ENG101 - Critical Reading & Writing

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Unit 5 - Hamlet

During this unit students will examine and discuss various themes and ideas in the play, Hamlet. Beginning with the first line––“Who’s there?”––Hamlet marks the transition into larger questions of personal identity and initial existential themes which we explore in much more depth in subsequent units. Throughout the unit, students learn about different elements of dramatic and literary conventions. The unit culminates in a major paper in which they choose from one of several themes to examine related to identity; the paper receives detailed feedback which they use to revise it. 

Assignments and/or Assessments:

  • A. Read and annotate the play.

  • B. Read closely to identify figurative language (specifically allusion, simile, metaphor, pun) and how dialogue creates characterization.

C. Respond to a prompt for an in-class timed essay.

  • D. Students should be able to discuss in class and in writing the following ideas: 
  • 1. How does the historical and cultural context of Elizabethan England affect both the writing and the reading of Hamlet?  
  • 2. How and why is Shakespeare the center of the Western canon, and why is Shakespeare considered by many to be his greatest work? 
  • 3. How is the conflict of good and evil expressed and ultimately resolved in Hamlet? 
  • 4. What characterizes a Shakespearean Tragedy?  How does Shakespeare develop the major character of Hamlet psychologically, emotionally, and intellectually? 
  • 5. How does Shakespeare's language and poetry shape the meaning of the play, (imagery, figurative language, blank verse, prose, metaphor, rhyme, alliteration, paradox, pun, symbolism) and how do details of Shakespeare's language affect the tone of certain scenes? How do foils, dramatic irony, and comic relief function in Hamlet? 
  • 6. How do patterns of words and images connect to theme and character development? 
  • 7. In what ways does ambiguity function in Hamlet? What aspects of Shakespeare's play Hamlet reflects the Classical, Medieval, Renaissance, and/or modern world views? 
  • 8. What statement is Shakespeare making about love, obedience, gender' morality' identity, “the other,” intelligence, honor, suffering, divinity, judgment, and deception in these plays? (address at least 3) 
  • Students will answer this in an out-of-class essay.
  • 9. Students will read a collection of critical essays about Shakespeare’s language, specific aspects of Hamlet in particular, and different critical theory analyses (e.g., feminist, psychoanalytical). They learn to read and examine these for rhetorical techniques.
  • 10. Students are shown a portfolio of paintings of Ophelia’s drowning done by a range of artists and styles; students must analyze their assigned painting for style and its connections to the specific passage from the text then present their analysis to the class.