Writers often use words in a non-literal sense, meaning that the words are used figuratively to express something that goes beyond the dictionary definition of the word. When writers use words in a non-literal sense, through metaphor, simile, etc.; they are using tropes. Trope simply refers to figures of speech in which words are not used in the literal sense.
There are many types of tropes, or figures of speech, that writers use. These are some of the most common types of tropes: metaphor, simile, hyperbole, personification, irony, allegory, pun, metonymy, onomatopoeia, oxymoron. The list could go on and on. The bottom line is that trope is another word for figurative language.
William Shakespeare is a master of the use of tropes, or figurative language. Here are some famous example of tropes from his writings.
Metonymy is a trope in which a part stands for the whole. In William Shakespeare's Julius Caesar, Antony gives a speech in which he says, "Friends, Romans, Countrymen; lend me your ears." He is not asking for them to give him their physical ears. He is using ears as a part to stand for the entire man and his intellect-he wants them to pay attention to what he has to say.
In Romeo and Juliet, there are many examples of figurative language, or tropes. When Romeo first sees Juliet at the party, he uses simile to compare her to a jewel:
"Oh, she doth teach the torches to burn bright! It seems she hangs upon the cheek of night like a rich jewel in an Ethiop's ear."
Later when Romeo sees Juliet on her balcony, he uses metaphor and personification to describe how beautiful and bright she appears to him. He begins his speech with metaphor:
"But, soft! What light through yonder window breaks? It is the east, and Juilet is the sun!"
He continues by using personification to describe the moon's envy of Juliet's light:
Arise, fair sun, and kill the envious moon,
Who is already sick and pale with grief,
That thou her maid art far more fair than she:
Be not her maid, since she is envious;
Her vestal livery is but sick and green
And none but fools do wear it; cast it off.
Literary Terms Examples