Hamlet Literary Devices and Examples 1718

Foil (definition) A character who provides a strong contrast to another character.
Foil (example) Horatio acts as a foil to Hamlet
dramatic irony (definition) a plot device in which the audience’s or reader’s knowledge of events or individuals surpasses that of the characters.
aside (definition) A character’s remark, either to the audience or to another character, that others on stage are not supposed to hear.
aside (example) HAMLET: “a little more than kin and less than kind”
oxymoron (definition) A figure of speech consisting of two apparently contradictory terms
oxymoron (example) KING CLAUDIUS: “with mirth in funeral, and with dirge in marriage”
imagery (definition) use of vivid, concrete, sensory details
metaphor (example) HAMLET: “Seem to me all the uses of this world! / Fie on ‘t, ah fie! ‘Tis an unweeded garden /That grows to seed.”
simile (example) HAMLET: “what a piece of work is man!…how like an angel”
allusion (definition) A reference to another work of literature, person, or event
allusion (example) HAMLET: “What’s Hecuba to him, or he toHecuba”
soliloquy (definition) A dramatic or literary form of talking in which a character talks to himself or reveals his thoughts without addressing a listener
soliloquy (example) HAMLET: “To be or not to be, that is the question / whether tis nobler in the mind to suffer / The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune / Or to take arms against a sea of troubles …”
Imagery (example) HORATIO: “Such was the very armor he had on / When he the ambitious Norway combated. / So frowned he once when, in an angry parle, He smote the sledded Polacks on the ice.”
Simile (definition) A comparison between two dissimilar things using the words like, as, than, or resembles.
Pun (definition) A joke exploiting the different possible meanings of a word or the fact that there are words that sound alike but have different meanings.
Prose (definition) Written or spoken language in its ordinary form, without rhythm.
Monologue (definition) When a character delivers a long speech to another character onstage.
Metaphor (definition) A comparison between two dissimilar things WITHOUT using the words like, as, than, or resembles
Verbal Irony (definition) A figure of speech in which what is said is the opposite of what is meant.
Situational Irony (definition) The outcome of a situation is the opposite of what was expected.
Iambic Pentameter (definition) A type of meter in poetry that has five feet (unstressed/stressed) and 10 syllables. (heart beat)
Iambic Pentameter (example) PLAYER KING: “I do believe you think what now you speak, / But what we do determine oft we break. / Purpose is but the slave to memory, / Of violent birth, but poor validity…”
Dramatic Irony (example) Hamlet pretends to be insane, but we, the audience, know that he is pretending to be insane: “I am but mad north, north west.”
Pun (example) HAMLET speaking about (dead) POLONIUS: “Indeed this counsellor/ Is now most still, most secret and most grave, /Who was in life a foolish prating knave” (3.4.213-215)
Verbal Irony (example) HAMLET: What man dost thou dig it for?GRAVEDIGGER For no man, sir.HAMLET What woman then?GRAVEDIGGE For none, neither.HAMLET Who is to be buried in ‘t?GRAVEDIGGE One that was a woman, sir, but, resther soul, she’s dead.
Situational Irony (example) Polonius is hiding behind a curtain when Hamlet mistakenly kills him. Hamlet believes that he has killed King Claudius.
Monologue (example) CLAUDIUS: “‘Tis sweet and commendable in your nature, Hamlet, / To give these mourning duties to your father. / But you msut know your father lost a father, ….” (the lines continue for 28 more lines)

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