ENG 4U: The Longest Scene in the Play

Before we get to today’s scene, let’s review a few points:

  • We are in the library tomorrow. Our focus will be commenting effectively and constructively on each other’s work. Thus, it is essential that you have your Closing response, Mundane Activity, your introduction, and your characterization of Polonius on your blog.
  • I had planned to show your characterization pieces to the class today. Clearly, this is not going to happen. Still, it is essential that you understand Polonius before today’s scene; thus, I’d like you to spend the first 5 minutes of classes discussing your findings with your group. You need to come to a consensus regarding Polonius’ character.

The Longest Scene…

Today, we will look at Act II Scene ii, the longest scene in the play. It is so long, in fact, that we will skip a few lines:

  • We will omit references to the treaty with Poland (my apologies to those of Polish descent in the class). We will return to this subplot later in the play
  • We will skip over a few lengthy exchanges between Hamlet and some actors who are visiting Elsinore.

You are responsible, however, for the remaining lines. As your group works through this challenging scene, I want you to add examples of Dramatic Irony in this scene to your notebook. Dramatic Irony occurs when the audience knows something a character does not. Just think of horror films: if you know that the killer lurks around the corner (and the oblivious victim is unaware) you are witnessing Dramatic Irony.

  • Claudius and Gertrude will ask two young men, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, to check on Hamlet. He has been acting strangely, after all.
  • Polonius will try to convince Claudius and Gertrude that Hamlet`s odd behaviour is due to his love for Ophelia.
  • Polonius will talk to Hamlet, only to be further convinced of the Prince`s insanity. The question, of course, is this: is Hamlet really insane?
  • Rosencrantz and Guildenstern find Hamlet as the King requested. Notice the difference between Hamlet’s reaction to them and his treatment of Horatio in Act I.
  • Hamlet decides to have the visiting actors perform a scene of his creation so that he may “catch the conscious of the king.”
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