“Something is rotten in the state of Denmark.”

I am very excited to work on this final project. I have just finished re-reading Hamlet for the first time in a few years, and it was a wonderful experience reacquainting myself with the characters, themes and events that occur at Elsinore. For my final project, I would like to take a deep-dive reading into the critical analysis that will further my expertise on my favorite Shakespeare work. I will then annotate the text in Manifold, as I really enjoyed this process for the Group 2 project.

I will be looking for many things within the critical works I read. There are many themes within Hamlet that are crucial to the text. Ultimately understanding these is my main research question; madness, sanity, doubt, guilt, betrayal and redemption being of the most discussed. When reading the critical analysis, I want to get a better idea of the melancholy Danish prince’s state of mind as he is guided throughout the play by the ghost of his father. How mad is he really? Or is he perfectly sane? I suppose there must be a great deal of speculation in that topic throughout the critical literature. Other questions I already have include why Hamlet denies his love to Ophelia, but then confesses it after her death? Why does Hamlet have the theater players perform such a realist reperformance of his father’s death in order to prove King Claudius did indeed murder his father? Or in other words, wouldn’t it have been more strategic to be more subtle and how does the King free himself of suspicion? Is it because he is so blind with guilt? This realist performance was a true risk on Hamlet’s part. Did Queen Gertrude deserve to die due to her own behavior? Is it foreshadowing that the ghost tells Hamlet not to harm his mother, but she dies anyway? Why does the ghost not steer Hamlet to safety, since he is redeeming him? And in that same vein of death, was Polonius’ execution inevitable, as he was quite the meddler? And of course, there is Ophelia’s drowning/suicide… that is surely something to explore in terms of what it does to Hamlet’s sanity.

Annotating the text will help me answer these fascinating questions. I found that I felt as though I got deep within the mindset of Delano and Cereno through the last project, and I hope to have a similar acquaintance with this Shakespeare work as well. By reading many critical works, I hope to develop a deeper knowledge of greater embedded themes as well. Intensely delving into these types of works will help me further cultivate more and better questions to ask and answer through annotation.

Is there a role misogyny plays within Hamlet, and what does this do for Hamlet’s well-being? What does it say of the Queen, who married her husband’s brother (and killer) so quickly after his death? How could feminism have changed the course of action at Elsinore Castle? Another topic that I find intriguing is Scandinavian warfare during the period Hamlet takes place. Warfare is a looming threat throughout the text and is referred to when discussing Hamlet’s father’s life. I wish to know more about Fortinbras’ role within the murdered king’s story, as well as the importance of his reappearance at the end of the play. Ultimately, I just wish to understand the characters in a much deeper way and analyze them accordingly.

I have found annotation to be a very useful tool in being able to fully appreciate a work. Since Hamlet is of my favorite, this is the perfect opportunity to better understand this tragedy. What’s more is I can begin my digital Shakespeare anthology project I’ve already blogged about. There is a great deal of artwork I hope to find that illustrates the events of the story. If I can find open-source performance art clips that would be a really cool thing to include. I also love the musical Hair, and how it adapts the soliloquy in which Hamlet states “What a piece of work is man!” It is a beautiful soliloquy amongst many that I intend to analyze. The OED will be useful in this project in terms of better understanding the linguistics of the text, that will better inform the narrative. I’ll be sure to include any interesting findings from this source as well.

Some sources I have already found are the books Twentieth century interpretations of Hamlet; a collection of critical essays available in the GC library, and Critical responses to Hamlet, 1600-1900. Articles like “The question of original sin in ‘Hamlet,’” “Passion turned to prettiness: Rhyme or reason in Hamlet,” ““Hamlet” without us,” “Wonder and nostalgia in Hamlet,” “Finding freedom in ‘Hamlet,’” “Moral agency in Hamlet” …and many more. The list goes and on. Shakespeare Quarterly, Shakespeare Studies, Modern Language Quarterly… these are all journals that have a plethora of useful articles. The digital Shakespeare editions Jeff responded to my other Shakespeare blog will be very helpful too in inciting inspiration.

One thought on ““Something is rotten in the state of Denmark.”

  1. Jeff Allred

    I’m glad you want to extend the kind of work we did in the second group project and that you’ve found a text you’re eager to dig into more deeply in HAMLET. As was the case with the second group project, however, I think you should identify a narrower goal in your annotation of the text, since a lot of ink has been spilled on HAMLET, and a new “edition” of the text should think clearly about who it’s speaking to and what that audience should learn from the edition. You could focus on the performance history of the play, its gender dynamics, its depiction of extreme mental states, or something else, but you should avoid touching on all of these areas at once, since it’s simply too much to take in. I’d also like to hear more about questions of interface: what will your edition look like? How will you use the affordances of MANIFOLD (or whatever platform) to meet your goals with this edition?


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