Is there assonance in Hamlet's "to be or not to be" speech?

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Assonance refers to the repetition in vowel sounds in a sentence or verse line. For example, in the phrase, "I am ever true to you, my dear Lou," the -oo sound is repeated in the words "true," "you," and "Lou." Another example would be "I will shut the blinds behind...

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Assonance refers to the repetition in vowel sounds in a sentence or verse line. For example, in the phrase, "I am ever true to you, my dear Lou," the -oo sound is repeated in the words "true," "you," and "Lou." Another example would be "I will shut the blinds behind you": "blinds" and "behind" share a vowel sound that creates assonance.

In the "to be or not to be" speech, there are a few cases of assonance which emphasize the relationship between words and concepts. For example, there is the famous line "To sleep, perchance to dream." The words "sleep" and "dream" share an -ee sound and are also linked thematically. Here, Hamlet is realizing that even if suicide allows him to escape the pain of his existence, it might send him to something worse after death if the soul does survive the end of biological life. The sweet sleep he wishes for might turn out to be a nightmare.

Later employments of assonance throughout the soliloquy include "so long life" (note the -oh sound repetition) and "insolence of office" (note the repetition of the -aw sound). Once again, one notices how Shakespeare is creating thematic associations between the words.

This device also has a use for the actor playing Hamlet. Assonance helps make the lines easier to memorize, along with the rhythm of the blank verse or other devices such as alliteration.

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