William Shakespeare

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Hamlet: Style 1 key example

Read our modern English translation.
Act 3, Scene 1
Explanation and Analysis:

The style of Hamlet is determined by Hamlet’s perspective and character. Because Hamlet speaks more than any other character, his language and diction dictate the play’s rhythm and movement. When Hamlet decides to feign madness, the play’s pacing grows more convoluted in order to represent his failure to communicate with those around him. This shift is visible in the way he uses language itself.

In some scenes, Hamlet switches between verse and prose, altering the sound and character of his communication to indicate a shift in his mental state. An example of this from Act 3, Scene 1 concerns Hamlet’s most famous soliloquy. After speaking at length in verse about the nature of life and death, his longing for peace, and the corruption of the world around him, he is interrupted by Ophelia. Immediately, the change in his manner is reflected by the structure of his sentences. He speaks only in prose, and in short clipped sentences. The contrast between Hamlet’s soliloquy and his newfound terseness with Ophelia make clear his struggle to communicate with others. In this way, the play’s style is greatly impacted by the way these characters communicate with each other, and the alternating between verse and prose that takes place emphasizes the sense of discontinuity in Hamlet’s mind. This gives the play a feeling of imbalance and chaos, a force that is buried in the structure and the language of the play as well as its thematic elements.