Option 1: Hamlet’s Most Famous Soliloquy: “To Be or Not to Be.”
Review Act 3 Scene 1 (pages 1846-1847), with particular attention to lines 57-90.
What is Hamlet discussing in this soliloquy? Does he really wish his life to end? Why or why not? What is it that makes him question his existence?
For up to 2 points of extra credit, write an extra page in which you read the soliloquy along side TWO performances of the soliloquy posted on BB (in the Audio and Visual Supplements folder for Hamlet). Compare and contrast at least *three* elements in the staging of this soliloquy across your TWO chosen performances. For instance, you might think about how different settings (the time and place in which the soliloquy occurs) emphasize different themes in the soliloquy. Or you might think about the actor’s delivery of the lines, and how this delivery interprets the tone of the soliloquy. Please clearly identify the two performances on which you choose to reflect.
Option 2: The Graveyard Scene
Review Act 5 Scene 1 (1884-1890). The introduction of the clowns in this scene, and Hamlet’s consideration of Yorick’s skull, are as famous as they are puzzled over. Why place such a comic scene, and its praise of “fooling,” at the beginning of a tragedy’s final act? In particular, what is the importance of Hamlet’s confrontation with Yorick’s skull (both before and after First Clown identifies the skull)? How does Hamlet’s relationship with Yorick differ from, or relate to, his relationship with his father?
For up to two points of extra credit: Write an extra page in which you consider lines 194-256. Answer the following questions: 1. Why does the First Priest refuse “ceremony else” for Ophelia? 2. How do you explain the strange competition between Laertes and Hamlet over who loves Ophelia more? How does the competition relate to larger themes of grief and remembrance in the play? 3. At the end of these lines, Gertrude claims “This is mere madness.” Do you think Ophelia’s death has finally pitched Hamlet into “real” madness?