Hamlet: After Act 1 and 2(English 30)

Major Response
(30-1)”I know not seems.” In I, ii, 76, Hamlet claims that his grief is real, not just a show. Make a chart of all the occasions in Act 1 and 2 when there is a difference between the way a character seems to be and the way he or she really is. Create your summary with the following headings:

  • The Character
  • The Situation
  • The Appearance
  • The Reality
  • The Reason for Hiding the Truth

Fill in your ideas about the characters’ behaviour and compare your summary with those of other students.

(30-2)Consider whether or not you think Polonius is a good father. Explain which of his actions were right and which were wrong. Create your own description of a good father. Write a letter to Polonius offering him advice about ways he could become a better parent.

Act 1&2 Considerations:

  1. Why did Marcellus and Bernardo ask Horatio to join them during their watch? What character traits does Horatio possess that would suggest they were right in asking him to join them?
  2. Imagine you were a talk show host, interviewing the newly crowned Claudius, King of Denmark. In a series of questions and answers, review the information provided in I,ii.
  3. Describe the Hamlet revealed in I,ii.
  4. Imagine you are an advice columnist and have received a question that deals with Laertes’ or Ophelia’s situation. Write the question and the response using exact phrases from Acts 1
  5. Write a diary entry in which Ophelia or Laertes recounts some of the advice she or he has received and how she or he feels about the advice.
  6. In 1594, Thomas Nashe speculated why the devil often appeared in the likeliness of a parent or relative: “No other reason can be given of it but this, that in those shapes which he supposeth most familiar unto us, and that we are inclined to with a natural kind of love, we will sooner hearken to him than otherwise.” Hamlet’s friends offer him reasons to not trust the apparition of his father. Summarize these reasons. How does Hamlet respond and what does this show about his character?
  7. Knowing what he knows (in I,v), could Hamlet march into the castle and accuse Claudius of Murder? What would happen if Hamlet attempted to kill Claudius immediately? Write a short scene following Act 1 in which Hamlet accuses Claudius or attempts to kill.
  8. Imagine you are Reynaldo, in Paris, and conversing with a Dane about Laertes’ activities. Write a dialogue in which you follow Polonius’ instructions.
  9. Claudius, Gertrude, and Polonius all have differing opinions on the source of Hamlet’s madness. What are they?
  10. Read the First Player’s speech carefully. Outline what it has in common in terms of characters and situations with what has transpired in the Danish court.

Basic Existentialism, Absurdism, Nihilsm

Basic existentialism, absurdism, nihilism
Basic existentialism, absurdism, nihilism

 

Absurdism

In absurdist philosophy, the Absurd arises out of the fundamental disharmony between the individual’s search for meaning(Existentialist) and the meaninglessness(Nihilist) of the universe. As beings looking for meaning in a meaningless world, humans have three ways of resolving the dilemma. Kierkegaard and Camus describe the solutions…

  1. Suicide
  2. Religious, spiritual, or abstract belief in a transcendent realm, being, or idea.
  3. Acceptance of the Absurd

 

Christian Existentialism

  • Christianity => grace, humility, and love.
  • God => Love.
  • Evil => consequence of action.

 

Nihilism

  • Life is without objective meaning, purpose, or intrinsic value.
  • Knowledge is not possible.
  • Reality does not actually exist.

Hamlet: Getting Started

“We all sympathize with Hamlet, and that is understandable, because almost every one of us recognizes in the prince our own characteristics.” – Ivan Turgenev (1818-1883) Russian novelist and playwright.

Hamlet raises many questions that you may recognize from your own life. Thinking about some of these issues will make your experience of the play more interesting and rewarding. Discuss one of the following questions in your blog. Write about any ideas you find interesting or thought-provoking.

  1. We all have procrastinated about something important that we had to do, sometimes disappointing other people and often disappointing ourselves. Why do we procrastinate?
  2. Most people have purposely “played the fool” at some time. Why do people do this? If a person for some reason plays the fool or pretends to be disturbed for a long time, do you think the person eventually can become truly disturbed?
  3. Isolation and loneliness are feelings common to most people at one time or another. Sometimes external circumstances create this situation, and sometimes people deliberately withdraw from those around them. What can friends or relatives do when someone has purposely withdrawn and chosen to be alone with his or her problems?
  4. Disillusion is a common experience of growing up. We find that people in the adult world whom we once idealized are less than ideal, and that situations we considered innocent are actually corrupt. How do young people encountering the “real world” for the first time handle these discoveries?
  5. In Shakespeare’s time, insane people were regarded as sources of entertainment. What is our society’s attitude toward mental illness?
  6. What is the difference between “taking revenge” and “getting justice”?
  7. Privacy is highly valued in our society. How would you feel if you found out you were “under surveillance” at school, at your job, at home, or among friends because of some change in your behaviour?
  8. What are you launching out to believe in your life? What are you seeking to know? How well are you using your mind in discovering the truth that you are here to know?

“We feel not only the virtues, but the weaknesses of Hamlet as our own.” – Henry MacKenzie (1745-1831), Scottish author

“Hamlet is the most baffling of the great plays. It is the tragedy of a man and an action continually baffled by wisdom. The man is too wise … The task set by the dead is a simple one. All tasks are simple to the simple-minded. To the delicate and complex mind so much of life is bound up with every act that any violent act involves not only a large personal sacrifice of ideal, but a tearing up of the roots of half the order of the world.” – John Masefield (1878 – 1967), British poet laureate

“Polonius is a man bred in courts, exercised in business, stored with observations, confident in his knowledge, proud of his eloquence, and declining into dotage.” – Samuel Johnson (1709 – 1784), British essayist, biographer, and developer of the first English dictionary

“It has been stated that Hamlet is the only one of Shakespeare’s characters who could have written the plays of his creator.” – Betty Bealey (1913 -2008)

“Hamlet again is an example of the removed thinker who is cut off – better who has cut himself off – from human affairs, from life. Who ever thinks of Hamlet as possessing a body? Hamlet is pure mind, a dynamo of thought whirring in the void. He never stopped to put his hand in the garbage can. He is Prince of Idleness, an addict of thought and futile speculation.” – Henry Miller (1891 – 1980), American novelist

“Hamlet! Hamlet! When I think of his moving wild speech, in which resounds the groaning of the whole numbed universe, there breaks from my soul not one reproach, not one sigh … That soul is then so utterly oppressed by woe that it fears to grasp the woe entire, lest it lacerate itself.” – Fyodor Dostoevsky (1821 – 1881), Russian novelist

“Hamlet’s will … is paralyzed. He seeks to move in one direction and is hauled in another. One moment he sinks into the abyss. The next, he rises above the clouds. His feet seek the ground, but find only air….” – Stephen Leacock (1869 – 1944) Canadian author and humorist

“Hamlet is loathsome and repugnant. The fact that he is eloquent has nothing to do with him being obnoxious. He’s an aging playboy. The only time he gets animated is when he bosses around the players, telling them how to do their business.” – Charles Marowitz (b. 1934), American director, playwright, and critic

“Despite the initial view we get of Hamlet’s abhorrence of deception, he tries to dupe everyone else in the play.” – Michael M. Cohen (b. 1943), British Shakespeare critic

“This is the story of a man who could not make up his mind.” – Sir Laurence Olivier (1907 – 1989), British actor/director

“Hamlet is like a sponge. If he is not played in a stylized or antiquated manner, he immediately soaks up the entire contemporary scene unto himself. It is the most unique of all plays that have ever been written, because of its porosity.” – Jan Kott (1914 – 2001), Polish political activist, critic and theoretician of the theatre

“Shakespeare wrote of Hamlet as if Hamlet he were; and having, in the first instance, imagined his hero excited to partial insanity by the disclosures of the ghost – he (the poet) felt that it was natural he should be impelled to exaggerate the insanity.” – Edgar Allan Poe (1809 – 1849), American poet, short story writer, and novelist

“Hamlet, this tragedy of maniacs. this Royal Bedlam, in which every character is either crazy or criminal, in which feigned madness is added to real madness and in which the grave itself furnishes the stage with the skull of a fool ….” – François René de Chateaubriand (1768 – 1848), French poet and essayist

“Character … is destiny. But not the whole of our destiny. Hamlet, Prince of Denmark, was speculative and irresolute, and we have a great tragedy in consequence. But if his father had lived to a good old age, and his uncle had died an early death, we can conceive Hamlet’s having married Ophelia, and got through life with a reputation of sanity, notwithstanding many soliloquies, and some moody sarcasms toward the fair daughter of Polonius, to say nothing of the frankest incivility to his father-in-law.” – George Eliot (1819 – 1880), British novelist

“The most maligned man in history, one whose memory I propose not only to defend but to extol, is the man who complained that Hamlet was a boring play full of quotations, thereby proving the soundness of his literary instinct. Honour to this anonymous critic, whose sensitive though unlettered brain. stunned into apathy as one well-known phrase after another came booming accross the footlights ….” – Dame Ethel Smyth (1958 – 1944), English composer and a leader of the women’s suffrage movement

“Hamlet is a great story. It’s got some great things in it. I mean there’s something like eight violent deaths, there’s murder, there’s adultery, there’s a ghost, a madwoman, poisoning, revenge, sword fights. It’s a pretty good story.” – Mel Gibson, American actor

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Sources:
Hamlet Etext
Hamlet_eText

Hamlet Study Guide
Hamlet_eNotes

Macbeth: Getting Started

Although you may not yet have read or seen Macbeth, you will soon recognize some familiar conflicts and issues, for you have seen them on television and in films, you have read about them in newspapers and magazines. In the play, there are conflicts between heroism and villainy, good and evil, loyalty and treachery, ambition and morality. In addition, there are conflicting loyalties – to king, country, family. You will recognize the murder mystery theme as well as the murderer’s attempts to conceal and lie and cover up, as his fear and desperation grow. You may recognize the ideas that life without love, friendship, and self-respect is meaningless or that guilt can be overwhelming.

We have all become familiar with the consequences of political upheaval, civil and foreign wars, with the grim reality that innocent people – especially children – suffer during such times. Even in our own times, we have seen that civil liberties such as freedom of speech and freedom from arbitrary arrest or execution are quickly eroded by dictatorships.

Even though the play deals with much that is familiar, it leads you to consider some new and unusual ideas, and to learn more about yourself and others. Perhaps you may not expect that a murderer would have a vivid and poetic imagination or that he would, even in defeat, demonstrate conscience and courage. You might not expect that an apparently strong, practical, and determined woman would act in such contradiction to her real nature that madness and violent suicide are the consequence.

To focus your response to Macbeth, you might want to think, write, and talk about some of the following issues. They will lead you to important perceptions – of the play’s characters, of yourself, and of others

  1. Think of some people you know or have read about who are/where ambitious. Have their ambitions led to a positive or negative result? Are ambitions sometimes destructive? Explain.
  2. What is your understanding of the philosophy, “the end justifies the means”? Give examples of situations in which you would agree or disagree with this philosophy.
  3. Would assassination or civil war ever be a justifiable response to rule by tyranny? What would you do if the leader of your country became a vicious tyrant?
  4. Are a citizen’s first responsibilities to family, political leader, or country?
  5. Describe some examples of what you think is evil behaviour. How should evil behaviour be dealt with?
  6. If you suspected, but had no evidence, that a friend of yours had committed a crime, what would you do?
  7. How do you deal with your fears? 2 Timothy 1:7 How might you help others to deal with theirs? What are some of the effects that fear can have on people?
  8. Describe a time you experienced insomnia (lack of sleep). What did you do about it? What are some of the effects that insomnia can have on people who suffer from it?
  9. Describe a women who best represents your idea of “womanliness.” Describe a man who best depicts “manliness.” Are there any similarities between the two descriptions? Why or why not?
  10. Explain what your think an ideal marriage would be.
  11. Describe a situation in which you or someone you know has been deceived by appearances. How might you advise someone to guard against this trap?
  12. What do you want most from life? What are you prepared to do to attain it?

“The Weird Sisters present nouns rather than verbs. They put titles on Macbeth without telling what actions he must carry out to attain those titles. It is Lady Macbeth who supplies the verbs.” – Susan Snyder – American Professor of English and critic

“To bite at the apple is a fearful thing … Macbeth has a wife whom the chronicle calls Grouch. This Eve tempts this Adam. Once Macbeth has taken the first bite, he is lost. The first thing that Adam produced with Eve is Cain; the first thing Macbeth accomplishes with Grouch is Murder.” – Victor Hugo (1802 – 1885), French novelist, author of Les Miserables

“How then, is the hero to be kept from playing the villain’s role …? The murder, for one thing, is not committed on the stage, though in Elizabethan tragedy it nearly always is. Macbeth, with so little reason, cannot be permitted to kill before our eyes an old man, his sovereign, his guest, his greatest benefactor.” – Elmer Edgar Stoll (1874 – 1959) Shakespeare critic

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Sources:
Shakespeare, William. “Macbeth” Ed. Margaret Kortes. Toronto: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1988.
Complete text at www.opensourceshakespeare.org
Macbeth eNotes

32-second Macbeth”