Essay

This activity assesses your ability to rephrase and explain one of the main themes of Shakespeare’s Hamlet: political decay.

“Something is rotten in the state of Denmark”

This quote is probably one of the most famous in all of Hamlet; however, it is useful to remember that Marcellus says it rather than Hamlet himself. The quote doesn’t come from a member of the nobility, it comes from a rather ordinary guardsman, commenting on the suspicious behavior of his Prince, a man first in line to the throne of his country:

Horatio: He waxes desperate with imagination.
Marcellus: Let’s follow. ‘Tis not fit thus to obey him.
Horatio: Have after. To what issue will this come?
Marcellus: Something is rotten in the state of Denmark.
Horatio: Heaven will direct it.
Marcellus: Nay, let’s follow him. [Exeunt.]
Hamlet Act 1, scene 4, 87–91

Taking the ordinary citizen of Hamlet’s Denmark as your audience, craft an in-depth news analysis on the country’s current political state. This assignment is based on your close reading of the play’s first two acts and your practice of summary in the discussion board. Similar to the longer investigative pieces found in news magazines such as Time or Newsweek, you should examine the question of whether something really is “rotten” in the state of Denmark and, if so, what? While remaining objective, your goal is to inform your readers of the “who”, “what”, “when”, “where”, and “why” of the current government and military situation of Denmark. Assume that your readers are relatively informed, but ordinary citizens of Hamlet’s Denmark.

Draw upon the political situation as presented in the play for your evidence: the recent victory over Old Fortinbras, the threat posed by his son, and the uneasy state of the monarchy. You can also use the characters in the play as your sources, quoting the words of King Claudius, Hamlet, and the Queen (for example) as further evidence for your interpretation.

This short assignment should be between 500 – 700 words in length.

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