Friday, January 18, 2019

The Awakening Reading Schedule

.pdf available here 

Reading Assignments:
1/18  Ch. I-XV  p.1-45
Quiz and discussion on 1/22

1/22 Ch. XVI-XXVII p.45-83
Quiz and discussion on 1/25

1/25 Ch. XXVIII-XXXIX p. 83-116
Discussion 1/31, Written Exam 2/1

NOTE: Midterm Exams for English 12 AP are Tues. 1/29 (A1) and Wed. 1/30 (A2)

Thursday, January 10, 2019

Make-Up Classwork 1/10: Hamlet Q's

1.       Hamlet left for England after declaring that he was going to think only “bloody” thoughts from this point onward.  It was going to be pretty difficult to do anything about Claudius from England, though.  What odd, offstage plot device sends Hamlet back to Denmark (

2.            How are the tone and content of Hamlet’s two letters (to Horatio and Claudius) different?  In particular, what is does Hamlet’s diction (word choice!) imply in his letter to Claudius (IV.vii)?

3.            Claudius thinks perhaps that Laertes could kill Hamlet “accidentally” in a fencing match.  Claudius suggests that Laertes could just sort of happen to choose a sword “unbated,” or sharp, as opposed to the blunted weapon Hamlet would be using.  Pretty crafty, Claudius.  What does Laertes add to this plan in IV.vii.152-161?

4.            OK, so Laertes is crafty too.  But Claudius suggests they should have a “second” option, which is … (162-176)?

5.            Ophelia’s death, described in a hauntingly sad, sweet monologue by the Queen (IV.vii.181-198) dominates the ending of Act IV.  Does is come across as swift karma for Laertes’s evil plotting?  Does it seem like a logical or inevitable extension of her descent into madness?  Does she, perhaps, take her own life?  Is she finally taking charge of her life, but in an ultimately tragic way?  Why does Ophelia have to die??

6.            Water is sometimes a symbol of purification, sometimes destruction, sometimes cognition or deep intellect -- sometimes simply a natural, elemental symbol.  Which is it here, in relation to Ophelia’s death?  Use specific text details (w/line#’s) to support your thinking.

7.            Feeling bold?  Sketch a little image of Ophelia’s death and label some of the key details. (Not feeling bold?  Do a google search of Ophelia or Ophelia’s death and annotate a classic rendition of this scene … or several of them if this is intriguing to you.  Which parts are right out of the text, and which parts does the artist embellish?)

8.            Note: this “sentence completion” question is an attempt to get you to consider the significance of the juxtaposition of the death of Ophelia with the Gravedigger scene (V.i.).  We no sooner have processed the tragic death of Ophelia, then we have the “Clown” gravediggers debating whether or not Ophelia … (V.i.1-10)!

Thursday, January 3, 2019

Make-Up Classwork 1/3: Hamlet Act IV

If you were absent on 1/3, please read Hamlet IV (scenes i-iv) and provide evidence for the following "Prove It!" statements:

1. (IV.i.) Gertrude tells Claudius that Hamlet is really crazy.

2. (IV.ii) Hamlet accuses Rosencrantz of working for the king.

3. (IV.iii) Hamlet refuses to give a straight answer about the whereabouts of the dead body.

4. (IV.iv) In Hamlet's soliloquy, he compares himself unfavorably to Fortinbras. (Note: Fortinbras makes a cameo appearance earlier in the scene, and Hamlet learns that Fortinbras will be going to war over a pretty much worthless piece of land just for the glory of it.)  

Friday, December 21, 2018

12/21: Blizzard Bag Day #2!

Well, we’re having an ice storm on the first day of Winter ... and it’s a Blizzard Bag Day.  Here are the assignments:

D-Block Public Speaking:
One good story deserves another.  You’ve now heard great examples of character development, the use of multiple settings, conflict-fueled storytelling, show-don’t-tell details, time-slows-down tension-building techniques, and — sometimes — a larger lesson learned about what really matters in life.  Let’s do it all again: your assignment is to brainstorm another good idea for a story, write the script with all six storytelling elements, and prepare to share with your class when we return.

A1&A2 English 12AP:
1) Complete your official Poetry Out Loud poem memorization.  You’ll be expected to have it ready when we return in January.  Remember: for our class you MUST have a new poem for this year.  I’m not interested in giving you credit for the poem you learned last year.
2) Complete Act III in Hamlet and respond to the following “Prove It!” statements.  For each statement, provide textual support, comments, and analysis to demonstrate its validity.
          1. III.i. — The Queen approves of Ophelia.
          2. III.i  — Ophelia expresses pity and empathy for Hamlet.
          3. III.ii. — Hamlet is sending mixed-messages to Ophelia.
          4. III.ii  — Hamlet knows Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are working against him.
          5. III.iii — Claudius has mixed feelings about his crimes.
          6. III.iv — Gertrude doesn’t know about the murder.
          7. III.iv. — Gertrude believes Hamlet.

Thursday, December 20, 2018

Sesame Street Hamlet

Back in the old days of Sesame Street, they had a parody sketch called "Monsterpiece Theater" (the real show was called Masterpiece Theater -- a televised series showcasing dramatizations of the classics).   Always more clever than they needed to be, Jim Henson's muppets drop in multiple references that went right over our heads when we were little.  I have heard that these little nuggets were intended to be "for the parents," but I suspect that these bits were just as important to the artistic sensibilities of Henson and his clever cast.  These allusive elements add a brilliant complexity to "children's television" that respects the genre and the little minds that were paying attention: rather than playing down to children, Henson, et al. were playing up to them.

Monsterpiece Theater was a recurring segment that was set up like a TV show, complete with a muppet-themed parody of the original opening sequence and a dapper host in an arm-chair: Cookie Monster as "Alistair Cookie" (instead of the real-life British host Alistair Cooke).

In the Hamlet sketch, an eager Elmo observes Prince Hamlet's emotional responses to the book he is reading.  Hamlet is, by turns, made "happy," "sad," and "angry" by the book he is reading.  It's cute, and Hamlet's advice to Elmo to "Get thee to a library" near the end of the segment is a nice example of the show's unexpectedly sophisticated humor and references.


Disclaimer: the actor in the scene is Mel Gibson -- and although I pointedly disagree with Mr. Gibson's personal views and life choices, I do love the Muppets.  I hope that makes the inclusion of this sketch on our class site seem "worth it."  Your comments on this subject are welcome.  --Mr. G. :)

Monday, December 17, 2018

More Words, Words, Words of the Year

2018 Word(s) of the Year Update: The Merriam-Webster Dictionary has selected justice. went with misinformation

Both of these seem rather Hamlet-ish to me as well! 

Thursday, December 13, 2018

Word, Word, Word of the Year

The Oxford Dictionary's official "2018 English Word of the Year" is toxic -- as it is currently used in the contemporary social phrases toxic relationship, toxic work environment, and toxic masculinity.

These are terms considered to be trending on internet searches and increasingly deployed in the public discourse of our times.  However, I would like to suggest that perhaps there really is nothing new under the sun: think with me for a moment on how this usage applies to Shakespeare's Hamlet: Prince of Denmark.

From the casual chauvinism and mansplaining -- there's another 2018 hot trending term -- of Laertes and his father Polonius in their Act I advice to Ophelia, to the audacious brutality of the crimes of Claudius, Hamlet is replete with toxic relationships.

Consider: Ophelia faces condescension from both her brother and her father, who take turns offering to tell her what to "think" (I.iii.13) and to "teach" (I.iii.110) her why she's wrong.  She makes attempts to interject her own ideas into each conversation, but is rebuffed and belittled both times.  Given Ophelia's limited ability to speak for herself in these scenes, and the sexist motives behind their advice, it seems fair to describe her family relationship as toxic in its contemporary meaning of unhealthy, or stifling: Ophelia is in a family situation where it is difficult for her to self-actualize.

She fares no better in her interactions with Hamlet, who might be justly accused of gaslighting -- one of the 2018 English Word of the Year shortlist candidates -- in his crazed appearance surprising Ophelia "sewing in [her] chamber" (II.i.86) and his outrageous "Get thee to a nunnery!" rant (II.127).  Although I have often wanted to second-guess Hamlet's motives with Ophelia -- imagining that he truly loves her and is trying to get her out of harm's way before all heck breaks loose -- it is hard to overlook the apparent ease with which he slips into the role of the abuser in this scene.  If it's all an act, methinks it is one he's a little too good at.

Toxic masculinity, indeed.

Claudius is perhaps an even better example of this.  His nocturnal carousing -- much to Hamlet's chagrin -- is an embarrassment of national importance.  His fratricidal power-grab would be "murder most foul" (I.v.31) all on its own, but Claudius goes the extra uber-masculine step of sweeping up the Queen as a trophy in his ruthless ambition.  His behind-the-scenes plotting with his male retainers is a recurring theme in the play.  Even his relationship with Hamlet is, from the start, fueled by his view of Hamlet's behavior as "unmanly" (I.ii.96).

Also, in another nod to the 2018 Word of the Year short list: in his one possible moment of redemption, Claudius finds himself unable to cake -- if cakeism (having it both ways) can be used this way -- in the sense of being unable to pray for forgiveness while retaining the power, the crown, and the queen.

Broken hearts, betrayal, and foul play.  Alas -- something is toxic in the state of Denmark.

The Awakening Reading Schedule

.pdf available here  Reading Assignments: 1/18   Ch. I-XV   p.1-45 Quiz and discussion on 1/22 1/22 Ch. XVI-XXVII p.45-83 Quiz...