Metrical Tale – resembling in form but simpler than the metrical romance, it deals with every-day people and affairs (Tennyson’s “Enoch Ardea”, Mansfield’s “Dauber”).
Miracle Play – a type of dramatization that began in the Middle Ages and formed an early part of the development of modern drama. Growing out of the Church, the miracle plays enacted miracles from the Bible and the lives of saints (Noah).
Mixed Metaphor – an inappropriate and often ridiculous combining of incongruous elements in the same metaphor.
“During this crisis he was wandering through a dark forest and couldn’t find the key.” (key and dark forest do not belong in the same image; path would be more appropriate here than key).
Monody – In Greek literature this meant a funeral song, a dirge or a lyric ode sung by a single voice, as in a tragedy. Hence, it has come to mean a kind of elegiac poem in which a single person laments. Milton” “Lycidas”, Shelley’s “Adonais”, and Arnold’s “Thyrsis” are monodic.
Monologue – a conversation or speech that implies a listener (or listeners) who is present but never gets a chance to talk. (Benchley’s The Treasurer’s Report, Dorothy Parker’s “The Waltz”, Ring Lardner’s “The Haircut”). With a soliloquy there is no one else present except the speaker.
Mood – the general emotional feeling conveyed by a piece of literature. The mood may change, however, during the course of the work.
Moral Tone – the general attitude toward good and evil conveyed by a piece of literature or revealed by an author in his work.
Morality Play - a kind of allegorical play which developed in the Middle Ages and was a forerunner of modern drama. By the use of characters representing such abstractions as Charity, Faith, Vice, etc., a moral lesson was taught (Everyman).
Motif or Motiv (mo tef’) – This is probably appropriated from the fine arts, where it means a distinctive element in design , a characteristic feature of the work, or a particular type of subject for artistic treatment. In music it means a leading phrase or passage that recurs in varied forms during the course of a composition, or throughout a major part of the composition, such as a movement or symphony. In literature it can mean a type of incident or a particular situation that is reproduced throughout a literary work. Mostly, however, motif is used in the sense of a predominant theme or central idea recurrent in a work of literature.
For example, the “Noble Savage” is a motif used by both Cooper and Melville; the “Survival of the Fittest” motif is common in both Jack London and Frank Norris; the “Perfect Whole” motif is frequently used by Emerson; the “Moral Purity of Children” in seen in works by Salinger and Wordsworth; “Imperialism” is seen in Kipling’s works; being “Buried Alive” or “Entombment” is a frequent motif of Poe, etc. Needless to say, a literary work often contains a number of motifs.
Motivation – the impulse, purpose, or incentive that is responsible for the behavior of the character.
Mouthpiece – a character, sometimes called a Puppet through whom an author presents what are obviously his own ideas, feelings, or attitudes (Undershaft, the munitions maker in Bernard Shaw’s Major Barbara).
Mystery Play – a type of drama similar to the miracle play and one which also originated during the Middle Ages. Taking its name from the religious mysteries of the Bible, it dramatized Scriptural stories and often events from the life of Christ. It obviously has no connection with the present popular use of the term to designate a crime or murder story.
Myth – Probably arising out of man’s desire to explain some of the mysteries of his world, a myth is a purely fictitious narrative usually involving supernatural persons, actions, or events, and often embodying some popular explanation or conception of natural or historical phenomena. It is distinguished from allegory (which is metaphorical and didactic) and legend (which usually has a vague nucleus of truth). The Labors of Hercules, such as his diverting of a river to cleanse the Augean Stables are myths. The gods usually figure prominently in the background. Scholars of mythology have called attention to the amazing similarity of the myths of various peoples.