We have done a close reading of selected passages with special attention to Act V.  We have discussed the difficulty and the numerous problems Act V presents to understanding Hamlet as a revenge tragedy.

The Essay (Individual Work, approximately 5pages, excluding the works cited page).

In an essay with at least 3 secondary sources (at least one must be from a scholarly article) identity the theme of Hamlet, especially in the context of the problems presented in Act V of Hamlet.

Words of caution: Theme is the central and controlling idea of a literary work.  The theme is represented by the actions, images, and the very structure and style of a literary work.  Typically, the theme is an insight into the serious, tragic, or comic truth of the human condition.  It is important to note that the theme is not synonymous with the subject or the conflict.  The theme usually cannot be expressed in a single word.  For example, in Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening, the subject is the beauty of winter and the conflict is whether to continue walking or remaining in the woods.  You will note that neither the beauty of nature nor the question of resuming the trip is the really the theme of Frost’s poem.

In order to uncover the theme of a literary work, please ask yourself the following fundamental questions: What is Hamlet as a genre?  What is it really about?  What about human identity or the nature of art is Hamlet a representation or discussion of?   What central idea is represented in the subject, conflict, and the author’s treatment of the form?

If you can answer the above questions with textual support and your rich background knowledge, you will have uncovered the theme!

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