From Hamlet, Act 1, Scene 2.

and yet, within a month,—

Let me not think on't,—Frailty, thy name is woman!—

A little month; or ere those shoes were old

With which she followed my poor father's body

Like Niobe, all tears;—why she, even she,—

O God! a beast that wants discourse of reason,

Would have mourn'd longer,—married with mine uncle,

My father's brother; but no more like my father

Than I to Hercules:

I'm grammatically analyzing the phrase Like Niobe, all tears.

Are "Niobe" and "all tears" in apposition?

Apposition is a grammatical construction in which two elements, normally noun phrases, are placed side by side, with one element serving to identify the other in a different way. The two elements are said to be in apposition. One of the elements is called the appositive, although its identification requires consideration of how the elements are used in a sentence. Wikipedia

closed as off-topic by tchrist, Chenmunka, Ellie Kesselman, ermanen, Mitch Oct 23 '14 at 14:33

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Your first two answers are fine. "All tears" is a hyperbole, like "I am all ears".

  • I'm trying to grammatically analyze "all tears" in the above sentence by Hamlet. I was well aware of an expression like "She was all tears". However, in the above sentence, "all tears" appears without a subject or a be-verb. – ivanhoescott Oct 14 '14 at 0:44
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    "She was" are the elided words. In context, it's an allusion to the Greek tragic heroine, Niobe, who wept unceasingly after the deaths of her fourteen children. – Chris Sunami Oct 14 '14 at 4:57
  • @ChrisSunami "She was all tears" does not seem to fit, because "all tears" is a part of the which-clause. – ivanhoescott Oct 14 '14 at 5:21
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    Note that the OP has substantially changed his question, to the point where this answer no longer makes sense. – Marthaª Oct 23 '14 at 13:58
  • As @Marthaª said, this answer is now so obsolete as to make no sense. You may wish to consider deleting it. – tchrist Oct 29 '14 at 4:08

As others have noted, your first two interpretations are correct. For the third, the full phrase could best be understood as She was all tears, like Niobe.

Basically, all tears is a parenthetical explaining the allusion to Niobe. Hamlet's mother followed her husband's body "like Niobe." In what way was she like Niobe? Like Niobe she was "all tears," consumed with grief --at least seemingly so.

You might best parse it as if there were an extra "like Niobe" in the middle.

With which she followed my poor father's body like Niobe (like Niobe, she was all tears).

  • I'm asking about the grammatical analysis, not about the meaning of the sentence. As I wrote in my comment, "all tears" is a part of the which-clause. "Or ere those shoes were old with which she followed my poor father's body like Niobe, she was all tears." seems to be grammatically incorrect. – ivanhoescott Oct 14 '14 at 15:34
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    I understood your question. My answer is that it is a parenthetical, referring to "like Niobe". I will edit to elaborate. It's largely the same as your "apposition" hypothesis, but quite different from your original interpretation. – Chris Sunami Oct 14 '14 at 16:04
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    I think maybe with questions like this, the OP needs to define exactly what he means by any relevant technical terms. It's my understanding that "apposition" in the grammatical sense would be something along the lines of "She was all tears - like Niobe, the legendary grieving mother" (where the two nouns before/after the comma each identify the other, and no other syntactic requirements apply). OP here may have a considerably looser definition of "apposition". – FumbleFingers Oct 22 '14 at 22:13
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    Note that the OP has substantially changed the question, to the point where much of this answer no longer makes sense. – Marthaª Oct 23 '14 at 14:00
  • This is now an answer to a different question, not to the current one. You may wish to consider deleting it yourself. – tchrist Oct 29 '14 at 4:09

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