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Antithesis in 4th Soliloquy. The Prince's Scale of Metaphysical Valance

Antithesis is a rhetorical device in which two contrasting words or ideas 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 reality that Hamlet himself can not seem to discover a wholesome balance: amongst anger and depression, cause and emotion, believed 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 employing antithesis is to accentuate the instability of Hamlet’s mindset.

All through the play, Hamlet proves himself unable to feel evenly. He either idealizes a individual or idea, or demonizes them he sees no grey location, no in-in between. A best instance of this is how Hamlet vilifies his mother for marrying Claudius, partly because has a fully romanticized idea of what marriage ought to be. Hamlet’s inability to discover balance is exemplified in the really starting of the soliloquy. Hamlet, elaborating on his earlier query of “to be or not to be”, poses yet another question: “Whether ’tis nobler in the mind to endure The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune, Or to take arms against a sea of troubles, And by opposing finish them?” (three.1.65-68) Hamlet is a man of extremes, and this is one of the essential motives why he can not seem to locate any semblance of inner peace. In his thoughts, there are only two alternatives: reside a life dogged by misery and ill luck, or rebel against cruel fate by committing suicide. He does not stop to consider that not everyone’s life abounds in suffering, or that maybe killing oneself is not the only way to discover peace. This is why he is so keen to use antithesis in this example, for such a literary device only allows for the presentation of two courses of action. It also assists to convey his warped view of what it implies to take action.

By employing the word “suffer” when speaking of life, he implies that humans are helpless beings at the mercy of fate. Yet he describes the act of suicide as taking up “arms”, as if killing oneself is actually an act of fighting back, even even though it is usually noticed as an act of cowardice. The irrationality of Hamlet is so prevalent all through the play, that he himself is a walking paradox he exemplifies the notion of antithesis itself. One particular explanation Hamlet is not able to bring himself to act is due to the fact he is caught between righteous anger, crippling devastation, and cerebral believed. Utilizing this parallel grammatical structure, he heaps the feasible consequences that come with deciding on either life or death like a merchant heaping weights upon a balancing scale, and but nevertheless finds himself unable to come to any sort of conclusion. Hamlet provides voice to this concern when he says, “And hence the native hue of resolution/ Is sicklied o’er with the pale cast of believed,” (three.1.92-93). By going back and forth in between whether it is far better “to be or not to be” he is arguing himself into the ground.

Hamlet is, by nature, a man who adheres to explanation. Gentry-born and well-educated, he has been taught to consider logically and rationally. Therefore, he is not comfortable letting himself be guided purely by emotion. Anytime he seems to knowledge potent feelings, regardless of whether due to anger, depression, or disgust, he motives himself out of passion, and talks himself down from taking action. This self-entrapment is thrown into stark relief by the use of antithesis. What is interesting about this particular speech is that even though Hamlet is ostensibly contemplating suicide, he by no means really uses the words “I” or “me” all through the passage. He talks about death in an impersonal, common sense, and airs his thoughts on the merits of self-murder as if speaking on the behalf of all humanity, as shown by his repeated use of the words “we” and “us”. One particular can see this specifically in lines 86-90: “But that the dread of some thing right after death …puzzles the will And makes us rather bear those ills we have Than fly to other individuals that we know not of?” (3.1.86,88-90) This conveys in a way, a sense of arrogance, as he assumes that absolutely everyone would commit suicide to escape their troubles have been it not for fear of the unknown. Nevertheless, it also suggests that he knows that the query he posed in the very first line of the soliloquy is a single that he can not answer. It is simpler to accept this lack of closure if he pretends that he is only presenting the concern as a matter of abstract philosophical debate, due to the fact he can't accept the reality that there is no straightforward answer to his issues. This is an established tendency of Hamlet: he thinks himself into circles, posing metaphysical quandaries that he knows he can not resolve. He can not even bring himself to answer the inquiry that he himself asked, verified by the reality that he ends line 90 with a question mark.

Contemplating the objective of antithesis is to emphasize the variations amongst opposite suggestions, employing this device to weigh his alternatives ought to make the query of “to be or not to be” less complicated to answer. Nevertheless, it does just the opposite. Hamlet is obtaining nowhere by following this train of believed, except reasoning himself into paralysis. Shakespeare adeptly wields antithesis in order to depict the disequilibrium that is Hamlet’s troubled psyche and convey the extent of his confusion.

Performs Cited

Shakespeare, William. Hamlet. ED.

Barbara A. Mowat and Paul Werstine. New York: Simon & Schuster, 2012. Print. Folger Shakespeare Library.

“Antithesis Examples and Definition – Literary Devices.” Literary Devices. N.p., 31 Dec. 2014. Web. 27 Feb. 2016.

“Hamlet”To Be or Not to Be….”” Shakespeare Resource Center. N.p., n.d. Web. 29 Feb. 2016.
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