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Literary Devices in Hamlet Act I

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Emma Blake

on 29 January 2014

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Transcript of Literary Devices in Hamlet Act I


ACT I, SCENE 2, LINES 129-159

Huh? What does that even mean? Why do we care? Here is the explanation for Hamlet's Soliloquy!
Hamlet begins by stating he wishes to be dead, yet he will not commit suicide for fear of everlasting punishment. He then scorns all that life and the world has to offer, comparing it to an unweeded garden. Beginning with line 136, Hamlet curses his mother for marrying his uncle two months after his father died. Hamlet calls his father an excellent king and his uncle a scoundrel. He then comments that his mother's affection for his uncle increases, causing Hamlet to curse women in general. He continues to criticize his mother's quick marriage to an inferior person so soon after his father's death. Hamlet's heart his broken and must not speak of his disgust in public.
What literary terms were used in this soliloquy?
Line 129 - Hamlet uses synechdoche. A synechoche is a special type of metaphor that uses a part to represent the whole or the whole to represent the parts. In this example, flesh represents physical life. His flesh melting, thawing and resolving itself into a dew is a metaphor for dying.
"That grows to seed; things rank and gross in nature / Possess it merely. That it should come to this"
Lines 135-136 - Hamlet uses a metaphor, comparing the world to an unweeded garden that produces things "rank and gross in nature."
"Hyperion to a satyr; so loving to my mother"
Line 140: Hamlet uses an allusion to compare his father to his uncle: Hyperion is the Titan god of light in Greek Mythology; satyrs are half man/half beast, usually depicted as man above the waist and a horse or goat below the waist. The implication that Claudius below the waist is a beast is a comment on the new king's lechery.
"Let me not think on't—Frailty, thy name is woman!"
Line 146 - Hamlet uses an apostrophe, speaking directly to "frailty." This line provides insight on Hamlet's attitude toward women.
"Like Niobe, all tears:—why she, even she—"
Line 149 - Hamlet alludes to Niobe, a character in Greek mythology, famous for her ceaseless tears following her children's death. Hamlet compares the Queen to Niobe immediately following his father's death, making her marriage to Claudius all the more despicable in Hamlet's eyes.
Literary Devices in Hamlet Act I
The "complicated" Version of Hamlet's soliloquy:
O, that this too too solid flesh would melt, / Thaw and resolve itself into a dew! (130) / Or that the Everlasting had not fix'd / His canon 'gainst self-slaughter! O God! God! / How weary, stale, flat and unprofitable, / Seem to me all the uses of this world! / Fie on't! ah fie! 'tis an unweeded garden, (135) / That grows to seed; things rank and gross in nature / Possess it merely. That it should come to this! / But two months dead: nay, not so much, not two / So excellent a king; that was, to this, / Hyperion to a satyr; so loving to my mother (140) / That he might not beteem the winds of heaven / Visit her face too roughly. Heaven and earth! / Must I remember? why, she would hang on him / As if increase of appetite had grown / By what it fed on: and yet, within a month— (145) / Let me not think on't—Frailty, thy name is woman!— / A little month, or ere those shoes were old / With which she follow'd my poor father's body, / Like Niobe, all tears:—why she, even she— / O, God! a beast, that wants discourse of reason, (150) / Would have mourn'd longer—married with my uncle, / My father's brother, but no more like my father / Than I to Hercules: within a month: / Ere yet the salt of most unrighteous tears / Had left the flushing in her galled eyes, (155) / She married. O, most wicked speed, to post / With such dexterity to incestuous sheets! / It is not nor it cannot come to good: / But break, my heart; for I must hold my tongue.
Line 157 - Hamlet uses personification--incestuous sheets--to characterize his mother and his uncle's relationship. Dexterity could mean having sex.
Line 158 - Hamlet uses meiosis, or understatement, to end his soliloquy, stating that all this cannot come to good, a mild statement in comparison with the rest of his speech.
"O, most wicked speed, to post / With such dexterity to incestuous sheets!"
"It is not nor it cannot come to good: / But break, my heart; for I must hold my tongue."
"O, that this too too solid flesh would melt, / Thaw and resolve itself into a dew!"
Polysyndeton
Antithesis
Hamlet: "To be or not to be"
Allusion
Hamlet: "Let Hercules himself do what may,
The cat will mew and dog will have his day."
Literary Devices that apply to Hamlet
Hercules was like Hercules was not exactly a good role model. Hercules went mad and murdered his family. Hamlet went mad and murdered Polonius, who might-have-been wife if he killed Claudius.
A brief, usually indirect reference to a person, place, or event-real or fictional.
In these six words Shakespeare gives us two complete: existing and not existing. The use of a word being placed against another to form a balanced contrast is known in rhetoric as ANTITHESIS.
A rhetorical term for the juxtaposition of contrasting ideas in balanced phrases or clauses.
Full transcript