Metaphors In Hamlet

What are some quotes from Hamlet that show metaphors?

Expert Answers
lmetcalf eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The famous "To be or not to be" soliloquy is full of metaphors as well.  The whole first section of the speech is using the stock metaphor of death as sleep.  Hamlet says, "To die: to sleep; / No more; and by a sleep to say we end / The heart-ache and the thousand natural shocks / That flesh is heir to."  While literal sleep gives our minds and bodies a repreive from the trouble of life, death will do the same forever.

At the end of the soliloquy Hamlet talks about "the undiscovered country."   He is talking about death and the afterlife.  What happens after death is like a new country for each person who dies because no one who dies can come back and tell us what this "new country" is like -- we can only discover it for ourselves.

If you read the complete soliloquy you can discover other metaphors that also tie into the themes of life and death, and the struggles humans endure on this earth.  Shakespeare is never a loss for metaphorical language. 


lynnebh eNotes educator| Certified Educator

You can turn to any scene in this play and find dozens of examples of metaphors. For example, just in Act I, Scene i, I found these three:

Therefore I have entreated him along
With us to watch the minutes of this night, (referring to time)

It is a speck of dust to irritate the mind’s eye (referring to the appearance of the ghost, and what it means)

The rooster, that is the trumpet of the morning (referring to the rooster’s crow at the break of day)

This is the scene in which Horatio and Marcellus witness the ghost of Hamlet's father, the former king of Denmark who has been murdered by his brother Claudius. The king's ghost is appearing in an attempt to get his son, Hamlet, to avenge his death. Horatio and Marcellus have seen the ghost several times and at the end of this scene, they decide that should tell Hamlet about it.

You can read the enhanced text right here on enotes.