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:
- 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”.
- Hamlet is suspicious of Claudius because he is suspicious of him.
- He just “really seems to be wanting to know if any foul play has been done”.
- Hamlet is a really ineffective king of Denmark.
- 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.
- “When Hamlet speaks, it sounds as if there is something important he is not saying, maybe even something he is not aware of”.
- Language makes Hamlet rude.
- 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.