Elliot is filled with many allusions. They help develop parts of the poem by representing the author or Prufrock’s feelings or perspective. These allusions provide the readers with good comparisons and enrich the understanding of the poem’s contents. .
The epigraph of the poem is one example of such an allusion. In his epigraph Elliot introduces a literary allusion from Dante’s poem “Inferno.”” In this allusion a man condemned to hell states his feelings. He states that because he is in hell and knows he shall never escape from hell he is free to answer “without fear of infamy.”” This allusion helps to signify Prufrock’s personal hell. Prufrock’s hell consists of his doubts and fears when it relates to expressing his emotions outwardly towards a woman. Prufrock wants the companionship and love of a woman but cannot muster up the courage to begin a relationship with one. He is afraid of being rejected and ridiculed, so afraid that he cannot take the risk. Unfortunately, Prufrock’s hell is escapable, so he still has his dignity to lose. .
Another allusion found in the poem is a biblical one, which creates a reference to the prophet John the Baptist. A dancing girl named Salome enamored King Herod. He offered her a gift of anything she wanted in his kingdom. Salome’s mother told her to request the head of John the Baptist on a silver platter. Herod complied. Prufrock’s situation is similar. The woman Prufrock at the party compels him. He wants to act; he wants to reveal his emotions to this girl but is too afraid. Doubt is his fear. He is afraid that like the dancer of the Bible the woman will metaphorically order his head chopped off and on a platter by rejecting him. .
A more obvious allusion is found in line 111. This literary allusion relates to Shakespeare’s character Hamlet from the play Hamlet. The hero Hamlet, like Prufrock, is crippled by indecisiveness. Prufrock echoes Hamlet’s famous “to be or not to be” at the end of this line.