|Due By (Pacific Time)||11/14/2017 08:00 pm|
"The Bedford Shakesphere by Russ McDonald and Lena Cowen Orlin -BOOK TITLE
Assignment: write an essay of 4-5 pages double-spaced (1300 words min./2000 words max.) in which you develop an argument about one of the following topics. Remember, you should not be too wedded to the questions in the prompts. You are not obligated to answer them all, nor should you attempt to do so. These questions are simply intended as possible jumping-off points to help you craft a more focused approach and argument of your own, which may well be different from the original topic.
The Chorus in Henry V
According to Aristotle’s Poetics, the chorus of Greek tragedy “should be regarded as one of the actors; it should be an integral part of the whole, and share in the action.” For German poet and critic August Wilhelm Schlegel, the Greek chorus represented “first the common mind of the nation, and then the general sympathy of all mankind. In a word, the Chorus is the ideal spectator . . . [conveying] to the actual spectator a lyrical and musical expression of his own emotions, and elevates him to the region of contemplation” (Lectures on Dramatic Art and Literature, pp. 163-64). What is the Chorus in Henry V? How does it uphold and/or how does it undermine the conventions of the Greek chorus? How does it shape the way we view the character of King Henry? How does it shape the idea of England as a nation? How does it characterize the role or direct the activity of the audience? What becomes of this essentially theatrical figure when transferred to the big screen in Kenneth Branagh’s film?
Honor in Henry V
“If it be a sin to covet honour, / I am the most offending soul alive.”King Henry, 4.3.28-29
What is honor in Henry V and how is attained? Why does the king represent honor as though it were a material commodity in limited supply? Which characters doubt the honorability of the king’s “quarrel” with the French? Are we, the audience, made to doubt it also? Is the English victory at Agincourt an honorable one? Why or why not? How is the idea of honor conveyed or complicated in the film version?
The Art of Direction in Hamlet
Hamlet often tells other characters how to act, or in some cases how not to act: for example, see Hamlet’s advice to Horatio, Bernardo, and Marcellus (1.5), to the players (3.2), and to Gertrude (3.4). Other characters do this as well: for example, Polonius to Laertes (1.3), to Reynaldo (2.1), to Ophelia (1.3, 3.1), and to Gertrude (3.4); Claudius to Rosencrantz and Gildenstern (2.2.) and to Laertes (4.7); Laertes to Ophelia (1.3). How and why are these moments significant? How do they relate to or differ from each other? How might they relate to the Ghost’s attempt to direct Hamlet’s performance and Hamlet’s attempts to direct his own performance? What do they suggest about the relationship between acting a certain way and being a certain way?
Surveillance in Hamlet
Surveillance (n.) 1a.: Watch or guard kept over a person, etc., esp. over a suspected person, a prisoner, or the like; often, spying, supervision; less commonly, supervision for the purpose of direction or control, superintendence. (Oxford English Dictionary)
Ophelia calls Hamlet “th’observed of all observers” (3.1.157). Indeed, we don’t just watch Hamlet; we watch Hamlet watching others, and we watch others watching (or spying on) Hamlet. We even watch Hamlet watching Claudius watching the play within the play! What does all this watching suggest about the relationship between seeing and knowing, between doubt and certainty, between outward show and inward truth? How does an audience’s watching of the play differ from characters’ watching in the play?
Hamlet versus Laertes
For by the image of my cause I see
The portraiture of his. (5.2.78-79)
I’ll be your foil, Laertes. (5.2.192)
In these quotes, Hamlet compares himself to Laertes in two different ways: the first suggests their similarity (Hamlet sees Laertes as his reflection or mirror image) the second suggests their difference (Hamlet makes Laertes look better by contrast, as metal foil is used to offset a jewel and make it glitter more brilliantly). How might we explain Hamlet’s dual (duel) perspective on his rival? Like Hamlet, Laertes is seeking to avenge his father’s death; how does he approach the task, and how does his conception of himself as avenger compare to Hamlet’s self-conception? Hamlet is not just an agent of vengeance; Laertes makes him also an object of vengeance. How and why does King Claudius influence or manipulate Laertes (see 4.5 & 4.7) as Hamlet’s killer? How and why does Laertes affect the way we see or judge Hamlet, especially at Ophelia’s grave (5.1.205-277) and in the play’s final scene?
Edgar as Actor
Why does Edgar choose the roles he does? Who or what make it difficult for him to continue his “counterfeiting”? Among the main characters, Edgar is one of the few left alive at the very end of the play. How might his ability to act or “dissemble” relate to his ability to survive, perhaps even to rule? For this topic, you could discuss the different roles Edgar plays, or you could focus entirely on “Poor Tom.”
Empathy in King Lear
Shakespeare did not know the word “empathy”; the term did not enter the English language until 1909, when psychologist Edward Titchener (1867–1927) translated the German term “Einfühlung” (or “feeling into”) as “empathy.” Nevertheless, Shakespeare understood the concept, which he conveyed most nearly through the word “pity.” Which characters in King Lear are the most empathetic, and how do they demonstrate their empathy? Despite his tendency toward self-absorption, does Lear show signs of empathy? If so, when and how? What is required in order for a character to imagine and pity the suffering of another? Is there a particular language of empathy in the play, and if so, how do we recognize it?
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