Monday, December 27, 2010

Season's Greetings

Extra Credit Assignment: Research the origin and the development of Ancient Greek Theater, and deliver a five to ten minute presentation to your classmates, similar to what Raymond and Brandon did on The Rime of The Ancient Mariner.  Please, contact me by email, a.s.a.p., so I know who wants to do this assignment. I would like the presentation
made to our class very soon after we return from holiday.

A theater in which Antigonie was performed in Ancient Greece

What does the size and the design of this theatre tell you about the
significance drama may have had to Ancient Greek society?
Notice how this theater has been carved out of the mountain,
of which it is a part.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010


Victor Frankenstein's narrative is bifurcated by the his creature's story. Write an essay in which you discuss, compare, contrast, and interpret both halves of Victor's divided narrative. You may want to use your class notes to recall what was discussed in class today.

Thursday you will be given the short answer Frankenstein Test.  Please be prepared.

Assignments: For Those Who Didn't Do Them

  • PLEASE, write your name and the date on all written work.
  • Enter the blog, explore the postings and comments, and find the posted assignments you were given.
  • Rewrite the entire sonnet test with the correct answers. (Your classmates provided you with them, and they are posted on the blog.)
Saint Crispan's Day Speech
Sonnet 130
Compare Sonnet 18 to Spenser's "One Day I wrote Her Name Upon The Strand"
negation prefixes/words
self-created words from Latin prefixes
"The Passionate Shepherd to His Love" vs. Raleigh's reply
The reply to Raleigh (on our class blog) 
Blake's Chimney Sweeper Poems (from A.P. Test)
Shakespeare's procreation sonnets compare two
Columbia University
"Shooting an Elephant" - annotate and highlight
"Shooting an Elephant" essay
"My Last Duchess" Essay TEST
Sonnet TEST Short Answer
Sonnet Essay TEST
Hamlet Act I
Checking Literature Logs
Hamlet Act Act II Q's
Ophelia Questions
Hamlet Act III Q's
Hamlet Act IV Q's
Hamlet Act V Q's
post high school
Hamlet student written TEST
Hamlet Essay TEST
"Allegory of the Cave"
Compare Walter and Victor's childhoods
College Matrix
Dichotomy in Frankenstein
Frankenstein's creature
Books read by the creature (Internet work)

Sunday, December 12, 2010

The Creature's Narrative

Be prepared to write answers to the following questions in class tomorrow. I hope you have enjoyed reading Frankenstein this weekend.

1.Why does the creature seek refuge in the cottage?
2.What motivates the creature to spy on the Delaceys? Why is he so interested in them?
3.Why does he at first have such difficulty in understanding the cottagers?
4.What does the creature do to address this problem and to overcome this difficulty?
   5.Why does the creature do what he does for the Delaceys?
6.What disposes and enables the creature to understand the Delaceys?
7.How does he become literate?
8. How many and what language(s) does he master? How does he do this?
9. Why do you think the creature conceals himself from Delaceys?
10.What does the creature’s insatiable interest in learning about and from the cottagers tell us about him?
11. What do you think the creature learns about this family and the concept of family?                       
12. What books does he read?
13. What do the books he reads reveal to him about humanity? (Use the Internet.)
14. Of what are the Delacey’s a microcosm? Explain.
15.How does his understanding of the DeLaceys change during his stay in the cottage?
16.How is he changed (or humanized) by his voyeurism and reading?
17.Why is this transformation for the better or the worse? 
18.What are the qualities that make us human?

Scotland, England, Patagonia and the Creature's Proposal

Returning to Victor's Torment

And from the shore at dawn . . .
The evidence,  image,  memory, and  injustice

Friday, December 10, 2010


The Rime of the Ancient Mariner
by Samuel Taylor Coleridge
Read "The Rime of the Ancient Mariner," extract passages you deem to be relevant  to FRANKENSTEIN, then make an oral report to the class about the poem and how it relates to Mary Shelley's novel. 

  Ever been on a ghost ship? Welcome aboard. 

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

"Lines Composed... Tintern Abbey" William Wordsworth 1798

Remember the "romantic ethos" we extracted from this poem in class.  What other things in this poem did we not get to that express ethos? How do you think  Tintern Abbey  relates to the poetry of William Blake or the novel we are currently reading? Remember close relationships existed between many of the poets and authors we are and will be reading.  And remember that the author of Frankenstein was married to the romantic poet, Percy Bysshe Shelley, whose poem Ozymandias we read last week.

Tintern Abbey can be considered the succinct precursor, in English literature, of the genre known by the German term Bildungsgeschichte — the development of an individual from infancy through psychological stresses and breaks to a coherent maturity.

                                     Tintern Abbey 1798
Five years have past; five summers, with the length
Of five long winters! and again I hear
These waters, rolling from their mountain-springs
With a sweet inland murmur.—Once again
Do I behold these steep and lofty cliffs,
Which on a wild secluded scene impress
Thoughts of more deep seclusion; and connect
The landscape with the quiet of the sky.
The day is come when I again repose
Here, under this dark sycamore, and view 10
These plots of cottage-ground, these orchard-tufts,
Which, at this season, with their unripe fruits,
Among the woods and copses lose themselves,
Nor, with their green and simple hue, disturb
The wild green landscape. Once again I see
These hedge-rows, hardly hedge-rows, little lines
Of sportive wood run wild; these pastoral farms,
Green to the very door; and wreathes of smoke
Sent up, in silence, from among the trees,
With some uncertain notice, as might seem, 20
Of vagrant dwellers in the houseless woods,
Or of some hermit's cave, where by his fire
The hermit sits alone.
                                     Though absent long,
These forms of beauty have not been to me,
As is a landscape to a blind man's eye:
But oft, in lonely rooms, and mid the din
Of towns and cities, I have owed to them,
In hours of weariness, sensations sweet,
Felt in the blood, and felt along the heart,
And passing even into my purer mind 30
With tranquil restoration:—feelings too
Of unremembered pleasure; such, perhaps,
As may have had no trivial influence
On that best portion of a good man's life;
His little, nameless, unremembered acts
Of kindness and of love. Nor less, I trust,
To them I may have owed another gift,
Of aspect more sublime; that blessed mood,
In which the burthen of the mystery,
In which the heavy and the weary weight 40
Of all this unintelligible world
Is lighten'd:—that serene and blessed mood,
In which the affections gently lead us on,
Until, the breath of this corporeal frame,
And even the motion of our human blood
Almost suspended, we are laid asleep
In body, and become a living soul:
While with an eye made quiet by the power
Of harmony, and the deep power of joy,
We see into the life of things. 50
                                                If this
Be but a vain belief, yet, oh! how oft,
In darkness, and amid the many shapes
Of joyless day-light; when the fretful stir
Unprofitable, and the fever of the world,
Have hung upon the beatings of my heart,
How oft, in spirit, have I turned to thee
O sylvan Wye! Thou wanderer through the wood
How often has my spirit turned to thee!
And now, with gleams of half-extinguish'd though[t,]
With many recognitions dim and faint, 60
And somewhat of a sad perplexity,
The picture of the mind revives again:
While here I stand, not only with the sense
Of present pleasure, but with pleasing thoughts
That in this moment there is life and food
For future years. And so I dare to hope
Though changed, no doubt, from what I was, when first
I came among these hills; when like a roe
I bounded o'er the mountains, by the sides
Of the deep rivers, and the lonely streams, 70
Wherever nature led; more like a man
Flying from something that he dreads, than one
Who sought the thing he loved. For nature then
(The coarser pleasures of my boyish days,
And their glad animal movements all gone by,)
To me was all in all.—I cannot paint
What then I was. The sounding cataract
Haunted me like a passion: the tall rock,
The mountain, and the deep and gloomy wood,
Their colours and their forms, were then to me 80
An appetite: a feeling and a love,
That had no need of a remoter charm,
By thought supplied, or any interest
Unborrowed from the eye.—That time is past,
And all its aching joys are now no more,
And all its dizzy raptures. Not for this
Faint I, nor mourn nor murmur; other gifts
Have followed, for such loss, I would believe,
Abundant recompence. For I have learned
To look on nature, not as in the hour 90
Of thoughtless youth, but hearing oftentimes
The still, sad music of humanity,
Nor harsh nor grating, though of ample power
To chasten and subdue. And I have felt
A presence that disturbs me with the joy
Of elevated thoughts; a sense sublime
Of something far more deeply interfused,
Whose dwelling is the light of setting suns,
And the round ocean, and the living air,
And the blue sky, and in the mind of man, 100
A motion and a spirit, that impels
All thinking things, all objects of all thought,
And rolls through all things. Therefore am I still
A lover of the meadows and the woods,
And mountains; and of all that we behold
From this green earth; of all the mighty world
Of eye and ear, both what they half-create,*
And what perceive; well pleased to recognize
In nature and the language of the sense,
The anchor of my purest thoughts, the nurse, 110
The guide, the guardian of my heart, and soul
Of all my moral being.
                                     Nor, perchance,
If I were not thus taught, should I the more
Suffer my genial spirits to decay:
For thou art with me, here, upon the banks
Of this fair river; thou, my dearest Friend,
My dear, dear Friend, and in thy voice I catch
The language of my former heart, and read
My former pleasures in the shooting lights
Of thy wild eyes. Oh! yet a little while 120
May I behold in thee what I was once,
My dear, dear Sister! And this prayer I make,
Knowing that Nature never did betray
The heart that loved her; 'tis her privilege,
Through all the years of this our life, to lead
From joy to joy: for she can so inform
The mind that is within us, so impress
With quietness and beauty, and so feed
With lofty thoughts, that neither evil tongues,
Rash judgments, nor the sneers of selfish men, 130
Nor greetings where no kindness is, nor all
The dreary intercourse of daily life,
Shall e'er prevail against us, or disturb
Our chearful faith that all which we behold
Is full of blessings. Therefore let the moon
Shine on thee in thy solitary walk;
And let the misty mountain winds be free
To blow against thee: and in after years,
When these wild ecstasies shall be matured
Into a sober pleasure, when thy mind 140
Shall be a mansion for all lovely forms,
Thy memory be as a dwelling-place
For all sweet sounds and harmonies; Oh! then,
If solitude, or fear, or pain, or grief,
Should be thy portion, with what healing thoughts
Of tender joy wilt thou remember me,
And these my exhortations! Nor, perchance,
If I should be, where I no more can hear
Thy voice, nor catch from thy wild eyes these gleams
Of past existence, wilt thou then forget 150
That on the banks of this delightful stream
We stood together; and that I, so long
A worshipper of Nature, hither came,
Unwearied in that service: rather say
With warmer love, oh! with far deeper zeal
Of holier love. Nor wilt thou then forget,
That after many wanderings, many years
Of absence, these steep woods and lofty cliffs,
And this green pastoral landscape, were to me
More dear, both for themselves and for thy sake. 160

Monday, December 6, 2010

Mary Shelley's Letter and Journal Entry

6 March 1815
My dearest Hogg my baby is dead – will you come to see me as soon as you can – I wish to see you – It was perfectly well when I went to bed – I awoke in the night to give it suck it appeared to be sleeping so quietly that I would not wake it – it was dead then but we did out find out till morning – from its appearance it evidently died from convulsions – Will you come – you are so calm a creature and Shelley is afraid of a fever from the milk – for I am no longer a mother now.

A baby girl was born prematurely to the couple in February, 1815, and died twelve days later. In her journal of March 19, 1815, Mary recorded the following dream, a possible inspiration for Frankenstein: "Dream that my little baby came to life again - that it had only been cold & that we rubbed it before the fire & it lived."  A son, William, was born to the couple in January, 1816.

Your essay on the dichotomies in Frankenstein is due tomorrow.  You should read half the novel by Friday and you should complete the novel by next week.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Plato's "Allegory of the Cave"

What are your thoughts about Plato's allegory?  The one we dramatized in class today. BLOG.

Looking for the light?
Or merely viewing shadows?


Solipsism, Absolute or Relative Truth?

Friday, November 19, 2010

Awaiting Frankenstein . . .

Thank you Serio, Victor, and Brandon for your excellect pre-firedrill performance of Edward Field's poem "Frankenstein." You really brought the scene and the characters to life!

You will be happy to learn that  Frankenstein: The Modern Prometheus  can be read on line. I want you to go to one of these websites and to read The Preface, which contains Robert Walton's first six letters to his sister Margaret.
CLICK  ON THE URL TO CONNECT:  1818 Edition   1831 Edition



In lieu of reading this book, which we do not yet have - alas how monstrous - I would like you to do Internet research about its editions, editing, and manuscript(s).
1. What "editions" of Frankenstein: or the Modern Prometheus are there?
2. How many times was this novel "edited?" Who were the editors?
3. What is a "manuscript?"
4. Which edition of this novel should we read? Why?
5. How will reading this edition affect our analysis, and interpretation of a novel?
6. Notice the first edition was published "IN THREE VOLUMES."  Why do you think it was originally published that way? What did each of these volume contain?
7. What is the book's full title? Who is Prometheus?
8. Notice the 1818 book is "authorless." Why?
9. Read the quotation from John Milton's Paradise Lost.  Who is being addressed? Who do you think is speaking? How do you interpret the words?
10. What else do you notice about the first page of the first edition.

Monday, November 15, 2010

HAMLET Essay Test

I went back and looked over old A.P.English Literature and Composition Tests to find a good essay question  for Hamlet.  I found one I feel is germane to what you have read: The 2008 English Literature and Composition Test, Question 3 (40 minutes). I simplified this question and tailored to fit Hamlet.
You may wish to refer to the October 29th blog posting on foils.

Hamlet has two foils in this play, Fortinbras and Laertes.  Write an essay in which you compare and contrast Hamlet to each of these foils and in which you analyze how the relationship between these minor characters and Hamlet illuminate the meaning of the play.  Substantiate what you say by making accurate specific references to the play.
This will be a closed book essay test.
Prepare to write this essay and be sure to get to class early. 

Sunday, November 14, 2010

SUNY Website/Finish College Matrix 
By clicking on the above url you will be taken to a State University of New York website that was designed for high school students, like you, who have to research and then select SUNY schools which best fit their needs. Please realistically position the schools you select within your matrix as reach, possibility, probability, and saftey schools.
The time, the effort, and the thought you give to both researching and selecting which schools to apply to is a serious matter, and is your responsibility.
We will  briefly discuss the CUNY, SUNY, private school matrix tomorrow in class.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Students' HAMLET Quotations

Your posting counts for five (5) points on this test. Place your five quotations from Hamlet here before 9pm - I have to write the test! Write your name, then write the first five or ten words of each quote and where it can be found in the play by page number, act, scene,  and line  number(s). Indicate who is speaking, who is being spoken to, what the importance these line have in the play, and what they mean. Be sure to use this as a review study guide. ENJOY SHARING. Sharing is caring! Oh yes, please feel free to disagree with one another. Have a good time studying Hamlet.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

HAMLET Test Monday or Tuesday or both.

What is a dichotomy?
Which dichotomies were pointed out to you in class?
Compare medieval and renaissance values expressed in Hamlet.
How do pagan, Christian, and intellectual dictates in Hamlet contest with one another?
Why are Hamlet's soliloquys so central to this play?
Identify the most important soliloquys and the most important dialogue within the play.
Why are both the players and Horatio of such importance in this play?
How do concerns Hamlet express in his soliloquies change as the play progresses?
How is Hamlet a political creature?
How is  Hamlet's Denmark portrayed?

I strongly urge you yo reread sections of Hamlet, think about what we discuss in class tomorrow and Friday, blog about aspects of the play I will alert you to on this post and in class, ask questions, express your thought and intelligently disagree with one another in writing on this blog.

Sunday, October 31, 2010


V, i
1. In some editions of Hamlet the "gravediggers" are not  called gravediggers but clowns. Why at this point in the play does Shakespeare resort to comic relief  ?
2. What is the dispute they have, and what is the riddle and its answer?
3. Why do you think Shakespeare at this point for the first time lets us now know Hamlet's age?
4. How does Hamlet  react to being told, "This same skull, sir, was Yorick's skull, the King's jester"?
5. What dramatic irony extends over much of this scene? What affect does it have?
6. Why does Laertes quibble with the priest officiating at his sister's burial? Where and how has this been foreshadowed  in this scene and elsewhere in the play?
7. Why at this point in the play do Laertes and Hamlet have such radically different opinions of each other?
8. What do we learn from Gertrude's farewell to Ophelia? What do you think of what she says? What would Polonius have thought?
9. What does the priest's treatment of his sister cause Laertes to do? How is this counterpoint to the comic relief earlier in the scene?
10. Why does Hamlet so assertively announce himself, "This is I, Hamlet the Dane" ? Why is Hamlet so angry?
11. Explain why Hamlet jumps into the pit dug for Ophelia's coffin?
12. What  do you think were Hamlet's true feelings for Ophelia?
V, ii
1. How did Hamlet sidestep Claudius' plot to have him put to death in England? (He tells Horatio.)
2. Why do or don't you think killing now may be easier for Hamlet?
3. How does Hamlet react to the idea of the match? How does Hamlet expect to do and why does he go ahead with it? How does this reflect the "new" nature of Hamlet, revealed in V, i? 
4. What is the nature of Hamlet's speech to Laertes before they fence?
5  How do Hamlet and Laertes get wounded?
6. How does Hamlet get his final revenge?
7. How do the characters who entered this scene die?
8. What is Hamlet's final act as King of Denmark?
9. Why does Hamlet entreat Horatio to stay alive?
10. Why is Fortinbras' presence important at the end of the play?

I hope you enjoyed the play. 

Recall Hamlet's references throughout the play to the decay of the body, and Denmark. Scene one is a culmination of the concerns Hamlet has expressed about mortality and decay throughout the play. (Here we have an example of a literary term T.S. Eliot coined, known as the objective correlative.)  Please read this scene aloud at least twice. The gravediggers speak in colloquial  lower class Elizabethan English, so carefully read the liner notes relating to their dialogue to appreciate both their graveyard humor as well as Hamlet's.

Friday, October 29, 2010


For those of you not in attendance on Friday please pay attention. A foil,  pronounced like aluminum foil, is a character who contrasts with another character (usually the protagonist) in order to highlight various features of that other character's personality, throwing certain characteristics into sharper contrast or focus. A foil serves to stress and highlight the distinctive temperament of the protagonist. 


A foil is a secondary character who contrasts with a major character; in Hamlet, Fortinbras and Laertes, whose fathers have been killed, are foils for Hamlet.  As we have observed in class, Shakespeare employs Fortinbras four times in the play as a foil to Hamlet. And Laertes, a man of  precipitous action, also serves as a foil to the dilatory Hamlet on multiple planes.

Your Classmates Answers

Sonnet/Poetry Test.
Had you collectivelly taken the test, without the use of cell phones, you would have received a grade of 100%. Your classmates did answer the questions correctly.  Learn from them. Please rewrite each test questions as a sentence with a correct answer.  I am asking you to use this test as a learning instrument.
1. Italian love song: Katherine
2. Italian: Lam
3. Dante: Stephanie
4. Petrarch: Susan
5. Italian Sonnet: Jeanette
6. octave: Kenny
7. 8 lines: Kenny
8. sestet: Malthen
9. 6 lines: Farrid
10. personification: Nyasia
11. quatrains: Brandon
12. 14th Century: Chandanie (in essay)
13. 1609: Kenny
14. personification: Katherine
15. ababcdcdefefgg: Victor
16. quatrains: Amy
17. couplet: Chrisma
18. alternating rhyme: Chandanie
19. masculine: Ana
20. feminine: Tiffany
21. personification: Brittany
22. repetition: Maurice
23. asks a question: Yenifer
24 a. the lines of the poem: Malthen
      b. a summer's day compared to a person: Brandon
25. iambic pentameter: Raymond
26. when the endings are spelled the same but sound different: Stephanie
27 a. words last syllables are spelled differently or the same and sound the same:Yennifer
      b. rhyme that occurs within a single line of verse: Melida
28. But: Tiffany
29. introduces the antithesis: Yennifer
30. vowel: Victor

Tuesday, October 26, 2010


IV, i
1. What can we infer about Gertrude's compliance with Hamlet's requests (III, iv)?
2. Why do you or don't you believe that Gertrude is deceiving Claudius?
2. How does Claudius respond to the death of Polonius. Does he understand the implications of what Hamlet did? Explain.
3. What does this scene reveal about Claudius' regency (39-41)?
IV, ii
1. What metaphor does Hamlet introduce in referring to Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, and what metaphor did Hamlet use in referring to them earlier in III, ii ?
IV, iii
1. Why is Claudius sending Hamlet to England.
2. Why does Claudius tell Rosencrantz and Guilenstern what the letter he has given them contains?
3. How does Hamlet speak to King Claudius? What does it reveal?
4. What do you think Claudius is keeping secret from Gertrude and why?
IV, iv
1. Why do you think Fortinbras enters the play at this point? (Remember the literary term foil ? - Go to the "FOIL Posting.")
2. What sort of judgement does the Captain make about the place they are fighting for? How does Hamlet describe it?
3. Where is Hamlet going when he meets the Captain?
IV, v
1. What do we learn about the state of Gertrude's soul from her aside?
2. Why do you think Shakespeare has Ophelia sing songs at this point in the play?  (Remember Susan's performance of them in class.) What affect do they have?
3. How does Laertes propose to revenge his father's death? How does this compare with Hamlet's?
4. With what is Claudius threatened? How do you think Claudius handles the emergency?
5. How does Laertes respond to Ophelia?
IV, vi
1. What surpriise is contained in the letter Horatio receives and read on stage? Where is Hamlet now?
IV, vii
1. How has Claudius convinced Laertes of his innocence?
2. Why in Hamlet's letter to Claudius does he say he wants to see him "alone"?
3. How will Claudius and Laertes use Laerte's reputation to get revenge?
4. What would Laertes do to get revenge? How does this compare to Hamlet?
5. How and why did Ophelia die?  (How does this differ from the way her death is described in V, i?)
6. How does Laertes respond to his sister's death?
  Happy Halloween 

Thursday, October 21, 2010


"The play's the thing /Wherein I'll catch the conscience of the King." (last lines Act II)

III, i :
1. What does Claudius learn from Rosencrantz and Guildenstern?
2. Why is Claudius' aside in this scene of such importance?
3. Why is Hamlet's soliloquy placed where it is in this scene?
4. How can or can't you tell if Hamlet knows he is being spied upon during the "Nunnery Scene?"
Why do Hamlet's use of the word "remember" and Ophelia's use of the word "remembrances" resonate
so painfully. Who is the "one" referred to in the line "all but one?"  Why is this stated? Why do you think Hamlet  treats Ophelia the way he does? Do you think he no longer loves her? Explain. (Remember lines earlier in the play: "Frailty, thy name is woman."?)
5. Why does Polonius think it is necessary for him to spy on Hamlet and Gertrude for Claudius?
III, ii
1. How does the beginning of this scene offset the tension generated by the preceding one, and what does it reveal about Hamlet?
2. In what way does Hamlet praise Horatio. Why does he do so?
3. Why is writing the "mousetrap" the only thing Hamlet has done to exact revenge on Claudius?
4. How do Hamlet and Ophelia interact before the performance? Why does he lie his head where he does?
5. How is the play different from what you expected?
6. How does the play within the play deviate from what the ghost of Hamlet's father recounted in Act I ?
7. What have Claudius and Hamlet learned about each other as a consequence of the play?
III, iii
1. What has Claudius decided to do with Hamlet?
2. What do we learn about Claudius in his "prayer" soliloquy? Why can't he ask for forgiveness?
3. When Hamlet enters, why doesn't Hamlet kill Claudius? What is ironic about Hamlet's decision?
III, iv
1. How successful is the conversation between Gertrude and Hamlet? What goes wrong even before
Polonius' death. Why does Gertrude call for help?
2. Explain why you think Gertrude knew or did not know Claudius had killed King Hamlet?
3. What do you think of how Hamlet speaks to his mother
4. Why does the ghost appear, who sees him, and what is his message?
5. Should we see King Hamlet's ghost in this scene. Why, why not?
6. What are Hamlet's final instructions to his mother?

To understand the movement of Act III, you may want to chart the entrances and exits of characters. Make note of how Shakespeare transforms and juxtaposes movement within and between the scenes. This will enable you to appreciate Shakespeare's stage craftmanship.  Remember dramatic irony in Hamlet relies both
on the use of space and the utterance of words.

Please note that your text varies considerably from the Oxford University text of Hamlet in regard to what we touched upon in class today. Immediately before the "To be or not to be" soliloquy the stage directions in the Oxford text read: "Claudius and Polonius [hide behind the arras]. Enter Hamlet."  Your text has Polonius and Claudius move to the rear of the stage, but not necessarily in a conscious effort to spy on Hamlet. There is a big difference, since their spying during this speech, adds tension and pregnancy to Hamlet's words, colors Claudius' lines which end the first scene, and foreshadows what happens later in the play. You may want to go onto Youtube, type in Hamlet, and view the third video down from the top -Act III, i.  or Sir Lawrence Olivier's performance of this soliloquy. 

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

John Milton's Petrarchan sonnet

"For Books are not absolutely dead things, but doe contain a potencie of life in them to be as active as that soule was whose progeny they are; nay they do preserve as in a violl the purest efficacie and extraction of that living intellect that bred them."  John Milton
 Sonnet: On his Blindness
              John Milton (1608-1674) 
When I consider how my light is spent,
    Ere half my days, in this dark world and wide,
    And that one talent which is death to hide,
    Lodged with me useless, though my soul more bent
To serve therewith my maker, and present
    My true account, lest he returning chide,
    Doth God exact day-labour, light denied?
    I fondly ask; but Patience to prevent
That murmur, soon replies, God doth not need
    Either man's work or his own gifts, who best
    Bear his mild yoke, they serve him best, his state
Is kingly. Thousands at his bidding speed
    And post o'er land and ocean without rest:
    They also serve who only stand and wait.

n.b. (note well) This is a Petrarchan sonnet. John Milton was one of Mary Shelley's favorite poets and he is the author of Paradise Lost.  In writing Frankenstein: Or the Modern Prometheus Shelley quoted from his poetry extensively - as she also did from both her husband's and Wordworth's.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Scorn Not the Sonnet (Sonnet/poetry test tomorrow)

               William Wordsworth (1770-1850)

Scorn not the Sonnet; Critic, you have frowned,
Mindless of its just honours; with this key
Shakespeare unlocked his heart; the melody
Of this small lute gave ease to Petrarch's wound;
A thousand times this pipe did Tasso sound;
Camoens soothed with it an exile's grief;
The Sonnet glittered a gay myrtle leaf
Amid the cypress with which Dante crowned
His visionary brow: a glow-worm lamp,
It cheered mild Spenser, called from Faeryland
To struggle through dark ways; and, when a damp
Fell round the path of Milton, in his hand
The Thing became a trumpet, whence he blew
Soul-animating strains -alas, too few!


Friday, October 15, 2010


Act II, i  Questions:
1. How does Polonius instruct Reynaldo to go about spying on Laertes in Paris?
2. Why does Reynaldo say, "My lord, that would dishonor him."?
3. How do you interpret Ophelia's description of Hamlets behavior in lines 99-112?
4. Why do you think Hamlet "raised a sigh so piteous and profound/That it did seem to shatter all his bulk/And end his being."?
5. How do you think Ophelia is being affected by Hamlet's behavior and her father's prohibitions?
6. What do you make of Polonius' interpretation of Ophelia's description of Hamlet's behavior?
7. Why does Polonius think he may be responsible for Hamlet's madness?

Act II, scene ii  is demanding, so be sure to read it aloud more than once and be sure to consult the explanatory notes to the left of the text.  I expect there will be many lines you will not comprehend, please just soar over them and finish the scene. It has a beauty and  an intensity that is quite extraordinary. Now reread it.  Now read the soliloquy which ends this act aloud once again.

This is one of the longest and most challenging scenes in Hamlet.  It consists of six sections:
     1. the arrival and reception of Rosencrantz and Guildenstern
     2. the ambassabors return from Norway
     3. Polonius' interpretation of Hamlet's "antic" behavior to Claudius and Gertrude
     4. Hamlet's meeting and questioning of his school fellows
     5. the arrival of the players and their performances for Hamlet
     6. Hamlet's soliloquy

Act II, ii  Questions:
1. Why should or shouldn't Claudius be pleased with how the King of Norway restrained Fortinbras?
2. Why have Rosencrantz and Guildenstern been brought to Ellsinore?
3. What does Gertrude reveal in lines 59-60?
3. By Act II how badly has Hamlet deteriorated? Has his "antic" disposition fooled those around him?
5. How does Hamlet's disposition vary in this scene? On what does this variation depend? How much of it is real how much of it is pretense?
6. At the end of Act II, scene ii, write about Polonius from several perspectives:  his importance to King Claudius, Gertrude's attitude toward him, his role as Ophelia's father, his role as Laerte's father, and his role as self-appointed interpreter of Hamlet's "lunacy." How do you feel about this character?
7. Why does Shakespeare move between pathos and bathos (tragedy and humor)? Where do you observe them being mixed together? How does this affect the play?
8. Notice when and how in Act II Shakespeare leaves verse (poetic form) and writes in prose. Why do you think Shakespeare chose to do this?
9. Comment on Hamlet's lines to Rosencrantz and Guildenstern (II:ii,268-270) ". . .'tis none to you for there is nothing either good or bad but thinking makes it so" and then (II:ii, 273-275) "O God, I could be bounded in a nutshell and count myself a king of infinite space, were it not that I have bad dreams."
* Read and then reread Hamlets lines II:ii, 317-334 (I will tell you why: so shall my anticipation prevent your discovery . . .)  aloud.
10. How do you think Hamlet manages the conversation with his old school friends Rosencrantz and Guildenstern?  Be explicit.
**  Immediately before and after the players arrive Shakespeare makes allusions to problems actors were having in contemporary England, the Bible, and Ancient Greek Literature. This reading is difficult going, so carefully read the notes given to you in the text! If you don't understand some of this, do not worry, it will be covered in class.
11. Why is Hamlet's attitude toward the players (actors) so different from Polonius'? Go to lines 549-552 and thereabouts.
12. Comment on Hamlet's soliloquy that ends Act II. 

We will discuss II, i and then proceed to act out II, ii in class. If any of you want to volunteer to play a role, please let me know by email. I expect reader/performers to very carefully read and rehearse their parts beforehand.

Remember to prepare for the sonnet test on Tuesday.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

"Hamlet" the "globe" and The Globe

First off I'd like to say I'm very pleased with those students who participated in today's lesson.  It is clear to me that some of you are working hard at understanding the text; however, I would like more of you to do so and more of you to participate in class discussion.  

Act I is the exposition of the play. The characters, the problems, and the themes Shakespeare develops throughout the play are clearly present in this first act. Please read this first act aloud, and with care, scene by scene.  Post your comments and questions in relation to act, scene, page, and line number(s) so your classmates know precisely what you are referring to.

1. The first marking period ends in ten days.
2. I will collect and read your literature log BEFORE computing your grade. Get a move on!
3. Outstanding (no pun intended) work should be handed in NOW.
4. There'll be a sonnet/poetry test on Monday-study your notes & Google "sonnet"
5. There'll be an in class written "Hamlet" essay, in which you'll discuss, analyze, and interpret a passage. 
6. Your participation or lack thereof on the class blog will be evaluated.
7. Your completed College Portfolio is due in November, before Thanksgiving. What have you done?
8. Once again, I am available to help you or to conference with you period 1, 8, or after school.