Hamlet's awareness of language

The power of words

Shakespeare wants us to see that Hamlet is very alert to the possibilities of language. We notice this not only from the character's own use of words throughout the play, but in the scene Shakespeare gives him with the courtier Osric in the final scene of the play. Shakespeare could have had a courtier arrive with a simple message, but instead he creates the pompous young man whom Hamlet teases just as he had done earlier to Polonius. As Osric chooses long and impressive-sounding phrases, to show off his learning, so Hamlet mocks him by starting to speak in even more flowery phrases:

‘Sir, his definement suffers no perdition in you, though I know to divide him inventorially would dozy th'arithmetic of memory … his semblable is his mirror and who else would trace him his umbrage, nothing more … Why do we wrap the gentleman in our more rawer breath?'

At his own death, he notes that the ‘words, words, words' which have so engaged him throughout the play will now cease:

‘The rest is silence.'
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