Quatrain: A four-line stanza of a poem or an entire poem consisting of four lines.
The following quatrain is from Robert Herrick's "To Live Merrily, and to Trust to Good Verses":
Round, round, the root do's run;
And being ravisht thus,
Come, I will drink a Tun
To my Propertius.
Raisonneur: A character in a drama who functions as a spokesperson for the dramatist's views. The raisonneur typically observes the play without becoming central to its action.
Raisonneurs were very common in plays of the nineteenth century. (Compare with Chorus and Persona.)
Realism: A nineteenth-century European literary movement that sought to portray familiar characters, situations, and settings in a realistic manner. This was done primarily by using an objective narrative point of view and through the buildup of accurate detail. The standard for success of any realistic work depends on how faithfully it transfers common experience into fictional forms. The realistic method may be altered or extended, as in stream of consciousness writing, to record highly subjective experience.
Seminal authors in the tradition of Realism include Honore de Balzac, Gustave Flaubert, and Henry James.
Refrain: A phrase repeated at intervals throughout a poem. A refrain may appear at the end of each stanza or at less regular intervals. It may be altered slightly at each appearance.
Some refrains are nonsense expressions as with "Nevermore" in Edgar Allan Poe's "The Raven" that seem to take on a different significance with each use.
Renaissance: The period in European history that marked the end of the Middle Ages. It began in Italy in the late fourteenth century. In broad terms, it is usually seen as spanning the fourteenth, fifteenth, and sixteenth centuries, although it did not reach Great Britain, for example, until the 1480s or so. The Renaissance saw an awakening in almost every sphere of human activity, especially science, philosophy, and the arts. The period is best defined by the emergence of a general philosophy that emphasized the importance of the intellect, the individual, and world affairs. It contrasts strongly with the medieval worldview, characterized by the dominant concerns of faith, the social collective, and spiritual salvation.
Prominent writers during the Renaissance include Niccolo Machiavelli and Baldassare Castiglione in Italy, Miguel de Cervantes and Lope de Vega in Spain, Jean Froissart and Francois Rabelais in France, Sir Thomas More and Sir Philip Sidney in England, and Desiderius Erasmus in Holland. (Compare with Elizabethan Age.)
Repartee: Conversation featuring snappy retorts and witticisms.
Masters of repartee include Sydney Smith, Charles Lamb, and Oscar Wilde. An example is recorded in the meeting of "Beau" Nash and John Wesley: Nash said, "I never make way for a fool," to which Wesley responded, "Don't you? I always do," and stepped aside.
Resolution: The portion of a story following the climax, in which the conflict is resolved.
The resolution of Jane Austen's Northanger Abbey is neatly summed up in the following sentence: "Henry and Catherine were married, the bells rang and every body smiled."
Restoration: See Restoration Age
Restoration Age: A period in English literature beginning with the crowning of Charles II in 1660 and running to about 1700. The era, which was characterized by a reaction against Puritanism, was the first great age of the comedy of manners. The finest literature of the era is typically witty and urbane, and often leb.
Prominent Restoration Age writers include William Congreve, Samuel Pepys, John Dryden, and John Milton.
Revenge Tragedy: (Also known as Tragedy of Blood.) A dramatic form popular during the Elizabethan Age, in which the protagonist, directed by the ghost of his murdered father or son, inflicts retaliation upon a powerful villain. Notable features of the revenge tragedy include violence, bizarre criminal acts, intrigue, insanity, a hesitant protagonist, and the use of soliloquy.
Thomas Kyd's Spanish Tragedy is the first example of revenge tragedy in English, and William Shakespeare's Hamlet is perhaps the best. Extreme examples of revenge tragedy, such as John Webster's The Duchess of Malfi, are labeled "tragedies of blood." (Compare with tragedy.)
Revista: The Spanish term for a vaudeville musical revue.
Examples of revistas include Antonio Guzman Aguilera's Mexico para los mexicanos, Daniel Vanegas's Maldito jazz, and Don Catarino's Whiskey, morfina y marihuana and El desterrado.
Rhetoric: In literary criticism, this term denotes the art of ethical persuasion. In its strictest sense, rhetoric adheres to various principles developed since classical times for arranging facts and ideas in a clear, persuasive, appealing manner. The term is also used to refer to effective prose in general and theories of or methods for composing effective prose.
Classical examples of rhetorics include The Rhetoric of Aristotle, Quintillian's Institutio Oratoria, and Cicero's Ad Herennium.
Rhetorical Question: A question intended to provoke thought, but not an expressed answer, in the reader. It is most commonly used in oratory and other persuasive genres.
The following lines from Thomas Gray's "Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard" ask rhetorical questions:
Can storied urn or animated bust
Back to its mansion call the fleeting breath?
Can Honour's voice provoke the silent dust,
Or Flattery soothe the dull cold ear of Death?
Rhyme: When used as a noun in literary criticism, this term generally refers to a poem in which words sound identical or very similar and appear in parallel positions in two or more lines. Rhymes are classified into different types according to where they fall in a line or stanza or according to the degree of similarity they exhibit in their spellings and sounds. Some major types of rhyme are "masculine" rhyme, "feminine" rhyme, and "triple" rhyme. In a masculine rhyme, the rhyming sound falls in a single accented syllable, as with "heat" and "eat." Feminine rhyme is a rhyme of two syllables, one stressed and one unstressed, as with "merry" and "tarry." Triple rhyme matches the sound of the accented syllable and the two unaccented syllables that follow: "narrative" and "declarative."
Robert Browning alternates feminine and masculine rhymes in his "Soliloquy of the Spanish Cloister":
Gr-r-r there go, my heart's abhorrence!
Water your damned flower-pots, do!
If hate killed men, Brother Lawrence,
God's blood, would not mine kill you!
What? Your myrtle-bush wants trimming?
Oh, that rose has prior claims
Needs its leaden vase filled brimming?
Hell dry you up with flames!
Triple rhymes can be found in Thomas Hood's "Bridge of Sighs," George Gordon Byron's satirical verse, and Ogden Nash's comic poems. (Compare with Alliteration, Assonance, Consonance, and Internal Rhyme.)
Rhyme Royal: A stanza of seven lines composed in iambic pentameter and rhymed ababbcc. The name is said to be a tribute to King James I of Scotland, who made much use of the form in his Poetry.
Examples of rhyme royal include Geoffrey Chaucer's The Parlement of Foules, William Shakespeare's The Rape of Lucrece, William Morris's The Early Paradise, and John Masefield's The Widow in the Bye Street. (See also Stanza.)
Rhyme Scheme: See Rhyme
Rhythm: A regular pattern of sound, time intervals, or events occurring in writing, most often and most discernably in Poetry. Regular, reliable rhythm is known to be soothing to humans, while interrupted, unpredictable, or rapidly changing rhythm is disturbing. These effects are known to authors, who use them to produce a desired reaction in the reader.
An example of a form of irregular rhythm is sprung rhythm poetry; quantitative Verse, on the other hand, is very regular in its rhythm. (See also Assonance, Consonance, Dissonance, and Sprung Rhythm.)
Rising Action: The part of a drama where the plot becomes increasingly complicated. Rising action leads up to the climax, or turning point, of a drama.
The final "chase scene" of an action film is generally the rising action which culminates in the film's climax. (Compare with Denouement.)
Rococo: A style of European architecture that flourished in the eighteenth century, especially in France. The most notable features of rococo are its extensive use of ornamentation and its themes of lightness, gaiety, and intimacy. In literary criticism, the term is often used disparagingly to refer to a decadent or over-ornamental style.
Alexander Pope's "The Rape of the Lock" is an example of literary rococo. (Compare with Baroque.)
Roman a clef: A French phrase meaning "novel with a key." It refers to a narrative in which real persons are portrayed under fictitious names.
Jack Kerouac, for example, portrayed various real-life beat generation figures under fictitious names in his On the Road.
Romance: A broad term, usually denoting a narrative with exotic, exaggerated, often idealized characters, scenes, and themes.
Nathaniel Hawthorne called his The House of the Seven Gables and The Marble Faun romances in order to distinguish them from clearly realistic works.
Romantic Age: See Romanticism
Romanticism: This term has two widely accepted meanings. In historical criticism, it refers to a European intellectual and artistic movement of the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries that sought greater freedom of personal expression than that allowed by the strict rules of literary form and logic of the eighteenth-century neoclassicists. The Romantics preferred emotional and imaginative expression to rational analysis. They considered the individual to be at the center of all experience and so placed him or her at the center of their art. The Romantics believed that the creative imagination reveals nobler truths unique feelings and attitudes than those that could be discovered by logic or by scientific examination. Both the natural world and the state of childhood were important sources for revelations of "eternal truths." "Romanticism" is also used as a general term to refer to a type of sensibility found in all periods of literary history and usually considered to be in opposition to the principles of classicism. In this sense, Romanticism signifies any work or philosophy in which the exotic or dreamlike figure strongly, or that is devoted to individualistic expression, self-analysis, or a pursuit of a higher realm of knowledge than can be discovered by human reason.
Prominent Romantics include Jean-Jacques Rousseau, William Wordsworth, John Keats, Lord Byron, and Johann Wolfgang von Goethe. (Compare with Neoclassicism, and Transcendentalism.)
Romantics: See Romanticism
Russian Symbolism: A Russian poetic movement, derived from French symbolism, that flourished between 1894 and 1910. While some Russian Symbolists continued in the French tradition, stressing aestheticism and the importance of suggestion above didactic intent, others saw their craft as a form of mystical worship, and themselves as mediators between the supernatural and the mundane.
Russian symbolists include Aleksandr Blok, Vyacheslav Ivanovich Ivanov, Fyodor Sologub, Andrey Bely, Nikolay Gumilyov, and Vladimir Sergeyevich Solovyov. (Compare with Symbolism.)