Par. 1:situate the excerpt in the play; say who is on stage • Shortly after the play-within-a-play has forced Claudius to face up to his guilt • Hamlet has just refrained from killing the king at prayer • Hamlet is about to confront his mother • Polonius, as usual, is concerned with surveillance and plans to overhear the conversation between mother and son
Par. 2: say what the excerpt is about; identify its structure • P. finally pays the price for eavesdropping • The passage reveals the violent intensity of H’s emotions, which provoke him to kill P. H. passionately rebukes his mother. Then, H. compares the noble qualities of his father with the vileness of C. Structure/ sequence of events: • P. tells G. to rebuke H. • P. hides behind the arras • H. kills P., thinking he is the king • H. criticizes his mother • H. praises his father and condemns C.
Par. 3: mood/atmosphere • Anxious, nervous expectation as P. and G. are preparing for H’s entry • The rest is full of anger and passion as H. rails against his mother, and in an abrupt and violent moment , slays P.
Par. 4: diction (vocabulary) • P. is talkative and patronizing despite the fact that he promises to be silent (‘be round with him’ – advice) • P. : dramatic irony as he will be silenced for ever • H’s language displays the intensity of his feelings towards his mother: • it is full of orders (‘Go, go’, ‘Come, come’, ‘sit down’, ‘Look here’) • It is accusatory (‘kill a king’, ‘marry with his brother’, ‘blister’ (almost suggesting she was branded as a prostitute), ‘thought-sick at the act’)
Par. 5: imagery • P’s curious image of G. as a firescreen that has shielded H. from criticism (‘stood between / Much heat and him’) deepens the impression of how much she cares for her son. • H’s vivid images convey his extreme emotions. He kills P. as ‘a rat’, thinking he is C. He accuses G’s heart of being armoured (‘proof and bulwark) against feeling • H. implies G. is like a prostitute who was branded on the forehead (‘sets a blister there’) and that in marrying C. she has made religion a meaningless jumble (‘rhapsody’) • H. uses god-like images to compare his father (‘Hyperion’, ‘Jove’, ‘Mars’, ‘Mercury’) with corruption and barrenness of C. (‘mildewed ear’)
Par. 6: antithesis • The emotional conflict between G. and H. is expressed in all kinds of oppositions: father vs. mother hands vs. heart virtue vs. hypocrite rose vs. blister marriage vows vs. dicers’ oaths Heaven’s face vs. glow (blush) grace of the late king H. (‘his wholesome brother’, ‘mountain’) vs. corruption of C. (‘mildewed ear’, ‘moor’)
Par. 7: repetitions • P. is a finicky, controlling character: typically repeats his orders (‘Tell him’, ‘Pray you’) • H. repeats ‘dead’, ‘deed’, ‘king’, ‘act’: emphasis on the main themes of the play • H. to G.: ‘thou’ (informal) to ‘you’(formal) ‘thy father’ to ‘my father’ ‘idle tongue’ to ‘wicked tongue’ The above heightens dramatic tension, intensifies H’s expression of disgust Doubling is used for added intensity and meaning, as well as for emotional impact: ‘rash and bloody deed’, ‘proof and bulwark’, ‘grace and blush’, ‘solidity and compound mass’, ‘roars so loud and thunders’, ‘threaten and command’, etc.
Par. 8: lists • H’s ways of addressing his mother are meant to wound her (‘the queen’, ‘your husband’s brother’s wife’, ‘would it be were not so’, ‘my mother’) • H’s description of P.: ‘wretched, rash, intruding fool’(increasingly dismissive?) • H’s long account of G’s offensive act (lines 40-51) • H’s praise of his father’s qualities (developing wonder/admiration, also, realization of his loss)
Par. 9: conclusion • Recap on the main points of your discussion