Tragedy, Comedy, Comedy, Tragedy

For my final blog post in phase two, I have broken down Act 5 into four parts.  In keeping with my exploration of the tragic and comedic factors in this act (see my last blog post), I hypothesised that each of these parts is either more tragic or more comedic, and I wanted to figure out if the word frequencies supported my hypothesis.

Part 1 Word Frequencies

The first part I looked at included Hamlet and Horatio’s conversation with the gravediggers from the beginning of scene 1 up to the point where the King enters.  Though there are many puns and jokes exchanged between the characters, I believe that the overall thematic elements concerning this scene are indicative of a tragedy.  My results support this opinion.  Tapor cannot identify the comedic play on language that Shakespeare uses, but based on the word frequency one will assume that the overall tone of the dialogue is very morbid.  The central theme is death and even though the word itself is not said very often, there are many allusions to it (highlighted in black boxes) through the use of words such as “drown,” “skull” and “spade.”  The many occurrences of these words sum up to 46 references to death in this one section alone! I think it is safe to say the the word usage in this part is consistent with a tragedy.

Part 2 Word Frequencies

Part 2, spanning from the point that the nobles enter until the end of scene 1, is very different when compared to part 1.  Though the theme of death is still present, it is no longer as frequently alluded to because it is now accompanied by “love.”  My interpretation of this part is that particularly comedic like.  Even though it can be considered a tense moment in the play, it largely consists of Hamlet and Laertes arguing as to who loved Ophelia more, an situation that is also seen in comedies such as A Midsummer Nights Dream.  Due to the difference in word frequencies between part 1 and 2, TAPoR’s results also support this conclusion.  Both the presence of love as a topic, and the plethora of verbs such as “make” and “come,” indicate a lighter tone when compared to the proceeding events.

Part 3 Word Frequencies

Part 3 includes the beginning of scene 2 up to the point where the King enters.  This part is one that I also consider comedic due to Osric’s ridiculous speech patterns and the use of repetition by Hamlet to mock him.  As a result, the word frequencies for part three are not that interesting, but they do suggest the lighter tone that is similarly prevailant through part 2.  For instance, there are many positive adjectives like “good” and “great” used to describe the characters.  However, as if in reminder of events to come, there are also 3 mentions of both nature and faith, which link to the fate of Hamlet and his realitives.

Part 4 Word Frequencies

The fourth and final part contrasts to part 2 and 3, but resemble the first part in that it frequently uses lemmas of “death” and alludes to the phrase through the words such as “drink,” “poison,” “hit” and “shot.”  I also found it interesting that the words “speak” and “tell” are mentioned five times each, making me think as to the theme of regret.  Tragedies usually contain one character who, in the end, regrets his/her decisions and wishes to “speak” in order to explain themselves or apologize.  Though in the case of Hamlet, the usage of these two words is concentrated near the end of the scene where Hamlet wishes Horatio to stay alive and recount his tale, perhaps to avoid this mayhem in future circumstances.

Overall this exploration had been interesting.  It seems that Act 5 begins and ends with diction that suggests tragic elements, while comedic word usage prevails throughout the middle to break the tension.

2 thoughts on “Tragedy, Comedy, Comedy, Tragedy

  1. Very interesting work Stephanie. Comparing it to the analysis I did of Act 5 where I could simply get the single acts I found that overall the first act was more comedic and second was more tragic. What line segments did you use for the four different parts? I’m interested to see if that would alter my findings at all. In Tapor were you able to get the use of the word “speak” or did you just make that assumption through your reading of the play in the past, I’m kind of clueless when it comes to the other tools.

    This is great work and will really help our group come to some conclusions for the presentation. Keep it up!

  2. Really interesting findings- I’ve never considered any part of Act 5 to be particularly comedic. Your work with this act has definitely made me view it from a different perspective, and makes me wonder what if hidden comedic diction may be lurking inside any/all of Shakespeare’s other tragedies. I especially find it interesting that you didn’t break up the act by its scenes and instead chose your own parts- like your team mate posted above, this must’ve given different results. What was your original motivation/ idea for creating your own divisions in the text? How helpful was the tool at distinguishing the parts? Or did you close read before defining your parts and then put it in the tool? Would it have made any difference? Just wondering how independent your tool is as compared to mine and the others.

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