Olivia’s question: 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?
My answer: At the beginning of his soliloquy, Hamlet says, “Tears in his eyes, distraction in his aspect, a broken voice, and his whole function suiting with forms to his conceit? And all for nothing! For Hecuba! What’s Hecuba to him, or he to Hecuba, that he should weep for her?” Here, Hamlet is referring to the player’s acting that he just witnessed and commenting about how the player was able to weep and show so much emotion for Hecuba, a character that he has no true connection to. Following this, Hamlet goes on to lament his frustration about how he cannot express emotion the same way that the player can, despite him having an actual reason to express such emotions (his father being murdered). This goes to show how hard Hamlet is on himself and how he often feels frustrated with what he lacks.
My question: What is the significance of the ongoing situation with Norway and their royal family, particularly young Fortinbras? Why does Shakespeare include this storyline?
I think that all stories reflect on the shared human experience and are ultimately relatable to all readers. Regardless of the content, all stories contain themes (good vs evil, love, coming of age, etc) that can be seen throughout human history. For example, I read “Everyday Use” by Alice Walker for my Dragon Notes project. At a first glance it may seem like I am not able to relate to the story because I am not African American, I didn’t live during that time, and I have never experienced the life that the characters of the story did. However, I can relate to the story on a deeper level. “Everyday Use” is set in the 1970s and discusses the various movements at the time in which African Americans were seeking to reclaim their identities. It also highlights the cultural differences and misunderstandings between older and younger generations. As an international kid and an Asian American myself, I can relate to this theme of finding your identity because my experiences have often led to me questioning or wanting to “reclaim” my identity. This connection isn’t unique to me. I believe that all readers will be able to draw connections between their own life and experiences and this story or any other story for that matter. So while stories don’t always seem to be very relatable to readers or to the human story, I believe that all stories are, on the thematic level, commentaries on the human story.
I also believe that while society shapes literature, literature also has the power to shape society, and this endless loop is why all stories are also the human story. It is very clear that literature is shaped by society and the issues of their time – we often see authors writing about themes that concern their values which reflect and highlight moments in human history as well. But sometimes we can forget that literature, just like music, art, and the media, also shapes society. In class, we talked about how the type of news that is reported in a country can reflect and reveal things about its culture: if the news that is reported is mostly bad news, this is reflected clearly in the attitudes and beliefs of the country’s population. I believe that literature works in a similar way – that the type of literature we read and write greatly impacts our culture and values as a society.
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