How Does Shakespeare Use Language In Hamlet

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Found in most of his works, Hamlet features one of Shakespeare’s recurring themes: the power of language. In Richard III, for example, the play’s namesake uses the power of words to acquire political power and to “manipulate, confuse, and control others around him” (SparkNotes). This can be seen when Richard addresses his deception and its success, “And thus I clothe my naked villainy / With odd old ends stolen out of Holy Writ, / And seem a saint when most I play the devil” (SparkNotes, 1.3.342-344). Likewise, characters in Shakespeare’s Hamlet rely heavily on their connection and use of words, often driving their actions and perceptions. Whether the words are used as weapons, substituted for actions, or used to Hamlet’s disadvantage, they…show more content…
While Claudius actually poured poison in the late King Hamlet’s ear, the Ghost also says that he has poisoned “the whole ear of Denmark” (1.5.36) with his lies. This meaning is used metaphorically to represent Claudius’ use of words to manipulate and destroy, as well as to enhance his power. The image of daggers is frequently used between Hamlet and Gertrude. Not only the actual word, but the violence and anger with which Hamlet speaks to her is powerful, like a weapon. When they are fighting in her bedroom, Hamlet verbally attacks her saying she lives “in the rank sweat of an enseamèd bed, / Stewed in corruption, honeying and making love / over the nasty sty” (3.4.93-95). In this instance and elsewhere throughout the play, Hamlet attacks Gertrude’s lifestyle, in regards to her actions behind closed doors. He ruthlessly condemns her decision to marry Claudius and constantly questions her lifestyle. With a reference to daggers, Gertrude begs Hamlet to stop, saying “O speak to me no more! / These words like daggers enter in my ears” (3.4.96-97). Hamlet, however, chooses to go on, getting so worked up he finally acts upon his words, killing (with a sword, ironically) who he thinks to be Claudius hiding behind the tapestry. It’s not surprising that he treats her this way, when in his fifth soliloquy he decides that he “will speak daggers to her, but use none” (3.2.371). Using piercing words of disdain, Hamlet indeed speaks daggers. Given these points and many more throughout the play, the power of language used weapons is employed by many characters to advance their own
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