Literary Devices in Hamlet


Literary Devices help create special effects in a work of literature which is clarifying or emphasising on certain concepts of the writer. It resonates with the narrative itself and it also allows the reader to notice the theme most certainly. Shakespeare as a great master of it profusely employs literary devices across his works. In the play Hamlet, the text’s timeless richness is also because of the nature of literary devices used in it. Shakespeare is particularly genius at using them in such a way that more than one literary device work at a time.


Metaphor is a direct comparison to show a certain similarity. Hamlet’s speeches are full of such metaphors. He sees this world as “an unweeded garden.” He says, “the dread of something after death, the undiscover’d country whose bourn no traveller returns.

Here the fact that Hamlet fears the unknowable nature of death is shown by his comparison of death to an undiscovered country. Again, in the third Act, Hamlet wonders “whether ‘tis nobler in the mind to suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune, or to take arms against a sea of troubles.”

To emphasise on the piercing nature of fortune, he employs the image of arrows and slings and compares the immensity of his troubles with the sea. Laertes sees his sister as a “rose of May.”


The simile is a comparison which is made by using words “like” or “as.” Hamlet in a mournful state complains of his mother who “Like Niobe, all tears” followed his father’s body after his death but married so soon after that.

Here she is compared to Niobe, a mythical Greek character who cried profusely due to the death of her children. Ophelia uses simile in her songs too when she has already lost her senses after her father gets killed.

She thinks of her father and sings that “his beard was as white as snow.” When Hamlet pierces his mother’s conscience with his words, she shouts back that his words are “like daggers” entering her ears.


It is a very common literary device where the same sound or words are repeated and it enhances the rhythm of the sentences and adds a phonetic quality to it. The whole play is full of it. “Bare bodkin”, “single spies”, “bad begins” and “O, ‘tis too true” are a few examples of many.

Anaphora and Repetition

It is the repetition of the same word at the beginning of each phrase. It helps the speaker to emphasise on a certain aspect. When Polonius reads Hamlet’s letter to the king and the queen, it is anaphoric in nature.

Doubt thou the stars are fire; Doubt that the sun doth move; Doubt truth to be a liar; But never doubt I love.” There are many recurring repetitions in the play like Hamlet saying, “I humbly thank you; well, well, well.” Or on asked by Polonius, he says, “words, words, words.


It is a literary device rarely used. It is when a phrase ends with a word and the next phrase begins with it too. Hamlet employs it in his dialogues many times, for example, “to die, to sleep; to sleep; perchance to dream.


Dramatic Irony is one major device used across the play to engage the readers with its development. Like the Ghost has revealed the reality to Hamlet but it isn’t known to Claudius or Gertrude or any other major characters.

In the end of the play, when Claudius has arranged the fencing match and poisoned the sword and wine but Hamlet doesn’t know.


It is when some distant idea, event or place or something is referred to in the text. Shakespeare alludes from a rich variety in this play. Mostly from Greek and Roman myths such as “the mightiest Julius”, “Like Niobe, all tears”, “Hyperion to a satyr”, “Than I to Hercules.”