Twist and turns of Hamlet?s soliloquy
Interchange between Hamlet and Horatio
Gertrude drinks the poison
Comparison between Falstaff and Hamlet facing death
Shakespeare?s Early Plays
This Exercise is for undergraduate credit students only (graduate credit students have a somewhat different assignment.) Exercise 2 is similar to Exercise 1, only somewhat longer. You may choose to write about either Hamlet or Twelfth Night. You should answer the entire set of questions for your play. Each set of questions includes one question that asks you to compare two plays in the course.
See instructions below for how to turn it in.
Text edition: Page numbers and act/scene/line numbers given in this assignment refer to the Bate/Rasmussen editions ordered for the course. If you are quoting from a different edition, please identify it at the top of your paper.
Length: Aim for a cumulative response of about 5 single-spaced pages (this is meant to be a guideline rather than a page limit).
Format: Your paper must be submitted as a Word doc or docx only (not a PDF), so comments may be added. We ask that you also do the following:
? Title your document according to this model: Lastname_Firstname_Ex1.docx (or doc)
? Format in Times New Roman, 12-point font, 1-inch margins, single-spaced and at 200% if possible.
Turning in your paper To turn in your paper:
1. Be sure you have followed the formatting instructions above, including formatting your paper as a Word document (.doc or .docx), not a PDF.
2. Go to the Assignments page of the course website (left navigation bar on the homepage) and click on Exercise 2.
3. Follow the instructions to turn in your paper.
Please see the general instructions on the next page . . .
General instructions: Choose one play to write about: Hamlet or Twelfth Night. Each play has its own set of six questions below, including a two-play question for each set. You should answer all six questions for your play.
As with Exercise 1, most of the questions ask you to focus closely on a specific passage. And again, I can?t recommend too highly that you keep your eye on the specific passages of Shakespeare?s text as you answer the questions; doing so will help sharpen your observations and generate new ideas. Ideally your answers should be pithy and detailed, with abundant brief quotations and examples from the play to illustrate your points. You are strongly encouraged to quote often to support your points, but make the quotes brief ? cull the essential word, phrase or line(s), rather than quoting big chunks of text. When you quote, indicate act/scene/line numbers in parentheses, e.g. (3.2.92-3).
As with Exercise 1, the reason for doing this Exercise is to put in writing ? and to discover by writing, by trying to formulate it in writing ? more about this play and Shakespeare’s art than you otherwise would. Writing about the play deepens your experience as a reader. Remember that since the elements of a play may be interpreted in more than one way, it is entirely appropriate to take attitudes in your writing that are questioning, speculative, on-the-one-hand-on-the-other-hand, or paradoxical. Be faithful to your impressions and reactions as a reader, and don’t let other commentators or critics cancel them out. Notice what you notice (as Allen Ginsberg said). Accept your impressions and then look for evidence in the text to confirm, qualify, or develop them. Do not discount as irrelevant any experiences such as surprise, confusion, mystification, or a sense of oddity, discord or contradiction. These are often the most fruitful elements to explore. See what such impressions reveal to you about the play and about Shakespeare’s art.
If you have any questions about the assignment, you are welcome to contact me for clarification.
Do not read any Shakespeare criticism in connection with this assignment; it is not only unnecessary but may well be inhibiting. Footnotes and glossaries may help, e.g. David Crystal?s Shakespeare?s Words, http://www.shakespeareswords.com/. A concordance can help you locate particular words or lines in the play, e.g., www.opensourceshakespeare.org/concordance. But the most valuable things you can do are to immerse yourself in the play, and to keep your eye on the text as you write. And I hope you enjoy the experience, even more than the first time!
Questions on Hamlet
1. Describe the twists and turns of Hamlet?s soliloquy, ?O, that this too too solid flesh would melt . . . hold my tongue? (pp. 14-15, 1.2.129-159). How does Shakespeare represent the movement of Hamlet?s thought in this speech? What makes the speech characteristically Hamletian?
2. Describe the Ghost as precisely as you can in his dialogue with Hamlet, from the beginning of Act 1, scene 5 until his exit (pp. 27-30, 1.5.1-96). What details make him seem human, and what details make him seem ghostly or otherworldly? Do you see any affinities between the Ghost and his son?
3. Consider the interchange between Hamlet and Horatio in Act 3 scene 2, where Horatio enters after the exit of Rosencrantz and Guildenstern (pp. 68-9, 3.2.47-86, from ?What ho, Horatio!? to ?I will pay the theft.?) What is the nature of the Hamlet-Horatio relationship? How do you interpret Hamlet?s high praise of Horatio?
4. Look at Ophelia?s language in her mad scene, 4.4. Although her madness may not be as ?method?-ical as Hamlet?s, what do her sayings, songs and riddle-like remarks reveal? Be as detailed in your analysis of her language as possible. (Remember that Ophelia appears twice in this scene.)
5. Does Gertrude drink the poison on purpose in the last scene? Shakespeare doesn?t tell us. You may choose to argue one side or both sides of this question. But either way, try to reach the decision you?d have to make if you were directing the play: yes, she does it knowingly, or no, it?s an accident.
6. Compare Falstaff and Hamlet facing death in Act 5 of their respective plays. What distinguishes their attitudes from one another? What is typically Falstaffian about Falstaff?s attitude? What is characteristic of Hamlet in Hamlet?s? Do you see any points of commonality in their language and attitudes?
Questions on Twelfth Night
1. Viola and Feste are go-betweens, in terms of Orsino?s and Olivia?s households. How would you contrast their roles as go-betweens? And what do they have in common? What do they see in each other when their paths cross?
2. Act 1, scene 2 and Act 2, scene 1 form a pair of matched scenes, as Viola and Sebastian arrive in Illyria with their respective sea-captains. Compare and contrast the scenes, and the twins as characters. What do you discover about Viola and Sebastian from these first glimpses of them?
3. Analyze (but do not summarize) Viola?s speeches in Act 2, scene 2, beginning with her response to Malvolio and continuing through her soliloquy once he exits. Trace as precisely as you can how her mind works in this soliloquy. What does this scene show us about her?
4. Analyze the mixture of tones in Act 4, scene 2, as Feste impersonates Sir Topas and torments Malvolio (pp. 73-6, 4.2.17-126, from ?What ho? to ?goodman devil.?) Trace the changes in detail. How do these tonal variations and interactions reflect the play?
5. At the end of the play, Viola remains in her disguise onstage. Why? This is Shakespeare?s choice: he could have sent her offstage and brought her back on in women?s clothes, and he certainly didn?t need to make Orsino continue to call her Cesario in his final speech. Why do you think Shakespeare keeps Viola-Cesario present before us ? and before the characters in the play ? in her masculine disguise? What is gained, provoked, created thereby?
6. Compare Feste?s final song (?When that I was?) and Puck?s epilogue in A Midsummer Night?s Dream (?If we shadows?). What are the similarities and differences of these two endings, and how do they comment on their respective plays? Pay attention to words, form and staging.
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