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A Case of Identity [Feb. 7th, 2008|07:59 pm]
Pro-WGA Strike Book Club

bookishwench
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[Current Mood |rushedrushed]

Holmes and Watson are sitting around one night, discussing Holmes's cases (including the huge honking amethyst the King of Bohemia sent him after the Irene Adler affair) when a young woman comes to Holmes door and he immediately diagnoses a sad love affair and near-sightedness in his client. She is looking for Mr. Hosmer Angel. She has an income of 100 pounds a year and gives the money to her mother and step-father, a man who rarely lets her out of the house to socialize. Eventually she rebelled and went to the gaslighters ball, where she met Angel and they became engaged. Angel, she mentions, wears tinted glasses, has a weak voice, and she doesn't know where he lived, just the street. He also used a typewriter for all their letters. Her stepfather was absent each time they met. Her husband-to-be made her swear on a Bible that she would always wait for him. On the day she and Hosmer were to marry, he disappeared from the coach taking him to the church. That was a week ago, so she came to Holmes. Having answer all his questions, she leaves, Holmes and Watson both respectful of her faith in the man she believes loved her.

Holmes quickly comes to the reality of the situation and confronts the step-father, who was, in fact, dressing up as Hosmer Angel (with the mother's knowledge) in an effort to be sure he and his wife would not lose the 100 pounds from his step-daughter if she had married, intending to string her along indefinitely. Holmes is furious at him since there is no way to incriminate him for anything legally, but he does threaten to beat him with a riding crop. The step-father bolts. Watson asks what he intends to do about the girl, but Holmes says it's dangerous to mess with a woman's delusions, suggesting he probably won't tell her at all.

Possible discussion questions:
-This is an unusual ending for the mystery: the bad guy gets away and it's not clear what Holmes is going to do about the situation of his client. How do you react to it? Do you think Holmes, or Watson for that matter, is going to let her go back to the evil step-father and mother?
-We get another dose of Holmes's deductive reasoning with his assessment of the girl as a near-sighted typist who left home in a hurry, as well as Watson's attempt. In this case, it almost seemed like a more difficult deduction than the identity of Hosmer Angel. Does this sort of deduction seem like it might be possible in real life?
-We do get regular allusions to different cases Holmes has completed, both in the stories and outside of them. If you had to come up with a plot for the royal family of Holland caper, what might it be?
-How fast did you figure out that Hosmer was the step-father?
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The Red-Headed League [Feb. 6th, 2008|05:51 pm]
Pro-WGA Strike Book Club

bookishwench
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[Current Mood |coldfreezing]

Mr. Jabez Wilson approaches Mr. Holmes about a curious case, which Mr. Watson witnesses. Wilson is a flaming red-head. Apparently, his clerk, Spaulding, who works for half-pay, pointed out to him an advertisment saying there was an opening in the Red-Headed League which would pay him 4 pounds a week. Spaulding accompanied Wilson to the interview, and Wilson got the position, which paid him to copy out the Encyclopedia Britannica from 10-2 each day, on condition he not leave the league's office during that time. That morning, he had arrived as usual for the past 8 or 9 weeks and was greeted with a notice stating the league was dissolved. He was unable to find out anything else about the league so went to Holmes for help.

Holmes interviewed him about his clerk and found out that he was mad for photography, always rushing to a basement darkroom, ad that he had an acid splash on his forehead. Holmes goes to the store the next day, tapping the pavement as he goes with his walking stick, and inquires directions from the clerk. Then he and Watson attend a lovely evening violin concert.

The next night, a Saturday, Holmes gathers Watson (with pistol), a bank president, and a member of Scotland Yard to wait in a vault in the basement of the bank in darkness. The bank currently is storing a load of French gold that has been threatened with theft. After waiting, a hand pushes aside a stone in the vault flooring, and Spaulding, actually Clay, a known thief, murderer, and general bad guy, emerges along with the man who pretended to be the president of the Red-Headed League. Clay is immediately apprehended and prissily commands to be called sir for his royal ancestry. His accomplice is caught by police Holmes has stationed in the shop. The league was merely a ruse to get Wilson out of the shop so Clay could tunnel across to the bank vault. Holmes knew he would strike this night because he had closed the league, suggesting it was no longer necessary to keep Wilson out of the way, and because a Saturday night theft wouldn't be discovered until Monday, allowing more time for escape. The tapping with the cane was meant to figure out where the tunnel was. Holmes chalks up his interest in stopping crime to his interest in vanquishing his own ennui.

Possible discussion questions:
-Another of Holmes's humanizing characteristics is played with her, namely his love of the violin. Is Watson right that this balances out his extreme intelligence with something more creative? Does it make him less threatening because of his intellect?
-What bits of the mystery did you figure out, and which were more difficult to guess? Is it really possible to completely puzzle out a Holmes mystery from the clues given?
-Does having Watson as narrator change the stories at all? What would they be like if Holmes were narrating?
-Did you feel at all sorry for Jabez, or was he too incredibly silly?
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A Scandal in Bohemia [Feb. 5th, 2008|04:55 pm]
Pro-WGA Strike Book Club

bookishwench
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[Current Mood |busy]





Part 1
Since Watson's marriage he has been absent from Holmes's company, but visits him to find another mystery afoot. After examining a mysterious letter, Holmes deduces that a Bohemian man is coming to visit him that evening. Watson stays at Holmes's request. The man arrives, and Holmes's figures out he is the King of Bohemia. Apparently he had an indiscreet relationship with a singer by the name of Irene Adler, and she is blackmailing him with a photograph of the two of them as soon as his engagement to a Scandinavian princess is announced. Holmes takes the case of securing the photograph.

Part 2
Holmes, in disguise, finds out the habits of the singer and winds up accidentally being the witness at her wedding to a Mr. Godfrey Norton. Holmes uses Watson in a plan to get Irene Adler to reveal where the photograph is. Holmes hires a group of people to fake an attempted robbery of Irene as she steps from her carriage, which he breaks up, pretending a resulting injury. He is carried into her home, where he signals to a waiting Watson to throw in a smoke bomb and start a cry of "Fire!" Holmes leaves in the confusion, first having seen Adler start to remove the photograph from its hiding place. He intends to return tomorrow with the king to retrieve the photograph. As he walks home with Watson, a young boy passes Holmes and wishes him goodnight by name, continuing without a pause, and Holmes thinks he recognizes the voice.

Part 3
The king arrives early the next morning, and he, Holmes, and Watson go to Adler's to take the photograph. However, the maid has been expecting Holmes and explains that Adler has left England forever several hours earlier. In the photo's hiding spot is a letter for Holmes and a picture of her. The letter explains she was expecting this sort of trouble from Holmes, and she realized what he had done when she ran for the photograph. It was she who spoke to him, disguised as a boy, the previous night. She had been following him to be sure it was really Holmes. She contacted her husband, and the two of them left. She took the photograph with her in case the king gave her any future trouble but promised not to use it to blackmail him. She calls her new husband a worthier man and the king cruel. The king sighs that she wasn't of his station, and Holmes agrees, though in a much different tone. As payment, he takes the photograph. From that point on, he always referred respectfully to Irene Adler as "the woman."

Possible discussion questions:
-Did you immediately know Adler was the boy?
-Holmes's cocaine habit is mentioned in this, a point that is often brought up in cases of censorship of these short stories. How might you answer that charge?
-Holmes seems a little in love with Irene Adler after this, but in general his main companion is Watson. Why might Doyle have chosen to keep Holmes single?
-What's your favorite bit of deduction in this?
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Much Ado, Act V [Feb. 4th, 2008|04:52 pm]
Pro-WGA Strike Book Club

bookishwench
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[Current Mood |rushedrushed]




Scene 1
Antonio tells Leonato that he shouldn't grieve so much over but instead avenge himself, and Leonato agrees. Leonato challenges Claudio to a duel over Hero, Antonio backing him up, though Claudio refuses to fight an old man. Pedro says that while he's sorry Hero is dead, she was guilty of what they charged her. Leonato and Antonio leave, still threatening them. Benedick arrives and Claudio and Pedro try to kid about the two old guys who just threatened to kill them, but Benedick doesn't joke back. Instead he pulls Claudio aside and challenges him. Claudio and Pedro continue twitting Benedick about Beatrice, but he is completely business, repeating his challenge and publicly declaring Hero is innocent, then he leaves. Claudio and Pedro think he's crazy but in earnest; they also note the mysterious absense of John. Dogberry arrives with Borachio in tow, and Pedro asks what he's done. Borachio admits framing Hero using Margaret (although he claims Margaret knew nothing of what he was doing) and then says he should be killed for framing an innocent girl who died as a result, also noting this was all John's idea. Claudio is stunned and sickened. Dogberry, still noting he is an ass, leaves. A sexton, Antonio, and Leonato enter, wanting to know who was responsible for the slander, and Borachio is pointed to. Leonato claims that the real guilt is with Claudio and Pedro for murder via slander. Both Pedro and Claudio admit they were wrong and Leonato can punish them as he wishes, but they both insist it was an honest mistake. Leonato wants Claudio to write a poem for Hero and sing it at her tomb, then marry Hero's cousin, who is practically her twin, tomorrow. Dogberry blithers nearly incoherently, then leaves. Claudio agrees to the arrangment. Leonato leaves, saying he's going to question Margaret about her relationship with Borachio.

Scene 2
Margaret fetches Beatrice for Benedick, who promises her a sonnet in payment. Beatrice and Benedick banter back and forth, Benedick explaining he has challenged Claudio, which she approves. Ursula arrives to explain everything Borachio has confessed. Everyone leaves to go to Leonato.

Scene 3
Claudio hangs an epitaph of Hero's tomb, then sings her a song, promising to come back each year and do the same thing. He leaves to change clothes for the wedding, hoping this one goes better (couldn't really go much worse).

Scene 4
Margaret has been found mostly innocent. Leonato sends the women off to mask themselves in preparation for the wedding, saying Antonio will pretend to be Hero's father. Meanwhile Benedick asks the friar to marry him and Beatrice later that day. Claudio and Pedro arrive, and Claudio again agrees to marry anyone they want him to. Everyone kids Benedick for getting married, and he does seem extremely nervous. The ladies enter, masked, and Antonio refuses to allow Claudio to look at the bride until he promises again to marry, which he does, provided she consents. Hero takes off her mask, and either it's the Patty Duke Show with identical cousins or everyone realizes that Hero is actually alive. The friar says he'll explain all this later. Benedick asks which woman is Beatrice and asks her if she loves him; she replies not much, and he has the same response. Claudio, however, shows a love poem Benedick wrote to Beatrice, and Hero one Beatrice wrote to him. They admit they've been fairly caught. Benedick says he approves of marriage now and cancels his duel with Claudio since they will soon be related. Benedick insists they all have a dance before the wedding, but this is interrupted by the news John has been caught. Benedick says they'll think about that later, and everyone dances.

Possible discussion questions:
-Did Claudio and Pedro's lack of an emotional reaction to Hero's death surprise you at all?
-Benedick and Beatrice have bantered a lot in this play: which time is your favorite?
-Do you believe Borachio is truly sorry for "killing" Hero?
-Was Don John really responsible for the fiasco, or Borachio, or Pedro and Claudio, or who?
-Do you find Claudio's repentance honest?
-The masked wedding moment is rather strange. Would you have been surprised if Claudio had gotten mad and stormed off?
-Benedick seems quite reluctant about marrying at the beginning of scene 4 but then warms to the idea. What seems to have changed his mind?
-The capture of John is rather abruptly handled. Why is it mentioned here? Does it detract from the happy ending? What do you think happened to old Johnny and Borachio?
-How on earth could Margaret, who was wearing Hero's dress for crying out loud, possibly not have been complicit in the plot?

Tomorrow we begin The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes with "A Scandal in Bohemia"
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Much Ado about Nothing, Act IV [Feb. 3rd, 2008|08:26 pm]
Pro-WGA Strike Book Club

bookishwench
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Scene 1
Outside the church, the friar asks if anyone can show just cause that Hero and Claudio cannot be married, and Claudio proceeds to publicly accuse Hero of having had sex. Leonato suggests that if Claudio slept with her, this can perhaps be excused, but he says that it wasn't him, and Pedro back him up that Hero is unchaste. Claudio tells Leonato to make Hero swear to tell the truth, then asks her who was the man at her window last night; she says there wasn't one, and Claudio and Pedro call her a liar since they both saw a man there last night between midnight and one. John agrees, saying that this had happened many times, not just once. Leonato calls for a knife, and Hero faints. Pedro, John, and Claudio leave, and when Hero begins to regain consciousness, her father tells her to die because the shame is to great, and if she doesn't die on her own, he'll kill her himself. Benedick intervenes and says that this is all too sudden, and Beatrice says she's slept in Hero's room every night for the last year... except last night, which Leonato again takes as proof of her guilt. The friar stops him, though, saying he believes Hero's reactions to the charges show she is innocent, and Hero defends herself. Benedick suspects John is the cause of all this, and Leonato says he'll kill the guilty party whether it's John or Hero. The friar suggests that they tell everyone Hero is dead, saying that Claudio might rethink his actions if he thinks she's dead, and if he doesn't, Hero can go be a nun. Benedick and the rest agree to keep silent about her living. Benedick and Beatrice speak in private and confess they are in love with each other. Beatrice says if Benedick really loves her, he'll kill Claudio, which is what she'd do if she were a man. He resists, then gives in and says he'll kill him.

Scene 2
Dogberry and the guard question Borachio. They already know Borachio faked the charges against Hero at John's request. They take the two men away, Dogberry making sure that it is written down that he is an ass.

Possible discussion questions:
-Which is more horrifying: Claudio humilating Hero and call her a "stale" (prostitute) and a liar, or Leonato being ready to kill his daughter for being unchaste?
-The faked-death plot is incredibly similar to the one in Romeo and Juliet, and it's been pointed out that all it takes is the smallest nudge and this comedy becomes a tragedy. It's even suggested by a friar again (one wonders if old Friar Lawrence moved to Messina after that little mess in Verona). Does the friar's plan seem plausible? Is it too cruel? Would it, in fact, have worked?
-The questions of where Hero was and why Beatrice wasn't with her the night before her wedding are never really answered. Can you come up with a plausible reason why Hero wouldn't have heard Margaret at her window with Borachio or why Beatrice wasn't in the room for the first time in a year?
-Obviously, a woman's sexual chastity before marriage was extremely important in Elizabethan England (or Italy in this case). This scene has some very frightening overtones to it in the wake of discussion in the news of honor killings and the like. What is your reaction to this scene?
-Finally, Benedick and Beatrice are together, which is lovely, but then she uses his love to compel him to kill Claudio? Was Beatrice wrong in this, and was Claudio wrong to give in?
-Finally... Dogberry. Is he really an ass?
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Much Ado About Nothing, Act III [Feb. 2nd, 2008|06:17 pm]
Pro-WGA Strike Book Club

bookishwench
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Scene 1
Hero and Ursula trap Beatrice into eavesdropping on them while they discuss how deeply in love Benedick is with her and how unworthy Beatrice is of him. Beatrice falls hook, line, and sinker, realizing she's in love with Benedick and that she will make sure he knows his love is requited.

Scene 2
Pedro, Leonato, and Claudio kid Benedick about his change in demeanor; they say he's in love, and he claims it's just a toothache, then goes off to speak to Leonato in private, probably about Beatrice. John arrives and tells Pedro and Claudio that Hero is faithless and cheating on Claudio, and that if they go to her window that night, they'll see a man going in. Claudio says if this is true, he'll publicly humiliate her in church tomorrow rather than marry her.

Scene 3
Dogberry and the rest of the night watch arrive and are generally hilarious, with Dogberry constantly using incorrect words. Verges is appointed constable, and their duties are discussed... which are apparently to do nothing under all circumstances. They leave, although a couple of the watch stay behind as Borachio and Conrade appear. Borachio, who is drunk, tells Conrade about earning 1000 ducats off John by successfully getting Pedro and Claudio to believe Margaret was really Hero when he went in her window that night. The watchmen arrest them, thinking they are thieves... at least it appears that's what they think. With the watch it's hard to tell.

Scene 4
It's the morning of the wedding, and Hero sends for Beatrice. While they wait for her to appear, Margaret and she discuss her wedding gown in some detail, then Margaret starts making some ribald jokes. Beatrice enters and says she feels unwell. They suggest she use a remedy that sounds a lot like Benedick's name, which prompts Maragaret to say she doesn't think Beatrice is in love with Benedick, even though she's acting differently, and so is he. They leave for the church.

Scene 5
Dogberry and Verges are speaking with Leonato, who is busy getting ready for his daughter's wedding. They tell him they arrested two men last night and want him to question them, but Leonato says he doesn't have time and the watch should question the prisoners. Leonato leaves for the church, and Dogberry goes to find Francis Seacole to write down the examination.

Possible discussion questions:
-Do you think Claudio gives in to believing the situation with Hero too quickly? Why or why not?
-Interestingly, the section in which Margaret is called Hero is not in the script and is only told about second hand (although many productions put it in anyway). Why might Shakespeare have chosen not to show this directly?
-Beatrice's "gulling" is a direct parallel of Benedick's. Does the repetition make it any less funny?
-Dogberry and Co. are usually very funny, but part of their humor rests on the fact no one understands what they're saying, a circumstance that is to some extent true about most of Shakespeare to the casual reader. How does Dogberry manage to remain incredibly funny in spite of this?
-We get two comic scenes after the revelation that Hero is about to be completely humiliated at the church by the man she loves. Is it still possible to really enjoy these scenes with the knowledge of what's showing up, or are they a needed respite?
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Much Ado About Nothing, Act II [Feb. 1st, 2008|09:14 pm]
Pro-WGA Strike Book Club

bookishwench
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[Current Mood |chipperchipper]



cap by polaris_starz

Scene 1
A masked ball is held at Leonato's. During it, Pedro pulls Hero aside to woo her for Claudio. Balthasar flirts with Margaret. Ursula guesses who Antonio is, but he pretends he's someone else. Benedick and Beatrice talk, Benedick pretending he doesn't know who Benedick is, and Beatrice insults him. John sees Pedro go off with Hero and assumes he's asking her to marry him. Boracchio figure out who Claudio is and pretends to think he's Benedick, instructing him to try to dissuade Pedro from marrying Hero. Claudio falls for this, immediately thinking Pedro is after Hero for himself, showing he has a strong jealous streak. Benedick starts teasing Claudio about his upcoming marriage, but Claudio tells him Pedro will marry Hero instead, betraying him, then leaves. Pedro arrives with Hero, and Benedick is angry with him for his friend, but Pedro assures him he has just finished successfully proposing marriage to Hero for Claudio. He also mentions that Beatrice is angry with Benedick because he's been saying mean things about her, but Benedick says he was provoked. Claudio, Leonato, Beatrice, and Hero re-enter, and Benedick flees Beatrice's presense. We find out that at one point the two were actually a couple. Claudio is assured that Hero is his. Surprisingly, Pedro then proposes to Beatrice, who very diplomatically turns him down, then leaves. Pedro decides he wants to pair her up with Benedick by the time of the wedding, one week away.

Scene 2
John tells Borachio that Hero is marrying Claudio. Borachio comes up with a plan to ruin the wedding using his connection to Margaret, Hero's serving woman. He will have Claudio show up under her window the night before the wedding, then Borachio will call Margaret Hero when they are in a compromising situation, making everyone believe Hero is unfaithful.

Scene 3
Benedick soliloquies in the orchard about what a woman would need to be like to win his heart; his list is rather lengthy. Pedro, Leonato, and Claudio enter, and Benedick decides to hide and overhear him; they're aware he's there. They proceed to talk about how desperately in love with Benedick Beatrice is, completely shocking Benedick. Her crossness is a way of hiding her true feelings, for she thinks he would only laugh at her, and they pretend to leave to counsel her to forget him. Pedro says they'll have the same trap made for Beatrice through the ladies, and then decide to send Beatrice out to call Benedick to dinner. Benedick's soliloquy this time involves realizing he's in love with Beatrice and doesn't care if this makes him look silly in light of his previous views. She comes out to bid him into dinner, very curtly, and leaves. He twists every sentence to think they're all masked declarations of love. He runs off to get her picture.

Possible discussion questions:
-We find out here that Claudio is very jealous and rather insecure about his relationship with Hero, while Benedick has a quick temper liable to go off in defense of his friends, both of which come into play later. Are there any other places in the play where we've seen them show these traits before?
-Don Pedro's proposal to Beatrice comes a bit out of nowhere (and he repeats in the trap that he would indeed marry her). Is he serious? What sort of character is he?
-Hero is nearly silent through all of this. What do you make of her character?
-Did Beatrice know that was Benedick she was dancing with?
-The trap is rather slippery moral ground, to say the least, and it was very convienent that Benedick did choose to eavesdrop on them for no reason, but it's still tremendous fun when done right (especially if Claudio and Leonato really overdo their roles of explaining Beatrice's heartache). Is Benedick's about face too fast or is it realistic?
-What's the funniest bit in this to you so far?
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Much Ado About Nothing, Act I [Jan. 31st, 2008|06:51 pm]
Pro-WGA Strike Book Club

bookishwench
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[Current Mood |coldcold]




Scene 1
A messenger tells Don Leonato, his daughter Hero, and niece Beatrice that Don Pedro is arriving after a victory. Claudio stood out in battle particularly. Beatrice asks after Benedick, the messenger embellishing his achievements as she belittles them, and we are told Beatrice an Benedick have "a merry war" between them. Claudio is Benedick's current best friend. Don Pedro arrives, and Benedick and Beatrice immediately bicker back and forth in a battle of witty insults. Pedro announces that he and his men will stay at Leonato's home for at least a month. After everyone else leaves, Claudio tells Benedick he's in love with Hero and wants to marry her, and Benedick immediately says he's nuts to want to get married (accidentally revealing he thinks Beatrice is beautiful in the process). Pedro returns, and Benedick promptly tells him about Claudio's feelings for Hero. Pedro approves. Benedick continues to scoff at the idea of love, and Pedro says he wants to see Benedick pale with love, which Benedick assures him will never happen. Benedick is sent off to tell Leonato they are coming to dinner. Claudio asks for Pedro's help in winning Hero. Pedro agrees, saying at the masked ball that night he will pretend to be Claudio and woo Hero in his stead, then ask her father to give her to Claudio.

Scene 2
Antonio tells his brother Leonato that one of his men overheard Claudio and Pedro talking in the garden. The man heard that Pedro is in love with Hero and will propose to her tonight. Leonato says he can't quite believe it, but he'll inform Hero of it in case it's real so she will be prepared with an answer.

Scene 3
Don John, Pedro's illegitimate half brother, is sulking, and Conrade tells him he needs to lighten up since he's only recently gotten back into Pedro's good graces. John isn't interested in that; he flat out states he's a villain and wants to cause trouble. Borachio arrives and tells them Claudio is in love with Hero and Pedro will pretend to woo her tonight for himself, then turn her over to Claudio. John intends to use this to ruin everybody's fun.

Possible discussion questions:
-Okay, how much fun are Beatrice and Benedick? I mean, really?
-Pedro's scheme of romancing Hero for Claudio could obviously backfire spectacularly (see Cyrano de Bergerac for an example). Why does he suggest this?
-Do you actually find John frightening, or is he purely a moustache-twirling villain at this point?
-Claudio and Pedro's conversation was apparently overheard by at least two other people, and both of them got important details wrong. Mishearing and eavesdropping are both major themes of this play. How does this work as a comic setup?
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Hamlet, Act V [Jan. 30th, 2008|08:25 pm]
Pro-WGA Strike Book Club

bookishwench
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[Current Mood |quixoticquixotic]

Scene 1
Two gravediggers are plying their trade, trading jokes, and one loses a bet to the other and has to go buy him liquor. The remaining gravedigger winds up talking to Hamlet and Horatio. We find out that he was hired the same day Hamlet was born (oddly 30 years ago). Hamlet finds Yorick's skull, giving the "Alas, poor Yorick" speech, which is by turns comic and sad. Hamlet and Horatio hide as a funeral procession approaches, Hamlet noting the "maimed" rights suggest a suicide victim. The priest is rude to Laertes, claiming that Ophelia should be buried at a crossroads rather than in sacred ground because she's in hell for killing herself. The Queen reveals that she had hoped Ophelia would one day marry Hamlet, so Polonius was wrong in the first place about him being "out of her sphere." Laertes nearly decks the priest, ending Ophelia's flower imagery by saying her flesh will produce violets while the priest is the one in hell, then leaps into her grave. Hamlet suddenly announces himself and that no one loved Ophelia as much as he did, then leaps into the grave as well, where he and Laertes proceed to fight... in Ophelia's grave. Nice. The king separates the two, and the king and queen call Hamlet crazy to his face for the first time. After Hamlet and Horatio leave, the king tells Laertes they will act soon and instructs Gertrude to put a watch on Hamlet.

Scene 2
Hamlet tells Horatio that he found out about the letter Rosencrantz and Guildenstern were carrying about him to England, which told the receiver to kill Hamlet. Hamlet wrote a new letter, telling them to kill Rosencrantz and Guildenstern instead, sealing it with the king's seal. Hamlet says he has every right to kill Claudius because he killed his father, married his mother, took the crown from him, and now even tried to kill him directly. He also says he wishes he hadn't been so wild to Laertes at the grave. Osric comes in to say the king has put a bet on a fencing match between Hamlet and Laertes, and Hamlet agrees to the match, complimenting Laertes. A nobleman comes to ask again whether Hamlet will compete, and he says again he will. Horatio says Hamlet will lose, but Hamlet doesn't think so, though he does have a bad feeling about this. During the match, Hamlet asks for Laertes forgiveness for his graveside behavior, and Laertes says he does. Claudius throws a pearl in a cup of wine and says it will go to Hamlet if he scores first or second. Hamlet does get the first point but doesn't drink; Gertrude does instead, and as the pearl was poisoned, she is now doomed to die. Laertes gives Hamlet a light wound with his foil, but as the blade is poisoned, Laertes knows Hamlet will die soon. There's a scuffle and the blades are switched, and Hamlet wounds Laertes with the poisoned foil, not realizing it's poisoned. Laertes calls this just; then the queen dies, with her final breath realizing she has been killed. Laertes confesses Claudius's plot to Hamlet and explains Hamlet too is about to die. Hamlet kills Claudius. Finally. Laertes forgives Hamlet for Polonius's death and asks his forgiveness for killing him, which Hamlet grants. Laertes dies. Hamlet tells Horatio to tell his story, although Horatio would like to join in the poison party. Hamlet says Fortinbras should get the crown, then dies. Fortinbras coincidentally shows up and is stunned by the scene. We also find out Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are dead. Horatio arranges for the bodies of the deceased to be put on a stage so that their story can be told. Fortinbras takes the crown and says Hamlet would have been a good king.

Possible discussion questions:
-For a two scene act, there is a LOT that happens in this. Sometimes the last act almost feels rushed because of this. Do you feel that or do you think it's an appropriate build to the climax?
-Given that it's not very bright to get in a fencing match with your dead girlfriend's brother, whose father you killed, does Hamlet actually want to die?
-Is Laertes acceptance of Hamlet's apology sincere? If so, why does he poison him?
-Did Gertrude know what was in the wine?
-Is Hamlet's killing of Rosencrantz and Guildenstern just?
-Is Fortinbras right that Hamlet would have made a good king?
-Hamlet finally kills Claudius via poisoned blade... and poisoned wine... and in the Brannagh film version he slams a chandelier into him for good measure. Overkill, or just enough kill?
-Horatio is really the only main character who lives through the whole play, with Claudius, Gertrude, Hamlet, and Laertes all dead inside of the last scene, joining Ophelia and Polonius. Again, overkill or just enough kill?
-Who would be your dream cast, living or dead, for this play?
-Hamlet is often called the greatest play written in the English language. Agree or disagree?

Tomorrow, we start Much Ado about Nothing.
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Hamlet Act IV [Jan. 29th, 2008|06:46 pm]
Pro-WGA Strike Book Club

bookishwench
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Scene 1
The Queen tells Claudius Hamlet has killed Polonius and taken the body. He tells Rosencrantz and Guildenstern that Hamlet leaves for England in the morning and asks them to find out where Hamlet has put the body.

Scene 2
Hamlet speaks disdainfully to Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, refusing to tell them where the body is and scorning them for serving the king.

Scene 3
The King mentions that he can't just kill Hamlet because he's popular with the Danish people. Rosencrantz and Guildenstern bring Hamlet in under guard. Hamlet says quite crassly the body is in the lobby. Hamlet is formally told he is going to England at once. In a soliloquy, Claudius explains he's going to have Hamlet killed and will write a letter to that effect.

Scene 4
As Fortinbras is leading an army "through" Denmark, Hamlet questions one of his men about what they are doing. The man replies they are going off to fight for a land that isn't worth it, and Hamlet mourns the loss of life that always happens in war, using this as a stepping stone to getting himself to act against the king.

Scene 5
Horatio tell Gertrude that Ophelia, who has gone insane, wishes to speak with her. During the conversation, she sings dirty songs as well as dirges and makes at least one reference to Hamlet's love letter to her. The king arrives and is also upset by Ophelia's condition. Laertes has returned and thinks Claudius killed his father, scaring the king. A mob arrives with Laertes and wants him as their new king. Laertes declares he wants to kill the man who killed his father, and Claudius says that isn't him. Ophelia wanders back in and performs her symbolic flower speech, upsetting Laertes greatly. After she leaves, the king offers to have a trial over whether or not he killed Polonius, with Laertes picking the jury. If he is found guilty, Laertes can behead him and have the crown, and if he's innocent, they'll bring about justice together.

Scene 6
Horatio gets a letter from Hamlet saying he was kidnapped by pirates (kidnapped by pirates is good... sorry, Princess Bride moment) and that the messenger is also carrying letters to the king. Hamlet says he will see Horatio soon.

Scene 7
The king has convinced Laertes that Hamlet is guilty but the king can't kill him because he's married to Hamlet's mother and the people love Hamlet. The messenger arrives with the letters stating Hamlet is back. Claudius says he has an idea how Laertes can kill Hamlet through fencing. The queen enters, interrupting to say Ophelia is dead. She drowned in a stream when a willow branch she was holding broke. It's unclear whether she committed suicide or was so insane she didn't realize her life was in danger. The king tells her he calmed Laertes down but doesn't say how.

Possible discussion questions
-There are a lot of parallels in the revenge plots of Hamlet avenging his father and Laertes avenging his. Both even think Claudius is to blame at one point. However, Laertes acts quickly, even going to so far as to say he would kill Hamlet in church, while Hamlet wouldn't kill Claudius while he was praying. Which course is better?
-Ophelia's madness comes pretty much out of nowhere here. What made her snap: her father's death, that her boyfriend killed her father, her father refusing to let her be with Hamlet, all of these, or none of them?
-Was Ophelia's death a suicide, an accident, or did somebody push her into that pond?
-Who is ultimately responsible for Ophelia's death?
-So... Hamlet and Ophelia... were they gettin' jiggy with it?
-Hamlet is very cavalier about Polonius's death and even his body. Does this suggest that he never loved Ophelia, is it a ploy to make everyone still believe he's crazy, is he actually crazy, or is he just so fed up with the situation that he hasn't stopped to dwell on the way this effects Ophelia?
-Why is Claudius offering to help Laertes kill Hamlet when Claudius thinks Hamlet is already dead in England?
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