30 June 2014
1. Author: William Shakespeare
2. Information about the author related to the work: Many of the motifs in the drama Hamlet are allegories for things happening during Shakespeare’s time in relation to the English kingdom. Shakespeare Written during the first part of the seventeenth century (probably in 1600 or 1601), Hamlet was probably first performed in July 1602. It was first published in printed form in 1603 and appeared in an enlarged edition in 1604. As was common practice during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, Shakespeare borrowed for his plays ideas and stories from earlier literary works. 3. Major Works:
a. Othello, The Moor of Venice
b. The Taming of the Shrew
c. Twelfth Night or What You Will
d. Julius Caesar
e. Richard III
g. Midsummer Night’s Dream
h. Henry V
i. Romeo and Juliet
4. Assigned Selections: Hamlet
5. Major Characters:
g. The Ghost
Prince Hamlet is depressed. Having been summoned home to Denmark from school in Germany to attend his father's funeral, he is shocked to find his mother Gertrude already remarried. The Queen has wed Hamlet's Uncle Claudius, the dead king's brother. To Hamlet, the marriage is "foul incest." Worse still, Claudius has had himself crowned King despite the fact that Hamlet was his father's heir to the throne. Hamlet suspects foul play. When his father's ghost visits the castle, Hamlet's suspicions are confirmed. The Ghost complains that he is unable to rest in peace because he was murdered. Claudius, says the Ghost, poured poison in King Hamlet's ear while the old king napped. Unable to confess and find salvation, King Hamlet is now consigned, for a time, to spend his days in Purgatory and walk the earth by night. He entreats Hamlet to avenge his death, but to spare Gertrude, to let Heaven decide her fate. Hamlet vows to affect madness — puts "an antic disposition on" — to wear a mask that will enable him to observe the interactions in the castle, but finds himself more confused than ever. In his persistent confusion, he questions the Ghost's trustworthiness. What if the Ghost is not a true spirit, but rather an agent of the devil sent to tempt him? What if killing Claudius results in Hamlet's having to relive his memories for all eternity? Hamlet agonizes over what he perceives as his cowardice because he cannot stop himself from thinking. Words immobilize Hamlet, but the world he lives in prizes action. In order to test the Ghost's sincerity, Hamlet enlists the help of a troupe of players who perform a play called The Murder of Gonzago to which Hamlet has added scenes that recreate the murder the Ghost described. Hamlet calls the revised play The Mousetrap, and the ploy proves a success. As Hamlet had hoped, Claudius' reaction to the staged murder reveals the King to be conscience-stricken. Claudius leaves the room because he cannot breathe, and his vision is dimmed for want of light. Convinced now that Claudius is a villain, Hamlet resolves to kill him. But, as Hamlet observes, "conscience doth make cowards of us all." In his continued reluctance to dispatch Claudius, Hamlet actually causes six ancillary deaths. The first death belongs to Polonius, whom Hamlet stabs through a wall-hanging as the old man spies on Hamlet and Gertrude in the Queen's private chamber. Claudius punishes Hamlet for Polonius' death by exiling him to England. He has brought Hamlet's school chums Rosencrantz and Guildenstern to Denmark from Germany to spy on his nephew, and now he instructs them to deliver Hamlet into the English king's hands for execution. Hamlet discovers the plot and arranges for the hanging of Rosencrantz and Guildenstern instead. Ophelia, distraught over her father's death and Hamlet's behavior, drowns while singing sad love songs bemoaning the fate of a spurned lover. Her brother, Laertes, falls next. Laertes, returned to Denmark from France to avenge his father's death, witnesses Ophelia's descent into madness. After her funeral, where he and Hamlet come to blows over which of them loved Ophelia best, Laertes vows to punish Hamlet for her death as well. Unencumbered by words, Laertes plots with Claudius to kill Hamlet. In the midst of the sword fight, however, Laertes drops his poisoned sword. Hamlet retrieves the sword and cuts Laertes. The lethal poison kills Laertes. Before he dies, Laertes tells Hamlet that because Hamlet has already been cut with the same sword, he too will shortly die. Horatio diverts Hamlet's attention from Laertes for a moment by pointing out that "The Queen falls." Gertrude, believing that Hamlet's hitting Laertes means her son is winning the fencing match, has drunk a toast to her son from the poisoned cup Claudius had intended for Hamlet. The Queen dies. As Laertes lies dying, he confesses to Hamlet his part in the plot and explains that Gertrude's death lies on Claudius' head. Finally enraged, Hamlet stabs Claudius with the poisoned sword and then pours the last of the poisoned wine down the King's throat. Before he dies, Hamlet declares that the throne should now pass to Prince Fortinbras of Norway, and he implores his true friend Horatio to accurately explain the events that have led to the bloodbath at Elsinore. With his last breath, he releases himself from the prison of his words: "The rest is silence." 7. Style of Writing:
a. Use of Soliloquy – Act 3 Scene 1, “to be or not to be” soliloquy made by Hamlet. Use of the soliloquys is to allow the character to ponder on something that has been bothering the character and to let the audience in on the thoughts of the character. b. Play within a play – Within Hamlet, Hamlet has a play held in the castle in-front of his uncle in an attempt to force him to admit to the murder of Hamlet’s father. c. Use of Imagery - OPHELIA My lord, as I was sewing in my closet, Lord Hamlet, with his doublet all unbraced;
No hat upon his head; his stockings foul'd,
Ungarter'd, and down-gyved to his ancle;
Pale as his shirt; his knees knocking each other;
And with a look so piteous in purport
As if he had been loosed out of hell
To speak of horrors,--he comes before me.
d. Symbolism - When Ophelia loses her mind in Act IV, Scene v, she starts handing out flowers to everyone around her. She talks directly about the symbolic meaning of those flowers, but what's also important is to whom she hands each flower. e. Tragic Hero - In many senses, Hamlet is the quintessential tragic hero. Not only does he begin with the noblest motivations (to punish his father’s murderer) but by the end, his situation is do dire that the only plausible final act should be his death. Like the classical tragic hero, Hamlet does not survive to see the full outcome of his actions and more importantly, this is because he possesses a tragic flaw. That tragic flaw is his inability to act. f. Aside – Polonius: (to himself) There’s a method to his madness. (to HAMLET) Will you step outside, my lord? g. Foil - In fiction, a foil is a character who contrasts with another character (usually the protagonist) in order to highlight particular qualities of the other character. Both Prince Fortinbras and Laertes are everything Hamlet is not. Both Fortinbras and Laertes also need to avenge their fathers, and they both take care of business in a big way: Fortinbras tries to wage a war against Denmark, while Laertes runs home from Paris to stage a revolution in his dead father's honor. h. Oxymoron - 'I will bestow him, and will answer well
The death I gave him. So, again, good night.
I must be cruel, only to be kind:
Thus bad begins and worse remains behind.
One word more, good lady.’
i. Comic relief – The scene involving the gravediggers or as they are called in the drama, “clowns”, is a perfect example of comedic relief for the play. j. Antithesis – “to be or not to be”
k. Suspense – Near the end of the play there is a lot of suspense build up between the time that Claudius has Laertes challenge Hamlet to a duel. The audience knows that the duel will be rigged with poison to kill Hamlet by Claudius and Laertes both. l. Metaphor and Simile – Act 4 Scene 1 "So much was our love, We would not understand what was most fit; But, like the owner of a foul disease, To keep it from divulging, let it feed Even on the pith of life." m. Use of Conflict – There is great use of conflict between Hamlet and his uncle Claudius who are completely different from one another or act as foil characters. So they clash and have the primary conflict of revenge between them. n. Personification - In Act One, Scene One, Line 115, Horatio states that: "The graves stood tenantless, and the sheeted dead / Did squeak and gibber in the Roman streets;" o. Puns - "Not so, my lord, I am too much in the sun" (1.2.67). This is Hamlet's response to the King's question, "How is it that the clouds still hang on you?" He means that the King has called Hamlet "son" once too often. p. Apostrophe – Claudius Act 4 Scene 3
‘Do it, England; for like the hectic in my blood he rages, And thou must cure me: till I know 'tis done,
Howe'er my haps, my joys were ne'er begun.’
q. Allusion - Hyperion - Greek sun god sometimes also named Helios or Apollo (II.i.140) r. Alliteration – ‘For we will fetters put about this fear, Which now goes too free-footed.’
( Ham III.iii.25-6)
s. Dramatic Irony - In Act II Sc.1 Ophelia reports to her father Polonius the strange behavior of Hamlet. Polonius immediately concludes that Hamlet is 'madly in love' with Ophelia: "This is the very ecstasy of love" and that he has gone mad because she has obeyed his instruction in spurning Hamlet's love: "That hath made him mad." Only the readers know that Hamlet is only pretending to be mad. t. Use of Blank Verse - "Indeed this counselor / Is now most still, most secret, and most grave, / Who was in life a foolish prating knave" (Hamlet Act III, Scene 4). u. The Fatal Flaw – Hamlet’s tragic flaw/fatal flaw was his inability to act. v. Fall of the nobleman – As is part of the Tragic Hero criteria, Hamlet is a nobleman who eventually falls due to his tragic flaw. This was also used as a tool to keep the audience interested because much like we today seem to be only interested in the stars of our time, the people of that era were very interested in the nobles of their time. w. Audience’s sympathy for the hero - In Act I Sc.5, the Ghost reveals to Hamlet that he was poisoned to death by Claudius who spread the rumor that he died of snake bite which is believed to be true by everyone in Denmark. Dramatic irony results because only Hamlet and the readers know the truth that Claudius murdered Hamlet's father. After this revelation, we sympathize with Hamlet and begin to hate Claudius: "Now Hamlet hear........Now wears his crown." 8. Implications for Society:
a. Do not let indecision get the better of you.
b. Do not overthink something to the point that you never get around to do that thing. c. Things are not always what they appear to be.
d. We’re always being watched. – pg. 688
e. Never trust all your friends. – pg. 689
f. You never know what mother wants. – pg. 712
g. Never be a borrower or a lender. – pg. 669
h. Revenge is never justified. – pg. 669
i. Think before you speak. – pg. 669 line 61
j. Suicide is never a heroic choice.