ENG 4U 2011: Subtext…or Characters Rarely Say What They Are Thinking

Our Goals Today:

  • we need to test your cell phones. We might try something called backchanneling next week.
  • we need to explore the subtext of the second scene of Hamlet
  • in the second half of class, we will go to lab 261 to discuss blogging.

Subtext is the part of the narrative that is not explicitly stated. In the second scene of Hamlet, the subtext is the thoughts and emotions that several characters are experiencing while they play nice in front of the court. For example, Hamlet may be the prince, but he is still bound by tradition and responsibility. He cannot openly tell his uncle Claudius and his mother,  Gertrude, what he thinks. His monologue half-way through the scene explains his disgust;  however, while everyone is present, he is reduced to double-entendres and asides.

Unfortunately, we don’t know what Gertrude and Claudius are thinking during this scene. This where you come in….

Your Task

Assume the role either Gertrude or Claudius. Write a speech to welcome Hamlet back to court, but do not hide your true thoughts or emotions. Avoid niceties. Tell the truth, even if it hurts. If it helps, think about the film The Invention of Lying: how would Gertrude/Claudius address Hamlet and the court if they were incapable of lying or sophistry?

  • If you are Gertrude, you have mixed emotions about Hamlet’s return. You love your son, but you know that he will not be in a good mood. How he is supposed to feel about seeing you with his uncle just a few months after the death of his father?
  • If you are Claudius, you should probably know this: you killed Hamlet’s father.
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