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Syntax and Diction inquiry: Hamlet 1.

Act 1.2.1-16
Activity 1: Below, you will find a copy of the first 16 lines of Claudiuss speech to his court in Act 1, scene 2 of the play. In the time provided, annotate these lines, looking especially for diction and syntax of interest.

Though yet of Hamlet our dear brother's death The memory be green, and that it us befitted To bear our hearts in grief and our whole kingdom To be contracted in one brow of woe, Yet so far hath discretion fought with nature That we with wisest sorrow think on him, Together with remembrance of ourselves. Therefore our sometime sister, now our queen, The imperial jointress to this warlike state, Have we, as 'twere with a defeated joy,-With an auspicious and a dropping eye, With mirth in funeral and with dirge in marriage, In equal scale weighing delight and dole,-Taken to wife: nor have we herein barr'd Your better wisdoms, which have freely gone With this affair along. For all, our thanks.




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Syntax and Diction inquiry: Hamlet 1.2

Activity 2: In collaborative groups, first share your findings from Step 1. Then using the Syntax and Diction Handout as a reference, answer the following questionsthey should be easy now that youve done the analysis! 1. Antithesis: Look for antithesis, the balancing of two contrasting ideas, words, phrases, or sentences in parallel grammatical form. Identify the lines that contain antithesis on your copy of the text. Speculate: What feelings do these juxtapositions evoke?

2. Word choice (Diction) Why does Claudius remember old Hamlet with wisest sorrow rather than deep sorrow?

Why does he say it befitted them to bear their hearts in grief?

Are there any other places in his speech were his word choice might be suspect? Identify these on your copy of the text.

Activity 3 for lines 66-132

Part 3: Now closely examine the exchange between Hamlet and his mother and uncle/father. Mark the printed version of this text where the answers to these questions can be found, and answer them by annotating in the margin. 1. Although Claudius says that Hamlets mourning is of major concern to him, what matters does he address before dealing with his sons troubles? What significance do you find in this delay?


In Shakespeares time, when kings and queens represented their countries and talked about public issues, they used the royal we; when dealing with private matters, they would use I. When a monarch switches from the royal we to I, this is a textual clue that signals a change in situation or in tone. Note where Claudius uses the royal we and when he uses I. What might be the significance is this? Page 2


Syntax and Diction inquiry: Hamlet 1.2

3. When Claudius says, But now, my cousin Hamlet and my son, what is the effect of his diction in defining their relationship? Consider more than just the obvious here! What might be Claudiuss motive, what is he really after here?

4. Why do you think Claudius chose a public place for this confrontation with Hamlet? 5. Consider the diction used when Hamlet says to his mother: Seems madam? Nay, it is. I know not seems. Whats important here in terms of diction? How? Find the four puns Hamlet uses and then consider why he uses them.


7. How do you think Hamlet feels about his mother? Which lines tell you so? 8. Briefly characterize Claudius, Hamlet, and Gertrude based on these first 132 lines of 1.2.


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