How would one write a thesis for an essay on Shakespeare's Hamlet concerning the theme appearance vs. reality, using the idea that the characters in Hamlet use disguise to subvert their true natures in order to achieve power?
The instructor wants us to use the following format: By considering (specific textual elements that make up supporting arguments), it can be argued that (argument- specifically WHY these textual elements matter).
What are "textual elements," and how does one write a thesis with textual elements included?
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The term textual elements simply refers to any textual evidence from the play you plan to use to prove your thesis. We state the textual evidence in the thesis in order to lay out our entire argument in the thesis so that we construct a thesis that serves as a strong road map to the arguments in our essay.
There is definitely a lot of evidence you can use to prove your idea that disguise is used to conceal true natures in Shakespeare's Hamlet. I would actually use the verb conceal rather than subvert, because to subvert means to "overthrow," "to ruin," or even to destroy, especially through corruption, whereas to conceal simply means to hide or "to keep secret" (Random House Dictionary). Depending on what you want to argue exactly, you might even go with obscure, because to obscure something means to make it "vague" or "ambiguous" (Random House Dictionary).
One idea for evidence is that you might use the disguises of the players to argue about power. Or, if you choose not to refer to literal disguises, since there truly are not many literal disguises, you could use any false nature to metaphorically speak of a disguise. One obvious example is that Claudius acted as a true friend and brother towards the late King of Denmark but in reality was a traitor who had seduced his brother's wife and even stooped to murder to gain the throne, as the ghost of the late king explains to Hamlet:
Sleeping within my orchard ... thy uncle stole,
With juice of cursed hebenon in a vial,
And in the porches of my ears did pour
The leperous distilment (I.v.64-69)
Another example would be that Rosencrantz and Guildenstern pretend to be Hamlet's friends yet readily agree to spy on Hamlet for Claudius to see if Hamlet has truly gone mad.
Hence, using your instructor's format, if you were to write a thesis using any of these points, your thesis might look like the following:
- By considering the hidden natures of Claudius, Rosencrantz, and Guildenstern, it can be argued that Shakespeare shows how true natures can be disguised to conceal true natures as a means of gaining power.
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