Please help with literary terms in the “How all occasions” passage from Hamlet.Please help me annotate this following passage from Act 4, Scene 4 of Hamlet. Annotate as in, help me find...

Please help with literary terms in the “How all occasions” passage from Hamlet.

Please help me annotate this following passage from Act 4, Scene 4 of Hamlet. Annotate as in, help me find literary terms such as metaphors, similes, hyperboles, alliterations, paradox, euphemism, synecdoches, and others if listed.

Expert Answers
lmetcalf eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Whenever you are analyzing a passage, it is important to remember the context of the lines.  At this point in the play, Hamlet knows for sure that Claudius is guilty of murdering King Hamlet, but Prince Hamlet has not been able to take direct action against him and now he is being sent to England because he killed Polonius and Claudius fears what his next action may be.  Hamlet has just heard about Fortinbras's plans to fight for a worthless piece of land in Poland just for the honor of doing so.  He seems to admire Fortinbras for his resolve to action.

Here are a few things to notice -- but there are several others:

1.  The opening sentence is almost a conclusion statement and Hamlet is clearly expressing his frustration over his current situation.

2. The second sentence is a rhetorical question that uses a metaphor.  Hamlet asks for man, in particular him is just an animal, a beast, that eats and sleeps.  He goes on this theme for the next several lines

3.  Alliteration is used in line 54:  Hamlet is commenting on Fortinbras's actions in his cause saying that he does it despite the fact that "fortune, death and danger dare."  The alliteration is used for emphasis of those ideas.

4.  Metaphor is used in line 55:  This is the completion of the sentence from above.  He calls Poland an eggshell -- something worthless; something that most people throw away with little regard.

5.  A simile is used in line 64 when Hamlet says that he thinks Fortinbras's soldiers are fighting and heading toward their possible death as easily as if they were going to sleep.  He says that "for a trick of fame (they) go to their  graves like beds."

6.  Hamlet uses hyperbole when he suggests that so many will die in this fight that there is "not tomb enough and continent (earth) to hide the slain."  Clearly this is an overstatement.

7.  In his final line Hamlet says his thoughts will be "bloody."  Clearly, thoughts can't be bloody, but this metaphor implies that the thought will be ABOUT blood -- specially his need to avenge his father's murder.

sean475 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Remember that, when analyzing a particular passage, it is the context that it comes in that dictates much of its meaning, especially when it comes to literary terms.

At this point in Hamlet, Hamlet has become convinced that it was Claudius who killed his father. However, Hamlet has done nothing to avenge the deed. Now, Hamlet learns that Fortinbras is making a bold move to capture a worthless tract of land. Hamlet is struck by the contrast to his own inaction on a far more worthy cause. The result is Hamlet opening his eyes to his passivity and voicing his new intent to act.

This is why Hamlet refers to his revenge as "dull": It has been boring and meaningless thus far, making it similar to a dull knife that needs to be sharpened in order to do the deed.

The realization that Fortinbras is willing to take such intense action for something much less worthy than Hamlet's revenge is the idea that will "spur" this revenge. Horsemen, then as now, dig their spurs into their horse to make it go faster and race to the goal. This metaphor, however, takes on new strength as Hamlet thinks about how men and animals are different: he is now the animal that has been "spurred" to the action of revenge. Hamlet, like a horse that has been spurred by his rider, is now focusing on the end goal of killing Claudius: "O, from this time forth, / My thoughts by bloody, or be nothing worth!"


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