Hamlet

The Prince’s Metaphysical Balancing Scale: The Use of Antithesis in Hamlet’s Fourth Soliloquy 11th Grade

Antithesis is a rhetorical device in which two contrasting words or concepts are juxtaposed within a parallel grammatical structure (literarydevices.com). In this case, the repeated use of this literary convention and the balanced structure it employs is meant to highlight the irony of the fact that Hamlet himself can’t seem to find a healthy balance: between anger and depression, reason and emotion, thought and action. Therefore, the use of antithesis in his fourth soliloquy serves to illustrate the uncertainty and dissymmetry that are defining aspects of his character. In the case of this soliloquy one of the most prominent effects of using antithesis is to accentuate the instability of Hamlet’s mindset.

Throughout the play, Hamlet proves himself unable to think evenly. He either idealizes a person or concept, or demonizes them; he sees no grey area, no in-between. A perfect example of this is how Hamlet vilifies his mother for marrying Claudius, partly because has a completely romanticized idea of what marriage should be. Hamlet’s inability to find balance is exemplified in the very beginning of the soliloquy. Hamlet, elaborating on his earlier query of “to be or not to be”, poses another question: “Whether 'tis nobler in...

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