Prepping for Your Hamlet Test - for Your Hamlet Test ... tragedy and relate those to the events of ... tendency toward melancholic reflection is a “tragic flaw” that leads inevitably to ...

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  • Prepping for Your Hamlet Test

    Next week shall mark the end of our Hamlet study, and you shall take a test. Literature tests are quite different from

    biology or chemistry tests because they are written by English teachers, and we all know what English teachers love, do

    we not?

    Words. Lots and lots of words, but not the empty kind. English teachers love words of thoughtful explanation,

    supported by evidence from the text (quotes from the play, poppets) and written in standard, formal language. While

    this test will include some objective questions (true/false, multiple choice), the bulk of it will be short essay questions.

    Look! There they are, below. Ive written eight essay questions for the test and included them here, so that you can

    practice your answers. This is a gift. You are welcome to use my gift or ignore it; if you use it, you will draft or outline

    possible answers to each question as you study this week. You may not bring your outlines to the test, but at least you

    will have prepared yourself better than those who ignore my gift! You may, though, have your copy of Hamlet handy

    during the exam.

    Of these eight questions, I shall choose four for the actual test. Of the four on the test, you will choose two to write on.

    1. Shakespeares Hamlet is a tragedy. What makes it so? Review your notes on the characteristics of a

    tragedy and relate those to the events of this play. Be sure to discuss the protagonists fatal flaw and

    catharsis for the audience.

    2. Hamlet could have killed Claudius while he was praying, but didnt. Why not? What does this

    demonstrate about Hamlets fatal flaw and the Elizabethan view of sin and repentance?

    3. What have we learned about Gertrude? How would you characterize her? Why might she have

    remarried so quickly? How do you explain her guilt in the bedroom scene? Where do her loyalties lie --

    to her son, husband, former husband, or herself? Defend your answer with one or more quotes from

    the play.

    4. Trace Hamlets arguments throughout his famous to be or not to be soliloquy. How does Hamlet

    think through his question? What excuses does he use? What are his fears? What are his options?

    What resolution does he come to?

    5. Many critics take a deterministic view of Hamlets plot, arguing that the princes inability to act and

    tendency toward melancholic reflection is a tragic flaw that leads inevitably to his demise. Is this an

    accurate way of understanding the play? Why or why not? Given Hamlets character and situation,

    would another outcome of the play have been possible?

    6. Shakespeare includes characters who are foils for Hamlet, including, most obviously, Horatio,

    Fortinbras, King Claudius and Laertes. Compare and contrast Hamlet with two of these characters. How

    are they alike? How are they different? How does each respond to the crises with which he is faced?

    7. Throughout the play, Hamlet claims to be feigning madness, but his portrayal of a madman is so

    intense and so convincing that many readers believe that Hamlet actually slips into insanity at certain

    moments in the play. Do you think this is true, or is Hamlet merely play-acting insanity? What evidence

    can you cite for either claim?

    8. Think about Hamlets relationship with Ophelia. Does he love her? Does he stop loving her? Did he ever

    love her? What evidence can you find in the play to support your opinion?


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