1. At the START of class, please complete the course survey.
While answering the questions, remember that these results are Valuable, Individual and Anonymous. In all courses I have taught over the years, student surveys have in some way changed the class, but your answers are valuable ONLY insofar as they are yours and not someone else’s. No one can link your answers to your name, which I hope helps make you a careful truth-teller. Thank you.
2. Read Act 2 Scene 1–either on your own, or with the help of a classmate or the Shakespeare in Bits software introduced in last class.
“Madness and Indirection” would be my title for this Scene 1 because it first presents Polonius’s desire to monitor his son through indirect methods–i.e., spying with an apparently generous ambassador (Reynaldo). This scene then presents Ophelia’s reaction, and her father’s response to her reaction, to Hamlet’s apparent madness. This whole scene comes immediately after Hamlet has revealed to his friends that he will put “an antic disposition [madness] on” (1.5.172).
As you read this Act 2 Scene 1, record thoughts in your “Hamlet notebook” on this question: What do the combined effects of all this madness and indirection reveal about the essential natures of Hamlet, Polonius and Ophelia? Try to attach brief quotations to the revelations you uncover.
CAUTION: The Shakespeare in Bits program contains sections called “Characters” and “Analysis.” I suggest you use these sparingly; instead, if you use this software, lean heavily on the section called “The Play.” In my experience, outsiders’ descriptions and analyses sap my energy because they take me away from the immediate language of the lines. In today’s exercise, for example, read the scene and make entries in your notebook, THEN, if you want, see the secondary material. What you want to avoid is transcribing into your notebook ideas that have come from the Shakespeare in Bits writers. Their writing, for all of its benefits, is watery gruel next to the play itself. Let’s struggle together through the actual play; therein lies the value of being together.