Marcellus, Bernardo, and Horatio

Choose one of the following passages from Hamlet:

1.1.123-156 (Marcellus, Barnardo, and Horatio)
1.3.10-44 (Laertes)
3.1.122-160 (Hamlet and Ophelia)

Marcellus, Bernardo, and Horatio

Write a 2-page (typed, double-spaced) essay in which you (1) argue for the significance of the passage for interpreting the play, and (2) support that argument with evidence from your analysis

of the specific language, literary devices and/or effects on the audience of the passage you have chosen.

Be sure to spend a lot of time BEFORE YOU WRITE THE PAPER thinking about and working on the language of your passage. Use a thick dictionary and be sure you look up important words.

Then, ask yourself some questions:

What are the main themes of this passage?
What type of imagery (if any) is being used?
Is the language formal or casual?
Is there a central metaphor or comparison being made?
Are there certain kinds of sounds (including rhymes) that are repeated in the passage?  Why?
Who is listening to this passage on the stage?  Is that important?
Are any words or ideas repeated?  Do they stay the same or develop new meanings as they are repeated?
Are the speakers sincere?  How do we know?

THEN ask yourself questions such as these:

Why is this passage important for the play?
What would be missing if this passage were not in the play?
Does this passage emphasize a central theme or issue in the play, and if so, how does it contribute to our understanding of that theme or issue?
What does this passage reveal about the character(s) who speak(s) these lines?
Do the characters (or does the character) voice or represent differing points of view on a
central question of the play?
Does the passage contain images or metaphors that are interesting in relation to some of the
play’s central issues or themes?
How does this passage fit in with the overall structure of the scene or the play as a whole?

Once you have decided what most interests you about the passage in relation to the rest of the play, work on formulating a good thesis statement — one that (1) argues for the passage’s

significance, and (2) suggests the evidence you will use to support that argument.  Then support that thesis in a well-developed paper.


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