Ling AP Lit. and Comp. 2010-11 discussion

Good and Evil > Hamlet Act 1.2 and 1.3 (Questions 5, 1, and 2)

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message 1: by Rachel (new)

Rachel | 20 comments I guess I'll start off our Hamlet discussion!

We were asked to discuss Polonius's complex language towards the end of Act 1, Scene 3. Polonius uses "but constructions," in his farewell advice speech to Laertes.

To me, the purpose of this device in the speech furthered Polonius's extremely high standards he has for his children. They can neither be one thing, nor another. They must not do one thing, but they cannot do the opposite, either. These extremely high standards Polonius holds his children to demonstrate the extremely regulated social etiquette of the palace. This complicated etiquette mirrors the chaos that is taking or will take place throughout the course of the play.

message 2: by Rachel (new)

Rachel | 20 comments The second topic I wanted to address was one we started earlier in class today. Hamlet's soliloquy, "O, that this too, too sullied flesh" (1.2.133-164) gives us a clue to the driving force behind Hamlet's misery.

A point we discussed in class that I would like to continue was Gertrude's role in the story. I have been very skeptical of Gertrude and Cladius' roles in the play from the start. I feel that Gertrude is very unsympathetic to Hamlet's depression due to the death of the King, and she is only encouraging him to get over the death because she does not want to feel guilty about so quickly "drying her tears" and "remarrying." At one point in the soliloquy, Hamlet even says that his mother did not have time to break in the shoes she wore to the funeral before she wore them to the wedding. In seeing Hamlet mourn, Gertrude is reminded that she, too, should be upset about a man who, as Hamlet describes in detail, took such good care of her, but does not want to feel this guilt. She only has her best interests in mind.

Also, for everyone's viewing pleasure:

message 3: by Hillary (new)

Hillary (hillaryschwartz) | 21 comments I agree with you, Rachel. To add to that, I think using the "but constructions" allows him to control his children and mold them into what he views as perfection. By having this control, he can The length of the speech also includes lots of details about how his children should be have. Polonius is constantly ordering around Laertes and Ophelia and I would not be surprised if this language indicates that he wishes to have children who will act in a way that will benefit his reputation.

message 4: by Rachel (new)

Rachel Disalvo | 21 comments So just wanna say that I watched the videos again and they were all hilarious.

Anyway, responding to your first question, I think that Polonius enjoys asserting power over his children. With the use of the "but" constructions, he lectures them on what they can and cannot do. In reality, Polonius does not really know what he wants from his son. He lectures Laertes to "Give every man thy ear, but few thy voice," or to "Take each man's censure, but reserve thy judgment." I think Polonius is being a bit unrealistic here because he's basically asking his son to make no mistakes and be perfect. Still, we can infer that Polonius may just want the best for his children. He uses the "but" constructions so as to warn them to be moderate in all acts of life, rich enough, but never too gaudy.

message 5: by Rachel (new)

Rachel Disalvo | 21 comments By the way, this comment and the one above is Rachel D.

Rach, I would like to respond to your second comment about Hamlet's soliloquy and the role of Gertrude. I think I'm going to be a bit more sympathetic to Gertrude. As I stated in class earlier today, Gertrude was scared to run the country by herself. She needed a strong male figure to govern beside her in order to show the people of her country that there is stability. I also think that Hamlet says in a moment of rage that his mother was quick "to post with such dexterity to incestuous sheets!" He may not mean everything that he says, all we know right now is that he is angry and feels betrayed that his mother is not excessively mourning. Yet, we must realize that Claudius is of a tricky nature and would probably do anything to keep control of the throne. For that reason, I think it is possible that Claudius tricked Gertrude into marriage and Gertrude was too vulnerable to realize the truth.

message 6: by Ling (new)

Ling Zhang | 20 comments I have to say at Rachel D. I think Gertrude had move on and wants Hamlet to do the same. I think she was pressured into marrying Claudius, although I don't know if that pressure came directly from Claudius.
I think Hamlet also cares about his mother. He expected more from his mother because his mother had "hang on to" King Hamlet and King Hamlet had been "so loving" to her.
He is disappointed at his mother, but he still blames it on frailty of women.

message 7: by Ling (new)

Ling Zhang | 20 comments I believe Polonius, Laertes, and Ophelia have a better family relationship than Hamlet and his family. Although Polonius's advice is very specific and quite controlling, it also shows that he genuinely cares about his children and gives them honest and helpful advice. It contracts with all the subtext involved in the conversation between Claudius and Hamlet.

message 8: by Ilana (new)

Ilana | 24 comments You have a very good point--I had not thought of that! I saw another aspect of Polonius's character in the "but" constructions, too. For me they represented balance: Laertes should always act in moderation; he should be attentive but not too outspoken, familiar and warm but not vulgar. On the other hand, his advice to Ophelia has no balance in it at all. He tells her outright that she must never see or speak to Hamlet again. While Polonius' advice to Laertes is reasonable, his advice to Ophelia is radical and blunt. This says something important about his relationship with his children. To me, it demonstrates that Laertes is clearly Polonius's favorite, and worthy of careful advice, while he doesn't care about Ophelia's feelings as much.

message 10: by Randie (new)

Randie (randiead) | 22 comments Ilana, I think you bring up an extremely good point--Polonius seems to give specific and careful advice to Laertes, yet flat out tells Ophelia not to see Hamlet again. To me, this is yet another way of Shakespeare demonstrating how women were portrayed back then. They weren't given as much time and consideration, but they were given orders that they were expected to carry out. Ophelia, because she is a woman, is submissive and obedient towards her father and her brother. Polonius' advice for Laertes seemed to be about very deep matters--feelings, emotions, a general going-away-to-college type speech. However, what Ophelia receives is not advice, it is a warning not to do something.

message 11: by Randie (new)

Randie (randiead) | 22 comments Rachel (D.) although it makes logical sense that Gertrude's choice to marry Claudius is somewhat political, I have to say that I think her decision was mostly emotional. She was vulnerable after King Hamlet's death, and Claudius found the perfect moment to swoop in and woe her. Plus, in an extremely twisted way, I think that Gertrude is trying to hold on to bits and pieces of her deceased husband by marrying his brother. It is clear that although Hamlet can see right through his uncle's charm, Gertrude falls for it, and this is why she seems to be a "frail woman."

message 12: by Ilana (new)

Ilana | 24 comments Perhaps part of the reason Gertrude fell for Claudius is because he seduced her? Gertrude is, as Hamlet describes her, "frail"--this could also mean that she gave in to Claudius's advances. Had Claudius not stepped in, the throne would've passed to Hamlet, right? So Claudius, in order to get the throne, would have had to get Gertrude to take a liking to him, and quick. He seduced her, and in the loneliness after her husband's death (and possibly searching for a piece of her dead husband in Claudius--good point, by the way, Randie!), she consented.

message 13: by Arielle (new)

Arielle Weingast | 22 comments Ilana, I completely agree with you. It is almost as if Gertrude was tainted by her grief and her "fraility," and thus, falls in love with a man she would have never loved in the first place. It is also clear, based on what we know from the radio broadcast, that Claudius has a motive to seduce Gertrude and become king. Therefore, I think with bad intentions Claudius tried to use Gertrude's weak state of mind to his advantage.

message 14: by Ada (new)

Ada L | 22 comments I agree with Ilana and Randie. I also believe that the fact that Polonius favors Laertes over Ophelia shows the discriminations against women during Shakespeare's time. Randie's point about how Ophelia receives "warnings" instead of "advice" reminds me of what we discussed in class today. Some of us agreed that Gertrude is portrayed weak, as she falls under the influence of Claudius. Even in Hamlet's soliloquy, he comments on how weak women are. I think that Polonius also holds this idea of women's weakness. It is shown through his warnings and strict orders for Ophelia.

message 15: by Shigeto (new)

Shigeto Ono | 17 comments I dont think Gertrude is to be blamed. As a woman in charge, there definitely was some critisizm for a "woman in charge". Therefore, she needed a man in command or her power would have in in jeopardy. I do sympathize with Hamlet, but he is only fuled with sorrow. He only accuses her by twisting every action she made. He is just being immature.

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