Tips for Hamlet

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“I am having real trouble getting my ideas in order in Hamlet answers and writing strong opening and closing paragraphs…any advice that could help me please :)”
I’ve just received this email and I figure I might as well share my reply with all of you, as this is a common problem I come across. Often students know Act 1 of their Shakespearean play so well that they write over two pages on it. And then cram all of Act 2, 3, 4 and 5 into a page and a half. Not really a good idea.
So here is the reply I sent:
Hi _____,

Well first off, you are not alone. Mastering the skill of writing good introductions and conclusions is very difficult. It’s made worse by the fear of knowing that you MUST ENGAGE fully with the question – so you can have an idea of what you want to say in general if a question comes up on a particular theme or character but you cannot know exactly what words you’ll use until you see the question asked.
Last year for example lots of students were prepared for a question on the theme of revenge but they had to change their ‘prepared’ answer significantly because the question that came up asked to you discuss revenge and justice together. If they just wrote what they’d prepared and ignored the question they didn’t do very well.
Anyway, if you click here you can download a couple of sample paragraphs on specific Hamlet questions.
Also if you follow the rules here but apply them to the play instead of the poetry you should get a clear sense of what actually goes into an introduction and a conclusion.
If you want to get your ideas in order write down this checklist when brainstorming ideas. It doesn’t work for some questions (e.g. specific question on Ophelia or a question on soliloquies) but for most questions on Hamlet, general theme questions or open questions on the entire play it might come in handy.
10 most important ‘checkpoints’ in Hamlet
1. Court scene
2. Ghost scene
3. Nunnery scene
4. Player’s play
5. Prayer scene
6. Closet scene
7. Ophelia’s madness
8. Laertes return / manipulation by Claudius
9. Graveyard scene
10. Final scene
Hope that helps!

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