Prose-A work distinct from having poetic content, being easy to understand, language wise.

Protagonist-The main hero/character round which the story is built.

Prologue-An opening speech rendered at the beginning of a play to give some direction.

Pun-An act of playing with words.E.g Your sole is as good as your soul.

Premiere-The first public perform or showing of a work usually to sample a selected people’s critical opinion.


Quatrain-A stanza of four lines.


Realism-A philosophy opposed to Idealism. The acceptance or representation of things as they are.

Refrain-Recurring phrase or line, usually at the end of a stanza often found in poems and hymns.

Renaissance-Literally means. ‘rebirth’. The period reckoned as the greatest in history of European art and culture.

Rhetoric-The formal art of speech making.

Rhetorical Question-A question asked for effect that neither expects nor requires an answer.

Romance-A Medieval verse tale of the kind written in a Romance language, recounting the adventures of a knightly hero and expressing the ideals of the Chivalry.

Rounded Character-A character that undergoes changes in the course of the story. Contrast to a flat character.

Romanticism-A kind of poetry that the celebrates nature, passionate feelings, emotion and imagination over reason.


Satire-A work of art that exposes human vice and folly to laughter and ridicule in a light,amusing,savage,bitter tone.E.g. Gulliver Travels by Jonathan Swift and The Beautiful Ones Are not Yet Born by Ayi Kwei Armah.

Sarcasm-A biting statement meant to mock, usually applied in a satiric work.

Simile-Direct comparison of a concrete and abstract object using as or like.E.g my love like the sweetness of dash rose.

Slapstick-broad, coarse, physical comedy.

Setting-The background, whether physical or abstract through which a work is presented.

Soliloquy-A long speech in which a character expresses his thoughts out loud on stage, usually when alone.

Sonnet-A 14-line poem with a complex rhyme scheme and structure.

Simile-Direct comparison using as or like.

Stanza-A group of lines in a poem divided off from the others. A stanza is the correct term for what is often referred to as a verse of poetry.

Stoicism-A Roman philosophy which preaches calmness, self control in the face of provocation or pain (opposite of Epicureanism)

Symbolism-Use of symbol, similar to an image in that it stands for something else, but unlike an image is not merely descriptive.Universally,colour white could symbolize peace, while black could stand for evil.

Synecdoche-A figure of speech in which part is used to represent the whole.

Sub-plot-A secondary plot or storyline in a book or play, which often provides either comic relief from main plot or a different way of looking at the themes and interests of the main plot.

Stress-An emphasis placed on a particular syllable at the expense of another.

Subject matter-The total sum of what a literary work is about.

Suspense-A feeling of tense excitement, expectation about how the next part of a novel or play would turn out to be.

Stylistics-An approach of poetry employing basic language tools such as grammar etc.

Stream of Consciousness: The attempt in writing to recreate the actual flow ,pattern and sense of thoughts as they pass through a person’s head in real life or to describe experience as it is actually felt by a person as it is taking place. Virginia Woolf (1882-1941),James Joyce(1882-1941)are two well-known exponents of this style.

School-A term that refers to a group of authors who share certain characteristics in their works usually as classified by critics.E.g Romantic writers, Theatre of the Absurd etc.

Spondee-A unit of poetic rhythm measured as a metrical foot of two long or stressed syllables.


Tone-The feeling and attitude of the writer derived from his work.

Theme-The central idea or ideas examined or explored by the writer in the course of a book.

Tragicomedy-A mixture of tragedy and comedy.

Tragedy-A play with the following features: A tragic hero with a flaw who dies at the end of the story, multiple deaths, a play that exhibits pity and agony.

Tragic hero-The protagonist of a story who has a flaw that would eventually lead to his downfall.

Tactile imagery-Figurative expression that relates to touch.

Tragic Flaw-A character fault in the protagonist of a story.

Trilogy-A set or group /series of three related story or poem.

Travelogue-A record of a writer’s experiences during his journeys.


Visuals imagery-


Wit-A clever use of language.




Zeugma-A verb that refers to two part of an expression.




This paper is written to simplify how students can make meaning or get the right approach to some common questions in Advanced Level Drama texts.

Things to note in the Opening Scene of a Drama.

  • The playwright might want to create a certain mood, or present a particular background to the plot.
  • The opening is meant to create a certain impact on the audience, perhaps to shock them or keep them gripped-This is the effect achieved in the opening of Macbeth with the appearance of the three witches.
  • The opening scene provides the audience with sound background information about what is going on or even on the characters.
  • Some characters are introduced and situations/relationships established.
  • The opening scene can arouse, create suspense and sustain audience’s interest.

Things to note in the Ending Scene of a Drama.

  • If there are conflicts/mistaken identity/confusion at the beginning of the play, they are usually resolved at the end.
  • For a comedy or tragicomedy, the playwright ensures that the audience is left happy.
  • If there is element of poetic justice (nemesis) at the end of the  play.
  • Some modernist plays may also leave the audience to make sense of a play’s ending, especially in a situation where conflicts are not resolved outright.

Things to note on characterization questions

How is a character presented or presentation of a character?

Consider the following:

  • What part does the character play in the play?
  • In what settings do we see him or her?
  • What kinds of relationships does he or she have?
  • What are other characters saying about him?
  • What is the writer’s attitude to him?
  • Are there discrepancies between the character’s action and speech?
  • What particular language use pattern, do we associate with him or her in terms of imagery, symbolisms, diction etc.
  • Any development in the character in the course of the story? Is he a static or a dormant character?
  • Do we associate this character with any significant ideas or themes ?

The role of a character in a play

Consider the following:

What a particular character contributes to the whole play.

What scenes does the character appear in?

What do they know?

What they do and say?

Their contribution to the structure of the play.

Their thematic significance.

One way to approach this kind of question is to ask yourself, ‘‘what difference would be made to the play if that character did not exist?’’

Relationship between characters in an extract or play

  • The relationship could be described as father-son relationship, master-servant, dependent, symbiotic etc. Give it a descriptive name.
  • Who is the dominating or dominant character?
  • What does each gain from the relationship?
  • What brings them together or point of interest?
  • How do they affect each other positively or negatively?
  • Do they change as a result of interaction with each other in the course of the play?
  • Is there  true equality in the relationship?
  • What does the relationship contribute to your understanding of the themes in the whole play?
  • What part does it play in plot and structure of the play?

Things to Note on Dramatic Effects/Techniques

The best way to understand dramatic effects or techniques in a play is to look at this simple illustration. You are wearing a robe, whose primary purpose is to cover your nakedness .However, there are some other ‘accessories’ used to add value to the robe, such as the unique colour,a short tail in the back, a tiny collar, stripes by the side etc. All these things do not diminish the primary value of the robe, but they are equally important. These are the dramatic effects/techniques.

  • Actions of actors on stage i.e. (how they point, beckon, challenge, accuse, ask questions, give orders, hand things over, pray, sit down etc.)
  • What is the opening of the play/extract like? How does the character enter the scene? Is he already on the stage and if so, what is he doing? If he suddenly enters, with what attitude? Is it with anger or levity?
  • Where does the scene take place? What is the setting like and how does it impact on the actions on stage? Note that the setting to a large extent influences the issues/themes explored in a scene. Imagine a scene that takes place in an empty room or a desert. This is the kind of effect created in the opening scene of Macbeth, where the three witches are introduced from an arid location, which could be a depiction of their heinous nature. Also imagine a setting of beautiful flowers!
  • Imagine how a particular actor/actress might deliver his/her lines with what effect i.e. Order, plea, request, passion.-Because words carry more meaning that they actually look.
  • Also look out for effects such as songs, dances which may be used to convey the message of the extract. How is the song rendered, by who and does it have any impact on other characters? This is popular with African plays.
  • What about the physical presentation of characters in a particular scene? Is he attired in a particular way or colour? How is the character positioned on the stage? Is she standing throughout? Is she standing close to the door (which could imply insecurity?)Is the character standing or sitting afar from other characters?  Relate all these to the message of the extract/scene.
  • Don’t forget to also comment on the manner the extract ends. Do all the characters exit at once? How does it end?
  • Generally, picture the play on stage in your mind and through this, get the mood, atmosphere and positions of the characters as they influence the message of the play.



Writing an essay may appear a difficult task,but it is actually a simple process, if you can follow the steps that would be specified below.Note that an essay especially a literary one is nothing,but a combination of many paragraphs and the good news is that if you can build just one paragraph effectively,then you can write a fantastic essay.To do this ,then take a look at the components of a paragraph below:

1.TOPIC SENTENCE-This opening sentence simply states as clearly as possible the main idea you want to explore in the paragraph.For example, The poem to a large extent is built on a clever use of imagery,which forms a major fulcrum on which the poem is built.
2.EXPATIATION(OPTIONAL)-This is optional and this is where you may need to expatiate or speak more on the opening sentence.For example,The kind of imagery used in the poem is mainly a clear comparison between two symbols; oak and lily.
3.ILLUSTRATION-At this middle point in the paragraph,you need to buttress or support this point you are making and there art two ways to do it.Paraphrase a supporting piece from the poem or quote outright from the poem.For example,The poem opens with a reference to an oak tree and its attendant longevity. The end result for the oak tree however is to go ‘dry’,’bald’ and ‘sere’.In contrast and consequently, the ‘lily of a day’ and ‘fairer in May’ is introduced.
4.PERSONAL CRITICAL OPINION-This is the most important part of your writing,because this is where you present your personal insight on the issue ,based on the poem.For example,The imageries explored here in the oak tree and the lily aptly capture the main message of the poem, that quality of life should be judged based on value and not quantity. The oak incidentally is a plant that lives long, but of little economic value. However, the lily, a rather delicate and frail looking plant is known for its brevity, but while it lives, it adds beauty to its surrounding. Incidentally for the poet, this piece of reflective poem is a way of consoling himself after the demise of his son, who dies young.
5.CONCLUDING SENTENCE-Here, you leave your parting statement.For example, The strength of the poem is surely built on this simple comparison of two symbols, lily and the oak tree and this adds to the reflective power of the poem.
The poem to a large extent is built on a clever use of imagery, which forms a major fulcrum on which the poem is built. The kind of imagery used in the poem is mainly a clear comparison between two symbols; oak and lily. The poem opens with a reference to an oak tree and its attendant longevity. The end result for the oak tree however is to go ‘dry’, ‘bald’ and ‘sere’. In contrast and consequently, the ‘lily of a day’ and ‘fairer in May’ is introduced. The imageries explored here in the oak tree and the lily aptly capture the main message of the poem, that quality of life should be judged based on value and not quantity. The oak incidentally is a plant that lives long, but of little economic value. However, the lily, a rather delicate and frail looking plant is known for its brevity, but while it lives, it adds beauty to its surrounding. Incidentally for the poet, this piece of reflective poem is a way of consoling himself after the demise of his son, who dies young. The strength of the poem is surely built on this simple comparison of two symbols, lily and the oak tree and this adds to the reflective power of the poem.




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