Preparation notes and questions:
Big, broad Ideas (Targets):
1. Function of plot, characters, and/or setting within a text. (C3)
• What significance does the presence of Fortinbras as a character have?
• What purpose does Horatio have in the play?
• Did Ophelia kill herself?
• What function does the play/theater have in Hamlet?
2. Function of contrasts within a text.
• Does Hamlet’s madness and Ophelia’s madness differ? If so, what’s the significance between this
contrast in how madness is portrayed between the two characters?
• Hamlet and Fortinbras are both similar in that their father’s both died and they wanted to avenge
their father’s death, however the way they came about this was very different. What is the
significance in the contrast between Hamlet and Fortinbras’ characters?
3. Function of a symbol.
• When Ophelia starts going mad, she distributes flowers to people and even describes what each
flower stands for. What do these flowers symbolise and what significance do they have?
• What is the significance behind Yorick’s skull in the graveyard scene in Act 5?
4. Function of specific textual details in revealing character motivation and perspective.
• Do you think that Gertrude drank the poisoned wine on purpose?
• In the BBC version, it appears that Gertrude knowingly drank the poisoned wine. What does this
reveal about her character?
• When King Claudius was “praying”, was he aware that Hamlet was about to kill him?
• Was Gertrude aware that King Claudius killed King Hamlet?
• How does Hamlet’s attitude towards death change throughout the story?
5. Function of specific textual details in the development of theme. (C6)
• What techniques does Shakespeare employ to develop the theme of mortality within the play?
• What techniques does Shakespeare employ to develop the theme of madness within the play?
Anna’s question: What makes the soliloquy of Hamlet such an iconic scene within the play? What did Shakespeare do to give this scene strength and beauty?
Hamlet’s soliloquy is such an iconic scene within the play because it characterises Hamlet and reveals the conflicting emotions within him. In this scene, it becomes clear that Hamlet is eager to avenge his father, but is also hesitant. Shakespeare employs rhetorical questioning to display Hamlet’s fear and lack of confidence in himself. He says, “Am I a coward? Who calls me villain? Breaks my pate across? Plucks off my beard, and blows it in my face?”, Through this, it becomes clear that Hamlet, despite wanting to take revenge, is also doubtful of himself and sees himself as a coward. Shakespeare then uses strong diction to emphasise Hamlet’s eagerness to take revenge for his father. He calls King Claudius a “blood, bawdy villain” who “treacherously” took his father’s place. Hamlet’s doubt is once again brought out when a more melancholic tone is used to speak about the ghost. He admits that the ghost “may be the devil, and the devil hath power t’ assume a pleasing shape.” He once again notes his doubts, but resolves to continue with his plan. Overall, Shakespeare uses rhetorical questioning, diction, and tone in the soliloquy to characterise Hamlet and expose his inner conflict. As a result of this soliloquy, it becomes clear to the reader that Hamlet is uncertain of himself despite his hatred for King Claudius. The contrasts in his thoughts highlight him possibly being on the verge of insanity, as well as foreshadow his actions in the rest of the play.
Question for the next person:
In the beginning of his soliloquy, Hamlet comments on the player and his ability to weep “for Hecuba.” What is the significance of Hamlet’s comments about the player?
Link to script and planning document:https://docs.google.com/document/d/12WXJJ67cFTOpFnbPf-PowHDepAXwvBSWzBQruRCqykY/edit?usp=sharing
Prompt: One of the strongest human drives seems to be a desire for power. Write an essay in which you discuss how a character in a novel or a drama struggles to free himself or herself from the power of others or seeks to gain power over others. Be sure to demonstrate in your essay how the author uses this power struggles to enhance the meaning of the work.