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Hamlet’s Monologue: A Rhetorical Analysis

Hamlet, Prince of Denmark, is one of the most famous fictional characters in the world who lent his name to the whole play by William Shakespeare. Though written in 1623, due to the tense plot and sharp political and love conflicts, the tragedy has remained popular for several centuries (Joughin, p. 10). In the play, each generation finds problems and themes that are congenial to them. The philosophical component of the work invariably attracts attention for the play contains deep thoughts about life and death (Joughin, p. 11). The eternal questions are raised mainly by Hamlet in his famous monologue. In fact, a monologue is a speech given by a single character (Smith, p. 15). The purpose of this paper is to analyze Hamlet’s monologue from a rhetorical point of view.

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To better convey his ideas to the reader, in the monologue under analysis, Shakespeare uses a range of rhetorical devices. The first one is rhetorical question “to be, or not to be, that is the question” that is used to introduce the theme of the speech. The text also contains epithets (“outrageous”, “despised”, “unworthy”) that enrich the monologue and create the atmosphere of anxiety (Shakespeare, p. 57). Anadiplosis “to die, to sleep; to sleep: perchance to dream” emphasizes Hamlet’s thoughts about sleep (Shakespeare, p. 58). Moreover, they enrich and decorate the monologue of the main character.

Lines “the oppressor’s wrong, the proud man’s contumely, the pangs of despised love” might be classified as a case of asyndeton because they accelerate a passage and create a dramatic effect (Shakespeare, p. 58). Metaphor “sea of troubles” demonstrates the agony Hamlet experiences; he wants to have revenge on his uncle and struggles with death and life (Shakespeare, p. 58). Another metaphor employed is “the undiscover’d country from whose bourn no traveler returns” (Shakespeare, p. 58). It represents Hamlet’s view of death and life: he regards a living person as a traveler and the afterlife as an unknown country. To sum up, the rhetorical devices used by Shakespeare in the monologue of Hamlet help readers better understand the main character’s uncertainty about his life, death, and revenge. With the use of bright epithets, metaphors, and other devices, the author creates the appropriate atmosphere and increases the effect of Hamlet’s words on readers.

Works Cited

  1. Joughin, John J. “Shakespeare’s genius: Hamlet, adaptation and the work of following.” The new aestheticism. Manchester University Press, 2018.
  2. Shakespeare, William. Hamlet. Pearson ELT, 2016.
  3. Smith, Barbara. “Dramatic Monologue.” The Portable Poetry Workshop. Macmillan International Higher Education, 2016.

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