Hamlet Questions and Answers
by William Shakespeare

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Explain why you consider "the serpent that did sting thy father's life, now wears his crown" a metonymy or an implied metaphor? My concern is understanding the difference between metonymy and implied metaphor.  They seem very similar to me.  This is not necessarily a Hamlet question, but more of a figurative language question.

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D. Reynolds eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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The statement above from Hamlet contains both an implied metaphor and a metonymy.

A metaphor is a comparison that does not use the words "like" or "as." For example, "Juliet is the sun," is a metaphor: Juliet is being compared to sun. We know it is Juliet who Romeo is speaking of because he tells us her name (I am paraphrasing, not quoting from the play). In an implied metaphor, the identity of one of the items being compared is unstated or assumed to be understood. For example, were Romeo, a few minutes later, to say "the sun has disappeared from the balcony," this would be an implied metaphor: we would know Romeo was talking about Juliet even though he hasn't said her name.

Therefore, when Hamlet learns of the "serpent that did sting," we know this is an implied metaphor comparing Claudius to a serpent without using the name Claudius. We know this "serpent" is Claudius because we also learn that this serpent wears the crown, and only one person wears the crown in Denmark.

A metonymy is when a part...

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