Intro to Hamlet
March 14, 2008

Group 1 - Music: "How Soon is Now?" The Smiths
Focus Questions:
  • What musical and lyrical elements contribute to the overall tone of this piece? Discuss specific examples and explain your reasoning.
  • Consider not only what is said and heard, but what is not said and heard. How does the song use the absence of lyrics in places to reinforce tone?
    • Sad song, droning
    • uses direct communication - I and you
    • Possible themes: Being misunderstood by parents & society, a plea for acceptance
    • Absence of music/lyrics: Inabilty/unwillingness to communicate
    • *Internal Conflict*
Group 2 - Poem: "Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock" T.S. Elliot
  • Focus Questions:
  • Examine the repeated line “Do I dare?” and apply it to the larger context of the poem. Why is this such a conundrum for the speaker?
  • Discuss the speaker’s opinion of himself. How does his self-view figure into his course of action (or inaction)?
    • "Should I try/change?" -- Self critical
    • Constantly asking "Has my time passed?"
    • Ongoing debate w/self
    • Indecision and futility
Group 3 - Art
  • Focus Questions:
  • How do the artists use scale and focus to emphasize different traits, ideas, or items in each work?
  • Discuss the physical treatment of the human subjects in each painting – how do aspects like body language, dress, and other physical attributes alter the tone of each work?

    • Focus on 2 characters
    • Shows emotion, body language to show what is going on
    • More backround, looking at scene from further away
    • Uses weather and setting to show what is happening
    • Seems threatening
    • Weather foreshadowing, foreboding
    • Dark aura

March 17
Value of Experience- Skype experience
  • primary source allows for deeper exploration
  • more investment in prep
  • real, concrete acknowledgement
  • different forum/way to learn
  • personalized
  • multiple perspectives- culture
  • compare/contrast understanding
  • knowledgeable- expert
  • Wales is different than England- clear up misconceptions
  • human interaction
  • holds interest
  • free flow of discussion
  • benefit from others questions
  • substitutes for travel
    • 1st hand customs
    • similarities between U.S.
  • commonalities between audience and expert
  • no ethnocentrism

"The Ghosts in revenge plays ...are always ' questionable' in one of the senses of that world , dead and yet living, visitants at midnight (the marginal hour)from a prison house which is neither heaven nor hell, visible to some figures on the stage but not to others, and so neither is real nor unreal, they inaugurate a course of action which is both mad and sane, correct and criminal"
-Catherine Belsey 1985 115-16
  • no gray area
  • doubt-leads us to do unusual things, key idea in play
  • perspective- crazy to some, sane to others
  • we cant be fooled like the characters in the play are fooled

Geopolitical aspects of Hamlet
  • warfare (political events in surrounding countries and their impact)
  • Denmark defeats Norway
  • Denmark gets all Norway's land
  • Returns some of it to Fortinbras Jr.
  • Fortinbras raising groups in outskirts to get land back (similar to Al Qaeda)

March 20
Questions rised
  • Why doesn't Polonius want Hamlet and Ophelia together?
    • Possible answer- class differences, its in Ophelias best interest, his family is unstable
  • Why cant Hamlet go back to school?
  • Was there a murder?
  • Claudius killed Hamlet?
    • Title, family, wanted power??
  • Gertrude killed Hamlet?
    • Political warfare- married Claudius for security, had the hots for Claudius???
  • Fortinbras killed Hamlet?
    • Land

Relationship between Hamlet jr. and Claudius
  • "A little more than kin and less than kind" pg 25
  • Claudius is trying to treat Hamlet like his son
  • Wants to keep Hamlet home for Gertrude's sake

In Defense of Claudius (for marrying Gertrude)
  • He wanted to keep the land in the family
  • He wanted to keep the country in order at a time of war

Hamlet jr was contemplating suicide
  • wished that God had not made suicide a mortal sin
  • wishes that he could disapear
  • mad that Gertrude got married so quickly(in a month) while Hamlet sr. had loved her so much

Act 1 Scene 3
  • Laertes to Ophelia
    • Dont give "it" up to Hamlet, all he wants is sex
    • he is of a higher class than you
  • Polonius to Ophelia
    • too young to understand
    • you cant trust yourself

Act 1 Scene 5
There was a MURDER!
  • Uncle Claudius poisoned King Hamlet
  • Used poison hebona, dropped it in his ears
  • Blood clotted/curdled, sores, leper like
  • The story that everyone heard was that Hamlet was bitten by a snake
  • Hamlet sr. wants Hamlet jr. to get revenge

April 4
Questions Risen:
  • Hamlet's madness - what's going on?
    • Escape --> Revenge against Claudius --> Claudius to underestimate Hamlet
    • Denial --> depression --> Becoming what he hates?
  • Purpose of Rosencrantz and Gildenstern?
  • Hamlet's actions towards Polonius - relationship?
  • Why the Murder of Gonzago?
  • Hamlet's letter-authorship?
  • Voltemand (87)

Polonius Characteristics:
  • Virtuous
  • Overly controlling
  • Poor relationship with son
  • Doesn't trust son
Movie Notes
1990 Hamlet
  1. How was the relationship depicted between Hamlet & Ophelia? Hamlet towards Rosencrantz and Guildenstern?

  • Hamlet and Ophelia seemed in a more serious, hostile relationship as evidenced by Hamlet throwing her into the wall and repeatedly screaming at her. He seems to have a deep passion for her and it also seems that he still cares for her very much. As for Hamlet's relationship with Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, in this version it does not seem that they are friendly as stated in the play because of Hamlet's numerous angry and screaming remarks he makes to them.
2. Does Hamlet know he is being watched during his confrontation with Ophelia?
  • Yes he knew. After he asked Ophelia where her father was, she seemed very uneasy and paused a moment to answer, helping Hamlet draw the conclusion that her father was in the room watching.
3. How was Hamlet and Ophelia portrayed in the movie?
  • Hamlet was portrayed to be more serious, and not as romantically attached to Ophelia as in the other movies and also he was more angry than upset in his portrayal. Ophelia was more emotional and seemed hurt by Hamlet's comments for her to go to a nunnery.
2001 Hamlet
  1. Hamlet and Ophelia seemed to be in a more romantic and stable relationship as they began to kiss mid-argument which helps constitute their love for each other. As for Hamlet's relationship with Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, it seems that they are in a much better, "buddy-buddy" relationship with one another because they talk more genuinely to each other and seem like they are old friends.
  2. Yes he knew because Ophelia was uneasy in answering where her father was and after her father leaves from the cabinet, he sees the door open and realizes that they were hiding right in front of them the whole time.
  3. Hamlet was portrayed to be more emotional and suicidal as in this version, they actually go to the great length to show him beginning to slit his wrists. He is also more laid back in the delivery of his lines, almost like he has come to terms with his fate, and he doesn't seem as angry as compared to the previous Hamlet movie. Ophelia is portrayed more romantically linked to Hamlet as witnessed through the kiss and she seems to love Hamlet.
2000 Hamlet
  1. Hamlet and Ophelia seem to be in a serious, romantic relationship as it is almost a combination of the two previous versions. They seem romantically linked through the kiss during their argument, and also they seem to be in a serious relationship as witnessed by the tone of voice used especially by Hamlet when delivering his lines. As for Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, Hamlet seems to be in a very tight relationship with them as he hangs out with them in a "friendly" sort of way in the club and it seems evident that they go way back in their friendship.
  2. Yes he knew because he notices the wire attached on the inside of her jacket and becomes furious at her and begins delivering his lines directly into the microphone as if he's talking directly to Polonius.
  3. Hamlet was portrayed to be a very serious character who cared passionately for Ophelia. He wasn't as suicidal as the previous movie but he still expresses his anger through his very deep and upset tone. Ophelia again seems to love and care for Hamlet as evidenced through her "jumping into the pool" scene which shows that she does not want to go through this whole spying incident for her father.



  • Open disdain for king
  • Dropped insanity
  • Flippant about killing Polonius

  • Still sarcastic?

  • Send Hamlet to England to Die
    • Why?
      • England is intimidated by Denmark

April 7th, 2008

Summary of Act 4 Scene 5

  • Ophelia goes mad (starts singing and handing out flowers)
  • Laertes show up angry at Claudius for Polonius' death
  • Laertes discovers Ophelia has gone mad.

April 8th, 2008

Flower symbolism was common knowledge to people during Elizabethan times due to:
  • The economy
  • The society, which was based upon agriculture

April 9th, 2008

Why is Ophelia draped in long purples when she dies?
  • Possible representation of being overpowered by men (long purple are known as "dead men's fingers" to the maids, which are fallic symbols (the flowers))
  • She was used by men for their plans

Why is Ophelia considered to be the first feminist?
  • Location of where she died (river / stream, which is a yonic symbol)
  • She took charge of her own life (even though it was to commit suicide)
  • Her death is symbolic of dragging men into Mother Earth?

Possible twist in Hamlet:
Ophelia throws herself into the river with others around so that she can see if anyone would save her.

Hamlet's Rants on Suicide

When you die, what's next? Do you go to Heaven / Hell, or is it just blackness? (To sleep, perchance to dream (3.1.73))
Why does he stop himself from committing suicide?
  • Not finished with life?
  • Revenge?
  • Scared about what will happen to his soul?

Gravedigger Scene

  • Jokes are made in a cemetery
  • Gravedigger sings while digging graves
    • sharp contrast between the two actions
    • Analogous to the bank hostage scene in Reservoir Dogs

Stick Figure Theatre

  • Henry VIII ruled from 1509 to 1547
  • He was born in 1491
  • His brother Arthur was supposed to be king, but a fluke made Henry ascend the throne instead
  • Henry was supposed to be in the church, was multilingual, and was very well educated (he was literate and the sort)
  • Arthur was married to Catherine of Aragon, but died in 1502 due to an unknown cause
  • Henry ascends the throne at age 11, is betrothed to Catherine of Aragon, and eventually marries her in 1509 when Henry VII dies
  • Henry and Catherine have a child named Mary, who is raised as a catholic
  • In 1529, Henry begins an affair with Anne Boleyn. Eventually, he wants to leave Catherine because she does not give him a heir to the throne. Spain is not pleased
  • The pope will not allow a divorce, so Henry creates the protestant Church of England so he can do what he wants
  • In June of 1533, Anne Boleyn becomes the queen of England
  • September of 1533: Anne Boleyn gives birth to Elizabeth I, who is protestant.
  • In January of 1536, Catherine of Aragon dies from cancer, and Anne Boleyn has a miscarriage. Henry believes this to be a sign of a 'cursed marriage' and moves on from Anne Boleyn to Jane Seymour
  • Anne Boleyn was arrested for a lot of serious (and possibly false) charges, and was executed
  • Theories on why she was executed:
    • She was guilty
    • Henry took it personally that she didn't bring him a son
    • Spain was still angry with Henry for divorcing Catherine
    • She gave birth to deformed miscarriages, 'devil children'
  • Jane Seymour gives birth to Edward (protestant), and dies in childbirth
  • Henry sees a picture of Anne of Cleves where she looks beautiful, but in reality she is hideous, so he divorces her soon after marriage in 1540
  • Henry marries Katherine Howard; he is around 55, she is 18-19 years old
  • Katherine Howard executed for infidelity in 1542
  • Henry marries Katherine Parr, who outlives him

April 10th, 2008

Stick Figure Theatre, cont'd

  • Henry dies - there are 3 heirs to the throne
    • Mary (Catholic)
    • Elizabeth (Protestant)
    • Edward (Protestant)
  • Edward was the youngest, but was male, so became king at the age of 10
  • Edward died at the age of 16 from consumption (tuberculosis)
  • Lady Jane Grey becomes queen instead of Mary, reigns for 9 days before being overthrown by Mary & her supporters
  • "Bloody Mary" killed and tortured protestants across the country
  • Mary dies in 1558, Elizabeth gets the throne
  • Elizabeth creates the 'virgin queen' image, never marries, was intelligent, mature, multilingual
  • Used suitors for political gain
  • Brought political stability to England with her 45 year rule, died in 1603, United Kingdon comes into existence soon after
  • King James inherits the throne

Defeat of the Spanish armada - 1588

  • Improved, more direct trade routes
  • Business thrived, English economy grew
  • More people open businesses
  • Middle class forms and grows
  • More people have money to spare; they spend it at brothels, bear baiting rings, and the theatre

Shakespeare and "The Theatre"

  • 1576 - theatres and bear-baiting rings must be built outside of an area called 'The City'
  • "The Theatre" is established
  • Shakespeare's players work there for some time
  • The Theatre is going to be torn down, so the owner gives it to Shakespeare
  • Shakespeare & Co. move it across the river and rename it "The Globe" in 1598