Personification in Hamlet: a Literary Device that Deepens The Tragedy

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About this sample

About this sample


Words: 663 |

Page: 1|

4 min read

Published: Jun 13, 2024

Words: 663|Page: 1|4 min read

Published: Jun 13, 2024

Table of contents

  1. Introduction
  2. Body Paragraph 1
  3. Body Paragraph 2
  4. Body Paragraph 3
  5. Conclusion


William Shakespeare's Hamlet is a masterpiece of English literature, renowned for its complex characters, intricate plot, and profound exploration of human nature. Among the various literary devices Shakespeare employs, personification stands out as a key element that enhances the emotional depth and thematic richness of the play. Personification, the attribution of human qualities to inanimate objects or abstract concepts, is used skillfully by Shakespeare to convey complex emotions, highlight internal conflicts, and underscore the tragic elements of the narrative. This essay will examine the use of personification in Hamlet, focusing on how it contributes to the development of the play's themes and characters. By analyzing specific examples, we will see how personification not only adds a lyrical quality to the text but also serves to deepen the tragic impact of the story.

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Body Paragraph 1

One of the most striking uses of personification in Hamlet is found in the protagonist's soliloquies, where abstract concepts such as death, fate, and conscience are given human characteristics. In the famous "To be, or not to be" soliloquy, Hamlet personifies death as "the undiscovered country from whose bourn no traveler returns" (Act 3, Scene 1). This personification transforms the abstract notion of death into a tangible, almost geographical entity, emphasizing the mystery and fear associated with the afterlife. By giving death human traits, Shakespeare allows Hamlet to engage in a philosophical dialogue with this concept, thereby conveying his deep existential angst and uncertainty. This use of personification not only enriches the language but also makes Hamlet's internal struggle more relatable and poignant for the audience.

Body Paragraph 2

Another significant instance of personification in Hamlet can be observed in the depiction of fortune and fate. Throughout the play, Hamlet often refers to fate as a capricious force that governs human life. For example, in Act 4, Scene 3, he declares, "There's a divinity that shapes our ends, / Rough-hew them how we will." Here, fate is personified as a divine force that intervenes in human affairs, shaping outcomes regardless of individual actions. This personification underscores the theme of helplessness and the limitations of human agency, which is a recurring motif in the play. By attributing human qualities to fate, Shakespeare emphasizes the unpredictability of life and the sense of powerlessness that plagues Hamlet. This serves to heighten the tragic tension, as the characters are portrayed as being at the mercy of forces beyond their control.

Body Paragraph 3

Furthermore, personification is used to convey the moral and ethical dimensions of the play. Conscience is given a voice and depicted as an internal arbiter that influences Hamlet's actions. In Act 2, Scene 2, Hamlet remarks, "The play's the thing / Wherein I'll catch the conscience of the king." Here, conscience is personified as something that can be ensnared or caught, suggesting its active role in guiding moral judgment. This personification reflects Hamlet's own internal conflict between his desire for revenge and his moral hesitations. By giving conscience human attributes, Shakespeare highlights the psychological complexity of his characters and the moral dilemmas they face. This adds a layer of depth to the narrative, making the characters' struggles more vivid and compelling.

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In conclusion, the use of personification in Hamlet is a powerful literary device that enhances the emotional and thematic depth of the play. Through the personification of abstract concepts such as death, fate, and conscience, Shakespeare provides a nuanced exploration of the human condition, capturing the complexity of existential angst, the unpredictability of life, and the moral dilemmas faced by the characters. This not only enriches the language and poetic quality of the text but also makes the internal struggles of the characters more accessible and relatable to the audience. By attributing human qualities to these abstract concepts, Shakespeare succeeds in creating a more immersive and emotionally resonant narrative, solidifying Hamlet as a timeless tragedy that continues to captivate and move audiences. The personification in Hamlet thus serves as a testament to Shakespeare's masterful use of language and his profound understanding of the human psyche.

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Personification in Hamlet: A Literary Device that Deepens the Tragedy. (2024, Jun 13). GradesFixer. Retrieved July 22, 2024, from
“Personification in Hamlet: A Literary Device that Deepens the Tragedy.” GradesFixer, 13 Jun. 2024,
Personification in Hamlet: A Literary Device that Deepens the Tragedy. [online]. Available at: <> [Accessed 22 Jul. 2024].
Personification in Hamlet: A Literary Device that Deepens the Tragedy [Internet]. GradesFixer. 2024 Jun 13 [cited 2024 Jul 22]. Available from:
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