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edu180atl: kelly clinch 1.26.12

I love to just throw my AP Lit students into the deep end of Hamlet every year—no real preparation for the story or the characters, just full immersion into that first “Who’s there” moment.  They stumble at first over the “wherefores” but we read the script out loud, stop, discuss, read it some more, look at the footnotes, open a dictionary, and somewhere around Hamlet’s “I know not seems” and his “suits of woe,” they are hooked. 

Yes, they want to know about Hamlet’s existential tendencies, about his relationship with Ophelia, about his mom and dad’s marriage, and of course about the ghost, but what surprises me every year is their complete fascination with the language of the play.  They love that Shakespeare uses about five definitions of the word “suit” and three meanings of the word “common” and seven definitions of the word “tender”—all in the same scene.

“Did he mean to do that?” they ask.

“Maybe,” I say.  “But either way, it’s still really cool!”  And then they are putty in Shakespeare’s hands for the rest of the play—and I hope for life.

I am amazed that the power of language still connects us to a play written 400 years ago.  Today, as I spent 55 minutes on a small section of Act I with my class, I learned that time is relative and the power of language may be our greatest gift.

 About the author: Kelly Clinch teaches AP English at Alpharetta High School.  She is a Dunwoody mother of three who can quote random passages from great literature.

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One Comment Post a comment
  1. Thank you, Kelly. I am finding this with my seniors, too. From Act One, each of them picked a brief passage of what I call Power Lines. After studying emphases, metrical variation and special personal resonance, they delivered their lines for the class. For extra credit, some chose to memorize their Power Lines. Great fun, especially since we videotaped everyone’s performance. It was fun, and instructive, to see who chose what and why. As guide for the exercise, I showed them my work on the lines that start with “I know not seems.” While preparing those lines, incidentally, I heard anew Hamlet’s love for, in addition to his anger at, his mother. The power of his language, indeed.

    February 25, 2012

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