Shakespeare Final Opportunity for Reflection and Writing Essay

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Final Opportunity for Reflection and Writing


"Stand and unfold yourself"

This quote comes from Shakespeare's Hamlet. Francisco and Bernardo are two guards standing watch in the middle of the night at the castle Elsinore. This is the second line of the play, spoken by Francisco in response to Bernardo's question of who goes there. It is an important part because it sets the tone for the rest of the play. Much of the story involves secret presences and the knowledge that people are being watched. This happens with Polonius as he is stabbed by Hamlet and with Hamlet when he is being watched by his uncle/stepfather. Uncertainty about being alone and who or what may be around lends to the overall confusion and mania of the characters which invariably leads to the tragedies which each of the characters then experience.

"tis the sport to have the enginer / Hoist with his own petard"

Hamlet speaks these lines in Act III of the play which bears his name. After he has finagled the performance of a play which mirrors the murder of his own father, Hamlet now believes with certainty that his Uncle Claudius has killed the father in order to take the mother and the throne. In response, Claudius has arranged for Hamlet's two friends Rosencrantz and Guildenstern to kill Hamlet while en route to England. The quote refers to Hamlet's determination that it will be his two friends and not himself who die. As they planned for his death, they shall be the means of their own ends. Only by their own actions will they die.

3. Touchstone

Touchstone is a character that is found in William Shakespeare's As You Like It. His role in the relationships of the story is that of the fool or court jester. To the audience, however, he functions as a master of exposition, telling the audience what is going on and what some of the unseen motivations and relationships are between characters. In many of William Shakespeare's plays, the character that fulfills the position of the fool or jester as an occupation is given the lines which explain either the subliminal or imperceptible truths of situations and of people that are in the text. This is a literary conceit which would have been expected of works of literature or drama at the time that Shakespeare was writing. Since the fool, by his very nature and occupation, is supposed to be ridiculous and someone of whom others will take little note or if they do pay attention, they will not take at all seriously. It is because he is more or less ignored by the characters that he can be the one character who always speaks the truth, no matter how unpalatable it may be.

4. "And one man in his time plays many parts / His acts being seven ages."

This quote comes from As You Like It. Jacques says these lines in his famous "All the world's a stage" speech. In the speech, the character expresses his ideas about mankind and how each person has seven stages of life. At each stage, he or she will be assigned a role to fulfill either through familial responsibility, occupation, or designs. There is of course a secondary meaning in the speech. Much of the story has to do with characters who are pretending to be either someone or something that they are not, particularly Rosalind who pretends to be a man. If all men and women are performing at all times of their lives, then Rosalind is not really doing anything out of the ordinary. Rather she serves as a representation of all the people around her.

5. Laertes

Laertes is a character in the play Hamlet. He is an extremely important character to the plot, although his importance is only seen at the end of the play. Laertes is the son of the priest Polonius and the older brother of Ophelia, late female companion of Prince Hamlet. At first, Laertes seems to only be a peripheral character. Towards the beginning of Laertes is leaving Denmark to make his place in the world somewhere far from Elsinore Castle Hamlet,. When both of these characters die, one directly at Hamlet's hand and one more indirectly, Laertes demands to be avenged for the deaths of his loved ones. He conspires with King Claudius to use a poisoned sword during a fencing match with Hamlet. During the course of the fight, Laertes is injured with his own poisoned sword and dies, not before injuring Hamlet and causing his eventual death as well.

6. "Your bait of falsehood take this carp of truth."

In this early scene from Act II, Polonius is here telling young Reynaldo that he should lie in order to acquire information from others. It is very telling about the character and what the reader can expect from him throughout the story. He tells Reynaldo to bait his hook with lies. The purpose of this is to get someone who you are lying to tell you the truth. Since Polonius is a man of the cloth, he should be held more accountable to standards of ethics than anyone else and yet here he is telling someone to tell lies. Polonius, it is evident, is an unethical man who cannot be trusted by either the characters in the text or by the reader/audience. If even the priest of the story cannot be fully trusted, then it would logically make sense that no one in the story can be taken at their face value or at their word.


1. Fully discuss the following stage direction from Act Five of Hamlet: "Enter Fortinbras with the [English] Ambassadors "

At the end of the play Hamlet by William Shakespeare, all of the main characters are dead. The queen has been poisoned by a cup of wine meant for her son. Hamlet is succumbing to his poisoned sword wound. King Claudius has been poisoned by the same cup of wine as his wife. Laertes is dead from the same sword as the prince. Amongst all this carnage, Fortinbras enters the throne room of Elsinore. Throughout much of the play, there has been a secondary thought to the machinations between the King, Prince, Queen, and the supporting characters. Fortinbras, the young leader of a rival nation, has determined to invade Denmark. The king should have been preparing for this impending attack which they have been aware of for some time. Yet, he was so consumed with Hamlet and in destroying the nephew who he viewed as a danger to his power that he neglected his new role as protectorate of the people.

What is meant by the above stage direction is that Fortinbras has invaded Denmark and has gained control of the country. Not only does he arrive with himself and military forces which would aid in the capture of the country, but he brings with him fanfare. Instead of being flanked by soldiers, the people who stand beside Fortinbras are celebratory peoples, drummers and color guards. He enters into the slaughterhouse with the idea that he has already been victorious over the Danish. That is because the war between Fortinbras' people and the Danish under the rule of King Claudius is unimportant to the war between the wills of Hamlet and his uncle. Now that both Claudius and Hamlet are dead, there is a question over who will now become the ruler of Denmark. However, with Fortinbras' entrance, that question becomes instantaneously answered.

3) Fully discuss one of the following quotations from Act One of Hamlet: "Something is rotten in the state of Denmark."

The quote "something is rotten in the state of Denmark" refers to the many disturbing situations that were occurring at the time of its statement. Besides the ghost who the characters of Marcellus and Horatio are hunting, it is evident that there are eerie and wrong things going on in all aspects of the country. The statement references a long-dead fish. The carcass of the fish will rot from the head and down through the rest of the body. This is an apt comparison to the current difficulty in Denmark. The former king is dead, under highly mysterious and dubious circumstances and the people are unsatisfied with the fact that the prince has been passed over and the king's brother was put in control. There is an impending war going on between Denmark and the people of the nation under Fortinbras' control. Yet, rather than focus attention on the warfare or in preparing the troops, the rulers and government officials are solely concerned with the pageantry of the marriage and with the difficulties of their melancholy Prince Hamlet.

The quote also functions as foreshadowing. Hamlet has been warned that his father's ghost is haunting the Elsinore castle. He has made allusions earlier in the play, comparing the country to a rotting garden and to other things that are in…

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