Hamlet: Literary Terms and Examples

Allegory Literary work with 2 or more levels of meaning (Literal and symbolic)Example: Hamlet’s costume changes
Allusion Reference to a well-known person, place, event, literary work, or work of artExample: “I did enact Julius Caesar. I was killed i’ the’ Capitol; Brutus killed me.” Act 3 Scene 2
Ambiguity Effect created when words suggest and support 2 or more divergent interpretationsExample: Hamlet’s indecision in the first soliloquy Act 1 Scene 2
Climax High point of interest in literary work; where protagonist changes understanding; Sometimes goes along with resolutionExample: Hamlet stabbing Polonius Act 3 Scene 4
Conflict Struggle between opposing Example: Conflict over Hamlet’s father’s death with Gertrude and Claudius
Connotation Associations that words call to mindExample: When Hamlet dies alongside Laretes, Gertrude, Claudius Act 5 Scene 2
Couplet Pair of rhyming lines in the same meterExample: “Foul deeds will rise, Though all the earth’s o’erwhelm them, to men’s eyes.” Act 1 Scene 3
Epiphany Moment of insight where a character realizes the truthExample: When Hamlet is on a ship sailing to England.”there is a divinity that shapes our ends, rough-hew them how we may.”Act 5 Scene 2
Hyperbole Exaggeration or overstatement Example: “A murderer and a villain,A slave that is not twentieth part the titheOf thy precedent lord”Act 3 Scene 4
Iambic Pentameter a foot with one unstressed syllable marked with a slanted line. These stressed syllables are divided by vertical lines into groups (Also can be called blank verse)Example: “O that this too too solid flesh would melt,Thaw, and resolve itself into a dew!Or that the Everlasting had not fix’dHis canon ‘gainst self-slaughter! O God! O God!” Act 1 Scene 2
Dramatic Irony A contradiction between what a character thinks and what the reader or audience knows to be trueExample: Occurs because only the Ghost and we know the truth that Claudius murdered Hamlet’s father
Situation Irony An event that occurs that directly contradicts expectationsExample: The swords being switched and Laertes dying by the poison intended for Hamlet Act 5 Scene 2
Verbal Irony Used to suggest the opposite if their usual meaning Example: Hamlet’s Conversations throughout the book
Metaphor A figure of speech in which one thing is spoken of as though it were something else.Example: “Therefore I have entreated him alongWith us to watch the minutes of this night”Act 1 Scene 1
Paradox A statement that seems to be contradictory but that actually presents a truthExample: I must be cruel to be kind.”Act 3 Scene 4
Personification A figure of speech in which a nonhuman subject is given human characteristicsExample: “For murder, though it have no tongue, will speak. With most miraculous organ” Act 2 scene 2
Setting The time and place of an action of literary workExample: Late middle ages (14th and 15th centuries, or 1300 to 1499) in and around (mostly) the royal palace in Elsinore, a city in Denmark.
Simile A figure of speech that compares two unlike things using like or asExample: The Ghost says, “Make thy two eyes, like stars, start from their spheres” Act 1 Scene 5
Soliloquy A long speech in a play or in a prose work made by character who is alone and thus reveals private thoughts and feelings to the audience or readerExample: “To be or not to be-that is the question..”Act 3 Scene 1
Symbol A sign, word, phrase, image, or other object that stands for or represents something elseExample: Yorick’s skullAct 5 Scene 1
Theme The central idea, concern, or purpose in a literary workExample: Revenge and justice; Hamlet trying to get revenge on Claudius
Tragedy A type of drama or literature that shows the downfall or destruction of a noble or outstanding personExample: Death of Hamlet Act 5 scene 2

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