The Question of Hamlet

Below are some questions that have appeared on the “open” essay question on the AP Literature and Composition test.   On that essay, you are allowed to pick a novel or play that you have read.   For the purposes of this assignment, however, I want you to answer one of the questions using Shakespeare’s Hamlet.   Remember to follow the general writing rubric you have.

Question 1
One definition of madness is “mental delusion or the eccentric behavior arising from it.”   But Emily Dickinson wrote:
Much madness is divinest Sense—
To a discerning Eye—
Novelists and playwrights have often seen madness with a “discerning Eye.”   Select a novel or play in which a character’s apparent madness or irrational behavior plays an important role.   Then write a well-organized essay in which you explain what this delusion or eccentric behavior consists of and how it might be judged reasonable.   Explain the significance of the “madness” to the work as a whole.   Do not merely summarize the plot.

Question 2
The 18th century novelist Laurence Sterne wrote, “No body, but he who has felt it, can conceive what a plaguing thing it is to have a man’s mind torn asunder by two projects of equal strength, both obstinately pulling in contrary directions at the same time.”
Choose a character in Hamlet (not necessarily the protagonist) whose mind is pulled in conflicting directions by two compelling desires, ambitions, obligations, or influences.   Then in a well-organized essay, identify each of the two conflicting forces and explain how this conflict within one character illuminates the meaning of the work as a whole.

Question 3
Many works of literature not readily identified with the mystery or detective story genre nonetheless involve the investigation of a mystery.   In these works, the solution to the mystery may be less important than the knowledge gained in the process of its investigation.   Write an essay in which you identify the mystery in Hamlet and explain how the...