1. What is it?

Hyperbole is the deliberate use of exaggeration to elicit feeling (sympathy, anger, humour) or emphasis.

In some cases, hyperbole has become so commonly used that it is now a standard phrase (e.g. “I am always doing things like that”).

It is often used in poetry, especially romantic poetry, to emphasise deep feelings. It is also used in advertisements to stress how wonderful a product is.

2. Why use it?

Emphasise a feeling or quality.Persuade an audience by highlighting how good or bad something is.
 Help the audience understand a character’s strong emotions within a play or poem.

3. Examples

‘This is going to take me a million years’ Jemima thought. ‘This bus is never on time. I’ll probably die before we get there.’ She looked out the window. Everyone in the city was in their cars, in her way.

Upon hearing the news, Liam’s world collapsed. There was no more time, no more space, no more connections with another soul.

4. Examples in literature

A Red, Red Rose
by Robert Burns

Know Your Book

Title: A Red, Red Rose
Author: Robert Burns (1759-1796)
Published: 1794
Language: Scots
Genre: Song; poem; love song; love poem
Synopsis: A traditional love song in which the poet compares his love to a rose in bloom, and says he will love his lady until the seas go dry and the rocks melt. Finally, he wishes her well, and says he will return even if it involves travelling ten thousand miles.

O my Luve’s like a red, red rose,
That’s newly sprung in June.
O my Luve’s like the Melodie
That’s sweetly play’d in tune.

As fair art thou, my bonnie lass,
So deep in luve am I;
And I will love thee still, my Dear,
Till a’ the seas gang dry.

Till a’ the seas gang dry, my Dear,
And the rocks melt wi’ the sun:
I will love thee still, my Dear,
While the sands o’ life shall run:

And fare thee weel, my only Luve!
And fare thee weel, a while!
And I will come again, my Luve,
Tho’ it ware ten thousand mile!

Skimming, Scanning and Basic Comprehension

1. In brief, what is the poem discussing?
2. What would melt rocks?
3. What would the poet do ‘tho’ it ware ten thousand mile’?
4. What is happening at the end of the poem? 
Identifying Techniques

5. Underline all the similes used in this poem.
6. Highlight examples of strong imagery within the poem.
7. What cases of hyperbole are used in the poem?
8. What rhyme structure does A Red, Red Rose use? 
Text Analysis

9. The poem includes several old and Scottish spellings of modern words. Which words are archaic or Scottish? Based on context and sound, what are their modern English equivalents?
10. How does the final stanza differ from the other stanzas?
11. The poet wishes to express the time and distance of his love. How is this done?
12. How does the poet link the second stanza to the first stanza, and the third stanza to the second stanza? 
Provoking Opinion

13. A Red, Red Rose is viewed as a classic love poem. Do you like it? Why, or why not?
14. How would you feel if someone wrote a love poem for you?
15. The poem discusses a ‘deep’ love. In your opinion, what type of love is the deepest?

The Tell-tale Heart
by Edgar Allan Poe

Know Your Book

Title: The Tell-tale Heart
Author: Edgar Allan Poe (1809-1849)
Published: 1843
Language: English
Genre: Fiction; short story; Gothic; horror
Plot: An unreliable narrator – who may have lost his mind – retells how he tried to commit the perfect murder by burying a body beneath the floorboards of his home. When the police arrive looking for the missing person, the narrator confidently invites them to sit at the very spot at which the body is hidden, certain they will suspect nothing. However, soon the murderer begins to hear a heart beat.
Setting: The narrator’s house
Characters: The narrator; the old man


True! – nervous – very, very dreadfully nervous I had been and am; but why will you say that I am mad? The disease hard sharpened my senses – not destroyed – not dulled them. Above all was the sense of hearing acute. I heard all things in the heaven and in the earth. I heard many things in hell. How, then, am I mad? Hearken! and observe how healthily – how calmly I can tell you the whole story.
It is impossible to say how first the idea entered my brain; but once conceived, it haunted me day and night. Object there was none. Passion there was none. I loved the old man. He had never wronged me. He had never given me insult. For his gold I had no desire. I think it was his eye! yes it was this! Once of his eyes resembled that of a vulture – a pale blue eye, with a film over it. Whenever it fell upon me, my blood ran cold; and so by degrees – very gradually – I made up my mind to take the life of the old man, and thus rid myself of the eye for ever.

1. What reason does the narrator give for committing murder?

a) He wanted the victim’s money
b) The victim insulted him
c) He was overcome by a sense of bloodlust
d) He found one of the victim’s eyes disturbing
e) It was a crime of passion

2. ‘I heard all things in the heaven and in the earth.’ This sentence does not include an example of

a) alliteration
b) parallelism
c) assonance
d) oxymoron
e) hyperbole

3. The narrator’s speech in the first paragraph might be described as

a) mournful
b) descriptive
c) level-headed
d) measured
e) manic

4. The second paragraph suggests that the murder was

a) spontaneous
b) premeditated
c) vengeful
d) regrettable
e) enjoyable

5. Both A Red, Red Rose and the excerpt from The Tell-Tale Heart express hyperbole through

a) religious analogy
b) terrestrial and celestial imagery
c) sarcastic nuance
d) extended similes
e) logos


5. Tasks

Task 1: Create a dialogue in which one of the characters is prone to using hyperbole.
Task 2: Write a poem or scene in which hyperbole is used to express an emotion.