The Use of Sarcasm in Hamlet: a Character Analysis

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About this sample


Words: 569 |

Page: 1|

3 min read

Published: Mar 6, 2024

Words: 569|Page: 1|3 min read

Published: Mar 6, 2024

William Shakespeare’s Hamlet has long been revered as a masterpiece of literature. It has stood the test of time and is still being studied and performed today. One of the most notable features of this play is the use of sarcasm. Sarcasm is a literary device that uses irony to mock or convey contempt. It is used by several characters in Hamlet, and it serves to enhance the themes and characters in the play.

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The Main Characters and Sarcasm

  • The main character, Hamlet, is perhaps the most prolific user of sarcasm in the play. Hamlet is a complex character who is haunted by the death of his father and the betrayal of his mother. He is unhappy with the state of the world and uses sarcasm to express his displeasure. For example, when Hamlet first encounters Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, he uses sarcasm to belittle their attempts to pry into his mental state. He says, “I am but mad north-north-west: when the wind is southerly I know a hawk from a handsaw.” This is a clear example of sarcasm because he is pretending to be mad in order to avoid answering their questions.
  • Another character who uses sarcasm is Polonius, the Lord Chamberlain. Polonius is a self-important and verbose character who often speaks in platitudes. When Hamlet mocks him, Polonius responds with sarcasm. For example, when Hamlet asks Polonius what he is reading, Polonius responds, “Words, words, words.” This is a classic example of sarcasm because Polonius is implying that Hamlet would not understand the complexity of his reading material.
  • Ophelia, Hamlet’s love interest, is another character who uses sarcasm. Unlike Hamlet and Polonius, Ophelia’s use of sarcasm is more subtle. When she sings a song about a rejected lover, she is actually expressing her disappointment in Hamlet’s rejection of her. She uses sarcasm to disguise her true feelings and protect her dignity. When the song is over, she tells Hamlet, “You are merry, my lord.” This is sarcasm because she is actually hurt and upset that Hamlet has rejected her.
  • Purposes of Sarcasm in Hamlet

  • The use of sarcasm in Hamlet serves several purposes. First and foremost, it adds depth and complexity to the characters. Every character in the play has a reason for using sarcasm, and their use of it reveals something about their personality or motivations.
  • Secondly, the use of sarcasm in Hamlet serves to enhance the themes of the play. One of the main themes of Hamlet is the corruption of power. Many of the characters in the play wield their power to manipulate and exploit others. The use of sarcasm reveals the hypocrisy and shallowness of those who abuse their power.
  • Finally, the use of sarcasm in Hamlet serves as a commentary on the state of the world. Sarcasm is often used to criticize society and the people who inhabit it. Hamlet’s sarcastic comments about the state of the world reveal his disillusionment with the human condition.
  • In conclusion, the use of sarcasm in Hamlet is an integral part of the play’s literary landscape. It adds depth and complexity to the characters, enhances the themes of the play, and serves as a commentary on the state of the world. The three main characters who use sarcasm each have their own motivations and personalities that are revealed through their use of sarcasm. Ultimately, the use of sarcasm serves to make the play richer and more meaningful, and it is a testament to Shakespeare’s literary genius.

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    Dr. Charlotte Jacobson

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    The Use of Sarcasm in Hamlet: A Character Analysis. (2024, March 06). GradesFixer. Retrieved July 19, 2024, from
    “The Use of Sarcasm in Hamlet: A Character Analysis.” GradesFixer, 06 Mar. 2024,
    The Use of Sarcasm in Hamlet: A Character Analysis. [online]. Available at: <> [Accessed 19 Jul. 2024].
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