Presentation day is here at last.
And what a day. 9th graders gave presentations on real-life villains, while 10th graders enlightened us with their retelling and analysis of ghost stories. Both of these topics are integrally connected with the plays we’re reading, and, as I suspected, the connections between the plays and real life people and stories are everywhere.
Regarding villains and “evil,” it was really striking to me how many students were willing to talk about people and situations that were very close to them. This can be pretty painful stuff, when family members or close friends betray and hurt you. I really appreciated people talking about this, though, and I think the feelings they shared with us will really enrich our reading of Othello. Sometimes it’s easy to let the text go by us without really feeling anything. After all, we’re sitting here in English class, reading out of a book. We don’t get the full theater experience, where we’re more immersed in the situations and where we get to see the actors. When we read here in class, it requires students to be really proactive in seeking out emotional connections with the characters, and the presentations we heard today will definitely help with that.
As for the ghost stories, I couldn’t have hoped for a better representation of the idea of ambiguity and doubt that is such a big part of Hamlet, as exemplified by the ghost of the dead king. Many people told stories of friendly ghosts coming back to help friends or family members, others told stories of randomly annoying ghosts, and there were even a couple of evil ghosts thrown in for good measure. The common thread that wound around all the stories was the uncertainty of the ghosts’ existence and motives. I kept on remembering the lines from act 1 scene 4, shouted by Hamlet out into the stormy night: “Why is this? Wherefore? What should we do?” These questions often came up in students’ presentations. Although the topic is kind of silly and fun, it still focuses our brains on the existential questions that make Hamlet such an interesting piece of art.
Great job, everybody.