Literary devices help generate specific effects in a piece of writing, such as clarifying or emphasizing certain notions that the author is trying to convey. It not only makes sense within the story’s context but also enables the reader to pick up on the underlying message without a doubt. Shakespeare, a renowned master of the art, extensively uses various literary devices throughout his works. The use of several literary devices in the play Hamlet contributes to the text’s inexhaustible richness, which is also due to the nature of the devices. Shakespeare is particularly brilliant when it comes to using literary devices in such a way that more than one of them works at the same time.
A metaphor is an indirect comparison that draws attention to a specific resemblance. These kinds of metaphors can be found throughout Hamlet’s utterances. He views the world as “a garden that hasn’t been weeded.” He describes it as “the fear of something after death, the unknown land from where no traveler ever returns.”
Hamlet’s analogy of death as an uncharted territory highlights that the play’s protagonist is terrified of the unknown aspects of the hereafter (Zamir). Again, in the play’s third Act, Hamlet ponders the question of “whether it is nobler in the spirit to suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune, or to take weapons against a sea of afflictions.” He uses the imagery of arrows and slings and compares the magnitude of his problems to the expanse of the sea to emphasize the penetrating quality of fortune (Zamir). The “rose of May” is how Laertes refers to his sister.
“Think yourself a baby, That you have ta’en these tenders for true pay, Which are not sterling.” When Polonius refers to Ophelia as a baby in this double metaphor, he is implying that she is naive for believing that Hamlet’s feelings (“tenders”) for her are genuine when, in reality, they are similar to counterfeit silver coins (Zamir). The undiscovered place from whose bourn no traveller ever returns is another metaphor that appears later in the monologue. In this passage, Hamlet likens the afterlife, also known as what transpires after death, to an “undiscovered place” from which nobody ever returns. This is meant to imply that once a person has died, they cannot be brought back to life.
Importance of Metaphors in the Play
Shakespeare makes great use of metaphors in Hamlet to generate dramatic imagery and provide hints about the plot. Because the poet is so adept at manipulating the English language, they can employ metaphors that flow smoothly into the conversation or soliloquy and do not appear forced. Simultaneously, many are instantly familiar to the reader or the audience, stimulating their imaginations and allowing them to interpret the plot from an entirely new perspective (Zamir). The quantity of metaphors in this soliloquy enables Hamlet to misrepresent reality as a representation of his inner self. It reveals his depressed and ill mental state, which makes him not want to continue living. It is an examination of the character’s characteristics, images, and mood around this play component.
Zamir, Tzachi. Shakespeare’s Hamlet. Oxford University Press, 2017.