Over-Analyzing??

I’ve always wondered whether we over analysis texts; so much that we make premises and conclusions which maybe the author had no conscious thought of evoking in the minds of his or her readers. Take for example the meme above (Yes, I am a shameless follower of the University of Calgary memes on Facebook!). Could we possibly be reading too much into Hamlet’s speech or the color of Gertrude’s dress when Hamlet verbally abuses her in Act 3.4? Maybe Hamlet saying “to be or not to be” simply meant to be or not to be.

As I start off my analysis in the second phase of our group projects, this thought reoccurs in my head once more. What if Shakespeare, who is considered an undisputed genius of his time, had no deeper meaning to his works but wrote his lines solely for the sake of giving a voice to his characters? Is he lounging on a lazyboy in some other world, laughing at our struggle to analyze his plays?

This brings me to my second thought; would any text be worth reading if you didn’t have to use at least half of your brain to analyze the plot, characters, moods and settings? Maybe the author didn’t have a specific reason to make her protagonist wear blue all the time; but does this really matter? I feel that analyzing allows us to give life to the characters we are reading about; we feel connected to them because we have tried to understand them. Without analysis, words would just be words; insignificant and not worth remembering. I’ve read Pride and Prejudice so many times that now I can start reading from any part in the book and still feel comfortable with my knowledge of the plot. This wouldn’t be possible if I didn’t analysis Mr. Darcy’s reactions to Elizabeth’s remarks or Elizabeth’s conversations with Jane. Analyzing is the reason you feel engaged enough to finish a book, play or poem and in turn enjoy the experience.

Coming back to the realm of Hamlet, I have been assigned Act 3, which in my opinion is the trigger of the action that proceeds after Hamlet confronts his mother in scene 4. I find that from all of the characters in Hamlet, Ophelia is the one that I would like to better understand. This statement might sound odd for why would someone choose to do an analysis on Ophelia’s submissive and mostly predictable character when the analysis of Hamlet, good old crazy Hamlet, or the mercenary Claudius would prove to be more interesting? It’s because Ophelia is that submissive woman character that usually has a part in most of Shakespeare’s plays; it makes one wonder what the reason is for her to be that way. For my final Blog post in phase 3, I plan to do a character analysis of Ophelia using WordHoard.

Oh WordHoard, my old friend. Once again I find myself having to use WordHoard but this time it is to analyze all of Act 3 and I must say, this time around it is much easier than I expected. Maybe it’s because I’ve (1) suddenly acquired a talent which enables me to understand WordHoard, (2) have such low expectations of the program that even the slightest successes are magnified or (3) it’s just easier to analyze a whole Act rather than just a scene (I’m hoping for number 1!). My group members and I have decided to start off with a general theme which all of us will analyze using our individual tools. Seeing as I had to dissect Gertrude’s and Hamlets relationship in Phase 1, I was quite happy that this time we would look at Hamlet’s behavior and feelings towards Ophelia. As I plan to do a character study of Ophelia I find that this will be a great starting point for starting my research. As for our progress in Phase 2, we are still working on achieving the same results from all of the tools; a task which isn’t going too well. I had written in my older blog posts that the use of all five tools to analyze a text will be more beneficial because the shortcomings that one tool has can be filled in by another tool. I still hold true to this statement and hope (cross my fingers) that our research is indeed more insightful than that of Phase 1.

One thought on “Over-Analyzing??

  1. I have found myself struggling with this same thought time and time again through my years as an academic and an English major! It seems impossible, especially after all of our time spent with specialized digital tools for analysis, that Shakespeare although a very intelligent man and literary genius, could have possibly intended for SO much behind his words. That being said, I truly believe in much the same as what you have put forward here. Additionally, it is our ability to analyze that creates individual stories for each of us, depending on our own experiences each reading of Shakespeare (or other works) are completely new and will continue to be new throughout the coming generations. Like you said, this is what brings us into the story and personalizes it for us. This is the reason Lyra Belacqua will always be my blood sister for as long as I live and I’ll probably be mauled by a polar bear someday for trying to befriend and ride it.
    As for a teacher’s interpretation of blue curtains: well, the curtains may very well have been blue but, I believe it’s their job as educators to turn it around on us. And much the same as it is their job to open the door to figurative language, it’s our job as students to say the curtains were never blue in the first place… they’re green.
    😉

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