Literary Terms in Hamlet + Examples

Soliloquy – a speech given onstage by an actor who is alone, or thinks he’s alone (true thoughts of the character)- Examples: To be or not to be speech, Claudius’ speech while praying
Oxymoron – 2 contrasting words that are put together- examples: (most in Claudius’ first big speech) defeated joy, mirth in funeral, dirge in marriage
Foil – A character set to contrast the main character (Hamlet)-Examples: Fortinbras, Laertes, Horatio
Malapropism – misuse of words, usually for comic affect- Examples: “argal” instead of “ergo,” “se offendendo” instead of “se defendendo,” “crowner” instead of “coroner”
Pun – a play on words- examples: “he is at supper – not where he eats, but where he is eaten” Hamlet is annoyed by Claudius’ constant referral to him as his son, so when Claudius asks him ‘how is it that the clouds still hang over you?’ meaning why is he still in mourning for his father, Hamlet responds: ‘Not so, my lord, I am too much in the sun.’ “A little more than kin, and less than kind.”
Riddle – a question or statement intentionally phrased so as to require ingenuity in ascertaining its answer or meaning, typically presented as a game.- example: What is he that builds stronger than either the mason, the shipwright, or the carpenter?
Apostrophe – when you speak to an absent person, idea or object-example: “Do it, England; for like the hectic in my blood he rages” – Claudius addresses England
Aside – directly spoken to audience with others onstage- example: “Though this be madness, yet there is method in ‘t.”
Paradox – a contradictory statement that is true- example: “I must be cruel to be kind.”
Amphibole – a hidden slam on someone