When the meanings of 'consonance' and 'alliteration' are explained, it can be perplexing as to why the two would differ when they're rather similar. The English language is a tricky one, where there are all kinds of writing styles and rules that make it what it is. The best way to be able to tackle a complex spot in the English language, is to explore it further and apply it as often as possible to get the hang of it. Practice, after all, makes perfect. To make things a little easier, let's take a look at the definitions of consonance and alliteration to begin with.
Web Dictionary Definitions
Alliteration: "The commencement of two or more stressed syllables of a word group either with the same consonant sound, or sound group."
Consonance: "The correspondence of consonants, especially those at the end of a word, in a passage of prose or verse."
In simple words, alliteration is when consonants or similar sounding words, are used in the beginning of verses or prose. Consonance on the other hand, is when consonants are used at the end or sometimes in the middle of verses or prose. If you were to come across examples of consonance that began with a style that is akin to alliteration, it wouldn't be right. Alliteration can contain a group of consonant sounds, that is, more than one alphabet at the start of a word that is similar to others in the same passage; this is termed consonantal alliteration, example: Shackled with shame.
Simple Examples of Consonance
Take a look at these literary examples and spot the parts that make up a consonance, where you'll see that such a construct is aptly used. There are instances where there is a mix of consonance and alliteration, blending the two effortlessly as seen in the tongue twisters below.
Tongue Twisters with Consonance and Alliteration
► "If two witches were watching two watches, which witch would watch which watch?"
► "Mary's mother makes marvelous meatballs."
► "Blondie's blueberries bloomed and blossomed."
► "Crabs, crickets, and crocodiles are creepy creatures."
► "How much wood would a woodchuck chuck,
If a woodchuck would chuck wood?
A woodchuck would chuck all the wood he could chuck,
If a woodchuck would chuck wood."
► "Whitney whistles at wheels and whales."
► "The swan swam over the pond. Swim swan swim! Swan swam back again. Well swum swan!"
Literary Use of Consonance
► "He thrusts his fists against the posts and still insists he sees the ghosts."
► "I'll swing by my ankles,
She'll cling to your knees.
As you hang by your nose,
From a high-up trapeze.
But just one thing, please,
As we float through the breeze,
Don't sneeze." - The Acrobats (Shel Silverstein)
► "He gives his harness bells a shake
To ask if there is some mistake.
The only other sound's the sweep
Of easy wind and downy flake." - Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening (Robert Frost)
► "If you are a dreamer, come in,
If you are a dreamer, a wisher, a liar,
A hope-er, a pray-er, a magic bean buyer...
If you're a pretender, come sit by my fire
For we have some flax-golden tales to spin.
Come in! Come in!" - Invitation (Shel Silverstein)
Now that the confusion is out of the way (hopefully!), it is safe to say that the difference is clear to those who were in doubt. With time, the application of consonance in varied literary forms won't be as hard.