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Please provide an example of ''zeugma'' from Shakespeare's Hamlet or King Lear.

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shannaqvi | Student, Undergraduate | (Level 2) Honors

Posted August 13, 2012 at 9:52 PM via web

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Please provide an example of ''zeugma'' from Shakespeare's Hamlet or King Lear.

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sensei918 | College Teacher | (Level 1) Associate Educator

Posted August 14, 2012 at 2:27 AM (Answer #1)

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Zeugma is a rhetorical device by which a single word is made to refer to two or more words. It is a favorite literary device of Shakespeare's and it demonstrates his command of the English language. Zeugma can be found in many of Shakespeare's plays and in his sonnets as well. In Hamlet, one of the places where Shakespeare uses zeugma is when Hamlet talks to Ophelia in Act III, Scene i. He is trying to convince her that he no longer cares for her because he knows that Gertrude, Claudius, and Polonius are watching him. One example is when he questions her as to whether she is honest (line 113). She questions him back "My Lord?" and he says "Are you fair?" In this case, he is using the word to refer to two different things: one, is she being fair or acting fairly; two, does she think she is fair, meaning lovely. Hamlet quite deliberately uses his words to mean two different things throughout this speech, confusing Ophelia so that she does not know what to think, and neither do the others who are watching him.


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