Arts, Hamlet, Lifestyle, Theatre

Absolut Fringe 2012: What I’m hoping to see!


From the 8-23 September, Dublin is the place to be with the ABSOLUT Fringe Festival taking place over the course of the fortnight.

The festival, which is in its 18th year, is Ireland’s largest multi-disciplinary arts festival and promises to bring the very best in contemporary and innovative performances to venues all over the city.

The 2012 Fringe Festival will be a haven of artistic creativity, with everything from art, theatre, comedy and circus performances being held in a wide variety of venues ranging from traditional theatres to quaint cafes.

This year’s Fringe Festival looks bigger and better than ever before and it’s a must-see event for all the family! Here are some of the performances I hope to attend:



Everyone knows that the origins of Shakespeare’s stories weren’t always from the complex workings of his inner mind. He borrowed from legends, some may even say he plagiarised, and this show asked if Shakespeare was a “literary genius or a thieving shit?” This play by Jason Byrne, Gavin Kostick and Conor Madden (who has played the Danish prince with Second Age theatre company) explores the man who inspired Shakespeare’s multi-faceted protagonist – Amleth. For Hamlet nerds such as myself, this is a must see!

Tickets are €10 and it’s taking place in Bewley’s Café Theatre. For times and dates, check out:



The Irish Times are calling this “the funniest shit ever” and this comedy show has sold out at the Edinburgh Comedy Festival for the last four years! The show promises to offer “wickedly twisted characters, unpredictable scenes and high energy performances” and without knowing much more, I’m heading to the International Bar to check it out!

Here are the statistical deets:


Death of a Tradesman

No, I haven’t got the name wrong. This is not Arthur Miller’s play with the wrong name. This promises to be a fantastic play about an Irishman who dreams of dollar bills, but is running low on luck and funds. It’s about Willy, a 54-year-old tradesman who has a “bad back and a short fuse”. No doubt a product of recessionary Ireland, Death of a Tradesman is about “an army of men and the live register.” This should be an interesting and poignant production. I’ll definitely be going to the Project Arts Centre to check it out.

Guide to Leaving Cert English 2012, Hamlet

Last minute Hamlet advice – Jamie Tuohy



Hamlet is renowned for being one of the greatest tragedies in English literature and is undoubtedly one of Shakespeare’s finest plays, but it is also one of his most complex pieces. Just like its titular character, Hamlet is a play that is multi-faceted and rarely straightforward, but that doesn’t mean it has to be hard to comprehend.

Here are some pointers for you to expand on in your essays:


The Role of Women in Shakespeare’s Hamlet:


  • Open your essay with a quote. This grabs the reader’s attention and immediately shows your engagement with the question and knowledge of the play.
  • “Frailty thy name is woman”. These are words spoken by the titular character of William Shakespeare’s Hamlet that highlight the role of women within this tragedy.
  • Women are characterised as weak and subservient and as obedient and acquiescent.
  • Gertrude and Ophelia play a passive role in the play’s proceedings, but are crucial to exposing the play’s central themes and the titular character’s misogyny.



  • Gertrude is living in the shadow of two kings and in this sense; she is wholly dependent on men.
  • Claudius describes her as the “imperial jointress to this war like state”. However she does little to prove this.
  • She is too weak to challenge Claudius and her role as the Queen of Denmark is constantly undermined and overshadowed by his dominance.
  • Gertrude portrays the fickleness of women. There are suggestions she had a relationship with Claudius, even when Old Hamlet was still alive. According to the Ghost, Claudius “won by shameful lust, the heart of my most seeming virtuous queen”.
  • Women are characterised in a one dimensional manner – they cannot live without a man and constantly need one in their lives. Gertrude’s “o’er hasty marriage” to Claudius exemplifies this.
  • As a queen, Gertrude is ineffectual and as a mother, she is insensitive and blind to her son’s distress.
  • Gertrude cannot understand why Hamlet persists with his melancholic demeanour and agrees with Claudius when he says “tis unmanly grief”. Gertrude lets her own opinion of Hamlet’s mental state be influenced by Claudius.
  • However, Gertrude’s redeeming feature is her propensity for goodness.
  • None of Gertrude’s actions are premeditated, so it seems rather fitting that she dies drinking from the poison chalice – completely unaware of what is in it.
  • Through her death, Gertrude highlights the position of women within this tragedy – completely obedient and totally oblivious to the corruption around them.



  • Ophelia, like Gertrude is a woman who is led and controlled by the men in her life. She is described by her brother Laertes as “a sweet sister and a kind maid”. Ophelia’s primary role is to showcase Hamlet’s warped view of women.
  • Out of all the characters in the play, she is the one who cast in the most one dimensional manner.
  • Ophelia has the potential to be a tragic heroine, to overcome her father’s control and gain Hamlet’s love, but due to her submission and conformity, she is merely tragic.
  • Shakespeare uses Ophelia to portray the fickleness of women.
  • As Polonius’ daughter, Ophelia is extremely obedient. When he tells her not to speak to Hamlet anymore, she obliges, saying “I shall obey my lord”.
  • Ophelia resigns to the fact that Hamlet is “subject to her birth”, simply because her brother Laertes told her. She accepts these ‘truths’ because she is too weak to challenge male authority.
  • There are recurring tones of misogyny throughout the play and Ophelia’s acquiescence; combined with Hamlet’s maltreatment of her showcases this.
  • He uses guttural language when speaking to her, saying “get thee to a nunnery, why woulds’t thou be a breeder of sinners?” This is a grossly offensive remark to the “sweet and innocent Ophelia”, but she simply agrees to do as Hamlet tells her, possessing no strength of character to stand her ground.
  • It is notable that Gertrude – a woman announces Ophelia’s death, elucidating women’s ability to empathise with each other.
  • Ophelia kills herself because of the men in her life – her father is dead and her love for Hamlet is unrequited. She cannot function without a man and therefore, is driven to insanity.
  • Gertrude’s elegiacal speech on Ophelia’s death highlights the frailty of women and portrays the poignancy of her death. “Sweets for the sweet”, she says, as she places flowers on Ophelia’s coffin.
  • Ophelia’s association with nature – the flowers, the willow tree in the lake, all display “a young maiden” who was pure, virtuous and fatally innocent.


The Importance of the Soliloquy:

This question was one of the expected questions for last year and didn’t appear, but I wouldn’t rule it out for this year. The reason I decided to include this question as opposed to another one is because it’s all encompassing. This question lends itself to exposing the themes of deception, revenge, corruption, filial duty, loyalty and is also one that can deals with Hamlet’s and Claudius’ characters.

For this question, Hamlet and Claudius are the two best characters to write about, partly because their soliloquys are often spoken about each other and partly because they speak some of the most famous lines in English literature. I chose four soliloquys by Hamlet and two by Claudius. I never worried about logistics or ratios – this is English, not maths and Hamlet has more memorable speeches anyway!



  • Act 1, Scene 2: “O that this too too solid flesh would melt…”
    • This is an extremely telling and revealing soliloquy, as we see a deeply depressed and saddened Hamlet, as he is grieving for the loss of his father, but also expressing his disgust towards his mother to “post with such dexterity to incestuous sheets”.
    • This speech portrays Hamlet’s love for his late father and his anger and hatred towards Claudius – even before he knows that he is the murderer of his father.
    • We see Hamlet as powerless, as he must “hold his tongue” and therefore, we sympathise with him and forgive his misogynistic generalisation of women.
    • He is ultimately motivated by filial duty.


  • Act 2, Scene 2: “O what a rogue and peasant slave am I?”
    • Hamlet’s self-directed harangue not only expresses his annoyance at himself for not acting sooner, but it also develops the plot and provides us with a dramatic irony.
    • These lines display Hamlet’s true inner conflict – he is on a quest to avenge his father’s death and kill Claudius, but he hesitates on carrying out this cold and callous act because he condemns himself as a “coward”, even though he has “the motive and the cue for passion”.
  • Act 3, Scene 1: “To be or not to be?”
    • Hamlet is a thinker and philosopher, rather than a man of action.
    • It is important to note that Hamlet does not directly relate this soliloquy to his own cause, but instead uses inclusive pronouns like “we” and “us” and the indefinite “who”.
    • This allows the audience to be a part of the play and even though Hamlet’s mental nadir is evident through his soliloquy – he is speaking on behalf of everyone who is torn and faces a similar dilemma.
    • He tells us that even though death may be preferable to life, we are restricted from action by fear and moral judgement. Perhaps this is the explanation for why Hamlet cannot kill Claudius?
    • This is an extremely important soliloquy, as it develops the character of Hamlet and gives us an insight into the numerous facets of his complex mind.


  • Act 3, Scene 3: “Now might I do it pat, now he is praying…”
    • He has evidence that Claudius is the killer, but cannot do so, because he believes that Claudius is praying and will be sent to heaven if he is killed mid-prayer.
    • In terms of dramatic function, this soliloquy allows us to delve into Hamlet’s mind and see that he is motivated by revenge, but he is also guided by his morals and his conscience.
    • It also exemplifies Hamlet’s procrastination and portrays his constant vacillation from action to inertia.



  • Act 3, Scene 3: “O! My offence is rank and smells to heaven…”
    • This speech portrays Claudius as a villain with a conscience.
    • He wants to pray for forgiveness for his “most unnatural crime”, but he is unwilling to give up the merits of his anomalous act – namely “my crown” and “my queen”.
    • This is his most important soliloquy, as it presents Claudius in a three-dimensional manner. He isn’t the cold-hearted villain we thought he was, as he knows that he will always be “struggling to be free”.
    • It also provides dramatic irony. We know that Claudius isn’t praying, but Hamlet does not.
  • Act 4, Scene 3: “The present death of Hamlet, do it England…”
    • Once again, we see Shakespeare creating dramatic irony as we are informed of Claudius’ intentions towards the unsuspecting Hamlet.
    • Claudius sees Hamlet as a “desperate disease” and recognises him as a threat to the state, but more importantly his crown.
    • It also shows us that Claudius isn’t the noble king he would like everyone to think he is – he is ruthless and callous and willing to commit even more grievous acts to remain in power.


What Worked For Me:

  • I had a few tricks for gaining top marks in any Hamlet question and one of them was to read any relevant speeches or soliloquys and then explain them to myself out loud, as if I were teaching them to a class. Admittedly, this drove my family mad, as each night I would just speak to myself in the Bard’s language. However, you will be amazed how much information you will retain from reciting quotations out loud. It will also allow you to use quotes that aren’t obvious and not the usual ones that all students use. Adopting the broody demeanour and sullen gaze of the Danish prince, while whaling “to be or not to be”, is of course, optional.


  • I mentioned how important characters are when it comes to Hamlet and I had a handy method for being prepared for any question on the text. Take a character each night for a week and write down all their traits, then compare them to all the other major characters of the play. For example, tonight, take Hamlet and write down all his characteristics and then compare and contrast him with Claudius, Polonius, Gertrude and Ophelia. By the time you’ve all the characters done at the end of the week, you’ll be sorted for any question.


  • I always tried to have a piece of information that not many other students would have and this involved a little bit of secondary reading, which is good practice for college! A great point for Hamlet is the “Oedipal Complex”, developed by the Austrian psychoanalyst Sigmund Freud. He argued that Hamlet delays in killing Claudius because Claudius has acted out Hamlet’s subconscious desire to kill his father and marry his mother. Knowing this doesn’t mean you should give a psychoanalytic reading of the text, but it’s a great additional point for talking about Hamlet’s character or his relationship with Gertrude.
Guide to Leaving Cert English 2012, Hamlet

Here’s an old post which has been popular over the last few days! It should certainly be one of the questions students are focusing in on – it’s long overdue!

More Matter Jamie

If there is any justice in the world, the people setting the English Leaving Cert exam this year should put a soliloquy question on the paper for the Hamlet question. If I were doing the Leaving Cert this year, this would be one of the essays I would be concentrating on, because:

  • This is an essay that basically prepares you for EVERY OTHER QUESTION.
  • If you’re asked to write about theme, you’ll be talking about how it is conveyed and that is through the characters and through WHAT THEY SAY.
  • The soliloquy essay is one in which you talk about all the different aspects of the play – you’ll be talking about the role of women, Hamlet’s procrastination and Claudius’ deceit.
  • I ALSO PREDICT THERE WILL BE SOMETHING ABOUT DECEPTION on this year’s paper and this essay is a perfect example of deception – it is only through the soliloquies…

View original post 1,733 more words

Guide to Leaving Cert English 2012, Hamlet

Images of Disease in Hamlet – Jamie Tuohy

Took 20 mins out of exam study to make some quick notes for all you Leaving Certers worried about the tricky question of ‘disease in Hamlet’:
  • There are a considerable number of images of sickness and disease in Hamlet describing the unwholesome condition of Denmark morally.
  • This image of the Danish court dominates the play.
  • Associated with this are images of poison and decay.
  • All these related images form a powerful, imaginative pattern, contributing to the mood and atmosphere of the play and reinforce its central themes.
  • The Ghost’s description of Old Hamlet’s murder is presented in language associated with disease (poison).
  • The murder is not enacted but we are very aware of the distasteful nature of the crime. The poison used by Claudius is a ‘leprous distillment’ which causes disease, and a ‘vile and loathesome crust’ of scabs to cover the body of its victim.
  • The corruption of Denmark and its people is seen as insidious poisoning.
  • Marcellus says “there’s something rotten in the state of Denmark”. 
  • Poisoning is not just something described by the Ghost and featured in the imagery – it recurs in the Dumb-Show and is the means by which all the major characters die/
  • The imagery of corruption, sickness and decay, is often a reflection of Hamlet’s darker moods, as for example, in his first soliloquy, with its emphasis on the ‘sullied flesh’ and on the world as an ‘unweeded garden’ infested with all things ‘rank and ‘gross’.
  • He regards his mother’s sin as a ‘blister’ on the ‘fair forehead of an innocent love’. 
  • He sees Claudius as a ‘mildewed ear’ – blasting his ‘wholesome brother’.
  • He tells Gertrude that if she refuses to face up to her guilt, she will be like somebody trying to find a cure for an ulcer and by covering it with useless ointment, while “rank corruption mining all within/infects unseen”.
  • He compares the war between Norway and Poland to a kind of tumour, which grows out of too much wealth and he thinks of his decision to spare the life of a praying Claudius and his mother’s part i it, as the ultimate sources of the poison and rottenness which threaten the well-being of Denmark.
  • On the other hand, Claudius thinks that Hamlet is the source of Denmark’s decay.
  • After the death of Polonius, he compares his lateness in having Hamlet locked up, to “a foul disease”, who permits it to undermine his life. “Diseases desperate grown by desperate appliance are relieved or not at all”.
  • He says to Laertes of Hamlet’s return “but to the quick of the ulcer/Hamlet comes back”.
  • As well as emphasising the imaginative effect of imagery of sickness, disease and poisoning, we should include other influences which help to counterbalance the sense of decay and corruption induced by the reflections of Claudius and Hamlet.
  • The atmosphere of the play is not entirely one of gloom an ugliness.
  • Hamlet is a rich and varied play, encompassing many moods and many contrasting strands of imagery.
  • Against the morbid atmosphere evoked by numerous reference to rottenness and corruption, exists the lyrical beauty of Hamlet’s description of the morning dressed in a russet mantle, Marcellus’ splendid lines on Christmas tide, the associations of grandeur and magnificence called up by Hamlet’s ample classical imagery and Gertrude’s delicate and elegiacal account of Ophelia’s death. 


Good Luck,


Comparative Study, Guest Leaving Cert Bloggers, Hamlet, Paper 1, Poetry

Exams, Exams and more Exams!

Leaving Cert English students: I have to take a break from posting Leaving Cert English notes for the next month or so, as I have my own college exams to study for, which will be finishing on May 14th.

Thank you all for viewing the blog and checking out the essays and if I get time in between reading Chaucer and analyzing literary theories, I’ll see what I can do re: posting, but I have to dedicate my time to passing my own exams first!

There are plenty of notes on the blog to keep you all going and at this stage, I’m sure you will all fly through the exam! The posts for English are the most time consuming because I usually write them from scratch, rather than referring to notes from last year (I also do this occasionally).

Thanks for viewing and I’ll get back to more frequent posting when my exams are over on May 14th, which still leaves a few weeks before the Leaving Cert begins….the usual time when students actually start studying!


Best of Luck,


Guide to Leaving Cert English 2012, Hamlet

Comic Moments in “Hamlet” – Jamie Tuohy


Comic Moments in Hamlet

It would be particularly cruel of the Department of Education to set such a difficult question on this year’s exam. However, in saying that, in every great tragedy, resides the potential for comedy. That is to say, that the chaos, destruction and lack of consequences can at times morph into the carnivalesque – resulting in side splitting laughter. OKAY, maybe not side splitting laughter, and when we use the words ‘comedy’ or ‘funny’ to describe this Shakespearean drama, we’re probably using the words in their loosest definition (unless, like me, you’re a proper nerd and do actually find Hamlet hilarious, at times!).

Here are some notes on “Comic Moments in Hamlet“: (It’s essentially a few paragraphs, or the rough outline of an essay, but I’ve put them into bullet points to make it easier to read). While an essay on comedy might now come up, these points can be made in relation to other topics, especially the character of Hamlet.

  • Hamlet is famous for its deft mingling of comedy and tragedy. From the beginning of the play, the festive and carnivalesque have existed in parallel with the tragic perspective on life.
  • Thus, the celebration of Claudius’ and Gertrude’s wedding acknowledges the death that made it possible. As Hamlet acerbically remarks “the funeral baked meats did coldly furnish forth the marriage tables”.
  • If Hamlet appears here, to be an enemy of the carnivalesque, exhibiting a particular distaste for excessive eating and drinking, he also brings the worlds of comedy and tragedy together.
  • Describing himself as a “jig-maker” and playing the role of court jester, or “critic” to the king, he punctures men’s pretensions to greatness, by reducing them to the condition of decaying and vermiculated flesh.
  • Polonius becomes no more than a malodorous corpse, whose “guts” must be “lug[ged]” into the other room.
  • The gravediggers who appear in Act 5, expand on Hamlet’s role.
  • As ordinary, labouring men, digging the earth, they represent an expansion of the narrow, claustrophobic world characterized by the Danish court.
  • Moreover, their COMIC DISRESPECT for death; as they toss skulls out of graves is matched by a similar contempt for the distinctions conveyed by class and wealth – “why, there thou sayest; and the more pity that great folk should have countenance in this world to drown and hang themselves more than their even Christian…”.
  • It’s this spectacle that gets Hamlet meditating on the skull, and he too finds comedy in that fact that Yorick, the man who was paid to tell jokes at his father’s court, should have been reduced to such a hideous object.
  • Although this scene is often taken as an image of serious contemplation or as a ‘memento mori’, it’s also a comic epiphany of the absurdity of life and death.
  • The entrance of Ophelia’s funeral procession, with all the assembled court, shifts our attention back to the play’s tragic viewpoint.
  • It may be significant, however, that Shakespeare has not given the gravedigger an exit line, allowing him to remain on stage throughout the scene – an amused spectator of these “great ones” and their tribulations.

These are just some points which I hope will help you tackle the topic of “comedy in Hamlet”. They are more conversation starters than definite points about the play’s comedic value, but the duality of Hamlet’s character and his apparent contempt for corruption and hypocrisy, while hiding behind his “antic disposition” is one of the play’s central comedic plots, if not an expression of the Danish prince’s ingenious comic timing.


Polonius is a character who is described as a “meddling old fool” and his stupidity and lack of moral sense are set up as the antithesis to Hamlet’s cunning and moral sensitivity. Along with Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, Polonius is one of the play’s unintentional central funny men. We don’t laugh with Polonius, but rather at him, as his hypocrisy and ignorance provide the basis for some of the play’s most funny and tragically ironic moments.  If Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are hapless “sponges” who will do anything for the king, then Polonius is a feeder to Claudius’ hedonism, treachery and self indulgence. He is the principal counsellor of the state ofDenmark, yet his meddling ways reduce him to the level of an old busy body, with too much time on his hands. The comedy resides in the fact that Polonius views himself as an essential asset to the state, but Claudius sees him as nothing more than a useful functionary. Polonius dies, essentially doing Claudius’ dirty work (don’t say this in your essay), and even after he has died, his death is ridiculed by Hamlet, who teases Claudius by telling him where he can and cannot find the “rash, intruding fool’s” body, as Hamlet says he has “compounded it with dust whereto tis kin”. Even if his death echoes the faint image of martyrdom and Claudius describes him as a man “faithful and honourable”, we see Polonius as an insincere, cynical and corrupt man, whose fall from grace is one of the play’s funniest plots.

This last point is the key to most of the play’s comic moments – the Danish court is full of hypocrisy and false appearances. The characters themselves are filled with false notions of themselves and it’s hard to work out if they really know who they are. The false image of the Danish court is central to the play’s comedic value, as when characters like Claudius and Polonoius fall from grace, we view it as just and humourous. I wonder what Freud would have said about that?!

Summary of the points of Comedy:

  • Hamlet’s duality.
  • Hamlet’s ridiculing of death.
  • The juxtaposition of tragedy and comedy, embodied through the funeral and wedding.
  • The insincerity and grandeur of Polonius. After all, the name of this blog is derived from Gertrude’s wish that Polonius would be more matter of fact with his statements and less convoluted and hyperbolic. 
  • You can also talk about THE CHARACTER OF OSRIC and his acquiescence towards Hamlet.
  • The general hypocrisy and double standards of the court.

And there you go folks! I have to say, that when you tackle the question like this and break it down, it’s not that hard at all. I made these points from memory, so when I started, I was thinking “urgh, this is going to be tough”, but if I can make those points without having studied the play in nearly a year, you guys will be absolutely fine. This is actually a really interesting essay topic and it just goes to show that when you plan your essays, it makes them ten times easier!

Happy studying, and good luck,


Guide to Leaving Cert English 2012, Hamlet, Indulgence, Paper 1, Poetry, Ramblings, Showbiz

Check this blog out on Facebook

Hey everyone,

Apologies for the lack of posts in recent weeks – I’m in the midst of studying for my summer exams! This is just a short post to tell you all that I’ve created a Facebook page for the blog, so all you LEAVING CERT ENGLISH students can now ask me questions on there related to the exam or specific essay questions.

A few students have Tweeted me saying they can’t comment on here, so the Facebook page will hopefully make this blog more accessible. In the coming months, I’ll be revamping this blog and gearing it more towards a lifestyle blog, but for now, the majority of the posts will be related to Leaving Cert English.

If you have a minute and are on Facebook, please like the page here: and feel free to ask me questions and post comments! Thank you all for reading, liking, commenting and viewing! It’s much appreciated!


Jamie 🙂