Hamlet & Film Narrative

Course Details

Course Number
Section Number
Fall 2015
Bea Wood Hall
Classroom Number
Days & Times

MW 9:30-10:50 AM

Dr. Peter Fields (view Profile)


Hamlet: Longman Cultural Edition
Ed. Constance Jordan. 2nd ed

Course Objectives


II. OBJECTIVES English Department Goals

GOAL 1. Critical Inquiry

Objective 1.1:  Student engages in an increasingly sophisticated discourse and demonstrates aesthetic and critical discernment through close textual analysis.

Objective 1.2:  Student evaluates secondary sources and applies skills in information gathering and management, and document design, using traditional sources and emerging technologies.

GOAL 2.  Knowledge of Language and Literature

Objective 2.1:  Student understands the usage and structure of the English language.

Objective 2.2:  Student recognizes the stylistic techniques that distinguish key literary texts relevant to subject and genre.

Objective 2.3:  Student is familiar with the legacy of important ideas and contexts associated with literary periods.

Objective 2.4:  Student is introduced to academic and professional publications in the field.

GOAL 3.  Writing as Process

Objective 3.1:  Student reflects on his or her arguments over multiple stages of development.

Objective 3.2:  Using traditional resources and emerging technologies, the student references and formats primary and secondary sources in MLA style.

GOAL 4.  Engagement

Objective 4.1:  Student is aware of a cultural context for his or her own values and those of his or her sources.

Course Expectations

 The Journal Responses (see examples of MLA in-body citing later in this syllabus):

Students will keep a typed journal comprising SIX entries (one for each film’s relationship to Shakespeare’s Hamlet). Each entry should be formatted according to MLA style standards for in-body citing. Each entry strives to answer this question: What does this movie make me think about in regard to Shakespeare’s Hamlet? Length: 2-3 pages typed for each movie. No Works Cited.

 The Research Paper (see examples of MLA in-body citing & Works Cited later in this syllabus):

The research paper uses one of the journal entries as it point of departure. The paper makes a deeper argument because the student re-examines the entry’s original thought and answers this question: How has my thinking developed in regard to this movie and Shakespeare’s Hamlet? The original journal entry is appended to the paper (after the Works Cited). Length: 5-10 pages typed w. Works Cited

The Research Paper is confined to articles from the Moffett-supported databases, books in the Moffett stacks, related DVDs in our schedule, and secondary material available in our critical edition. Students may allude to and cite material from the special features in the DVD (and related DVDs). Other sources need instructor approval. The DVDs are available on reserve at the Moffett Library circulation desk.

 The Two Blue Books (OPEN BOOK-follows examples of MLA in-body citing in this syllabus):

Each Blue Book further develops one of the journal entries and answers the same question as the Research Paper: How have my thoughts developed in regard to this movie and Shakespeare’s Hamlet? Blue Books should not focus on the same DVD as a previous Blue Book or the Research Paper. Students may have an outline on the inside Blue Book covers (but NOT a pre-written essay). In-body citation should be consistent with MLA and the examples in this syllabus. NO SOURCES ALLOWED FOR BLUE BOOKS OTHER THAN OUR CRITICAL EDITION AND THE DVDS. Students need to draw on at least TWO items (other than the play) in our critical edition; in addition, they may draw on special features in the DVDs. Length: 5 paragraphs. No Works Cited. 

The Seventh Movie Option (Journal entry, Research Paper, or Blue Book):

Students may also write a seventh journal entry about any movie and Hamlet (same prompt question). It can in turn be the basis of a Blue Book or the Research Paper (same prompt question).

Grading Standards

Grading: The journal counts 30 percent (10 percent for each due date). The research paper counts 30 percent. The first Blue Book is 20 percent and the final Blue Book is 20 percent.

Final Exam

12/07/2015 8:00-10:00 AM

Submission Format Policy


Format for all typed work (all typed assignments are DOUBLE-spaced)

  • All typed documents must be 12 point Times New Roman double-spaced. One inch margins.
  • For header and page number in the .5 default position: click on “insert,” then “page number,” “top of page,” and “plain number 3.” The cursor will show to the immediate left of the page number. Simply type your last name, and it will magically appear.
  • ON FIRST PAGE ONLY (not a header): The student name, instructor name, course, and date should be in the upper left, double-spaced.

LONG VERBATIM PASSAGE (more than three lines of poetry, or more than four lines of prose). Instead of quotation marks, set the long passage in an extra inch: highlight it with cursor, right-click on Paragraph, and for Indentation (left), type 1.0 in the box. Be sure to double space.

 DO NOT LEAD WITH A QUOTE: Provide a discussion that captures the key idea before the quote.

 On the one hand, Hamlet could accept his lot philosophically and play the passive role of cynical observer. He could linger at the edge of court and amuse himself with the human spectacle of people vying for favor with the new king. Or Hamlet could sweep to his revenge as he promised his father’s ghost. But then he is distracted by a third path. It is oddly alluring. In fact, he finds himself caught up in reverie and rapture as he ponders leaving this world altogether:

To be, or not to be; that is the question:

Whether ‘tis nobler in the mind to suffer

The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune,

Or to take arms against a sea of troubles,

And, by opposing, end them. To die, to sleep—

No more, and by a sleep to say we end

The heartache and the thousand natural shocks

That flesh is heir to—‘’tis a consummation

Devoutly to be wished. […] (3.1.58-66)

NOTE: 3.1.58-66 means Act three, Scene one, lines 58 through 66. The ellipsis means the student didn’t quote the rest of the line. 

Once we know the act and scene, we simply use the line numbers in parentheses:

Prince Hamlet goes on to worry about the afterlife: “To die, to sleep. / To sleep, perchance to dream. Ay, there’s the rub” (66-67). Notice the forward slash between verbatim lines when using quotation marks. He seems like a priest or monk when he admonishes Ophelia and advises her to flee from temptation and escape the influence of sinful men through celibacy at a “nunnery” (139).

When you go to another scene in the same act, let the reader know parenthetically:

Hamlet’s mother doesn’t see her husband’s ghost and tells her son that the ghost he sees in the bedroom is merely the “coinage of your brain” (4.128). She hints that she believes her son’s vision to be the consequence of an infirmed, feverish mind: “This bodiless creation ecstasy / Is very cunning in” (128-130).

 MLA in-body citing for Constance Jordan in our Longman Cultural edition of Hamlet: 

In our Longman Cultural edition of the play, the editor, Constance Jordan, in her preface to the section on Purgatory, reminds us that, at least from a Catholic point of view, the living understandably might want to help those whom they loved and who have passed away. The natural assumption for Catholics, according to Jordan, was that suffering between this world and the next was necessary for the righteous believer to be truly ready for heaven (181). The living could help usually in the form of prayers for the dead.  But the ghost that visits Elsinore and takes the Prince into its confidence seems to exceed the usual boundaries. King Hamlet’s ghost, rather profanely, even incredibly, on his own behalf, seeks revenge against the killer who put him in purgatory. Indeed, according to Jordan, if the Prince carries out such a request, far from rescuing his father, he might succeed only in damning himself: “As murder in another name, this kind of revenge was not a request that Catholic Doctrine could condone, particularly from a sinful soul in purgatory” (183). There is good reason, as Jordan observes, to regard this ghost as a diabolical impostor, merely purporting to be King Hamlet: “In light of Christian doctrine, the Ghost is suspect” (183). At the same time, from a Catholic point of view, the faithful departed and their loved ones are necessarily involved in each other’s spiritual struggle which, even for the most righteous and devout, does not end with death, hence the necessity for purgatory and the close, intertwining bond of living and dead (181-82). According to Jordan, the Catholic model requires human effort on the part of both the living and the dead, and both may intercede for each other: “These concepts—of a place of purgation preparatory to entering heaven and the possibility of a loving communion of the living with those in purgatory—remain definitive for Roman Catholics […]” (181). For Protestants, according to Jordan, the very notion of doing something to atone for one’s sins—whether in this life or some other—would imply that Christ’s suffering on the cross was not enough to pay the price of sin: “For a Protestant, however, Christ’s sacrifice was entirely sufficient; to say that a Christian might earn salvation by moral action was to misread Scripture” (183).

Even if students are not directly quoting, they should acknowledge that the idea came from the relevant source with attribution and parenthetical page number:


In her preface to Spiritual and Mental Life in our critical edition, Constance Jordan makes the point that, whether Protestant or Catholic, most English people in Shakespeare’s time, if not at every moment, at least some of the time wondered if they were attended by an invisible entourage of both hostile and kindly spirits (157). 


DO NOT LEAD WITH QUOTES. Please, don’t start with the quote and then back into its significance:

“So he chose to feign dullness, and pretend an utter lack of wits” (225) is a phrase that tells us where Shakespeare is going with Prince Hamlet, as we find in our edition’s excerpt of Historia Danica by Saxo Grammaticus.

Students should indicate attribution & the significance of a quote before the quote:

In our edition’s excerpt from the Historia Danica by Saxo Grammaticus, Amleth decides that his best tactic would be to play the part of a lunatic, oblivious and heedless of all around him: “So he chose to feign dullness, and pretend an utter lack of wits” (225).

 An ELLIPSIS IN BRACKETS is where the student indicates that a quote which appears to be an entire sentence from a source is actually incomplete.

Notably, John Calvin, in our edition’s excerpt from The Institution of Christian Religion, argues that Purgatory is false for two reasons. The first is that it makes “satisfaction” (188) for sin a kind of commercial enterprise with the result that the Pope’s “Bullbearers” can, quite literally, set and collect the “the price of salvation” (189). The most important problem in Calvin’s view is that Purgatory requires that people must do something about their own sins rather than depend on what Christ has already done: “[…] it is more than evident that the blood of Christ is the only satisfaction, propitiatory sacrifice, and cleansing for the sins of the faithful” […] (191). The ellipsis in brackets here means that the original source had more words in this sentence, both before and after.

MLA in-body citing of a scholarly article (found on the Moffett online database Academic Search Complete). Note repeated use of attribution to ensure the source gets consistent credit for the key ideas.


According to Cameron Hunt, in his article “Jephthah’s Daughter’s Daughter: Ophelia” for ANQ, Hamlet taunts Polonius, calling him “old Jephthah” (Ham. 2.2.392), because like the Old Testament figure who foolishly promised God the first thing he saw when he returned home, Polonius is using the most important person in his life—his daughter—as a pawn in a dangerous game. The daughter, whom Jephthah “lovèd surpassingly well” (390), rushed out to greet the father she herself adored and respected. She doesn’t know that her father foolishly promised God to sacrifice the first creature he saw upon returning from battle. Prince Hamlet (implicitly) is accusing Polonius of carelessly pushing his daughter ahead of him, oblivious to the dire consequences of abusing her dutiful nature: “This allusion identifies Ophelia as a virgin, destined for sacrifice at the hands of her politically ambitious father from the play’s outset” (Hunt 14). Significantly, as Hunt points out, the story in chapter 11 of Judges indicates that Jephthah’s daughter acquiesced to her fate. She merely desired some time—two months—to lament the fact that she would never marry (14). Hunt drives home the significance of two months: when Hamlet hosts the play-within-the-play, Ophelia herself says two months have passed since the funeral of King Hamlet (14-15). Ophelia’s time is nearly up! As Hunt makes clear, the willows of Ophelia’s drowning symbolize virgins who miss out on becoming brides (16). Polonius is playing a game both father and daughter will regret when it robs Ophelia of love and children, just as Jephthah threw away the prospects of his virgin daughter who does not so much mourn her loss of life as she does her loss of love and children (15-16).


MLA in-body citation of a single-author book from the Moffett Library book shelves:

According to Stephen Greenblatt in his book Hamlet in Purgatory, the ghost was meant to be a suspicious character in the play. In Greenblatt’s view, the longstanding consensus in Christendom was that demons were precisely the real culprits in most cases where the dead (supposedly) have reached out to those who mourned their passing: “Demons were clever, and it had long been understood that they were capable of insinuating themselves into human communities by pretending that they were souls in pain” (209). In fact, Greenblatt quotes from John Chrysostom, an early church saint and theologian, who calls the deceptions of demons a “kind of stage-play” (209). According to Chrysostom, demons frequent graveyards and try to pass themselves off as souls in torment (209). Even in the case of possession, the demon would prefer to be understood as a lost human soul; only reluctantly does a demon want to be acknowledged for it really is—a demon (209).

MLA in-body citing of a DVD. Students are free to give their own take (to the best of their recollection) of what the speaker is saying in a movie (or special DVD feature) without using quotation marks. If, however, a student feels the words are indeed very close to the character’s phrasing, then quotation marks are useful. This freedom to make a choice about quotation marks applies ONLY to movies.


In Hamlet 2, the main character, Dana Marschz (Steve Coogan) seems suicidal at times especially when the principal tells him the drama program has been cancelled. He wanders in shock back to the classroom—really just a raised stage and some rows of chairs in the “Snackatorium”—and launches into a long tirade. “Shut up! Shut up!” he screams at the kids, momentarily getting their undivided attention. Will someone, he asks rhetorically, please explain to him how a little boy from a dairy farm in Manitoba, who loves acting but isn’t very good at it, who can’t get a decent agent, and who decides to teach kids and pass on his love of the craft, how he is supposed to deal with “all the god-awful crap that’s handed out to him without wrapping his lips around a 45 and blowing his brains out!”


In an interview for the Hamlet 2 DVD, Pam Brady, who co-wrote the screenplay, comments that she always felt that the genre of inspiring-white-teacher for a class of ethnic minorities was “really offensive.” Her intention was to make fun of the idea. Melonie Diaz, who plays Ivonne (an Hispanic student), says in her interview that she hesitated at first to be in a movie where all the Latinos seen to be the “bad kids.” But Director Andrew Fleming won her over when he explained to her that the usual plotline is reversed in this film: “Steve Coogan’s character doesn’t really save the kids. The kids save Steve Coogan.”

 In the audio commentary for Legend of the Black Scorpion DVD, Bey Logan, an expert on Hong Kong cinema, keeps drawing our attention to someone who hardly says a word in the movie: Ling (Xu Xiyan), the maid of the Empress. According to Logan, the original script was more obvious about her purpose in the story—she is the one who kills the Empress in the last scene. 

MLA in-body citing of an essay from an anthology (author and title of essay are sufficient):

The significance of Shakespeare’s Hamlet, as a play, lies in the inability of anyone in it to be sure of anything—especially when they seem to be very sure and very certain. Prince Hamlet, for instance, is filled with dread, horror, and ever-compounding doubt. He flails about, unable to latch onto something true and sure. C. S. Lewis in his essay “Hamlet: The Prince or the Play” reminds us that the play is about people mired in a dream-like world where action seems urgent but no one can move with authority, confidence, or sufficient speed: “The world of Hamlet is a world where one has lost one’s way” (99). According to Lewis, Hamlet represents something most modern people have in common: they are “haunted” by uncertainty: that is, “man with his mind on the frontier of two worlds, man unable either to reject or quite to admit the supernatural, man struggling to get something done […], yet incapable of achievement because of his inability to understand either himself or his fellows or the real quality of the universe which has produced him” (102-103). 

Works Cited Page for the Research Paper

HANGING INDENT: Highlight entry with cursor, right click on “Paragraph,” and select “hanging” under Special. Be sure to double-space.

NOTE: Dr. Fields will provide a handout for each DVD with relevant Works Cited information.

ALSO NOTE: For an anthology (like our required book), we cite each item in it separately from the book itself. We use triple hyphens when the editor or author remains the same for each item.

Works Cited

Calvin, John. Excerpt from The Institution of Christian Religion. Jordan 188-91.

Fleming, Andrew, dir. Hamlet 2. Screenplay by Pam Brady and Andrew Fleming. Music by Ralph Sall. Perf. Steve Coogan, Catherine Keener, David Arquette, Elizabeth Shue, Rand Posin, Phoebe Strole, Melonie Diaz, Shea Pepe, Joseph Julian Soria, Michael Esparza, and Marco Rodriguez. Focus Features & Universal, 2008. DVD.

Grammaticus, Saxo. Excerpt from Historia Danica. Jordan 221-34.

Greenblatt, Stephen. Hamlet in Purgatory. Princeton: Princeton UP, 2001. Print.

Hunt, Cameron. “Jephthah’s Daughter’s Daughter: Ophelia.” ANQ 22.4 (2009): 13-16. Academic Search Complete. Web. 14 August 2015.

Jordan, Constance. Purgatory. Jordan 181-201.

---. Spiritual and Mental Life. Jordan 157-80.

---. William Shakespeare’s Hamlet, Prince of Denmark. 2nd ed. New York: Pearson Longman, 2005. Print.

Lewis, C. S. “Hamlet: The Prince or the Poem?” Selected Literary Essays. Ed. Walter Hooper. Cambridge, England: Cambridge UP, 1969. 88-105. Print.

Xiaogang, Feng, dir. Legend of the Black Scorpion. Choreography & Production Design: Tim Yip. Action Director: Yuen Wo-ping. Screenplay by Sheng Heyu and Qiu Gangjian. Music: Tan Dun. Perf. Ziyi Zhang, Daniel Wu, Zhou Xun, Ge You, XuXiyan. Media Asia Films & Dragon Dynasty, 2008. DVD.

Note: You may not submit a paper for a grade in this class that already has been (or will be) submitted for a grade in another course, unless you obtain the explicit written permission of me and the other instructor involved in advance.

Late Paper Policy


An assignment is late if submitted after the class period it is due. If late by one period, the assignment will be penalized 10 points. If late by two class periods, the essay is penalized 20 points (the penalty is capped at 20 points). All late work must be submitted IN PERSON.

Plagiarism Policy

Plagiarism is the use of someone else's thoughts, words, ideas, or lines of argument in your own work without appropriate documentation (a parenthetical citation at the end and a listing in "Works Cited")-whether you use that material in a quote, paraphrase, or summary. It is a theft of intellectual property and will not be tolerated, whether intentional or not.

Student Honor Creed

As an MSU Student, I pledge not to lie, cheat, steal, or help anyone else do so."

As students at MSU, we recognize that any great society must be composed of empowered, responsible citizens. We also recognize universities play an important role in helping mold these responsible citizens. We believe students themselves play an important part in developing responsible citizenship by maintaining a community where integrity and honorable character are the norm, not the exception.

Thus, We, the Students of Midwestern State University, resolve to uphold the honor of the University by affirming our commitment to complete academic honesty. We resolve not only to be honest but also to hold our peers accountable for complete honesty in all university matters.

We consider it dishonest to ask for, give, or receive help in examinations or quizzes, to use any unauthorized material in examinations, or to present, as one's own, work or ideas which are not entirely one's own. We recognize that any instructor has the right to expect that all student work is honest, original work. We accept and acknowledge that responsibility for lying, cheating, stealing, plagiarism, and other forms of academic dishonesty fundamentally rests within each individual student.

We expect of ourselves academic integrity, personal professionalism, and ethical character. We appreciate steps taken by University officials to protect the honor of the University against any who would disgrace the MSU student body by violating the spirit of this creed.

Written and adopted by the 2002-2003 MSU Student Senate.

Students with Disabilities

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is a federal anti-discrimination statute that provides comprehensive civil rights protection for persons with disabilities. Among other things, this legislation requires that all students with disabilities be guaranteed a learning environment that provides for reasonable accommodation of their disabilities. If you believe you have a disability requiring an accommodation, please contact the Disability Support Services in Room 168 of the Clark Student Center, (940) 397-4140.

Safe Zones Statement

The professor considers this classroom to be a place where you will be treated with respect as a human being - regardless of gender, race, ethnicity, national origin, religious affiliation, sexual orientation, political beliefs, age, or ability. Additionally, diversity of thought is appreciated and encouraged, provided you can agree to disagree. It is the professor's expectation that ALL students consider the classroom a safe environment.

Contacting your Instructor

All instructors in the Department have voicemail in their offices and MWSU e-mail addresses. Make sure you add your instructor's phone number and e-mail address to both email and cell phone lists of contacts.

Attendance Requirements

No more than SIX absences allowed. SEVEN absences from class (excused or not) will result in an automatic F for the semester grade. Naturally, some of these seven absences may be due to unforeseen accident, car breakdown, natural disaster, illness (even documented illness), illness of a relative (including child or parent), court date (including for custody or to avoid jail), or university sanctioned event (sports, theatre, etc)—but the reason does NOT matter. SEVEN of any sort of absence (except official closing of the campus) means an F for the semester. NOTE: If sports or theatre require more than the allowed six, the dates must be documented by the relevant MSU authority according to MSU policy.

Other Policies


Academic Dishonesty

Blue Books are “open” book. Students may “flag” their textbooks and use them at will throughout an in-class essay. Students may have notes or an outline on the inside Blue Book covers. However, pre-WRITING the four paragraphs themselves is considered academic dishonesty. Students may ask permission to write their essays on their laptops in class—but the professor will check them to make sure the document is not prewritten. Students may have an outline as a document on their laptop and expand it for purposes of the essay. The instructor reserves the right to pre-approve outlines. 

Students can only use Moffett-supported databases, the Moffett stacks, their critical edition, and the DVDs shown in class. Other sources need the approval of the instructor. DVDs will be available on reserve in Moffett Library. Students may utilize their special features (see examples in the syllabus). 

Plagiarism and Proper Documentation

Any use of a non-documented source as if it were a student’s original work is considered plagiarism and academic dishonesty. Plagiarism can be of ideas; it can be of exact phrasing. In either or both cases, if the student has failed to acknowledge the source in the body of the essay and to document it in the Works Cited, the grade will be a “0” (no points) for the assignment even if the rest of the assignment is original and use of other sources properly documented. Upon being informed of the plagiarism, the student is no longer welcome in the class. The student may withdraw from the course with a penalty-free “W” if available; if not, the student must cease attending and the grade will be whatever points the student has accumulated minus the plagiarized document and any other tests or assignments as yet not completed (which are forfeit).  If the student continues to attend, the instructor will contact the Dean of Students or Student Conduct office and withdraw the student with a WF. 

Phrasing that is too close to the student’s own secondary sources (articles and books).

Students who reproduce the phrasing of their documented secondary source(s) as if it were their own phrasing will be penalized for language that is too close to source. Students can use terminology they find in their documented sources, but four words in a row are too much without quoting. Verbatim use of a documented source must be confined to QUOTES set off with quotation marks or ten extra spaces on the left if the verbatim passage works out to be five or more lines of student typing or handwriting. All such quoting requires parenthetical page numbers if provided in the source. Even if page numbers are not provided, the language must be clearly attributed to the author and set off by quotation marks or an extra ten inches on the left.

 Americans with Disabilities Act

The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is a federal anti-discrimination statute that provides comprehensive civil rights protection for persons with disabilities. Among other things, this legislation requires that all students with disabilities be guaranteed a learning environment that provides for reasonable accommodation of their disabilities. If you believe you have a disability requiring an accommodation, please contact the Disability Support Services in Room 168 of the Clark Student Center, 397-4140. 

Safe Zone Statement

The professor considers this classroom to be a place where you will be treated with respect as a human being – regardless of gender, race, ethnicity, national origin, religious affiliation, sexual orientation, political beliefs, age, or ability. Additionally, diversity of thought is appreciated and encouraged, provided you can agree to disagree. It is the professor’s expectation that ALL students consider the classroom a safe environment. 

Contacting Instructors

All instructors in the Department have voicemail in their offices and MWSU e-mail addresses. Make sure you add your instructor’s phone number and e-mail address to both email and cell phone lists of contacts.

 Writing Proficiency Requirement (as of 60 earned credit hours)

All students seeking a Bachelor’s degree from Midwestern State University must satisfy a writing proficiency requirement once they have successfully completed the Communication core requirements and earned 60 hours.  If you have any questions about the exam, visit the Writing Proficiency Office website at, or call 397-4131.

Writing Proficiency Requirement

All students seeking a Bachelor's degree from Midwestern State University must satisfy a writing proficiency requirement once they've 1) passed the 6 hours of Communication Core and and 2) earned 60 hours. You may meet this requirement by passing either the Writing Proficiency Exam or English 2113. Please keep in mind that, once you've earned over 90 hours, you lose the opportunity to take the $25 exam and have no option but to enroll in the three-credit hour course. If you have any questions about the exam, visit the Writing Proficiency Office website at, or call 397-4131.

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Campus Carry

Senate Bill 11 passed by the 84th Texas Legislature allows licensed handgun holders to carry concealed handguns on campus, effective August 1, 2016. Areas excluded from concealed carry are appropriately marked, in accordance with state law. For more information regarding campus carry, please refer to the University’s webpage at

If you have questions or concerns, please contact MSU Chief of Police Patrick Coggins at