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Assignment Questions

Analysis of a Minor Character in Hamlet

Essay Paper

BRIEF PAPER: Analysis of a Minor Character in Hamlet, turn in Thursday, September 17, by 8 PM CST. This is for most students of middling difficulty among the three paper options in that it must be thesis-driven. It will also require citing passages from the play for analysis and argumentation. It may be revised for up to ten points added to the grade (3-4 pages).

You must submit your paper as a Word document attached to an email from your Troy email address. Any paper submitted after the deadline will be docked a letter for each hour or part of an hour that it is late. I will acknowledge receipt of your paper as soon as I find it in my in-box. If you submit near the deadline on Thursday, September 17, 8 PM CST, you should hear back from me within the hour. If you don?t, you should assume your paper wasn?t received.

To prepare and to meet my expectations of writing at this level, refer to the Style Sheet and Sample First Page given in the Course Materials tab. Here is some more general guidance:

? This paper should be three-four pages in a normal point size and font, but there?s no specific word count. However, your paper must be a proper essay (not a paragraph) with an introduction, body of several paragraphs, and conclusion at a minimum. As such, I would expect at least three double-spaced pages.

? Be certain also to quote and analyze relevant passages from the play in your paper and use the correct parenthetical reference after every quotation (page and line numbers in parentheses for Hamlet in your C anthology. Do NOT use the act, scene, and line number style of parenthetical reference sometimes used for plays). You MUST use the current edition of the anthology; otherwise, I will not be able to locate the passages you cite.

? On this paper, I expect you to rely solely on what you?ve learned from class lecture and my other handouts and by your own study. Do not use any outside sources (printed, internet-available, or otherwise). Doing so will be regarded as an instance of cheating and will result in automatic failure in the course. See the Style Sheet for further instruction on quotation and parenthetical reference format.

The Topic:

Choose one of the following minor characters in Hamlet and make a character analysis of him. You?ll notice that I count Rosencrantz and Guildenstern as one character. They are virtually indistinguishable in the play and work in concert throughout:

1. Horatio, 2. the Ghost of King Hamlet, 3. Young Fortinbras, 4. Rosencrantz and Guildenstern or 5. Osric

You must choose only one of the five options above.

A good character analysis makes the case of the interest or importance of one of these minor characters to a perceptive student. The character might serve as a contrast to a major character, or the character might have a critical function in the plot of the play that is unappreciated or hard to notice. The character might have an especially important speech or scene that is worth attention. These are all decidedly minor characters who make relatively brief appearances on stage, but they each have an important function or say or do something interesting.

Remember this paper must be thesis-driven. That is, your introduction must present an argument fitted to the character you select. You derive a thesis by asking a tough question from within the topic. When you answer that question, you have your thesis. Imagine, for example that you are interested in the role of the Ghost of King Hamlet in the play. After studying his appearances and his effect on various characters in his appearances, you notice that he remains invisible to only one person in the play: Gertrude. Francisco, Bernardo, Marcellus, Horatio, and Hamlet all see the Ghost, but not Gertrude. You ask yourself why, and when you answer that question, you?ll have a usable thesis. That?s of course not the only question you could ask about the Ghost. Please realize that it is the answer to the question–not the question itself–which constitutes the thesis.

Let?s take another example, Osric. He appears late in the play as the person who comes to arrange the fencing contest between Hamlet and Laertes. Shakespeare clearly intends to depict him as an object of satire, a ?waterfly? (p. C 743, l. 82) as Hamlet calls him, a courtier with pretensions to overdone courteous manners and ridiculously affected speech. He also functions as the referee during the fencing contest itself. You might ask why Shakespeare adds this touch of satire in the play?s closing scene, just as the play is darkening and moving ominously towards its calamitous end. Find an answer to that, and you have a thesis. Or you could ask why Shakespeare uses Osric to both announce the contest and then referee it, and you have a thesis.

You are welcome to consider how Zefferelli portrayed any of the above minor characters(except Young Fortinbras who isn?t even cast) in the film version you watched as well, but be careful to note what might be different or inserted as interpretation by the film if it is not borne out by the play itself. For example, Horatio in the play intends to use some of the poisoned wine that killed Gertrude to follow Hamlet in death (p. C750, ll. 312-314)?a point Zeffirelli leaves out. Why? Here?s something else to consider about Horatio in the movie. By leaving out Fortinbras, Zeffirelli assigns the last words in the play to Horatio: ?Now cracks a noble heart. Good night sweet prince, / And flights of angels sing thee to thy rest? (p. C750, ll. 331-332). By ending there, how does Zefferelli change an audience?s ending impressions of the play, you might ask? Again, these are the sorts of question that lead you to a thesis that will serve for the paper. There are infinite other possible questions and theses.

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