I wrote this poem a few years ago. Thus far, I have subjected numerous classes to its mediocrity; today, it is your turn.
Why No One Should Write Poetry At 5 AM
So far, students, there is much we have learned:
Hamlet to Denmark recently returned.
His father? Dead, but haunting the castle;
His uncle, the king, a murd’rous rascal.
What of his mother? Did she mourn the dead?
Too quickly she jumped into Claudius’ bed.
Polonius, a well-meaning fool,
Can’t beat Hamlet in a word-witty duel.
What of Ophelia, dutiful daughter?
Why does she have a penchant for water?
(Okay, I admit, the last line sounds odd,
But by Act 5, in agreement, you’ll nod).
Her father used her to test our young Prince,
Callous treatment especially since
Young O loves Hamlet and he, her…
Wait…actually….I am not really sure.
Does the Prince love? He sent her a letter,
But if he loves her, shouldn’t he treat her much better
Then dismissing her, abrupt and cold
To live in a nunnery until gray and old?
“To be or not to be?” Are you man or boy?
Oh, why must you such cruel methods employ?
Catch the king’s conscious? All good and fine,
But you risk all: your girl, your life, your mind.
Today, we will examine Act III, scenes ii-iv. Remember the bit we skipped over, featuring a group of actors who are visiting Denmark? In scene iii, Hamlet has hired the actors to put on a play that he has written. He states that “The play is the thing wherein I’ll catch the conscious of the king,” meaning that he hopes that the play will induce Claudius to reveal his guilt; once you see the “play” I think you will understand why.
- We will start at line 73 (There is a play tonight before the king). Hamlet is speaking to Horatio, and asks for his help to watch the king closely during the performance
- We will read up to line 130 together. Notice how Hamlet is playing up his erratic behaviour: he makes fun of Polonius and insults Ophelia through innuendo. Notice, too, that Polonius is aware of the insult, but doesn’t do anything to protect his daughter.
- At line 130, we will take a look at a modern version of Hamlet’s play, the Mousetrap. In this version, Hamlet’s play is replaced by a short film; I think you will understand its purpose immediately.
- Once the king flees, Hamlet is confronted by Rosencrantz and Guildenstern. For a young man who has been deliberately confusing most of the play, he speaks with remarkable clarity around line 348.
- Watch how Hamlet’s last interaction with Polonius tells us what Hamlet thinks of this yes man.
We will read Act III scene iii together. Our goal will be to answer the following question: how sorry is Claudius?
Finally, we will tackle Act III scene iv. This is a pivotal scene, ladies and gents.