Hamlet Questions and Answers
by William Shakespeare

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In act 1, scene 2 of Shakespeare's Hamlet, what literary devices in Hamlet's soliloquy help characterize him?

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Marietta Sadler eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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At the beginning of the soliloquy, Hamlet complains that God has "fix'd / his canon 'gainst self-slaughter." The metaphorical canon is, of course, a powerful weapon and indicates that Hamlet's desperation to commit suicide can only be frustrated by such a large, powerful weapon.

Hamlet also uses listing when he lists adjectives to describe his depression. He says that the world is "weary, stale, flat and unprofitable." The listing here creates a cumulative impact. Each adjective has negative connotations, and these negative connotations are compounded and emphasized with each adjective. This reflects Hamlet's depression, and how he feels that misery is piled upon misery after misery.

Hamlet again uses a metaphor when he refers to his life as "an unweeded garden." Weeds are unwanted and often harmful plants. They also reduce crop yield, or growth of more desirable plants, by competing with them for natural resources. Hamlet's life is thus an "unweeded garden" because it is full of undesirable...

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