What literary devices are in Act I, Scene 1 of Hamlet?  

Expert Answers
mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Act I, Scene 1 of Hamlet is the exposition of Shakespeare's play, and, as such, it establishes the mood and provides background information for the drama. In generating the mood and information, there are a number of literary devices that are employed.

As the scene opens, Francisco, a soldier, comes to relieve the watchman and officer, Bernardo. Francisco is happy to be relieved because it is bitter cold and he is "sick at heart" (l.8); further, he tells Bernardo that he has had a quiet night, with "Not a mouse stirring"(l.10), both of which are figures of speech for unhappy and nothing happening, respectively. 

In lines 35-36, there is visual and auditory imagery:
Bernardo speaks of "yond same star" that...has moved along its course "t'illume" one part of heaven" where it "burns" (visual imagery). There is also a "bell then beating one" (auditory imagery).

In line 64, Marcellus refers to the time as "this dead hour," affording the hour personification.
In another example of this personification, in line 76, Marcellus asks why "the night is joint-laborer with the day," referring to the war preparations that go on twenty-four hours a day.   

In line 101, there is synedoche used--"But to recover of us, by strong hand" as the body part "hand" is used to mean the fighters that Fortinbras has assembled.

In line 112-113 a worried Horatio makes a historical allusion to Julius Caesar: 

In the most high and palmy state of Rome,
A little ere the mightiest Julius fell,

and a mythological allusion to Neptune as he describes what occurred the night before Caesar's death stars, using such metaphors [unstated comparisons that are implied in this case] as "with trains of fire and dews of blood" to describe some of the sights of that evening.

In 149-150 after the ghost appears, there is a simile in Horatio's words as he describes the spirit that "started (jumped) like a guilty thing."

In line 152 there is a metaphor as Horatio continues his description of the ghost, comparing the rooster to a trumpet: "The cock, that is the trumpet to the morn."

 

 

 

 

 

Read the study guide:
Hamlet

Access hundreds of thousands of answers with a free trial.

Start Free Trial
Ask a Question