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What are three metaphors in Act 1. Sc. 4 of Hamlet?

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fashionista91 | Student, Undergraduate | (Level 1) eNoter

Posted September 21, 2010 at 2:02 AM via web

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What are three metaphors in Act 1. Sc. 4 of Hamlet?

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lmetcalf | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Senior Educator

Posted September 21, 2010 at 3:25 AM (Answer #1)

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There are several great metaphors in Hamlet's speech to Horatio when Hamlet is trying to explain the weaknesses of man and where those weaknesses come from.

He says that there may be "some vicious mole of nature" in man that destroys him.  Moles are destructive rodents that eat away at the root systems of plants and destroy them from below -- the damage is done without any visible evidence from above until the plant is dead.

Hamlet talks about the "forts of reason" that can be broken down.  In this case he is talking about the strength of mind and intelligence that can harmed by psychological distrubance.

In the end of speech he says that even "the dram of evil" can wipe out all the goodness of a man.  A dram is a unit of measurement, a dose, or perhaps even a drop.  To give something as unquanitifable as evil a measurable quanitifcation would also be considered metaphorical.

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clairewait | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

Posted September 21, 2010 at 2:58 AM (Answer #2)

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Horatio: It is a nipping and an eager air (ln. 2).

This metaphor is more specifically personification.  Horatio is commenting that it is particularly cold outside and personifies the air as "eager" as if to say even the air suspects something bad is coming.

Hamlet: Let me not burst in ignorance; but tell
Why thy canonized bones, hearsed in death,
Have burst their cerements (lns. 49-51)

Hamlet, first addressing the ghost, refers to the ghosts bones as "canonized" because they were once buried in a church ("hearsed in death") have now "burst" from the grave.  Again, this is a combination of personification (as if the bones themselves have broken out of the grave) and metaphor.  The entire phrase basically says, you were once buried and now are here before me.  Why?

Hamlet: Why, what should be the fear?
I do not set my life in a pin's fee; (lns. 67-68)

Hamlet does not value his life at all ("pin's fee") or my life is not worth more than a pin, therefore he is unafraid to go with the ghost.

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brogia | High School Teacher | (Level 1) eNoter

Posted September 21, 2010 at 5:07 AM (Answer #3)

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1. (vv26-27) Hamlet speaking: By the o'ergrowth of some complexion, oft breaking down the pales and forts of reason...

Metaphor that transforms the human body in a citadel where  reason is kept. Shakespeare often refers, in this drama, the human microcosm to a citadel or a castle.


2.(vv 36-37) Hamlet speaking: The dram of evil doth all the noble substance of a doubt to his own scandal

Evil spreads like an infection. Like the human body, even the society could be corrupted by an infection due to a mistake of nature or a dissolute tradition or a human sin.


3.(vv 69-70) Horatio speaking: What if it tempt you toward the flood, my lord, or to the dreadful summit of the cliff

The vertigo of the cliff is a metaphor of the reason that Hamlet could loose following the ghost. Hamlet could go haywire trying to understand the supernatural.



4.The Nemean Lion- (vv 82-85) Hamlet speaking: My fate cries out, and makes each petty artere in this body as hardy as the Nemean lion's nerve.

The Nemean lion is a monster in Greek mythology whose fur was invulnarable. Hamlet warns that nobody could stop him to follow the ghost.

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shakespeareguru | Teacher | (Level 2) Educator

Posted September 21, 2010 at 9:33 PM (Answer #4)

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Well, certainly, there are many metaphors in this scene.  Here are a few more:

In lines 47 -50, Hamlet describes the way in which Hamlet Senior's tomb has burst open to release his ghost:

...why the sepulchre

Wherein we saw thee quietly inurn'd

Hath op'd his ponderous and marble jaws

To cast thee up again?

Here, Hamlet is describing the sepulchre as some sort of monster that has opened his "jaws" and sort of vomited out the spirit that stands before him.

Also, to continue the line of metaphors already noted in regards to Hamlet's discussion of men with "some vicious mole of nature in them,"  he offers more metaphors to aid in describing the type of man he means:

...that these men,

Carrying, I say, the stamp of one defect,

Being Nature's livery or Fortune's star,

His virtues else, be they as pure as grace...

Here, Hamlet is saying that the "defect" is something a man wears (his "livery), bestowed upon him by "Nature" or given him by"Fortune," suggesting that a man's defect may come naturally or be a part of his destiny.

He then creates a metaphor by linking a man's "virtues" to "pure" "grace."

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