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VARIOUS TEXTS: TEXT ANALYSIS: EXTRACT FROM 'HAMLET'
BY ROGER MCGOUGH

Text:

Source: William Shakespeare, The Tragedy of Hamlet, Prince of Denmark - extract (Act One, Sc. 2, ll.129 -158)
(in Complete Works, hg. Stanley Wells u.a., Clarendon Press, Oxford 1988, p. 657f.)

Prince HamIet of Denmark is a 30-year-old student at Wittenberg University in Germany. He has returned home to Elsinore Castle in Denmark, because his father, the King, has died. Claudius, the late king's brother, is the new king.
In the Great Hall of Elsinore Castle Hamlet learns that his mother, the Queen, and Claudius have married. When they have left him alone in the Great Hall, Hamlet reflects on his mother's marriage to Claudius in a soliloquy:

HAMLET
0, that this too too solid flesh would melt,
Thaw, and resolve itself into a dew,
Or that the Everlasting had not fixed
His canon 'gainst self-slaughter! 0 God, 0 God,
How weary, stale, flat, and unprofitable,
Seem to me all the uses of this world!
Fie on't, ah fie, fie! 'Tis an unweeded garden,
That grows to seed, things rank and gross in nature
Possess it merely. That it should come to this -
But two months dead - nay, not so much, not two -
So excellent a king, that was to this
Hyperion to a satyr, so loving to my mother
That he might not beteem the winds of heaven
Visit her face too roughly! Heaven and earth,
Must I rernember? Why, she would hang on him
As if increase of appetite had grown
By what it fed on, and yet within a month -
Let me not think on't; frailty, thy name is woman
A little month, or ere those shoes were old
With which she followed my poor father's body,
Like Niobe, all tears, why she, even she
0 God, a beast that wants discourse of reason
Would have mourned longer! - married with mine uncle,
My father's brother, but no more like my father
Than I to Hercules; within a month,
Ere yet the salt of most unrighteous tears
Had left the flushing of her galled eyes,
She married. 0 most wicked speed, to post
With such dexterity to incestuous sheets!
lt is not, nor it cannot come to good.

Annotations:
this = my
the Everlasting = God
canon = religious law
all the uses = the whole business
fie = interjection expressing didgust
Hyperion = glorious sun-god
beteem = permit
Niobe = Queen of Thebes, who exuberantly wept for her children
wants discourse of reason = is incapable of rational thinking
Hercules = enormously strong hero
Ere yet = evenh before
galled = sore (from weeping)
to post = to hurry

Assignments:
1 . Outline Prince Hamlet's thoughts and position in reaction to his mother's marriage to Claudius. (Comprehension)

2. Analyse how Shakespeare uses Hamlet's soliloquy for the purpose of characterisation. In so doing, also consider the use of language (e.g. text structure, syntax, rhetorical devices).
(Analysis)

3. You have a choice here. Choose one of the following tasks:

3.1 Considering the following quotation, comment on how successfully Shakespeare's tragedies may be turned into films for a modern audience. In your comment refer substantially to both Macbeth and the given extract from Hamlet.
Certain conventions that are perfectly acceptable on the stage cannot always be reproduced cinematically. Among these is the Shakespearean soliloquy. ... Theatergoers accept, even expect, such artificiality. Generally, however, viewers of movies have been programmed to think of film as a more realistic medium.
(Joseph M. Boggs/Dennis W. Petrie, The Art of Watching Films, 2000, pp, 394-5)
(Evaluation: comment)

3.2 Imagine you are a screenwriter and director who wants to convince a producer of your plan to make a modern screen adaptation of Hamlet. Write an outline in which you briefly present your general concept (e.g. style, setting, language, music, cast) and explain in detail your ideas for a visually and acoustically powerful, modern film version of Hamlet's soliloquy, paying particular attention to characterisation. To make your ideas clear, refer to a film or stage production of Macbeth.
(Evaluation: re-creation of text)


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