A Basic Paradigm for Literary Analysis

This commonsense, universally applicable outline

of topics derives largely from The Poetics by Aristotle,

written in the fourth century B.C.E.

Triangulating Shakespeare


A. plot/narrative/story/action

1. beginning, middle, end [applies to the whole work and to parts like chapter, scene or stanza]

2. climax/ turning point

B. character

1. name

2. type: gender/age/class/profession/family ties/community and cultural ties

3. physical appearance: body and clothing

4. interior qualities: personality, emotions, ethical standards

5. change [through the action]

6. relationships

C. setting

1. time: historical period; movement through time

2. space: geography, places; travel

D. theme

1. abstract idea, polarity

2. didactic moral

E. language

1. sound effects

2. style: register, unit lengths, repetition and variation [parallel and balance]

3. symbol

4. figures of speech

5. irony

6. allusion

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