Era is named after Elizabeth I, monarch of England (1558-1603) • During her reign, a Renaissance (French for re-birth) of the arts and sciences was occurring. • The Renaissance (1350-1600) marked a transition from the medieval to the modern world in Western Europe. • English drama produced during this time is known as Elizabethan Drama
In general, there was not much scenery in Elizabethan drama; costumes were quite elaborate and there were many props • For example, a pig bladder full of blood was used for Juliet’s death scene in Romeo and Juliet. • All roles were played by men. Sometimes actors had to learn as many as six parts at a time. • Young boys played the female parts. That is why there are few romance scenes on stage.
Shakespeare’s Early Life • Born April 23, 1564 • Birthplace: Henley Street, Stratford-on-Avon, not far from London • Parents: John Shakespeare; Mary Arden, from a wealthy family • inherited land to William because he was the oldest of eight children
Married Anne Hathaway on November 27, 1582 (he was 18, she was 26) • Oldest daughter, Susanna, was born six months later • 1585- twins born - Hamnet and Judith • Hamnet died at age 11 (profoundly affected Shakespeare; Hamlet is a variation of that name)
Shakespeare’s Career • He wrote 154 sonnets and two long poems • He wrote 37 plays. • Most of his sonnets were written between 1592-1594 because the theaters were closed due to the Black Plague • By the time he was 32, he was considered the best writer of comedy and tragedy • He died on his 52nd birthday (April 23,1616)
Public Theaters • The Globe was the most important of the public theaters • “Groundlings,” - paid a penny for admission, stood in the open court • Usually from the lower class • liked to throw food • yelled at the actors on stage • and sometimes even sat on the stage, especially if they didn’t like what they were seeing. • The higher priced tickets were two and three cents.
History of The Globe • built in 1599 • seated 2,100 people • Shakespeare was one of ten owners • 1613—burnt down (waterproof thatch roof caught on fire during a performance of Henry VIII--- cannon)
Blank Verse • The chief poetic form Shakespeare used was blank verse, or unrhymed iambic pentameter. • Examples: Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?
Soliloquies: a speech made by an actor who is alone on stage, intended to reveal his thoughts • Asides: remarks made by a character that are meant to be heard by the audience and perhaps one other character on stage, but no one else. • Asides are usually ironic because they inform the audience about something of which the other characters are ignorant.
Conventions: agreements between the artist and the audience. • For example, it was assumed that all characters spoke in poetic form unless they were commoners; the dialogue was meant to be blunt or the dialogue was relating serious information (as in a royal document or letter). • Anachronisms: out of place objects, customs or beliefs. • For example, the Romans in the play Julius Caesar didn’t wear Roman attire. Rather they wore elaborate Elizabethan costumes.
Tragic flaw: a flaw, or error, in the tragic hero that is the cause of his downfall. • Foil: two contrasting characters, used to highlight the differences between the two.
A Brief Introduction to Hamlet • Hamlet is a play that has fascinated audiences and readers since it was first written in around 1601-1604 • The play centers around Hamlet’s decision whether or not to avenge the murder of his father, the King of Denmark. This weight of this decision drives all the other action and relationships in the play. • Hamlet is part of an old tradition of revenge plays, and is based on an old oral legend about Amleth, a prince whose father was killed by his uncle, who then married his mother. • Amleth pretends to be mad, while plotting how to avenge his father’s death, and eventually is able to kill his uncle.
Who and What is Hamlet? • Critics have read this character as • A tragic figure whose flaw is an unwillingness to act • A representative of the human psyche (most famously Freud and Jung) • A modern individual fighting against the “old ways” of seeing and being in the world • Shakespeare took the basic plotline and created 5 stories in one! • Family Drama – An uncle has married the wife of his brother. • Love Story – Young love is forced apart by circumstance • Madness – A young prince may or may not have gone mad. • Revenge Play – death, murder, suicide, ghosts! • Political Thriller– Who should have the throne?
Hamletas Political Survivor Elsinore = Island Plotting Political Alliances Scheming Backstabbing Real vs. Acting Illicit Hookups Getting voted off Permanently
Hamlet: The First “Modern Man?” • Hamlet is also a play concerned with the question “Who Am I?” • First line of the play➔ “Who’s there?” • Is our role in life defined by fate? Family? Our own choices? Are we completely alone in the world, or are we irrevocably tied to others? • Hamlet’s struggle with these “existential” questions has led critics such as Harold Bloom and Freud to suggest that Hamlet is a representation of a fully modern man • Able to look at the stupidity, falsity, difficulty and sham of everyday life, without relying on easy answers
Key Thematic Questions in Hamlet • Revenge vs. Justice • What is the difference between revenge and justice? Is one more moral than the other? • Does the act of revenge irrevocably change an individual? • Action vs. Inaction • Is action always virtuous? • Is is possible to take action in a world where nothing is ever certain (i.e. morally black and white) • Fate vs. Autonomy • Do we have control over the shape of our own lives? • Are our roles in life always preordained? • Appearance vs. Reality • Is deceit a fundamental part of the way society functions? • Is life a series of “parts” that we “act” in order to get by? • Is there a “truth” under all the appearances in our lives?
Key Thematic Questions in Hamlet • Madness • Is insanity just a sane way of reacting to the madness of the world around us? • Loyalty and Betrayal • What constitutes loyalty? • To whom do we owe loyalty? Family? Lovers? State? Ourselves? • What happens when loyalties conflict? • Old Worlds vs. New Worlds • How does one function when caught between two world views? • What are the emotional/psychological/physical costs of this struggle?
Dramatic Devices in Hamlet • Crisis: The moment or event in the plot where the conflict is the most directly addressed; the main character wins or loses; the secret is revealed; the ending of the story becomes inevitable • Usually found in Act III • Climax (Catastrophe): High point of tension and conflict; marks a major turning point for one or more of the characters • Usually found in Act V • Literary Devices • Review the devices on the handout and become familiar with them – it will be expected that you know and can refer to them while discussing the play.
Journal #1 Create a journal entry (0.5 to 1 page) using the following writing prompts: • Rejected love • Revenge • Insanity • Remarriage What are your feelings on one or more of these topics?
While We Read Act I. i. . . . What kind of atmosphere is Shakespeare trying to create here? Why do you think the ghost does not speak? Why do you think Shakespeare introduced Fortinbras so early in the play?
Portents The first scene of Hamlet is full of “portents” a sign or warning that something, especially something momentous or calamitous, is likely to happen. "they believed that wild birds in the house were portents of death"
Questions: 1. What portents appear in Act 1, Scene 1? 2. What does Horatio think these portents mean? 3. Do people believe in portents today? 4. Can you think of any books or movies in which evil omens appear? 5. In a full paragraph, explain why you do or do not believe in portents.