How Do You Use the Literary Present Tense?

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The literary present tense is the practice of using present tense verbs when discussing a work of literature, such as in a critical essay. Because the author writing about a piece of literature is speaking to the person reading the work in the present time, references are in present tense.

For example, in referring to William Shakespeare's tragedy "Romeo and Juliet," it is correct to say that in the play, Shakespeare "introduces a pair of star-crossed lovers" rather than "introduced." For the person reading or watching the play, the characters are in the process of being introduced, so the present tense verb is the correct usage.