Hamlet Journal Assignments
It constructs character – that of the speaker and others. It explores ideas. It gives Hamlet’s version of events. Suggest a reading of your own. Entry 5- Act I scene iii What, do you think, are the invited readings of Polonius, Laertes, and Ophelia, their relationships and what they say? For example, are the speeches of Polonius to be read as good advice or as pompous hypocrisy? What other readings are possible? Cite evidence to support or refute each of the following readings. Polonius gives largely good advice to Laertes. Polonius gives largely meaningless advice to Laertes. Polonius sees it as his fatherly duty to instruct his son.
The advice of Polonius and Laertes to Ophelia is motivated by self-interest. Polonius and Laertes want to protect Ophelia, whom they see as an innocent. Laertes must obey his father in all respects. Ophelia accepts the advice of her father and brother without argument. Laertes can disregard his father’s advice without serious consequences. Ophelia has no choice but to obey her father. (cont. next page) Reread Ophelia’s speech beginning, “l shall the effect of this good lesson keep… ” (l. iii. 49-55). How might this reply to Laertes be read? Could this speech be made to Polonius?
Entry 6- Act I scenes iv and v Hamlet’s speech about “some vicious mole of nature” has been read as a description of Hamlet’s tragic flaw. The lines, “So oft it chances in particular men… ” to “From that particular fault” (l. iv. 26-39), for example, are shown as a preface to the Laurence Olivier film of Hamlet followed by the subtitle: “The tragedy of a man who could not make up his mind. ” Reread the speech carefully (I. iv. 1 5-41). About whom could Hamlet be speaking? Clemen writes of corruption as a “basic motif” in Hamlet and argues that there is a trong vein of imagery suggesting a process of infection and decay in the play.
How might this speech be read to support such an idea? What, do you think, is the invited reading of the lines beginning, “So oft it chances in particular men… “? Is it to be read, for example, as a truth for all time or as Hamlet’s point of view and, therefore, open to question? Entry 7 – Act I scenes iv and v John Dover Wilson writes, “The first act is a little play in itself, and the Ghost the hero of it; 550 out of 850 lines are concerned with him… The Ghost is the linchpin of Hamlet; remove it and the play falls to pieces. Consider what part the Ghost plays in Hamlet’s first appearance (in 1. ) in the scene with Hamlet, Horatio, Marcellus, and Barnardo (1. “. 165-275) in the scenes between Hamlet and the Ghost (l. iv. 42-96; l. v. l-1 15). Entry 8 – Act I scenes iv and v Reread the exchange between Hamlet and the Ghost (I. v. l-1 15). What does the Ghost’s reply to Hamlet’s comment, “Speak. I am bound to hear” (l. v. 1 1) imply about the Ghost’s attitude to revenge and his conception of Hamlet’s duty? What other lines in this exchange support this reading? What is Hamlet’s immediate reaction to the Ghost’s demand for revenge? Entry 9 – Act I scenes iv and v How are readers invited to read the Ghost’s advice to Hamlet?
Cite evidence to support or refute a reading of the Ghost’s advice: as a father’s rightful request. as a duty to be carried out without delay. understandable but morally questionable. just but not Justice. of dubious status coming from a spirit. sound advice to be acted on in good conscience. What, in your reading, has Hamlet resolved to do by the end of this act? Entry 10- Act II scene i Consider Ophelia’s description of Hamlet’s visit to her, beginning, “O my lord, my lord, I have been so affrighted! ” (ll. i. 85-1 12). Is it possible to decide on a reading which the text invites? Is Ophelia’s account to be trusted?
If it is, what does Hamlet’s behavior signify? Cite evidence to support or refute that he is: playing a part? genuinely distressed? putting on an “antic disposition”? having a mental and emotional breakdown? (cont. next page) deceiving Ophelia? acting from other motives? Entry 11 – Act II scene ii The scene opens with a character in a powerful position giving instructions to two characters in subservient roles; that is, Claudius instructing Rosencrantz and Guildenstern to report on Hamlet. Briefly note down all the examples so far where particular characters give advice or instructions to other characters who occupy subordinate positions.
You might find it helpful to record your decisions in chart form. Comment on what it is that allows the “adviser” to give advice or instructions in the different situations. What assumptions about the rights and duties of a father and daughter, for example, could be said to underlie the exchanges between Ophelia and Polonius? Record how each recipient of advice appears to respond to the instructions. What are your readings of Rosencrantz’s, Guildenstern’s, and Polonius’s protestations of loyalty to Claudius, beginning, “Both your majesties… ” and “I assure my good liege… ” (11. 11. 27-30;46-48)?
Are they (cite evidence to support or refute each point): examples of hypocritical flattery? proper statements of the duty owed by loyal subjects to their king? ambiguous, given the speakers and the recipient? Entry 13- Act II scene ii Polonius, Voltemand, and Cornelius report to Claudius in the next part of this scene, adding to the list of incidents involving characters who are watching, spying and eporting on other characters. Make a list of incidents involving spying, who is involved, and for what reasons. What is your reading of the motives of the different characters involved in spying?
Is Ophelia, for example, deceitful (to her lover) or dutiful (to her father) in reporting Hamlet’s behavior to Polonius? Consider all the characters involved in spying. Entry 14- Act II scene ii How do you read Hamlet’s explanation of what is wrong with him – “I have of late, but wherefore I know not, lost all my mirth… ” (ll. ii. 318-334) (cite evidence to support or refute each point)? as a genuine description of his feelings? s an antic disposition designed to deceive Rosencrantz and Guildenstern? as a universal expression of despair felt by men and women?
Consider such things as the structure and form of his explanation as well as his audience and what he knows about them. What are possible readings of Hamlet’s comment, “But my uncle-father and aunt- mother are deceived. I am but mad north-north-west. When the wind is southerly, I know a hawk from a handsaw. ” (11. “. 399-403)? Entry 15- Act II scene ii Reread the scene with the players (11. “. 392-561) and note connections to earlier scenes in the play concerning the duty of revenge and Hamlet and Ophelia’s elationship (hint: consider the allusions and why Shakespeare might choose to use them here).
You should consider whether Hamlet is putting on an “antic disposition” and what he reveals about himself through his words. Cite evidence to support your assertions. Entry 16- Act II scene ii Reread the player’s speech, which Hamlet begins by reciting, “The rugged Pyrrhus… ” (ll. ii. 475-522). Take note of words and phrases describing Pyrrhus, before answering these questions: How would you describe the language? How does it differ from the language used in Hamlet so far? Would you agree with Hamlet that it fine” (ostentatious) (ll. ii. 465-70)?