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Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Materials from MRA #2: Dear Confused Letter

Hello, all.  I'm continuing to post materials from my MRA presentation on close reading.  This activity is called the "Dear Confused Letter," and I heard about it many years ago.  If you Google "Dear Confused Letter," you'll find many variations.  Below is a template, sample, and FCAs (Focus Correction Areas--a type of analytic rubric) for the writing assignment. 



Dear Confused Letter—Hamlet

Dear Confused:
            Paragraph #1:  I know this passage may seem perplexing, but it’s not that difficult to understand.
            Paragraph #2:  Summary—Who, what, when, where, why.  What is being said?  Paraphrase and explain.
            Paragraph #3:  Analysis—Why is this passage important to the play as a whole?  What language does Shakespeare use to make this passage especially meaningful?  What came before and after it that makes it important?  Use at least three quotes interwoven in your analysis.  (300 to 500 words for these two paragraphs)
            Paragraph #4:  I hope my explanation has illuminated your understanding!
                                                                                                            Sincerely,
                                                                                                            (sign here)
                                                                                                            Talented and Insightful Reader
Act I, Scene 2 , lines 87 to 117
A Brief Model

Dear Confused:

            I know this passage may seem perplexing, but it’s not that difficult to understand.

            This is a speech by Claudius, Hamlet’s uncle and now stepfather.  He says he admires how much sadness and true emotion Hamlet is showing about his father’s death but chides him for mourning too much for too long.  A father’s death is a fact of life.  He says it’s almost sinful for Hamlet to continue his grief this way—it’s inappropriate.  He asks him to stay in Denmark (not return to school) and let him and his new wife take care of Hamlet.

            This passage is important in crafting the character of Claudius.  It’s one of the first exposures we as the audience have of him.  Since the reader eventually knows he killed King Hamlet to take his throne and his wife, this passage can be read in retrospect as completely disingenuous and even quite insulting.  He seemingly mocks Hamlet for his “obstinate condolement” and suggests he is using “impious stubbornness.”  A normal person would comfort Hamlet, not rebuke him.  Claudius even questions Hamlet’s masculinity, saying he is exhibiting “unmanly grief.”  He is calling Hamlet immature, “simple and unschooled.”  The young man just lost his father!  An unknowledgeable reader could think Claudius is sincere, but we know better.  Though he claims he imparts a “nobility of love,” he is actually jealous of and suspicious of Hamlet and wants him nearby so he can control him.  As the play continues, we see how twisted and demented Claudius truly is.   237

            I hope my explanation has illuminated your understanding!


                                                                                                            Sincerely,
                                                                                               

                                                                                                            Talented and Insightful Reader


FCAS
Followed format of the letter and content of the letter                 /30
Level of analysis that demonstrates knowledge of
this section and whole play, analysis of language                          /40
Accountable errors: agreement, comma rules,
run-ons, fragments, apostrophes, quote usage                                 /30

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