In these lines, hamlet is speaking to his former university companions Rosencrantz and Guildenstern. He explains his big melancholy that he is being put through since the death of his father. This event has affected him a lot and he even compares the earth as a wasteland, apiece of land without life or can’t sustain life anymore.
He examines the air and the sun and rejects them as something that is of no worth, like when he says they are “foul and pestilent congregation of vapors”. He then examines the human being from many aspects. He first seems to be worshiping humans, when he says, ” What a piece of work is a man, how noble in reason, how infinite in faculties”. He seems to be admiring man; he even compares man’s action to angel actions and man understanding as gods. But to Hamlet, humankind is a perfect example of dust, something worthless.
This speech also tells how much Hamlet thinks that the ability to be knowledgeable is better than acting right in the moment. That’s why he uses the simile of “apprehension, how like a god”, and he too shows his inclination towards apprehension because he delays the murdering of Claudius because he thought of where Claudius’ souls would go if he killed right away, so he thought in another plan which was to kill Claudius when he has sinned so he would go to hell, so he had to wait.
In this passage we can find many examples of figurative speech, for example similes and metaphors. We can find similes when Hamlet he compares human actions to that of angels; “in action how like an angel”: or when he compares our capacity of apprehension to that of god’s: “in apprehension how like a god”. In these similes Hamlet wants to show the two best qualities that man have, their actions and their knowledge. He uses the simile to express them as if they were almost celestial qualities given to humans that are merely compared to dust.
Metaphors can be found when Hamlet is examining almost everything in his speech.
For instance, when he refers to the stars as golden fire; “this majestical roof, fretted with golden fire”. In here we can find two metaphors, the first one is “majestical roof”. Hamlet says this referring to the sky, more specifically night sky, so beautiful and big, that he calls it majestical. Also since the sky is over our heads, he refers to it as the roof of the outside world.. He then refers to the stars as “Golden Fire” this probably is because of the color and brightness that stars have in night sky.
Also he uses another metaphor to show what he thinks of all wonders of nature (the earth, the stars, the sky and air). This is when he says “nothing to me but a foul and pestilent congregation of vapors”. By this he means that every thing he first examined as beautiful to him doesn’t mean anything. This is part of one of the many contradictions Hamlets does when he speaks this speech.
Mainly in this speech Hamlet contradicts himself in almost everything he says. One example of this is when he analyses man qualities; he makes celestial comparisons to action and knowledge of men. But then he concludes saying that humans are not more than mere dust. He as well does this with the natural wonders as explained before.