Sonnet: Hamlet’s Soliloquy

Here is my extra credit sonnet based on Shakespeare’s Hamlet.


Hamlet: To be or not to be?

Thus did Hamlet muse to himself –

A prince blessed with excellent health –

Did say in his soliloquy

Those words: to be or not to be?

Why does Hamlet see life as filth?

To think to end his life! Why he

Must have seen all life as obscene

But know this Hamlet, Denmark’s prince

The cat will mew and dog will bark

If life be filth than let love rinse

away the filth, to thine ears hark:

The sound of love, be you so dense?

To think with thine own life to part?



Hamlet Act II: Subtle Humor and Wise Words

Act II of Hamlet can be broken into three parts. The first part is Polonius sharing Hamlet’s love for his daughter with the king, the second part is Hamlet talking philosophy with his schoolfellows. Here are my thoughts on the parts you selected for consideration.

1.Polonius: Who is Polonius? We know that he is the “lord chamberlain,” but what do we know about him? The thing which stands out the most about Polonius is his constant spouting of clichés and commonsense advice such as “To thine own self be true” (line 78). He is also shows himself to be contradictory. In line 91, after extensively rambling on the need for haste, he states “I will be brief,” but he cannot control himself: by line 96 he is rambling again, stating: “’tis true: ’tis true ’tis pity;/ and pity ’tis true ’tis true” (96-97). There is some dramatic irony going on here. He is trying to show that he is very wise because he shows such a mastery of language, but his continual distraction from the important point he is trying to relate makes him appear foolish.

2.Prision: Why is Denmark a prison? In line 230, Hamlet refers to Denmark as a prison which sparks an intellectual conversation. Hamlet is making the point that it is you opinion of where you are that makes it a good or bad prison, and his low esteem of Denmark is show when he states that there are many prisons in the world, but that “Denmark is one of the worst” (236). His schoolfellow, Rosencrantz counters that it is merely his ambition that make Denmark a prison. The point he is making is that when your ambitions are greater, smaller or different from the expectations of your parents or superiors, then you are trapped in a prison of not achieving what you want in life.

The second act of Hamlet, though short, packs a lot of set up for the rest of the plot. It show the dramatic irony of Polonius, and the hidden brilliance of Shakespeare’s language. Despite its’ length – or lack thereof – I enjoyed it a lot.

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My Previous Shakespeare Experience

When it comes to Shakespeare, I have watched the movies, seen the plays, and read the paraphrases, but I’ve never actually read any of his plays.


My first introduction to Shakespeare was a paraphrased version of Romeo and Juliet. After that, I saw the 1996 version of Hamlet, and that impressed me. I was blown away by the clever masking of insults and the general mastery of language. As far as tragedies go, that was the extent of my exposure to  his plays, but I’ve also seen one of Shakespeare’s comedies. I witnessed The Merry Wives of Windsor as part of one of the annual Shakespeare in the park plays. Once again I was blown away by the clever facade of complements behind which hid stinging insults. I cannot say whether or not I will enjoy reading his plays, but that remains to be seen.

Genius in a catch 22?

1. Similarities: The main similarity between Bukowski’s “Genius of the Crowd” and Whitman’s “I Sing the Body Electric” is in their rhythm. As far as content goes, they have nothing to do with each other. In the aspect of rhythm, however, they are very similar. Both poems lack a formal structure, and are lacking in any sort of rhyme scheme, but both poems have a changing and choppy rhythm. They don’t detract from the poem, but simply create a different tone.

2.Images: Why doesn’t Bukowski use images? His poem was rather like the first stanza of Emily Dickinson’s “Tell all the Truth But Tell it Slant” in that they both had a general moral lesson to them. I believe that if Bukowski had used images in his poem, it would have detracted from the meaning of the poem. The only exception to this is his reference to hemlock.

3.Hemlock: What is the significance of the hemlock? The hemlock is a reference to Socrates. Socrates was and is considered a great philosopher. What makes the reference to him significant is the story of his death. Socrates stood out against the status quo. He challenged the Greek belief in deities and was sentenced to death for speaking out. The manner of his death was poisoning with hemlock. A “genius of the crowd” who was murdered by “average people.” 

4.Didactic: What is the message? I believe this poem is geared towards “fellow geniuses.” Bukowski obviously has a very low opinion of the common person. In fact, he fears them because he believes that if they can’t understand something that they will destroy it. That “they will attempt to destroy anything/that differs from their own” (lines 28-29). Bukowski is trying to warn that people who take a stand against something are the biggest hypocrites, but isn’t he proving his own point? If he fears the “average man” (20), then does Bukowski lack understanding of him. I believe that Bukowski makes a good point that ignorant and prejudiced people will do wrong things, but he takes it too far by using the blanket statement “common man” to imply that all non-geniuses act like that. I see the validity of the point he is making, but I do not fully agree with him.

5.Open Form Poetry: Open form poetry is interesting in that it leaves the author open to write more directly without having to sacrifice the potency of a point for making a line rhyme. Where do you draw the line? What is the difference between open form poetry and prose? I believe that to make the cut as a form of poetry a poem must either have rhythm or rhyme. If it lacks in both of these areas, then I count it as prose.

Ferrara’s Fatal Fancies

I’ve read Browning’s poem: “My Last Duchess” and here are my answers to your four questions.


1. The speaker is a duke named Ferrara. He’s a powerful man, who is also very proud, and also somewhat stuck up.

2. He is speaking a servant of a wealthy and generous count. He is trying to show himself as a powerful man. Hhe points out his title to  “a nine-hundred-years-old family name” (33). 

3. My understanding of what happened to the duchess is that she didn’t give him the respect that he “deserved,” so he had her killed. He refers to how her smiles seem only as a courtesy to him so he “gave commands/and all smiles stopped” (45-46). I take this to mean that he felt that he grew jealous that she gave (well meant) attention to other men, and her lack of special respect for him infuriated him. 

4. This last question is a little bit harder to answer. He seems to believe that his station as duke and his old family name make him better than everyone else. He is horribly jealous. He speaks of how she kindly thanks him and blushes at his gifts the same as everyone else’s. 

Unholy Sonnet: A Mockery

Donne’s sonnet “Death be not Proud” presents the religious idea that death has been conquered, and that he has nothing to fear from death because of his salvation. His poem is a religious take on the idea of death. On the other hand, Jarman’s “Unholy Sonnet” serves more to mock the idea of salvation. In Jarman’s sonnet he describe a classic community revival with the hand wringing and the hymn singing. He mocks the “Communal stab at coming clean” (12). Salvation is, however, the very reason that Donne does not fear death. At the end of Jarman’s poem he states that “There is still murder in your heart” (14). Jarman points out that ironically, despite the public “salvation,” you’re just as unholy as before. Both poems are written as sonnets, but each carries a far different meaning.

Goblin Market: Innuendo?

Just to start off before the review, I would like to say that if this poem was not meant about sex, then I’m sorry for having a dirty mind.

Christina Rossetti’s “Goblin Market” is about two girls – Lizzie and Laura – who go down to a river by a glen to get some water. The glen is known for being where the goblin merchant men sell they’re fruits. Both girls know that they mustn’t look at the goblins, but Laura looks anyway. Lizzie runs away. Laura goes to the goblin men and buys fruit for a lock of her hair. She spends a long time “sucking their fruit” and then goes home. Laura dreams of returning to buy more fruit the next evening, but finds that the goblin men no longer appear to her. Lizzie can still hear them, but Laura no longer can. Laura longs for goblin fruit, and start to pine away. Lizzie becomes concerned that her sister will die, so she decides that she will go into the forest to buy fruit for her, but not to take any for herself. she goes to the goblins and gives them a penny and asks for fruit. They tell her to stay and suck some plums, but she says she just wants to buy fruit and leave. The goblins grow angry and beat her up. They try to force fruit into her mouth and cover her face in juice. The goblins finally decide that they will never make her eat fruit, so they pack up and leave. Lizzie runs home to her dying sister and tells her to lick the juice off her face. Laura tries some of the juice to find that it’s no longer appealing, but rather is like poison. Laura realizes that she no longer craves goblin fruit and soon recovers. In the end, Laura and Lizzie grow old find men and get married, Laura warns her children of the dangers of goblin men, and how there is no better friend than a sister.

Rossetti’s diction is rather elegant. You can tell that a lot of forethought went into this poem. I would classify this as true “poetic diction.” despite the flourishing language, the author also works in rhythm and rhyme.

Who is the audience? I believe this was intended for her older sister Maria.

This poem is full of alliteration. I see a greater amount of consonance alliteration than assonance alliteration. with statements such as: “mopping and mowing” and “pomagranites full and fine.”  I saw far less assonance alliteration, but I spotted some such as: “rare pears and greengages.”

A lot of this poem is figurative if not the meaning itself. Rossetti goes off on long spiels; describing how “she was like a rush-embedded  swan” etc.

So this is the awkward question. Here is my thinking on why this the fruit represents sex. Poets are very selective in their choice of words. In the case of Rossetti you can see that she has carefully and beautifully chosen her words. But there is so much that can only be taken as innuendo: “She suck’d and suck’d and suck’d the more” continually talking about how she was sucking their fruit. And with Lilly you had the goblins trying to force the juice of their fruits into her mouth, and covering her face with it. I could be wrong. This could be about the dangers of “strong drink.” Or it may be a religious poem on how sinful revelry may be enjoyable for a time but how the sinful actions were killing her. What is my take on the symbolism of the goblin fruit? It is referring to sex.

Lastly the themes. I detect two themes in this poem: Never trust the goblin men. And: there is no friend like a sister.

An Exploration of Cartoons

To be honest, I have never really “studied” the tones or styles of comics, but today I’m going to give it a shot.

In Yang’s “American Born Chinese” the artwork has a fifties feel to it. It’s set up rather like a graphic novel, but the subject is not super heroes.  Despite the lighthearted feel of the art, the piece featured in the book has a much darker aspect. The third to last panel helps the reader to see things from the perspective of the little boy: the dramatic pause, the darkened background. It all helps to create a scary ominous feel as the old lady explains that: “It’s easy to become anything you wish…so long as you’re willing to forfeit your soul” (Yang 50).

Gorey’s “The Hapless Child” has a dark feel right off. The excessively dark 1800’s style art give the reader a gloomy, unhappy feel. The story itself does nothing to improve that feeling, being about a child that loses both of her parents and gets sent to a boarding school that she hates. I don’t understand the point of the except, but if the intended effect was to depress the reader then the author succeeded

Next was Barry’s “Spelling” which features a loose crude drawing feel where all of the characters appear grotesque and hairy. The story is written from the author’s prospective as a young child, dealing with her annoying cousin. The story feels rather like it was meant more as a journal for the author to vent her frustration than for entertainment of the reader.

Of all the cartoons, I found Satrapi’s “The Trip” to be the most interesting. The story is a recreation of the author’s childhood growing up in Iran. The excerpt presented is focused on the author’s memory of the 1979 Iranian revolution, and the descent into tyranny. The story is a mix of tragedy in and humor. It is appalling for this little girl to see her country being ripped apart. But on the humorous side, Satrapi’s childhood dream of becoming like Madame Curie – in that she “[…] wanted to be an educated liberated woman. And if it meant getting cancer, so be it”(Satrapi 260) – adds a comical touch to the story.

Last but not least is Groening’s “Life in Hell.”  I feel like this except was meant to be more philisophical than funny. The strip is focused on a son who’s afraid of when he’ll die, and his father attempting to comfort him. Even though the second-to-last panel show that the dad didn’t buy anything he told his son, the strip still featured some profound thoughts. I liked most the idea that death is fair. really fair. It takes everyone: The rich, the poor, the kind, and the cruel. Death is equal in it’s selection, because everyone dies.

I wouldn’t have believed that a simple cartoon could contain so many ideas or so much information, but now that I’ve finished analyzing these I have changed my opinion. As a whole, this has been very intriguing .

How to Tell a True War Story

In Tim O’Brien’s “How to Tell a True War Story”  he highlights the idea that it’s not the accuracy of a story that’s important, but rather the point behind the tale. In his stories he returns several times to one soldier – Lemon – stepping on a landmine , each time seeing it a different way and pulling a different point from it each time. in one version he mentions it only in passing, talking rather about his friend, Rat, writing to his sister to let her know that he was dead. In the letter the truth becomes embellished because – being the author – Rat has the power to paint the picture however he chooses. but it’s not about Rat embellishing on the feats of his friend, but rather that the details are irrelevant to the message of a story. In another story,  six men go up into the mountains to listen for enemy movement, once they’re in position they start to hear impossible things: “[…]this crazyass gook concert”(348) and “music and chitchat […]” (349),  they call in an airstrike and head back to camp. When they’re questioned about what they heard, they refuse to talk because “[…] a true war story can’t be believed” (348). The point that O’Brien makes is that in a true war story details get jumbled, places change, but the point of a war story will stay the same. Almost all of his stories and narratives hold to the common idea that a “true war story” is not about where something happened or how it happened. It’s about remembering the friends and people you served with. A war story isn’t about war. “[…]It’s a love story. A ghost story”(354). O’Brien uses the interweaving idea of “truth” to show how in war “truth” is not so important as the point behind it.

55 Miles to the Gas Pump: Dark Humor

Annie Proulx’s “55 Miles to the Gas Pump” is a comic albeit dark tale. As the name suggests, the setting of the story is far out in the country. So much so that rancher Croom makes “his own strange beer” (568).  As the story unfolds, rancher Croom drunkenly races to a canyon while Mrs. Croom is taking advantage of his absence to break into the attic he keeps locked. Mrs. Croom breaks open the attic to find the missing bodies of rancher Croom’s lovers: “covered with tarry hand prints” and “all of them used hard” (568). Proulx ends the story by writing: “when you live a long way out you make your own fun” (569).


Proulx uses the story to make fun of the uncivilized country life. Ironically, Mr. Croom’s warnings and locks on the attic only served to pique his wife’s curiosity, thus revealing the secret he tried to desperately to hide. And even hiding the bodies didn’t fool anyone. Mrs. Croom wasn’t even surprised to find the dead bodies of his lovers up there. And worst of all is that a man trying to hide the his lover’s bodies from his own wife, hides them in his own attic. As a whole, the story mocks the lack of normality or decency “55 miles from the gas pump.”