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New Study Guide Midterm English 1 C

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Act III, scene ii
Summary: Act III, scene ii
That evening, in the castle hall now doubling as a theater, Hamlet anxiously lectures the players on how to act the parts he has written for them. Polonius shuffles by with Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, and Hamlet dispatches them to hurry the players in their preparations. Horatio enters, and Hamlet, pleased to see him, praises him heartily, expressing his affection for and high opinion of Horatio's mind and manner, especially Horatio's qualities of self-control and reserve. Having told Horatio what he learned from the ghost—that Claudius murdered his father—he now asks him to watch Claudius carefully during the play so that they might compare their impressions of his behavior afterward. Horatio agrees, saying that if Claudius shows any signs of guilt, he will detect them.
The trumpets play a Danish march as the audience of lords and ladies begins streaming into the room. Hamlet warns Horatio that he will begin to act strangely. Sure enough, when Claudius asks how he is, his response seems quite insane: "Excellent, i' faith; of the chameleon's dish: I eat the air, promise-crammed" (III.ii.84-86). Hamlet asks Polonius about his history as an actor and torments Ophelia with a string of erotic puns.
The players enter and act out a brief, silent version of the play to come called a "dumbshow." In the dumbshow, a king and queen display their love. The queen leaves the king to sleep, and while he is sleeping, a man murders him by pouring poison into his ear. The murderer tries to seduce the queen, who gradually accepts his advances.
The players begin to enact the play in full, and we learn that the man who kills the king is the king's nephew. Throughout, Hamlet keeps up a running commentary on the characters and their actions, and continues to tease Ophelia with oblique sexual references. When the murderer pours the poison into the sleeping king's ear, Claudius rises and cries out for light. Chaos ensues as the play comes to a sudden halt, the torches are lit, and the king flees the room, followed by the audience. When the scene quiets, Hamlet is left alone with Horatio.
Hamlet and Horatio agree that the king's behavior was telling. Now extremely excited, Hamlet continues to act frantic and scatterbrained, speaking glibly and inventing little poems. Rosencrantz and Guildenstern arrive to tell Hamlet that he is wanted in his mother's chambers. Rosencrantz asks again about the cause of Hamlet's "distemper," and Hamlet angrily accuses the pair of trying to play him as if he were a musical pipe. Polonius enters to escort Hamlet to the queen. Hamlet says he will go to her in a moment and asks for a moment alone. He steels himself to speak to his mother, resolving to be brutally honest with her but not to lose control of himself: "I will speak daggers to her, but use none" (III.ii.366).
In the first two scenes of Act III, Hamlet and Claudius both devise traps to catch one another's secrets: Claudius spies on Hamlet to discover the true nature of his madness, and Hamlet attempts to "catch the conscience of the king" in the theater (III.i.582). The play-within-a-play tells the story of Gonzago, the Duke of Vienna, and his wife, Baptista, who marries his murdering nephew, Lucianus. Hamlet believes that the play is an opportunity to establish a more reliable basis for Claudius's guilt than the claims of the ghost. Since he has no way of knowing whether to believe a member of the spirit world, he tries to determine whether Claudius is guilty by reading his behavior for signs of a psychological state of guilt.
ohnson's account is accurate enough as far as it goes, but neither his nor many of the other popular interpretations of the character do justice to the darker and more sinister sides of his personality. What is attractive about Polonius belongs to the outward man, who can claim a certain indulgence for his foibles. But beneath the mask lurks a treacherous plotter, with a gravely retarded moral sense. He trusts his children so little that he sets spies on them, and he dies as a spy in the Queen's bedroom. He cannot see his fellow-human beings as other than puppets, and has no respect for privacy. He forces Ophelia against her better interests to act in his nasty drama involving Hamlet, and manipulates her like a doll: 'Ophelia, walk you on the book'. He pries into other people's lives without apology or embarrassment. He can sacrifice his daughter's feelings and her reputation to his own limited, self-centred concerns, and his choice of words to describe his procedures underlines their, and his, nastiness: 'At such a time. I'll loose my daughter to him' (11,ii, 165). He cynically misunderstands Hamlet's attention to Ophelia, and debases the office of Chancellor by converting it to a spying agency. His insensitive intrusion into the Hamlet-Gertrude relationship shows his blindness to the intense feeling that many underline such relationships, as well as his lack of respect for the privacy that should surround them. He will have Gertrude provoke Hamlet to a violent outburst: 'Let his Queen-mother all alone entreat him / To show his grief; let her be round with him'. He even takes a perverse delight in anticipating what he feels will be almost an entertaining spectacle for him, but his final instructions to Gertrude, in which he urges her to be 'round' with Hamlet, shows no understanding of the kind of response such behaviour on her part will arouse. It is ironical that he should meet his death in a production staged by himself, and with himself as director. We remember his earlier lines:

I did enact Julius Caesar. I was killed i 'the Capitol.

Brutus kill'd me...(111,ii,101)

In William Shakespeare's Hamlet, Polonius is the chief counselor to Claudius, as well as the father of Laertes and Ophelia. Polonius cares deeply for his children, which is why he's so overprotective. (Annoying!) Polonius is loyal to the King, where he makes an arrangement to spy on Hamlet.

Polonius' Warning to Ophelia shows that he does not particularly like or trust Hamlet; however when he mistakenly thinks that Hamlet's bizarre behaviour is caused by rejected love, he jumps at the chance to marry his daughter to a prince. Hamlet is deeply suspicious of P, who he associates with the corruption of the court and with Claudius, and of course P cannot keep his nose out of anyone else's business.

Like the cat, Polonius curiosity is the cause of his death. Hamlets reaction to this is I think the real impact of their relationship, and shows the depravity and inhumanity to which Hamlet's nature has sunk. Not at all concerned that he has killed an innocent man (not to mention Ophelias father) he is simply enraged that it is not Claudius! His callous remarks over the dead body show that 'his whole nature has taken corruption'. His later treatment of Rosencrantz and Guildenstern show the same point. P, R & G Belong to the enemy as far as Hamlet is concerned, and It is a part of human nature that 'an enemy' becomes dehumanised in our eyes.

Hamlet's relationship with Polonius was certainly impactful, as it contributed to the deaths of Ophelia, Laertes, Polonius and Hamlet.

Polonius was overprotective of his children and strikes me as an officious ninny and a busybody, not a good parent. He spied on both his children. He treated his daughter as if she couldn't think for herself. He was also worried about Ophelia's actions hurting his reputation.

Hamlet was a very troubled young man.

Hamlet and Polonius were like oil and water. Polonius's penchant for spying led directly to his own death and contributed to the deaths of his children. It's hard to say what would have happened to Hamlet if he hadn't killed Polonius, but after he killed Polonius, things quickly spiraled out of control.
From The Murder of Gonzago to Hamlet's pretence of madness, Hamlet is a work obsessed with acting and deception. Gillian Woods explores how the play unsettles distinctions between performance and reality and how it thus exposes the mechanisms of theatre.
Hamlet - both the character and the play in which he appears - is deeply concerned with performance. In his very first scene, Hamlet polices the boundaries between performance and reality. When his worried mother asks why his grief 'seems ... so particular' (1.2.75) with him, Hamlet ignores her main point (why does he grieve more intensely than other bereaved sons?) and snatches at the idea of 'seeming':

Seems, madam? nay, it is, I know not 'seems.'
'Tis not alone my inky cloak, [good] mother,
Nor customary suits of solemn black,
Nor windy suspiration of forc'd breath,
No, nor the fruitful river in the eye,
Nor the dejected havior of the visage,
Together with all forms, moods, [shapes] of grief,
That can [denote] me truly. These indeed seem,
For they are actions that a man might play,
But I have that within which passes show,
These but the trappings and the suits of woe.' (1.2.76-86)
Outward displays of emotion are untrustworthy, Hamlet reasons, because a person could 'play' or mimic them. Indeed, even his own sincere demonstrations of sadness are compromised because it would be easy to feign them. So while Hamlet's mourning clothes, sighs and tears 'seem' to express his grief, Hamlet insists they are not significant: his inner feelings are his true meaning. This relationship between 'show' and 'authenticity', 'performance' and 'reality', preoccupies Hamlet throughout the play. When he discovers that his uncle has murdered his father, Hamlet interprets the news as a lesson in deceitful appearances: 'meet it is I set it down / That one may smile, and smile, and be a villain!' (1.5.107-08). However, the tragedy complicates any easy moral distinctions between acting and authenticity. Hamlet himself, despite his petulant outburst against 'seeming', cannot escape the human impulse to perform. Not only does he successfully adopt an 'antic disposition' (1.5.172) to deflect attention from his revenge plot, but his endless soliloquising makes him all the more theatrical, even as he meditates on 'that within which passes show'. At the very moment Hamlet insists that his mourning is authentic and internal, he seems deliberately to parade his grief for all to see. In this tragedy, Shakespeare explores the ways in which performance exists in and shapes reality.
Rosencrantz and Guildenstern seem incapable of functioning independently, so they're basically one character, no matter what they might say. They show up in Denmark to serve as paid informants on their friend from college, and they practically fall all over each other in their attempt to suck up to King Claudius. Check out their first lines:

Both your Majesties
Might, by the sovereign power you have of us,
Put your dread pleasures more into command
Than to entreaty.

But we both obey,
And here give up ourselves, in the full bent
To lay our service freely at your feet,
To be commanded. (2.2.27-34)

Uh, you've got a little something on your nose, guys.

Luckily for our amusement, they're as incompetent as they are dishonest; Hamlet sees right through them, and they make good targets for his mockery. It does seem a little harsh for Hamlet to send them off to die, though (as Horatio points out), so they point out Hamlet's weird decision-making process. He hesitates (understatement) to kill Claudius, who arguably deserves it, but doesn't flinch over exterminating his own two friends, who, let's face it, were probably just college students hard up for cash.

Even though Rosencrantz and Guildenstern die before the mass death scene in Act V, Shakespeare works it so that we find out they've been killed at the same time everyone else is dying. A British ambassador shows up in the final scene for the sole purpose of saying, "Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are dead" (5.2.411). Contemporary playwright Tom Stoppard liked this line so much that he wrote a play from the perspective of the two characters and titled it Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead.
The morning after Horatio and the guardsmen see the ghost, King Claudius gives a speech to his courtiers, explaining his recent marriage to Gertrude, his brother's widow and the mother of Prince Hamlet. Claudius says that he mourns his brother but has chosen to balance Denmark's mourning with the delight of his marriage. He mentions that young Fortinbras has written to him, rashly demanding the surrender of the lands King Hamlet won from Fortinbras's father, and dispatches Cornelius and Voltimand with a message for the King of Norway, Fortinbras's elderly uncle.
His speech concluded, Claudius turns to Laertes, the son of the Lord Chamberlain, Polonius. Laertes expresses his desire to return to France, where he was staying before his return to Denmark for Claudius's coronation. Polonius gives his son permission, and Claudius jovially grants Laertes his consent as well.
Turning to Prince Hamlet, Claudius asks why "the clouds still hang" upon him, as Hamlet is still wearing black mourning clothes (I.ii.66). Gertrude urges him to cast off his "nightly colour," but he replies bitterly that his inner sorrow is so great that his dour appearance is merely a poor mirror of it (I.ii.68). Affecting a tone of fatherly advice, Claudius declares that all fathers die, and all sons must lose their fathers. When a son loses a father, he is duty-bound to mourn, but to mourn for too long is unmanly and inappropriate. Claudius urges Hamlet to think of him as a father, reminding the prince that he stands in line to succeed to the throne upon Claudius's death.
With this in mind, Claudius says that he does not wish for Hamlet to return to school at Wittenberg (where he had been studying before his father's death), as Hamlet has asked to do. Gertrude echoes her husband, professing a desire for Hamlet to remain close to her. Hamlet stiffly agrees to obey her. Claudius claims to be so pleased by Hamlet's decision to stay that he will celebrate with festivities and cannon fire, an old custom called "the king's rouse." Ordering Gertrude to follow him, he escorts her from the room, and the court follows.
Alone, Hamlet exclaims that he wishes he could die, that he could evaporate and cease to exist. He wishes bitterly that God had not made suicide a sin. Anguished, he laments his father's death and his mother's hasty marriage to his uncle. He remembers how deeply in love his parents seemed, and he curses the thought that now, not yet two month after his father's death, his mother has married his father's far inferior brother.
To keep the powers. Enter Claudius, King of Denmark; Gertrude the Queen; and others:
As the scene opens, we see a party and a party-pooper. There are a lot of people dressed in finery and one person dressed in black. That person is Hamlet.

Perhaps everyone else is dressed as for a wedding, because the first thing that the new King does is justify his marriage to Gertrude, his brother's widow and Hamlet's mother. The marriage needs some justification because it has taken place less than two months after the death of old Hamlet, and also because it might be incestuous. The King tells the court he is sad, and everyone should be sad, at his brother's death, but it's best to think of the dead king with "wisest sorrow." That is, life goes on, and doesn't stop for a single person's death. Therefore, the King has married Gertrude "With mirth in funeral, and with dirge in marriage" (1.2.12).This is one of the many paradoxes in this paradoxical play, but the King doesn't mean it as a paradox. He wants everybody to be happy and calm. They have all, he reminds them, "freely gone / With this affair along" (1.2.15-16). In other words, no one has offered any objections to the marriage, and now is not the time to rock the boat.

One of the reasons they shouldn't rock the boat is that the country is facing a danger: young Fortinbras. The King, showing how capable he is, says that Fortinbras is fooling himself if he thinks that Denmark will be weaker now that King Hamlet is dead. He also says that Fortinbras has had the gall to "pester us" with demands for the return of those lands that King Fortinbras lost to King Hamlet. But he, the king, has a plan. "Norway"--that is, the present King of Norway--who is sick, "scarcely hears / Of this his nephew's purpose" (1.2.29-30). But King Claudius has prepared a message to Norway that will make him take notice, and then Norway will make Fortinbras stop what he's doing. The King hands the message to Voltemand and Cornelius, telling them that they don't really have much to do, because they have no authority to negotiate anything that's not in the King's message. Apparently Voltemand and Cornelius start to make polite noises, but the King cuts them short, saying "let your haste commend your duty"; in other words, they should, if they really want to show how dutiful they are, not make polite noises, but get on with their job.

Now, after justifying his marriage, and showing that he is a capable defender of Denmark, the King shows that he can be kindly, too. He turns to Laertes, a young man who is the son of the old man at the King's side, Polonius. Polonius is the king's advisor and flunky, and proud of it. Laertes has a "suit" (a request); he wants to return to France. The King tells him, "You cannot speak of reason to the Dane / And lose your voice" (1.2.44-45). (Notice that the King not only says that he is reasonable, but also he asserts that he is the King, "the Dane.") In addition, he and Polonius are very close, so Laertes should speak up. Laertes makes his request in most polite terms, and Polonius gives his genially reluctant approval, and everything's fine.

After this show of kindliness, it's now time for the King to deal with Hamlet.

The King starts by saying, "But now, my cousin Hamlet, and my son," again asserting his new position. Before, he was Hamlet's "cousin" (we would say "uncle," but the word "cousin" covered a lot of territory then), and now he is still Hamlet's uncle, and also his father, because the King is married to Hamlet's mother. Hamlet replies, "A little more than kin, and less than kind" (1.2.65). Most editors put in a stage direction, "Aside," at this point, apparently because they believe that no one would say anything so insulting to the King's face. What Hamlet means is that although the King is now "more than kin" because he is kin both as uncle and as father, he is less than "kind." "Kind" means "kindly," "caring," as it does now, but it also means "kind" as in our "kind of person." In other words, Hamlet is saying that the King, though "more than kin," is not kind, and not related to him at all, maybe even--as we might say--not even from the same planet. Whether the King hears this insult or not, his next speech is insulting to Hamlet. "How is it that the clouds still hang on you?" he asks. It's obvious that Hamlet is still in mourning for his father, so the real meaning of the king's question is: "Forget your father, and quit being a wet blanket."

Hamlet's punning retort, "Not so, my lord, I am too much in the sun," quite clearly tells the king that he doesn't like being called "son." At this point, the Queen, Hamlet's mother, tries to intervene. She wants Hamlet to be a "friend" to "Denmark," by which she means her new husband, the King of Denmark. And she wants him to quit walking around as though looking for his "noble father in the dust." He should know, she says, that "all that lives must die, / Passing through nature to eternity" (1.2.72-73).

This statement by the Queen is echoed throughout the play. Hamlet says it in different ways to the King and to the skull of Yorick; Ophelia sings about it; the Player King philosophizes about it. However, at the moment, it arouses Hamlet's sarcasm. He doesn't think that the fact that everyone dies should be reason for his mother to rush from his father's grave to his uncle's bed. In explaining why he wears black, he points out that no one will see in him "windy suspiration of forc'd breath / No, nor the fruitful river of the eye" (1.2.79-80). This overly elaborate language has the effect of strongly implying that those who did sigh and weep for his father's death were faking it. He's not faking it, but he thinks his mother may have been.

Now it's the King's turn to try to bring Hamlet around, and to show everyone else what a kind and caring person he is. The King begins with seeming gentleness, saying "'Tis sweet and commendable in your nature, Hamlet, / To give these mourning duties to your father" (1.2.87-88). But the King also wants to make it clear that Hamlet is being a jerk, and his kindliness soon evolves into fairly transparent insults: Hamlet's grief is "obstinate," and "unmanly"; Hamlet is displaying "A heart unfortified, or mind impatient, / An understanding simple and unschool'd" (1.2.96-97). The King concludes by showing how much Hamlet has to be grateful for: He wants Hamlet--and "the world"--to know that Hamlet is "most immediate to our throne," which sounds lika promise that Hamlet will be the next king. Furthermore, he loves Hamlet like a son, and he wants him to stay at the castle, "Here in the cheer and comfort of our eye." So, rhetoric aside, even though Laertes was allowed to return to France, Hamlet is strongly urged (not quite ordered) to stay in Denmark, and not return to the university at Wittenberg. The King probably doesn't like Hamlet any more than Hamlet likes him, but the King may feel a need to have Hamlet where he can keep an eye on him.

Before Hamlet replies to all of this, his Mother adds a bit of guilt to the mix: "Let not thy mother lose her prayers, Hamlet: / I pray thee, stay with us; go not to Wittenberg" (1.2.118-119). Hamlet's reply, "I shall in all my best obey you, madam," would require only the slightest emphasis on the "you" to make it an insult to the King, as in "I shall obey you, not him." Nevertheless, the King is cool. He proclaims that Hamlet's reply is "gentle and unforc'd," so that he and the rest of the court can now go and celebrate by drinking and shooting off cannon. It appears that Hamlet is not invited.

Exeunt all but Hamlet:
After Hamlet agrees to stay in Denmark, everyone else leaves, and Hamlet is left alone with his thoughts.

Every thought in this, Hamlet's first soliloquy, is painful. He wishes that he could just evaporate into the thin air, and begins by saying, "O, that this too too solid flesh would melt / Thaw and resolve itself into a dew!" (1.2.129-130). (A textual note: In Q2, the most authoritative text for the play, the word "sallied" takes the place of "solid," which appears in the First Folio. "Sallied" doesn't make good sense, but editors commonly interpret it as "sullied," which would indicate that Hamlet feels his own body to be "sullied," or made dirty, by his mother's marriage to King Claudius.) Hamlet wishes that God didn't have a rule against suicide. He sees the whole world as "an unweeded garden."

The rest of the soliloquy is about what is agonizing to him: his mother's marriage. She married less than two months after the death of Old Hamlet. And while Hamlet's father was "Hyperion," a sun-god, King Claudius is another kind of mythical creature, a "satyr," an oversexed half-goat. It looked like she really loved Hamlet's father; "she would hang on him / As if increase of appetite had grown / By what it fed on" (1.2.144-145). That is, she treated her husband as though being with him only made her want to be with him even more. And she was "all tears" at her husband's funeral, but "within a month" she had shown "wicked speed: to post / With such dexterity to incestuous sheets" (1.2.156-157). "Post" means to go really fast, as in what the Post Office should do. And "dexterity" suggests that the queen is some sort of cunning sexual athlete.

His mother's sexuality clearly disgusts Hamlet, but is her marriage "incestuous"? Church law said that a widow's marriage to her brother-in-law was incestuous, but that doesn't mean that everyone automatically shared Hamlet's disgust at such a marriage. For instance, King Henry VIII of England thought his marriage to his dead brother's widow was OK until the moment when he wanted to get rid of his wife; then he decided that the marriage was incestuous and ought to be annulled. For Hamlet, his mother's marriage is as disgusting as incest, and he is sure that "it is not, nor it cannot come to good." However, perhaps because no one else sees it his way, he says "I must hold my tongue."

Enter Horatio, Marcellus, and Barnardo:
As Hamlet is agonizing over his mother's marriage, Horatio, Marcellus, and Barnardo find him, and they have news.

Horatio takes the lead, saying "Hail to your lordship!" (1.2.160). At first, Hamlet is so preoccupied with thoughts of his mother's marriage that he is merely polite, saying "I am glad to see you well," but then he recognizes his old friend from the university at Wittenberg, and greets him warmly. (He also greets Marcellus and Barnardo, even though they're only common soldiers.) Hamlet wants to know what Horatio is doing away from Wittenberg. Horatio, who has big news, is cautious at first, and says that he's only goofing off, that "a truant disposition" brought him here. Hamlet answers that he knows that isn't true, and promises him he'll learn how to drink in Denmark, and asks again what Horatio is doing here. Horatio then eases into his subject, saying that he came to "see your father's funeral."

At this point Hamlet says something that is a kind of test for Horatio: "do not mock me fellow student, / I think it was to see my mother's wedding." It looks like Hamlet wants to know if Horatio, like himself, thinks that having a funeral and a wedding so close together is some kind of dumb, nasty joke. If this is a test, Horatio passes. Ever cautious, he says, "Indeed, my lord, it followed hard upon"; he means that the wedding certainly did come very quickly after the funeral. This reply allows Hamlet get his feelings into the open. First he makes a bitter joke, saying "Thrift, thrift, Horatio! the funeral baked meats / Did coldly furnish forth the marriage tables" (1.2.180-181). In other words, his mother and step-father were only trying to save money by serving left-over food from the funeral at the wedding. Following that, Hamlet declares that he would sooner be dead and find his worst enemy in heaven than have to remember that marriage. Finally, he bursts out with "My father--methinks I see my father."

This must startle Horatio, who has seen Hamlet's father recently--or at least his ghost--and he asks, "Where, my lord?" Hamlet explains, "in my mind's eye," and Horatio edges closer to his news by saying, "I saw him once, 'a was a goodly king." Hamlet replies with a heartfelt tribute from father to son: "'A was a man, take him for all in all, / I shall not look on his like again" (1.2.187-188). This gives Horatio his chance to break his news to Hamlet, by saying, "My lord, I think I saw him yesternight."

Hamlet is amazed, as anyone would be. (People of Shakespeare's time believed in the existence of ghosts, but they didn't expect to see one every night, no more than we expect to see a alien spacecraft every night, although we all believe that it's possible that one could show up.) Hamlet excitedly checks out the story, asking exactly how the ghost looked and what it did. After he is sure that he can believe what he's being told, Hamlet declares that he will come to see it this very night, "between eleven and twelve," and asks the men not to tell anyone else about what they've seen. They agree, then leave.

Exeunt all but Hamlet:
Hamlet is again alone with his thoughts, and he already has an idea of what the ghost's business is, saying "I doubt [i.e., suspect] some foul play" (1.2.255) But now he doesn't seem depressed, as during his first soliloquy. If he finds that his uncle killed his father, then he will have something against a man that he already hates.

Summarise the events in the scene.
The next morning, King Claudius, the brother of the dead king, holds court. He uses pretty language to make his recent marriage to Gertrude, his brother's widow, sound perfectly normal. He says it is possible to balance "woe" and "joy."

Claudius then says he has received a message from Fortinbras demanding Denmark give up the lands Old Hamlet won from Old Fortinbras. He sends Cornelius and Voltemand with a message to Fortinbras' elderly uncle, the King of Norway.

Claudius turns to Laertes, the son of the Lord Chamberlain, Polonius. Laertes asks to be allowed to return to his studies in France. Claudius agrees.

Next, Claudius turns to Hamlet, and asks why he is still dressed in mourning clothes. Gertrude wonders why he "seems" so upset. Hamlet says he "is" upset, and that his clothes can't capture his true mourning.

Claudius chides that it's natural for fathers to die and for sons to mourn, but that mourning for too long is unnatural and unmanly. He asks Hamlet to see him as a father, since Hamlet is first in line to the throne. He asks Hamlet not to return to Wittenberg, Germany to study. Gertrude seconds the request. Hamlet promises to obey his mother.

All exit but Hamlet. In a soliloquy, Hamlet wishes he could die and that God had not made suicide a sin. He condemns the marriage between his mother and uncle. He says Claudius is far inferior to Old Hamlet, and, in anguish, describes Gertrude as a lustful beast.

Horatio, Marcellus, and Barnardo enter. Hamlet, who studied with Horatio at Wittenberg, is happy to see his friend, and pleased when Horatio agrees that Gertrude and Claudius's marriage was hasty.
Horatio tells Hamlet about the ghost. Hamlet, troubled, decides to watch with the men that night.

How is the scene change significant?
The scene moves from outside to inside Elsinore, reflecting the focus is now more political rather than spiritual.

The theme of conflict however transcends this change as the conflict is now over Claudius's legitimacy rather than the reality surrounding the Ghost.

Why is Claudius addressing Laertes first significant?
It suggests that he is concerned primarily about the politics of the realm, not about family.

This could be seen as responsible, or possibly cold- hearted.

How does Claudius use language in his speech?
Claudius uses language as a tool to smooth over actions that are immoral. He uses language to create the appearance of propriety.

Appearance vs. Reality/ Women and sexuality.

How does Claudius's use of language suggest his own insecurity or fear?
He constantly uses the Royal "we", "us" and "our" to attempt to desperately assert his legitimacy, which he himself knows is limited.

This is an early indication of his conscience at play.

How does Claudius attempt to cement his own legitimacy?
The ceasura "Taken to wife" give a sense of finality and authority which Claudius hopes to command as new King.

"Taken" also suggests possible possession or 'robbery' which again may be another early indication of Claudius' subconscious guilt.

Give examples of Claudius's use of contradictions within his speech and why they are significant.
"our dear brother's death The memory be green"- contrast between semantic field of mourning "grief", "woe", "sorrow" and of an image of hopeful nature and rejuvenation- Claudius hopes to be an 'every man', compassionate yet with a firm grasp of responsibility and duty.

How is Hamlet's first speech significant (not soliloquy)?
"Seems madam! nay it is; I know not 'seems'." By emphasizing that how he "is" is more important than how he "seems," Hamlet implies that his interior reality is more powerful than any appearance.

Appearance vs reality.

What device does Hamlet use in his first exchanges with Claudius and what does this suggest?
Hamlet uses word play consistently, which is first evident in his responses to Claudius's diplomatic advances.

For example, his pun of "son" to produce "I am too much i'th'sun" suggests that it is his new closeness to Claudius as his son (sun) which is causing his grief. He seeks to distance himself from Claudius.

How is Claudius's lecture to Hamlet ironic?
Claudius lectures Hamlet on what's natural, but Claudius murdered his own brother.

Appearance vs reality.

How is Claudius's insecurity further seen within his speech to Hamlet?
He uses three distinct tones- rebuke, assurance and direct refusal.

His repetition of words for each part of this speech ("father", "fault") suggests again desperation and an almost hopeless desire to be accepted by Hamlet in order to promote or augment his own fragile legitimacy.

How is Wittenberg significant?
It is where the Protestant reformation began, causing a schism within the Church- this reflects Hamlet's internal divisions and his division with Claudius.

Appearance vs reality/ religion, honour and Revenge.

How is Hamlet's acceptance of Gertrude's demand "I shall in all my best obey you madam" significant?
He chooses not to express this to Claudius, indicating the natural hatred that he has for him, or simply appealing to his mother's sensibilities.

Women/ Religion, honour and revenge.

How is Hamlet's first soliloquy "O that this too too solid flesh would melt, Thaw and resolve itself into a dew" particularly significant in relation to Claudius?
Hamlet's death wish exists even before he learns of his father's murder. Fury at his mother's marriage to Claudius is enough to make him contemplate suicide. Hamlet = perpetually unstable?

Women and Sexuality/ Religion, honour and revenge/ poison, corruption and death.

What does Hamlet's use of "dew" indicate?
This represents that Hamlet seeks almost natural purity and a relief from his internal conflict, evident throughout the play.

How does Hamlet's use of the "unweeded garden" link to Claudius?
The natural imagery employed here contrasts Claudius's earlier use of "green" imagery- demonstrates their contrasting sentiments and possibly Hamlet's grasp on reality as the garden could reflect the true nature of Denmark.

Alternatively, this difference could represent Hamlet's removal from reality and thus his outright madness.

It could also continue the allusion to Eden- these "things rank and gross in nature" have caused a spoiling of what was once 'holy' or divine ground- presumably his father's marriage to Gertrude.

How does Hamlet develop the comparative "Hyperion to a Satyr"?
Satyrs were monstrous creatures renowned for sexual appetite. By stating that Gertrude's "appetite had grown", Hamlet could be indicating that Gertrude had become more like Claudius and there partly, if not equally responsible, for Old Hamlet's death.

How does Hamlet seem to blame Gertrude solely for his internal state by the end of the soliloquy?
"Frailty, thy name is woman" suggests that Gertrude's frailty, and her's alone, has caused his own internal frailty.

How is Horatio's character exposed within the line "Indeed my Lord, it followed hard upon"?
Horatio proves he is willing to speak honestly about reality by noting the speed of the wedding. In this way, he is contrasted with many of the other characters in the play, obsessed with appearance, including Hamlet arguably.

Appearance vs reality.

How do Hamlet's feelings connect broadly with the spiritual feelings in Denmark?
"Foul deeds will rise Though all the earth o'erwhelm them to men's eyes."

Hamlet's unease reflects the spiritual unease within Denmark, signified by the Ghost of Old Hamlet.

Religion, honour and revenge/ Poison, corruption and death.
He wished that his body would just melt, turn to water and become like the dew. Or that the Almighty hadn't made a law forbidding suicide. Oh God! God! How weary, stale, flat and useless everything about life seemed! He moaned. It was terrible. The whole world was like an unweeded garden that had gone to seed - only ugly disgusting things thrived. He couldn't believe what had happened. Only two months dead; no, not even two. Such an excellent king he had been, compared with this one. It was like Hyperion, the sun god, compared to a lecherous satyr. He'd been so loving to his mother that he wouldn't even allow the gentle breeze of heaven to blow too roughly on her face. He lifted his hands and blocked his ears as though to shut his father's memory out. She had loved him so much, adored him, as though the more she had of him the more she wanted him. And yet, within a month! He couldn't bear to think about it. Women were so inconsistent! Only a month, even before the shoes with which she had followed his father's body were old, all flowing with tears, she, even she... Oh God! Even an animal that doesn't have reason, would have mourned longer - ..she married his uncle! His father's brother, but no more like his father than he was like Hercules. Even before the salt of those hypocritical tears had left her swollen eyes, she married. Oh, most wicked speed, to hurry so enthusiastically to incestuous sheets! It couldn't end happily. But he would just have to break his heart, because he had to hold his tongue.
Laertes, a young Danish lord, is the son of Polonius and brother of Ophelia. He spends most of his time off at college, but, like a lot of college students, he manages to pack a lot of action into the few times he's home.

Foil to Hamlet
After Hamlet kills Polonius, Laertes faces the same problem that Hamlet does —a murdered father. And that's where the similarities end. While Hamlet lollygags and broods over the murder for much of the play, Laertes takes immediate action. He storms home from France as soon as he hears the news, raises a crowd of followers, and invades the palace, saying "That drop of blood that's calm proclaims me bastard." in other words, not being upset by his father's death would prove that his mother was stepping out on his dad.

It's only after he storms the castle with a band of armed men that he starts asking questions —unlike Hamlet, who asks a whole lot of questions before he finally gets around to avenging his father's death. Here's the funny thing, though: both of them end up dead, in exactly the same way, and at each other's hands. So, is Laertes' method really any better than Hamlet's?

Big Brother: A little more than kin?
Laertes obviously loves his dad. And he loves his little sis, too—maybe even a little too much. He makes a huge deal about Ophelia's "unpolluted flesh" at her funeral, just before he screams at the priest to rot in hell and leaps into Ophelia's grave while shouting "Hold off the earth awhile, / Till I have caught her once more in mine arms" (5.1.261-262). This, of course, happens just before Laertes fights with his dead sister's ex-boyfriend about who loved Ophelia the most.

Yep, we're thinking that there's a little "more than kin" at work here. And that's not too surprising, in a play that revolves around a young man who's consumed with his mother's sexuality and marriage to her brother-in-law. And in the end, Laertes' obsession with his family ends up killing him—just as it kills Hamlet. Is Shakespeare advising us all to chill out a little with the tribal allegiances? Or is death just a part of loving your family?
The actor who plays the part of Hamlet must make up his mind as to the interpretation of every word and deed of the character. Even if at some point he feels no certainty as to which of two interpretations is right, he must still choose one or the other. The mere critic is not obliged to do this. Where he remains in doubt he may say so, and, if the matter is of importance, he ought to say so.

This is the position in which I find myself in regard to Hamlet's love for Ophelia. I am unable to arrive at a conviction as to the meaning of some of his words and deeds, and I question whether from the mere text of the play a sure interpretation of them can be drawn. For this reason I have reserved the subject for separate treatment, and have, so far as possible, kept it out of the general discussion of Hamlet's character.

On two points no reasonable doubt can, I think, be felt. (1) Hamlet was at one time sincerely and ardently in love with Ophelia. For she herself says that he had importuned her with love in honourable fashion, and had given countenance to his speech with almost all the holy vows of heaven (I. iii. 110f.).

(2) When, at Ophelia's grave, he declared,

I loved Ophelia; forty thousand brothers
Could not, with all their quantity of love,
Make up my sum,

he must have spoken sincerely; and, further, we may take it for granted that he used the past tense, 'loved,' merely because Ophelia was dead, and not to imply that he had once loved her but no longer did so.

So much being assumed, we come to what is doubtful, and I will begin by stating what is probably the most popular view. According to this view, Hamlet's love for Ophelia never changed. On the revelation made by the Ghost, however, he felt that he must put aside all thoughts of it; and it also seemed to him necessary to convince Ophelia, as well as others, that he was insane, and so to destroy her hopes of any happy issue to their love.

This was the purpose of his appearance in her chamber, though he was probably influenced also by a longing to see her and bid her a silent farewell, and possibly by a faint hope that he might safely entrust his secret to her. If he entertained any such hope his study of her face dispelled it; and thereafter, as in the Nunnery-scene (III. i.) and again at the play-scene, he not only feigned madness, but, to convince her that he had quite lost his love for her, he also addressed her in bitter and insulting language. In all this he was acting a part intensely painful to himself; the very violence of his language in the Nunnery-scene arose from this pain; and so the actor should make him show, in that scene, occasional signs of a tenderness which with all his efforts he cannot wholly conceal. Finally, over her grave the truth bursts from him in the declaration quoted just now, though it is still impossible for him to explain to others why he who loved her so profoundly was forced to wring her heart.

Now this theory, if the view of Hamlet's character which I have taken is anywhere near the truth, is certainly wrong at one point, viz., in so far as it supposes that Hamlet's bitterness to Ophelia was a mere pretence forced on him by his design of feigning to be insane; and I proceed to call attention to certain facts and considerations, of which the theory seems to take no account.
Quotes from oscar wilde
Yes: I am a dreamer. For a dreamer is one who can only find his way by moonlight, and his punishment is that he sees the dawn before the rest of the world.

- Oscar Wilde

The Critic as Artist
We live in the age of the over-worked, and under-educated; the age in which people are so industrious that they become absolutely stupid.

- Oscar Wilde

The Critic as Artist
Anybody can make history. Only a great man can write it.

- Oscar Wilde

The Critic as Artist
Every great man nowadays has his disciples, and it is always Judas who writes the biography.

- Oscar Wilde

The Critic as Artist
To give an accurate description of what has never occurred is not merely the proper occupation of the historian, but the inalienable privilege of any man of parts and culture.

- Oscar Wilde

The Critic as Artist
It is only an auctioneer who can equally and impartially admire all schools of art.

- Oscar Wilde

The Critic as Artist
One is tempted to define man as a rational animal who always loses his temper when he is called upon to act in accordance with the dictates of reason.

- Oscar Wilde

The Critic as Artist
Truth, in matters of religion, is simply the opinion that has survived.

- Oscar Wilde

The Critic as Artist
Education is an admirable thing. But it is well to remember from time to time that nothing that is worth knowing can be taught.

- Oscar Wilde

The Critic as Artist
The one duty we owe to history is to rewrite it.

- Oscar Wilde

The Critic as Artist
A little sincerity is a dangerous thing, and a great deal of it is absolutely fatal.

- Oscar Wilde

The Critic as Artist
I am but too conscious of the fact that we are born in an age when only the dull are treated seriously, and I live in terror of not being misunderstood.

- Oscar Wilde

The Critic as Artist the last resource of those who know not how to dream.

- Oscar Wilde

The Critic as Artist
It is through art, and through art only, that we can realise our perfection; through art and art only that we can shield ourselves from the sordid perils of actual existence.

- Oscar Wilde

The Critic as Artist
As long as war is regarded as wicked, it will always have its fascination. When it is looked upon as vulgar, it will cease to be popular.

- Oscar Wilde

The Critic as Artist
There is much to be said in favour of modern journalism. By giving us the opinions of the uneducated, it keeps us in touch with the ignorance of the community.

- Oscar Wilde

The Critic as Artist
The difference between literature and journalism is that journalism is unreadable and literature is not read.

- Oscar Wilde

The Critic as Artist
Yes, the public is wonderfully tolerant. It forgives everything except genius.

- Oscar Wilde

The Critic as Artist
Society often forgives the criminal; it never forgives the dreamer.

- Oscar Wilde

The Critic as Artist
In literature mere egotism is delightful...Even in actual life egotism is not without its attractions. When people talk to us about others they are usually dull. When they talk to us about themselves they are nearly always interesting, and if one could shut them up, when they become wearisome, as easily as one can shut up a book of which one has grown wearied, they would be perfect absolutely.

- Oscar Wilde

The Critic as Artist
All bad poetry springs from genuine feeling. To be natural is to be obvious, and to be obvious is to be inartistic.

- Oscar Wilde

The Critic as Artist
Newspapers...give us the bald, sordid, disgusting facts of life. They chronicle, with degrading avidity, the sins of the second-rate, and with the conscientiousness of the illiterate give us accurate and prosaic details of the doings of people of absolutely no interest whatsoever.

- Oscar Wilde

The Critic as Artist
Conversation should touch everything, but should concentrate itself on nothing.

- Oscar Wilde

The Critic as Artist
What is mind but motion in the intellectual sphere.

- Oscar Wilde

The Critic as Artist
To be good, according to the vulgar standard of goodness, is obviously quite easy. It merely requires a certain amount of sordid terror, a certain lack of imaginative thought, and a certain low passion for middle-class respectability.

- Oscar Wilde

The Critic as Artist
It is well for his peace that the saint goes to his martyrdom. He is spared the sight of the horror of his harvest.

- Oscar Wilde

The Critic as Artist
They have degraded the invisible arts into the obvious arts, and the one thing not worth looking at is the obvious.

- Oscar Wilde

The Critic as Artist
Learned conversation is either the affectation of the ignorant or the profession of the mentally unemployed.

- Oscar Wilde

The Critic as Artist
The security of Society lies in custom and unconscious instinct, and the basis of the stability of Society, as a healthy organism, is the complete absence of any intelligence amongst its members.

- Oscar Wilde

The Critic as Artist
To sit next to a man who has spent his whole life in trying to educate others! What a dreadful experience that is!

- Oscar Wilde

The Critic as Artist

God knows; I won't be an Oxford don anyhow. I'll be a poet, a writer, a dramatist. Somehow or other I'll be famous, and if not famous, I'll be notorious. Or perhaps I'll lead the life of pleasure for a time and then—who knows?—rest and do nothing. What does Plato say is the highest end that man can attain here below? To sit down and contemplate the good. Perhaps that will be the end of me too.
Quoted in "In Victorian days and other papers" by Sir David Oswald Hunter-Blair (New York: Longmans, 1939, p122).
If it took Labouchere three columns to prove that I was forgotten, then there is no difference between fame and obscurity.
Quoted in The New-York Herald, Sunday August 12th, 1883. See (Fame and Obscurity).
I have the simplest tastes. I am always satisfied with the best.
Quoted in "Oscar Wilde, an idler's impression" by Edgar Saltus (Chicago Brothers of the Book, 1917, p20).
Tread Lightly, she is near
Under the snow,
Speak gently, she can hear
The daisies grow.
Requiescat, st. 1 (1881).
Lo! with a little rod
I did but touch the honey of romance —
And must I lose a soul's inheritance?
Helas!, l. 12-14 (1881).
And down the long and silent street,
The dawn, with silver-sandalled feet,
Crept like a frightened girl.
The Harlot's House, st. 12 (1885).
Be warned in time, James, and remain, as I do, incomprehensible: to be great is to be misunderstood.
Letter to James McNeill Whistler (23 February 1885).
A thing is not necessarily true because a man dies for it.
The Portrait of Mr. W. H. (1889).
The honest ratepayer and his healthy family have no doubt often mocked at the dome-like forehead of the philosopher, and laughed over the strange perspective of the landscape that lies beneath him. If they really knew who he was, they would tremble. For Chuang Tsǔ spent his life in preaching the great creed of Inaction, and in pointing out the uselessness of all things.
Review of Herbert Giles translation of the works of Zhuangzi (Chuang Tsu) in The Speaker (8 February 1890).
Consistency is the last refuge of the unimaginative.
"The Relation of Dress to Art," The Pall Mall Gazette (February 28, 1885)
reprinted in Aristotle at Afternoon Tea:The Rare Oscar Wilde (1991).
A poet can survive everything but a misprint.
"The Children of the Poets," The Pall Mall Gazette (October 14, 1886).
Most modern calendars mar the sweet simplicity of our lives by reminding us that each day that passes is the anniversary of some perfectly uninteresting event.
"A New Calendar," The Pall Mall Gazette (February 17, 1887).
A simile committing suicide is always a depressing spectacle.
"The Poets' Corner III," The Pall Mall Gazette (May 30, 1887).
And, after all, what is a fashion? From the artistic point of view, it is usually a form of ugliness so intolerable that we have to alter it every six months.
The Philosophy of Dress, The New-York Tribune, 1885. For an analysis see Fashion a Form of Ugliness.
We have really everything in common with America nowadays, except, of course, language.
The Canterville Ghost (1887). For history and analysis of the quote see Common Language.
It is always a silly thing to give advice, but to give good advice is absolutely fatal.
The Portrait of Mr. W. H. (1889), p. 5.
All charming people, I fancy, are spoiled. It is the secret of their attraction.
"The Portrait of Mr. W. H.," Blackwood's Magazine, July 1889
The more we study Art, the less we care for Nature. What Art really reveals to us is Nature's lack of design, her curious crudities, her extraordinary monotony, her absolutely unfinished condition.
Intentions (1891).
Art finds her own perfection within, and not outside of herself. She is not to be judged by any external standard of resemblance. She is a veil, rather than a mirror.
Intentions (1891).
All art is immoral.
Intentions (1891).
He is really not so ugly after all, provided, of course, that one shuts one's eyes, and does not look at him.
"The Birthday of the Infanta", The House of Pomegranates (1892).
le mystère de l'amour est plus grand que le mystère de la mort.
The mystery of love is greater than the mystery of death.
Salomé (1893).
Death must be so beautiful. To lie in the soft brown earth, with the grasses waving above one's head, and listen to silence. To have no yesterday, and no tomorrow. To forget time, to forgive life, to be at peace.
The Canterville Ghost (1887).
I put all my genius into my life; I put only my talent into my works.
J'ai mis tout mon génie dans ma vie; je n'ai mis que mon talent dans mes œuvres.
Conversation with André Gide in Algiers, quoted in letter by Gide to his mother (30 January 1895); popularized by Gide and often subsequently quoted in Gide's later work and in "Gide, André (1869-1951)" at Standing Ovations; the conversation was again recalled in Gide's journal of (3 July 1913), quoted in "André Gide's 'Hommage à Oscar Wilde' or 'The Tale of Judas'", Victoria Reid (University of Glasgow, UK), Chapter 5 in Reception of Oscar Wilde in Europe, edited by Stefano Evangelista (8 July 2010) part of a Continuum series The Reception of British and Irish Authors in Europe, ISBN 978-1-84706005-1, pp. 98-99, also footnote 6 (p. 99), quoting 1996 edition of Gide's journal, pp. 746-47]
On George Bernard Shaw An excellent man: he has no enemies, and none of his friends like him.
Quoted by George Bernard Shaw in a letter to Ellen Terry, 25 September 1896.
I summed up all systems in a phrase, and all existence in an epigram.
Written in a letter from Reading Prison to Lord Alfred Douglas in early 1897.
People who count their chickens before they are hatched act very wisely because chickens run about so absurdly that it's impossible to count them accurately.
Letter from Paris (May 1900).
It is better to have a permanent income than to be fascinating.
The Model Millionaire, 1912.
Tell me, when you are alone with him [ Max Beerbohm ] Sphinx, does he take off his face and reveal his mask?
In a letter to Ada Leverson [Sphinx] recorded in her book Letters To The Sphinx From Oscar Wilde and Reminiscences of the Author (1930).
One can survive everything nowadays except death.
"Oscariana" (1907).
He to whom the present is the only thing that is present, knows nothing of the age in which he lives.
"Oscariana" (1907), Complete Works, p. 32
Psychology is in its infancy, as a science. I hope in the interests of Art, it will always remain so.
Oscar Wilde, 1897, | Hart-Davis, ed., Letters of Wilde, p. 173
I have the kiss of Walt Whitman still on my lip.
In a journal or later note by George Cecil Ives recording a meeting with Wilde in 1900, Oscar Wilde: Myths, Miracles and Imitations (Cambridge University Press,1996), John Stokes.
Prayer must never be answered: if it is, it ceases to be prayer and becomes correspondence.
Quoted by Alvin Redman in The Epigrams of Oscar Wilde (1952).
Keep love in your heart. A life without it is like a sunless garden when the flowers are dead. The consciousness of loving and being loved brings warmth and richness to life that nothing else can bring.
Quoted by Alvin Redman in The Epigrams of Oscar Wilde (1952).
An idea that is not dangerous is unworthy of being called an idea at all.
The Epigrams of Oscar Wilde, edited by Alvin Redman (1954)
Starvation, and not sin, is the parent of modern crime.
The Epigrams of Oscar Wilde, edited by Alvin Redman (1954)
After the first glass you see things as you wish they were. After the second glass you see things as they are not. Finally, you see things as they really are, and that is the most horrible thing in the world.
Said about Absinthe. Quoted in "Letters to the Sphinx from Oscar Wilde: With Reminiscences of the Author" by Ada Leverson (London: Duckworth, 1930).
She is not a subject.
After claiming he could give a speech on any subject at a moment's notice, and being challenged by Lord Ribblesdale to talk about the Queen.
Quoted in The Reminiscences of Lady Randolph Churchill (1908).

oscar wilde
The essay sets to collapse the distinction between fine art and criticism cherished by artists and critics such as Matthew Arnold and James Abbott McNeill Whistler - only critical faculty enables any artistic creation at all, while criticism is independent of the object it criticises and not necessarily subject to it. The essay champions contemplative life to the life of action. According to Gilbert, scientific principle of heredity shows we are never less free, never have more illusions than when we try to act with some conscious aim in mind. Critical contemplation is guided by conscious aesthetic sense as well as by the soul. The soul is wiser than we are, writes Wilde, it is the concentrated racial experience revealed by the imagination. Criticism is above reason, sincerity and fairness; it is necessarily subjective. It is increasingly more to criticism than to creation that future belongs as its subject matter and the need to impose form on chaos constantly increases. It is criticism rather than emotional sympathies, abstract ethics or commercial advantages that would make us cosmopolitan and serve as the basis of peace.[1]"The Critic as Artist" is an essay by Oscar Wilde, containing the most extensive statements of his aesthetic philosophy. A dialogue in two parts, it is by far the longest one included in his collection of essays titled Intentions published in May 1891. "The Critic as Artist" is a significantly revised version of articles that first appeared in the July and September issues of The Nineteenth Century, originally entitled "The True Function and Value of Criticism." The essay is a conversation between its leading voice Gilbert and Ernest, who suggests ideas for Gilbert to reject.

"There Is No Sin Except Stupidity"

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Context: Oscar Fingal O'Flahertie Wills Wilde, born in Dublin, received his advanced education at Oxford University. Here he was especially fascinated by the aesthetic teachings of Walter Pater (1839-1894) and John Ruskin (1819-1900). Later Wilde, with a wife to support and unable to make a living by poetry or lecturing, turned to book reviews and articles. For one of them, ordered by the editor of Nineteenth Century, he expounded the idea that criticism exists to aid people in understanding art. He employed a Platonic dialogue to provide a light tone to serious argument. The conversation takes place between Gilbert and Ernest in the library of a house in Piccadilly. Part I stresses the importance of discussing everything. The second part contains "Remarks upon the Importance of Doing Nothing." Gilbert provides the ideas. Ernest merely asks questions. Criticism, says Gilbert, makes the mind a fine instrument and makes culture possible. But one should not take a final position. Second-rate politicians and third-rate theologians, lacking "sweet reasonableness," do so and then quarrel with those who oppose them. Then Gilbert goes on to say:
. . . We are dominated by the fanatic, whose worst vice is his sincerity. Anything approaching to the free play of the mind is practically unknown amongst us. People cry out against the sinner, yet it is not the sinful, but the stupid, who are our shame. There is no sin except stupidity.
Published in 1919, Freud's essay "The Uncanny" is an important work of psychoanalytic criticism that moved away from analysis of authors to focus on themes present in literature that make the reader uneasy. (2) In the essay, Freud explains his definition of "uncanny" as something that is at once frightening, yet familiar. He uses the German word unheimlich and its opposite, heimlich, to illustrate this point. Within the many definitions for unheimlich, the word reaches a point in which it means its exact opposite, without the word changing itself. Unheimlich means both "familiar" and "unfamiliar," and translates into English as "uncanny." Freud uses Hoffmann's story titled "The Sand-Man" to explore what is uncanny, focusing on images and events that he believes are related to the fear of castration. These include: the loss of sight, specifically through the removal of eyes by the Sandman, and severed limbs. He connects this fear of castration to males' belief that "there is something uncanny about the female genital organs." (1) According to Freud, the female's genital organs are uncanny because they are the entrance to the home where everyone came from, and as a home, they are both familiar and unfamiliar. Near the end of the essay, Freud says that what is uncanny in literature could be experienced differently than what is uncanny in real life. This is in part because we accept the world introduced in literature as separate than our real world, with different rules governing what can and cannot happen. Freud uses fairy tales as an example. We do not view Snow White's return from the dead as an uncanny moment, nor do we suggest the resuscitation of the dead in the New Testament is uncanny. Uncanny moments in literature do occur when the author places the story in the real world the reader lives in.Does all of Freud's fear explanations, such as the fear of castration, come back to the fear of death? Is not the loss of something a form of death?
Shakespeare's Representation of Women

Shakespeare's representation of women, and the ways in which his female roles are interpreted and enacted, have become topics of scholarly interest. While seldom occupying the center of his plays (the few exceptions include Rosalind in As You Like It and Cleopatra in Antony and Cleopatra), Shakespeare's heroines encompass a wide range of characterizations and types, from the uncompromising frankness of Cordelia, the quick wit of Beatrice and of Kate, and the intelligence of Portia, to the ruthlessness of Lady Macbeth, the opportunistic unkindness of Regan and Goneril, and the manipulative power of Volumnia. Within this gallery of female characters, critics note similarities, especially among Shakespeare's young women characters, who commonly display great intelligence, vitality, and a strong sense of personal independence. These qualities have led some critics to herald Shakespeare as a champion of womenkind and an innovator who departed sharply from flat, stereotyped characterizations of women common to his contemporaries and earlier dramatists. Contrastingly, other commentators note that even Shakespeare's most favorably portrayed women possess characters that are tempered by negative qualities. They suggest that this indicates that Shakespeare was not free of misogynistic tendencies that were deep-seated in the culture of his country and era. Within the texts of the plays, charges of promiscuity are often leveled against young women, for example, and women occupying positions of power are frequently portrayed as capricious and highly corruptible.The sweetest power a woman can possess is that over herself. Simone de Beauvoir calls it the sense of one's self as "subject, active, free." Virginia Woolf symbolizes it with the phrase, "five hundred pounds a year and a room of one's own," admonishing women to achieve economic and political independence. But this power is incomplete. As de Beauvoir later notes, a woman loses this freedom when she discovers her own sexuality. She then realizes that to fulfill herself sexually, she must think of herself as "Other," or secondary, and of man as primary, for she lives in a patriarchal society. Marriage dramatizes this power of one human being over another. John Stuart Mill, the Victorian philosopher, notes that the reason the majority of men refuse to relinquish this power is that they are still too much afraid of living with an equal. He reasons for a sexual equality that will free both men and women to enjoy the full value of life.

Shakespeare focuses on this inequity. Men and women confront the same experience from opposite perspectives. By creating confident, attractive, independent women whom we like, he questions the wisdom of a power structure that insists they relinquish personal freedom. Some of his dramas question accepted patterns of behavior. Some stress the value of mutual respect between a man and a woman. Some reveal the confusion in a woman's mind when she seeks to understand the limits of her world. Occasionally, a drama documents the tragedy of a woman who loses her way and her sense of self when she seeks to conform. To hear his voice, however, one must recognize the individuality and three-dimensional quality of his women characters. Like the men, the women too respond to a variety of forces in their environment and are troubled by the world they see. But that world differs from the one perceived by men.

Living at a time when a woman sat on the English throne, an artist of Shakespeare's sensitivity must have been affected by this extraordinary circumstance. Not only was Elizabeth I a remarkable woman and a person of power, but she remained unmarried, thus preserving that power. Her reign began before Shakespeare was born and extended well into his playwrighting years. C. H. Williams, the historian, describes the impact of her presence as monarch for forty-six years:

From the moment of her accession until the time of her death Elizabeth I was a phenomenon—it is not too strong a word—in European history. She was at once a crowned monarch and an unmarried woman. To such an unconventional conjunction some of the stiffest problems of the reign must be attributed. The Queen's methods of dealing with them often bewildered her contemporaries. They have not been any clearer to historians.

The Queen's life dramatized a woman's potential for greatness and the subordination that a patriarchal society mandated for her if she were to marry. With great skill, Elizabeth evaded marriage and avoided that possible loss of power. She refused to share her life or her throne with any man. As she knew by observing her sister monarch, Mary of Scotland, in a patriarchal society, marriage transforms even a queen's power. If Elizabeth is an enigma to historians, perhaps it is because they have difficulty understanding the effect of this inequity on a woman's thinking and acting. Surely the dramatist drew on this example.

Today, Shakespeare's women characters have a relevance and vitality. They offer insights into women's perceptions of themselves in a patriarchal world. They reveal the conflict women know as they move from that early awareness of themselves as "essential" to that later eroding of self-confidence when they discover that they are merely "Other." Shakespeare's plays show the diversity of the mind of a sixteenth-century man whose understanding of the human condition extended beyond his own sex and beyond his own time.

Marianne Novy (essay date 1981)

SOURCE: "Demythologizing Shakespeare," in Women's Studies: An Interdisciplinary Journal, Vol. 9, No. 1, 1981, pp. 17-27.

[In the following essay, Novy examines Shakespeare's presentation of a range of female character types from a feminist critical perspective.']

I begin with a question: what is it about the experience of feminist Shakespeare criticism that is different from the experience of feminist criticism of Spenser, Milton, Hemingway, or Virginia Woolf? Suppose that feminist critics of all these writers are interested in the relationships of characters and imagery (and other literary elements) to sex roles and expectations, and refuse to take conventional stereotypes for male and female behavior for granted as normative. Are there any experiences specific to the Shakespeare critic?
According to Aristotle, one of the earliest theoreticians of literature, a tragic hero is tragic when he starts a chain of action in the play that somehow emanates from a characteral flaw in his otherwise noble character. To be tragic, Aristotle also said, a character had to be from a princely family or at least from the nobility. It was important for the tragic hero to belong to a socially high family, and have plenty of great characteristics because otherwise his eventual fall would not evoke "pity and terror" in the viewers of the tragic play.

Applying the above characteristics it is clear that Hamlet qualifies as a tragic hero. He is the prince of Denmark; he is noble, good and just and very well loved by the people of Denmark. And he has a tragic flaw. What makes this play so interesting is that critics have argued since the eighteenth centruy as to what Hamlet's trgic flaw is.

Up until the early twentieth century, thanks to that great Shakesperean critic A.C. Bradley, Hamlet's tragic flaw has been his tendency to doubt everything. His father, King Hamlet, comes to him as a ghost and tells him that his brother, the prince's uncle, has murdered him in his sleep. But should he believe a ghost? He hates his uncle for having married his mother so soon after his father's death. But is that fault wholely his uncle's? Was his mother not to blame as well? He is in love with Ophelia? But should he trust any woman after what his mother did?

Throughout the play we see Hamlet vascilating, now deciding to kill Claudius, his uncle and thus avenge his father's death, and now putting it off for the lack of certain proof or the most oportune moment. In the end, according to Bradley, Hamlet succumbs mentally and physically to his own doubts. Though he does kill Claudius, he his himself killed by Ophelia's brother Laertes.

So then why does this make Hamlet tragic? Contemporary critics say that Hamlet's tragic flaw is NOT his tendency to doubt; in fact, he doesn't have a tragic flaw at all. Thus, in defiance to the tradition Aristotelian criticism, modern critics say that Hamlet is tragic because intellectually and philosophically he was far above the other characters in the play, so that he is isolated completely and desperately in his bereavement. He loved his mother, but even his mother, without his knowledge, had been in an adulterous relationship with her brother-in-law and marries the murderer soon after her husband's murder. Hamlet can derive no comfort from her.

Hamlet's disillusionment with every institution in Denmark -- royalty, paternalism, motherhood, marriage and love -- makes him unfit for any kind of relationship with the other characters in the play. The only one he trusted was his friend, Horatio.

Critics have tried to show how Hamlet's distrust in people led him to distrust language itself, since our primary means of communication is language. Thus, he goes about being the "punning, cunning Hamlet" playing with words, feigning madness, cruelly rejecting Ophelia's love, killing Polonius, Laertes and Claudius, all because of his inability to come to grips with ways of the world. Something rotten was in the state of Denmark, it is true; but something rotten also was in his outlook toward people. His love for his mother turned to hatred; and with it his love for Ophelia was destroyed.

In the end Hamlet couldn't stand words. His mother and uncle lied. Polonius was pompous, and Ophelia, mad.
Plato (background)
Plato's most famous work is the Republic, which details a wise society run by a philosopher. He is also famous for his dialogues (early, middle, and late), which showcase his metaphysical theory of forms—something else he is well known for.

Plato's The Republic
One of Plato's most famous works, which can be attributed to the lessons he learned from Socrates, was The Republic. This is also considered to be the first book on political science or government and uses the Platonic method to reason through ideas on justice. In the book, a group decides to create an imaginary city to define what justice looks like. The city is divided into classes: the Rulers who have an understanding of right and wrong, the Guardians who protect the city and care for its people, and the Producers who provide goods and services for the people.

Book Two Plato's The Republic
In Book Two, Glaucon attempts to define the good. He goes on to explain that good can be organized into three categories:

Good for the sake of being good
Good for the sake of being good and because people get something out of it
Good only because people get something out of it
Socrates introduces the idea that they should first define a just city, and this will help them to then define a just individual. The group then begins to argue for what makes a city just, and they imagine the ideal city and what it would look like and how it would function.

Book Three Plato's The Republic
Book Three involves a discussion about the Guardians, who Socrates calls the 'heroes of the city.' This conversation evolves into one about the education of the Guardians by elder men in the city, and the group argues about what Guardians must be taught to want to protect a city.

Book Ten Plato's The Republic
In this last part of The Republic, Socrates speaks against the poets whom he says have knowledge of nothing, but speak as if they do. This perversion of the truth can lead people away from the truth, which is unjust. In short, poets and their poetry only corrupt the soul and, by connection, the city as well and should be banned from any just city. Through the telling of the story called 'The Myth of Er,' the argument is made that it is good to be just because the unjust will pay for their crimes in the afterlife and beyond.

Book Seven Plato's The Republic
Book Seven is remembered best for its lessons on the value of education presented in the analogy of the prisoners in a cave who have been chained together only allowed to view a wall of shadow. While in bondage, they only have imagination, but after becoming free are allowed to move to the surface where they see the sun and begin to see the world as it really is. According to Socrates, the meaning of education is to force humans out of the caves of their minds so that they can see the world as it really is.
Oedipus Rex is usually classified as a tragedy. In what ways does it conform to the definition of tragedy, specifically Aristotle's definition? How else might you categorize this play? For instance, Oedipus Rex has elements of a detective story; there is a mystery to be solved, and Oedipus hunts for clues, which he puts together to deduce a solution. Explain one other way to categorize the play. Define the traits of that category, then go on to explain how Oedipus embodies those traits.

Oedipus Rex is usually classified as a tragedy. In what ways does it conform to the definition of tragedy, specifically Aristotle's definition? How else might you categorize this play? For instance, Oedipus Rex has elements of a detective story; there is a mystery to be solved, and Oedipus hunts for clues, which he puts together to deduce a solution. Explain one other way to categorize the play. Define the traits of that category, then go on to explain how Oedipus embodies those traits.

Plato vs. Aristotle
idealism vs. worldliness and realism

Aristotle's Poetics & Aesthetics
Aristotle's Poetics is an exploration of aesthetics, a branch of philosophy concerned with the concept of beauty and other artistic principles. Ancient aesthetic philosophers were some of the first theorists in the fields of art and literature, and Poetics is considered the earliest extant work in literary theory. In fact, public speaking was an important part of Greek civic life, so doing it well by practicing rhetoric and understanding poetics was considered an art form.

For Aristotle, there were three types of characters that could be portrayed:
Those superior to us, such as gods, heroes and kings

Those inferior to us, such as practitioners of villainy

Those by all rights our equals, or everyone else

Many of us have probably felt refreshed or relieved after screaming into a pillow or having a good cry. Why is that? The Greeks called this feeling of being refreshed or relieved (BLANK), or the process of purging or cleansing. Aristotle applied the term to the release of emotions brought on by our experiences with poetry and other art forms.

Aristotle's Poetics is dedicated to investigating aesthetics, a branch of philosophy concerned with (BLANK) the concept of beauty and other artistic principles. As a piece devoted to characterizing various genres of poetry, drama and even literature, Poetics is considered the earliest extant work in literary theory.

What was the structure which Aristotle said should be used?
1)Unity - the play should be self contained and every event should contribute to the plot

2) Protagonist (Should be a fairly noble character who is power, virtuous and brave)

3) Mistake which leads to a reversal of fortune

4) Realization - the protagonist relaizes their mistake and becomes aware of how they have destroyed themselves

5) Catharsis - the audience's pity and fear at the play's climax should lead to an emotional release

(Aristotle used inductive reasoning, drawing conclusions after data. Emotion is nessary.) His most important treatises include Physics, Metaphysics, Nicomachean Ethics, Politics, On the Soul and Poetics. Aristotle studied and made significant contributions to "logic, metaphysics, mathematics, physics, biology, botany, ethics, politics, agriculture, medicine, dance and theatre."

Studying Aristotle's "Poetics" — Part 11: Reversal, Recognition and Suffering
As I've been interviewing screenwriters, I typically ask what some of their influences are. One book title comes up over and over again: Aristotle's "Poetics". I confess I've never read the entire thing, only bits and pieces. So I thought, why not do a weekly series with a post each Sunday to provide a structure to compel me to go through it. That way we'd all benefit from the process.
For background on Aristotle, you can go here to see an article on him in the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy.
To download "Poetics," you can go here.
Part 11: Reversal, Recognition and Suffering
Reversal of the Situation is a change by which the action veers round
to its opposite, subject always to our rule of probability or necessity.
Thus in the Oedipus, the messenger comes to cheer Oedipus and free
him from his alarms about his mother, but by revealing who he is,
he produces the opposite effect. Again in the Lynceus, Lynceus is
being led away to his death, and Danaus goes with him, meaning to
slay him; but the outcome of the preceding incidents is that Danaus
is killed and Lynceus saved.
Recognition, as the name indicates, is a change from ignorance to
knowledge, producing love or hate between the persons destined by
the poet for good or bad fortune. The best form of recognition is
coincident with a Reversal of the Situation, as in the Oedipus. There
are indeed other forms. Even inanimate things of the most trivial
kind may in a sense be objects of recognition. Again, we may recognize
or discover whether a person has done a thing or not. But the recognition
which is most intimately connected with the plot and action is, as
we have said, the recognition of persons. This recognition, combined
with Reversal, will produce either pity or fear; and actions producing
these effects are those which, by our definition, Tragedy represents.
Moreover, it is upon such situations that the issues of good or bad
fortune will depend. Recognition, then, being between persons, it
may happen that one person only is recognized by the other- when the
latter is already known- or it may be necessary that the recognition
should be on both sides. Thus Iphigenia is revealed to Orestes by
the sending of the letter; but another act of recognition is required
to make Orestes known to Iphigenia.
Two parts, then, of the Plot- Reversal of the Situation and Recognition-
turn upon surprises. A third part is the Scene of Suffering. The Scene
of Suffering is a destructive or painful action, such as death on
the stage, bodily agony, wounds, and the like.
From my reading of this, it appears that Reversal (Peripeteia) and Recognition (Anagnorisis) are linked in at least two ways:
* Both "turn upon surprises." A Reversal is "a change by which the action veers round to its opposite." The unanticipated nature of this change would by definition translate into a surprising development. Meanwhile Recognition is "a change from ignorance to knowledge" which in its "best form" is "coincident with a Reversal of the Situation," and therefore also a surprising turn.
* Whereas Reversal appears to be something that transpires in the External World, the realm of events and happenings, Recognition would seem to be situated primarily in the Internal World, the realm of characters and their inner lives (i.e., feelings, thoughts, impressions). Yet they would seem to be linked as Recognition follows from Reversal. Even in the examples Aristotle notes, there is event that happens in the External World (a character appears), followed by another character's response (Recognition).
As I was reading this, what I thought was a good example of these two dynamics in tandem came to mind: The conversion experience of Paul as described in the Acts of the Apostles 9:-3-9:
As he [Paul] neared Damascus on his journey, suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him. He fell to the ground and heard a voice say to him, "Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?"
"Who are you, Lord?" Saul asked.
"I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting," he replied. "Now get up and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do."
The men traveling with Saul stood there speechless; they heard the sound but did not see anyone. Saul got up from the ground, but when he opened his eyes he could see nothing. So they led him by the hand into Damascus. For three days he was blind, and did not eat or drink anything.
Two things. First, we have to note that up to this point in his life, Paul [known as Saul], actively persecuted those who professed faith in Jesus as the Christ. After this conversion experience, Paul became an advocate for the faith, even coming to be known as one of the Apostles. Second, his conversion is what precipitated him changing his name from Saul to Paul, signifying a distinction between his new life from his old life. Paul veering around to his "opposite" way of being and believing exemplifies, I think, Reversal and Recognition.
As to the third part — the "Scene of Suffering" (Pathos) — I'm a bit in the gray on this. Is Aristotle suggesting there is some sort of inherent causality within a tragedy that requires this turn at the end of a story? Or is this an awareness the writer brings to the story-crafting process whereby s/he will steer the plot, granting that this turn has to be both probable and necessary?
In screenwriting, whether a story has a happy ending or a tragic one, what transpires during the climax of the narrative resolves stakes at work in the External World of the plot and stakes present in Internal World of the characters' emotional and psychological experiences, but also what screenwriter Michael Arndt suggests is a third arena: philosophical stakes. Combining all three in a holistic, interconnected manner can translate into catharsis, which suffuses a story's conclusion with meaning on multiple levels, what Arndt typifies as an "insanely great ending."
I realize this is not Suffering per se, but the idea of catharsis during the story's Final Struggle does seem to derive from the interplay of Reversal and Recognition.
Hopefully our wonderful band of Aristotelians will enlighten us about all three dynamics discussed in Part 11, especially how Suffering is tied to the other two.
A reminder: I am looking at "Poetics" through the lens of screenwriting, what is its relevance to the craft in contemporary times. And I welcome the observations of any Aristotle experts to set me straight as I'm just trying to work my way through this content the best I can.
How about you? What do you take from Part 11 of Aristotle's "Poetics"?
See you here next Sunday for another installment of this series.
Aristotle believed that tragedy should be recited in ________________.

Necessities of Aristotle's tragedy: pity (pathos) and fear
• Shakespeare manipulates the straightforward plot of Aristotle's tragedy and creates three interwoven plots of revenge (son-father):