What are examples of euphemism, hyperbole, assonance, and consonance in Hamlet's soliloquy of Act III, Scene 1 of Hamlet? 

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mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

According to renowned Shakespeare scholar Harold Bloom, Hamlet was Sigmund Freud's mentor, and after reading or viewing Shakespeare's play, one can certainly understand such a statement. However, with an examination of the soliloquy of Act III, one might also consider Hamlet as the mentor of the Existentialist, Jean-Paul Sartre, as in this soliloquy Hamlet considers the absurdity of existence as well as non-existence. In this consideration by Hamlet, Shakespeare employs much figurative language.

Euphemism [The use of a more innocuous phrase rather than a                         blunt or harsh one]

 (To die, to sleep— 
No more—and by a sleep to say we end (ll.67-68)

Here Hamlet equates dying with sleeping, a softer term. Further in his soliloquy, Hamlet speaks of what lies after death as

The undiscover'd country (l.86)

Hyperbole [A deliberate exaggeration or overstatement]

Examples of hyperbole are

"outrageous fortune"(l.65) and a "sea of troubles" (l.66) and

the thousand natural shocks
That flesh is heir to (ll. 69-70)
Assonance [the repetition of vowel sounds in stressed syllables containing dissimilar consonant sounds]
For in that sleep of death, what dreams may come (l.64)
The long /e/ sound is in the words "sleep" and "dreams" which have dissimlar consonant sounds. 

Consonance [the repetition of cosonant sounds in stressed syllables containing dissimlar vowel sounds.]
No more; and by a sleep to say we end (l.68) 
The repetition of the /s/ on stressed words such as "sleep" and "say" that have the long /e/ and the long /a/ vowel sounds are in this line.
teachersage eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The famous opening line of this soliloquy is an example of euphemism. To ask "to be or not to be" is a softer, more oblique way of saying "should I kill myself or not?" Hamlet is questioning whether life or death is preferable, but with the underlying intent of deciding whether or not to commit suicide.

We can understand "the whips and scorns of time" as hyperbole showing Hamlet's depressed state of mind. He doesn't see life—"time"—as a good thing, as most would, but as something that whips or beats him. 

Assonance occurs when the same vowel sound is repeated at beginning of more than one word in a line; we find assonance in the following utterance:

The fair Ophelia!—Nymph, in thy orisons . . .

Here, "Ophelia" and "orisons" both begin with "o." Shakespeare could have used the more common word "prayer" for "orisons," but it wouldn't have had the same soft effect as the repeated vowel. 

We find consonance, or the repetition of like sounds near each other, in the following line:

With a bare bodkin? Who would fardels bear . . .

Not only do we see the alliteration in the repeated "b" in "bare," "bodkin" and "bear," we hear the internal consonance in "bARe" and "fARdels."