ENG 4U 2011: Intertextuality and Hamlet/Blog Exemplars

Our Goals Today:

  1. To see how intertextuality shapes our understanding of Act I Scene iii of Hamlet
  2. To experiment with backchanneling
  3. To look at some blog exemplars from last year


Intertextuality is an impressive sounding term that, for our purposes, has a very straightforward meaning:

Intertextuality is the interaction of different stories (or texts). Or, even more simply, intertexuality is when texts talk to other texts. (Fairly broad, huh? This can include a lot of other fancy terms like allusion or pastiche. We are not worried about these terms today).

For example, intertextuality occurs when:

  • A film spoofs other films (how many times does Scary Movie refer to other films?)
  • A character in a film or book uses a phrase from another film or book (characters quote the Bible, or the characters of the Big Bang Theory  speak Klingon)
  • Symbols from one text creep into another (the characters of the Big Bang theory regularly wear t-shirts with the logos of their favourite superheroes)
  • the makers of the text build on the work of other texts to build new layers of meaning (ever watched a horror film that contained a scene that reminded you of a classic?)

This intertextuality  dominates our understanding of Shakespeare. Besides the fact that Shakespeare’s works make countless “intertextual” references to the Bible and other texts, Shakespeare’s plays have been performed thousands of times and, in some cases, completely reworked. In one “version” of Romeo and Juliet, the families are now gangs in 1950s New York.  My daughter even owns a version of Romeo and Juliet in which the family are dogs and cats; the title, of course, is Romeow and Drooliet. Ever watched Ten Things I Hate About You? You were actually watching the Taming of the Shrew.

What does this have to do with Hamlet? Today, we will watch the same scene twice. I want you to appreciate how these texts are creating new interpretations of the play; I also want you to see how the very 20th century interpretation of Hamlet’s relationship with his mother may have shaped one of the versions you will watch.

Your group needs to compare the interpretations of one of the following. Two groups per item, please:

  • Polonius
  • Laertes
  • Ophelia
  • the camera and setting (how do the camera and setting change the way the viewer understands the scenes?)

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