What Are Examples of Personification in “Hamlet”?

Akash Kataruka/CC-BY-2.0

“The world’s grown honest” and “For murder, though it have no tongue, will speak / With most miraculous organ” are both quotes from Act II, scene ii that are examples of personification in William Shakespeare’s play “Hamlet.” Personification is a figure of speech in which inanimate objects are given traits normally ascribed to humans. In the above examples, the world and murder are given human qualities.

The first quote is spoken by Rosencrantz. Hamlet’s mother and stepfather put Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, supposed “friends” of Hamlet, up to discovering the cause of Hamlet’s depression. After some small talk, Hamlet asks them what news they bring. Rosencrantz answers with the above quote, indicating that things are now better in the country. In saying that “the world’s grown honest,” he is giving the world the ability to be truthful and straightforward.

In the second quote, Hamlet is revealing his plan for exposing Claudius and Gertrude. He intends to use a play with actions similar to those committed by the king and queen to make them show guilt. When they see their own actions performed on stage, Hamlet says “murder, though it have no tongue will speak.” Giving murder the ability to speak is another way of saying that the murderous couple will, by their response, confess.