Simile and Metaphor
SIMILE AND METAPHOR
• As other poets and playwrights do, Shakespeare
also explores such abstract ideas as revenge,
personal honor, and the sacrificing of personal
goals for public ones in his plays. He often
connects abstract ideas with concrete examples
through figurative language.
• Although we rarely mean figurative language in a
literal sense, it does help us express our ideas
more vividly. Two common literary devices
associated with figurative language are simile and
• A simile compares two different terms using like or
as. In daily speech we often use similes like these:
– Sam is as hungry as a bear.
– Sally runs like the wind.
• Similarly, Polonius uses simile in giving his advice
to Laertes in Hamlet (Act I, scene iii),
– This above all, to thine own self be true,
– And it must follow, as the night the day,
– Thou canst not then be false to any man.
Here, Polonius demonstrates that the logical
consequence of being true to oneself is
being true to others.
The simile points out the logical sequence of
Polonius' conclusion by comparing it to the
natural sequence of day and night.
• Another way to compare two different terms is to use
a metaphor. Unlike a simile, a metaphor makes a
comparison directly without using like or as. As
metaphors, the previous examples look like this:
– Sam is a real bear when he’s hungry.
– Sally breezed across the finish line.
• Hamlet uses a metaphor as he promises the ghost of
his father to seek revenge upon Claudius (Act I,
– And thy commandment all alone shall live
– Within the book and volume of my brain;
• The metaphor here compares Hamlet's memory of
his vow to the ghost to a clearly defined section
(book) within a bound volume.
DIRECTIONS: THE FOLLOWING PASSAGES CONTAIN
EXAMPLES OF SIMILE AND METAPHOR. WORKING IN PAIRS,
IDENTIFY THE COMPARISONS AND THEN REVIEW EACH
PASSAGE WITHIN THE CONTEXT OF THE PLAY TO DEVELOP
AN INTERPRETATION OF THE PASSAGE. YOU MAY WANT TO
REVIEW THE QUOTATIONS WITHIN THE FULLER CONTEXT OF A
1. Horatio referring to the ghost’s sudden disappearance
And then it started like a guilty thing
Upon a fearful summons.
2. Horatio referring to the rooster’s crow (I.i):
The rooster, that is the trumpet of the morn,
3. Claudius referring to King Hamlet’s death (I.ii):
Though yet of Hamlet our dear brother’s death
The memory be green
4. Claudius addressing Hamlet’s melancholy (I.ii):
How is it that the clouds still hang on you?
5. Hamlet continuing to contemplate mortal life (I.ii):
O that this too, too sullied flesh would melt,
Thaw and resolve itself into a dew
6. Hamlet continuing to contemplate mortal life(I.ii):
How weary, stale, flat, and unprofitable
Seem to me the uses of this world!
Fie on ‘t, ah fie, ‘tis an unweeded garden
That grows to seed, things rank and gross in nature
Possess it merely
7. Horatio telling Hamlet about seeing the ghost (I.ii):
The apparition comes. I knew your father;
These hands are not more like.
8. Ophelia promising to heed Laertes’ advice (I.ii):
I shall the effect of this good lesson keep
As watchman of my heart.
9. Ophelia requesting Laertes heed his own advice (I.ii):
But good my brother,
Do not as some good pastors do,
Show me the steep and thorny way to heaven,
Whiles like a puffed and reckless libertine
Himself the primrose path of dalliance treads
10. Hamlet commenting on Gertrude’s grief (I.ii)
…she followed my poor father’s body,
Like Niobe all tears…
Simile and Metaphor