8 Things You Didn’t Know About Hamlet (According to First Years)

Now that there’s some distance between myself and tutoring, I feel it’s safe to publish a post that has been burning a hole in my account for at least a year. At the time I was a first-year tutor for the second time round, and every two weeks I received a flood of written assignments from my darling tutlings. These were short 200 – 300 word paragraphs on a prescribed topic, and the point was for them to practice constructing a concise argument, providing insightful evidence and answering a simple question. These paragraphs (and marking in general) were the bane of my existence. Strangely enough, I rather miss the writers, if not the writing.

Every once in a while, though, someone made a statement that – apart from making my hair stand on end and my teeth clench – gave me a good, incredulous giggling fit. There were such gems as “big, fat business typhoon” and “Hamlet’s mother neutered [nurtured] him”, but the batch that provided the most entertaining titbits attempted to answer how Hamlet’s use of language helps to establish his character in Act 1, Scene 2.

I compiled the result into ‘8 Things You Didn’t Know About Hamlet’, according to my first years:

  1. Hamlet disapproves of Gertrude’s incestuous marriage not because it’s incestuous, but because he is “civil” and “wants procedures to be done as per what is proper”.
  2. Hamlet is suspicious of Claudius because he is suspicious of him.
  3. He just “really seems to be wanting to know if any foul play has been done”.
  4. Hamlet is a really ineffective king of Denmark.
  5. The line “do not mock me, fellow student; I think it was to see my mother’s wedding” proves conclusively, on its own, that Hamlet is cruel and bitter.
  6. “When Hamlet speaks, it sounds as if there is something important he is not saying, maybe even something he is not aware of”.
  7. Language makes Hamlet rude.
  8. Hamlet is witty because he is adept at taking a serious situation like, say, the death of his father and King, and finding humour in it to entertain his friends.

I must say, I will miss the malapropisms and unintended puns. They’re so much more fun when I’m not making them.

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