Hamlet Literary Devices

Foil (definition) minor character whose attitudes, beliefs, and behavior differ significantly from those of the main character (highlights the flaws of the protagonist)
Foil (example) Horatio acts as a foil to Hamlet
dramatic irony (definition) occurs when the results of actions are tragic reverse of what participants think; spectators understand
dramatic irony (example) Hamlet and Horatio know that Claudius has killed the King
comic relief (definition) humorous episode in a tragedy
comic relief (example) the graveyard scene in act five
aside (definition) speech wherein character speaks his thoughts in words to the spectator but supposedly not to the other actors
aside (example) “a little more than kin and less than kind”
oxymoron (definition) A figure of speech consisting of two apparently contradictory terms
oxymoron (example) “with mirth in funeral, and with dirge in marriage”
imagery (definition) use of vivid, concrete, sensory details
metaphor (example) when Hamlet calls the world an “unweeded garden”
simile (example) “what a piece of work is man!…how like an angel”
hyperbole (definition) An extreme exaggeration
hyperbole (example) “he would drown the stage with tears/ And cleave the general ear with horrid speech”
personification (definition) A figure of speech in which an object or animal is given human feelings, thoughts, or attitudes
personification (example) “For murder, though it have no tongue, will speak/ With most miraculous organ”
apostrophe (definition) when a character addresses an abstract concept, absent person, or inanimate object
apostrophe (example) “Frailty thy name is woman!”
assonance (definition) Repetition of vowel sounds
assonance (example) “in equal scarle weighing delight and dole.”
allusion (definition) A reference to another work of literature, person, or event
allusion (example) “she followed my poor father’s body/ Like Niobe, all tears…”
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 talks to himself about his mother’s hasty marriage to Claudius; the audience knows his thoughts