Hamlet Extra Credit Assignment #6 - Symbolism!

Hamlet Activity: Symbolism

Here's the thing about symbols. Works of literature aren't meant to be solely "Great Symbol Hunts" or "Da Vinci Codes" that need to be cracked, but symbols are indeed a vital part of most literary works and often crucial to understanding the theme that the author is trying to communicate.

What makes symbols even more complicated is that they often have several different meanings that change over the course of a text; some of those meanings may even contradict other earlier meanings.

Reading Shmoop's discussion of Hamlet Symbolism, Imagery, and Allegory may be a good place to start your attempt to understand symbolism. In this section, Shmoop identifies some of the most important examples of symbolism, imagery, and allegory in Hamlet so you know what to look out for while reading.

The best way to begin understanding a symbol is loosely and lightly. Don't think that if you don't decode the symbolism right away that you will never "get" the text. Symbols take time to understand properly, and their meaning is often up for debate (even the meanings of symbols you may find on Shmoop are not definitive — ultimately how a symbol is interpreted is up to you).

In longer literary works, a symbol is recurrent or repeated several times throughout the text. To begin to grasp the symbol's meaning, it's a good idea to note each time it appears and attempt to identify its meaning in that particular context. Taking notes while you're reading or using this symbolism graphic organizer can help you keep track of a symbol's appearance and its possible meanings.

Instead of the chart, you may prefer to do a web of symbolic meanings (like when you brainstorm). Simply place the symbol in a circle in the middle of a blank page and surround it with circles filled with particular contexts in which your symbol appears and a brief discussion of its possible meaning in that context.

Be prepared to share at least one meaning of a symbol from Hamlet from your chart with the class. Be sure to note the exact location of your symbol's appearance in your reading.