Literary Devices Found Within the Play Hamlet by William Shakespeare

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18th May 2020 English Literature Reference this

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A literary device is a technique an author may uses in order to express a particular message without explicitly stating what is meant. Literary device can also add to the meaning and embellish the text which makes it more interesting for the readers. Literary devices are used in order to add depth to the writing and to create more interest. Extensive examples of literary devices can be found within Shakespeare plays. Some example of literary devices includes soliloquies and irony. Both of these literary devices are heavily used throughout the play Hamlet. In Shakespeare’s Hamlet, the use of literary devices such as soliloquies and irony, develop the idea of revenge throughout the play and allow the reader to have a better understanding of the emotions and thoughts of the characters.

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Irony is a contradiction or incongruity between, appearance, expectation and reality. Irony can also be considered a rhetorical device that conveys a message that is clear to the audience but unknown to the character. Several types of irony exist, including situational, verbal and dramatic irony. Situational Irony can be defined as irony involving a situation in which actions have an effect that is opposite from what was intended. Verbal irony is when one thing is said but it is actually supposed to signify another and, dramatic irony is irony that is inherent in speeches or a situation of drama. All of these types of irony can be found within the play Hamlet. Shakespeare effectively uses all of these types of irony throughout the play in order to develop the idea of revenge throughout the play and allow the reader to have a better understanding of the emotions and thoughts of the characters.

Situational irony occurs many times the play. During Act V Scene II, Hamlet hits Laertes with a sword first and he dies because of the poison since their swords were unknowingly switched. It would be expected that would hurt Hamlet first since he is a better-skilled swordsman. However, Laertes dies due to being poisoned first because the sword that was intended to kill Hamlet was used on him. Dramatic irony also occurs many times throughout the play. It is the form of irony which is the most prominent. In Act III Scene IV, Hamlet is the only one who can see and hear the Ghost when it appears in Gertrude’s bedroom.

“HAMLET/How is it with you, lady?/QUEEN GERTRUDE/Alas, how is’t with you,/That you do bend your eye on vacancy/And with the incorporal air do hold discourse?/Forth at your eyes your spirits wildly peep,/And, as the sleeping soldiers in the alarm,/Your bedded hair, like life in excrements,/Starts up, and stands on end. O gentle son,/Upon the heat and flame of thy distemper/Sprinkle cool patience! Whereon do you look?”(3.4.132-141)

This passage displays dramatic Irony since Hamlet is the only one who can see and hear the Ghost. The other characters in the play are not aware of this Ghost but the audience does know about it. Earlier in the play, the castle guards and Horatio could see the Ghost as well but, Hamlet is the only one who has ever spoken to it. The Ghost may choose to appear only to Hamlet. Hamlet’s the only one who can see the Ghost here because it’s a figment of his imagination, which would mean that Hamlet has broken down and has lost his mind.

In Act I Scene II of the play Hamlet, the character Hamlet says “A little more than kin, and less than kind.”(1.2.50) This is an example of verbal Irony. Hamlet is expressing that he is now more than just a nephew to Claudius, he considers himself his son. However, hamlet also expresses the fact that they are not morally the same. In Shakespeare’s Hamlet, the use of literary devices such as soliloquies allow the reader to have a better understanding of the emotions and thoughts of the characters.

A soliloquy is a long, often repetitive passage spoken by a single character. It is a literary device used in dramas and plays in order to reveal the innermost thoughts, feelings and emotions of a character. Commonly seen in the play Hamlet the soliloquies allow for, the character of Hamlet to reveal his thoughts and feelings. Often, during Hamlet’s soliloquies, he reflects on the significance of his life, of his desire for revenge and, his plans to kill Claudius. Shakespeare’s soliloquies give the audience, the opportunity to better understand the character’s thought process. Here it is explained in the book Language of Drama written by Keith Sanger, the significance of soliloquies.“This unique dramatic device allows the character to detail their innermost thoughts, revealing more than could be gathered from the action of the play alone. It’s as if we are eavesdropping on them talking to themselves; they might be making some kind of statement or engaging in an internal debate.”(Sanger, 44) This demonstrates the importance of soliloquies within the play Hamlet. In the play, Hamlet attempts to kill Claudius twice, once with a poisoned rapier and once with a poisoned drink. Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are inseparable. “Hamlet arranges for the players to perform something like the murder of his father and then delivers his own soliloquy in which he formulates the plan as if for the first time. Even the enveloping action is characterized by repetition.”(Maguire, 81) Here Laurie McGuire explains in her book Textual Cultures: Text, Contexts, the importance or repetitiveness within soliloquies and how they effectively allow the characters to explain their emotion and thoughts, she even gives a situational example. The first soliloquy found within the play shows Hamlet’s deep affection with his beloved father. It also puts a light on the character of the king who had died, it explains he was a loving husband and respected father. (act 1, scene 2)

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“…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,/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..“(1.2.123-128)

After hearing or reading this soliloquy the audience will truly be able to understand Hamlet’s emotions and thoughts. In Shakespeare’s Hamlet, the use of literary devices such as soliloquies and irony, develop the idea of revenge throughout the play and allow the reader to have a better understanding of the emotions and thoughts of the characters.

Throughout the play Hamlet by Shakespeare, there are a variety of literary devices use. Irony and soliloquies are some of the literary devices which are used in particular. Irony is used numerous times in order to give the reader insight on what is going on. This allows for incite to what can happen in the future or what has happened in the past. The irony in this play ultimately revolves around Hamlet and his plan to achieve revenge with Claudius. In the play Hamlet by Shakespeare the use of literary devices such as soliloquy and Irony, develop the idea of revenge throughout the play and allow the reader to have a better understanding of the emotions and thoughts of the characters.

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