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Shakespeare/Similes in the tragedy of Hamlet


Hello. Are the following extracts from Hamlet are similes? I'd be really grateful if you can help me with it.
1. For it is, as the air, invulnerable,
And our vain blows malicious mockery.
2.And then it started, like a guilty thing upon a fearful summons.
3. Good Hamlet, cast thy knighted colour off,
And let thine eye look like a friend on Denmark.
4. I shall th’ effect of this good lesson keep as watchman to my heart.
5. To thine own self be true;
And it must follow, as the night the day,
Thou canst not then be false to any man.
6. You speak like a green girl,
Unsifted in such perilous circumstance.
7. And duller shouldst thou be than the fat weed
That rots itself in ease on Lethe  wharf,
Wouldst thou not stir in this.
8. It seems it as proper to our age
To cast beyond ourselves in our opinions
As it is common for the younger sort
To lack discretion.      
9. But as we often see, against some storm,
A silence in the heavens, the rack stand still,
The bold winds speechless and the orb below
As hush as death, anon the dreadful thunder doth rend the region      
10. Ophelia: ‘Tis brief, my lord {Ophelia
talks about the prologue of the play (The
Mousetrap) which was brief.}
Hamlet:  As woman’s love.

Hello, Bob,

Actually, I am not allowed to answer the first question as you have posed it, if I am understanding you: I think you have asked me to identify which of these quotations are similes, and my interpretation is that this is a homework assignment.  I'm not allowed to answer homework assignments, or do do the homework for you.

However, I will answer your second question.  I will try to help you understand the simile, so that you can answer for yourself whether or not each example contains a simile.

A "simile" is usually defined simply as a comparison of two things that are not alike by using the words "like" or "as."  For example:  his sneeze was like an explosion.  This is a simple example using the word "like."  

When the word "as" is used to create a simile, it often comes with a second use of "as."  For example:  her eyes were  AS   dark  AS  coal.  

Therefore, one way to find similes is to search for "like" and "as" in your examples. If "like" or "as" is used, and if ir forms a comparison, then you have found a simile.  (On the other hand, if "like" is used as a verb-- "I like sunsets."-- then it is NOT a simile. If "as" is used to create a subordinate clause, then it is NOT a simile:  "As the war began, many lives were lost."This is NOT a simile.)  

So, to repeat the test:  If you find a usage of "like" or "as," then you must ascertain that a comparison is made.  If you are certain of both, then it is a simile.

There another word-construction that is classified as a simile:  the use of "than" in a comparison creates a simile, even though "like" or "as" is not used in the sentence. These are difficult to identify, but I will give you a procedure to help you.

First, if you find "than," you must establish that a comparison is created.

If you find "than" in the sentence and it is used to create a comparison, then the next step is to look for an adjective in the comparitive degree placed before "than" .   Explanation: the comparative degree occurs when an adjective either ends with the suffix "-er" or is preceded by the word "more."  For example, we can take the adjective "hungry" and transform it into the comparative degree this way:  "hungrier."  Some adjectives will need the use of "more" if adding "-er" will sound odd:  we do not say "jealouser" but instead "more jealous."   Yet either "-er" or "more" added to an adjective makes it comparative.

Next, you will look for the word "than" and an object following it that the subject of the sentence is to be compared to.  

Here is a simple example:   He was happier than a child with a toy.  Notice that "happier" is an adjective in the comparative degree.  Then the word "than" follows immediately with a noun to compare with the subject.  

Here is another example:   That dog is more intelligent than a roomful of scientists.  This example uses "more" to create the comparative degree for the adjective, but it is still a simile because a comparison is created.

So, I would advise you to apply these tests to your ten quotations. First, take each of the ten examples and look for "like," "as," or "than." If one of those words is used, then read the example carefully to ascertain whether a comparison is created. If it passes both these tests, then you have a simile.

Good luck!
Dr. T


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Dr. T.


I can answer questions about Shakespeare's life and times, his plays and poems, the history of criticism and critics' responses to Shakespeare's works, other authors of the time period, the audiences of the time period, Queen Elizabeth I, women of the Renaissance or Early Modern age, history of rhetoric, British drama, etc.


I have taught Shakespeare, Early Modern literature, Early Modern women's literature, the history of rhetoric, Arthurian literature, and related general literary subjects and many others in university classrooms for more than 25 years.

Renaissance Society of America, South-Central Renaissance Society, John Donne Society

3 books with University Presses, 1 book with HarperCollins Press; articles with: Continuum Press, DLB, Gale Research Shakespearean Criticism and Shakespearean Criticism Yearbook, College English journal, Studies in English Literature journal, CEA Critic journal, Renascence journal, Texas Papers on Language and Literature journal, several others.

Ph.D. in British Renaissance Literature and Rhetoric; M.A. in English; B.A. English and Theatre

Awards and Honors
I was editor of a scholarly journal for 10 years; Recipient of my university's Recognition Awards for Research, Teaching, and Service; two Sabbatical awards; graduated Phi Beta Kappa, Summa Cum Laude

Past/Present Clients
Panelist/Reviewer for National Endowment for the Humanities, Washington, DC, 2001, 1997, and 1993; Referee for College Literature, Yale University Press (numerous editions of Shakespeare’s plays), College English, Harper/Collins (1992 to 1995: full-length book manuscripts, including the complete manuscript of The HarperCollins World Reader, Volume I.); Dramaturg for local Little Theatre, 2001–03 (including productions of Macbeth, Romeo and Juliet, and Dangerous Liaisons); Dramaturg for various productions in Theatre/Dance Dept at my University (including As You Like It, Midsummer Night's Dream, Measure for Measure, The Tempest)

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