"5) Do you agree that Hamlet can be a typical Palestinian guy? How?"

An obviously talented and dedicated university English teacher in Gaza, Refaat Alareer, posted this question last month as one of 12 Shakespeare questions for his students to answer on their class blog.  You can read all the questions and their responses here.  Here is the personal blog of the teacher; he’s also on Twitter at @ThisisGazaVoice. And here is my favorite of his students’ answers:
Can Hamlet be a typical Palestinian guy? Why?
Yes, he can.
Hamlet and an ordinary Palestinian guy have some things in common but also differ in other things. First, they resemble each other in the fact that, metaphorically speaking, the mother is presented as Palestine, Hamlet senior as a dead father and the uncle “Claudius” as Israel. The ghost of Hamlet tells Hamlet junior that “Claudius” killed him to marry his mother and take over the kingdom. This is found in act 1 scene 5 “The serpent that did sting thy father’s life 
    Now wears his crown
.”
 Consequently, the feeling of revenge as a result of the death of the father reveals for Palestinian guy the facts that Israel came to take over Palestine to enjoy its great riches and resources and make it their own. Thus, both Hamlet and the Palestinian desire to avenge the deaths of their fathers. However, they differ in two things. First, why the two couldn’t at the beginning avenge for the deaths of their fathers. Second, Hamlet managed to take revenge at the end. On the other hand, the Palestinian guy either died trying or still can’t. For further explanation, Hamlet couldn’t kill or delayed killing his uncle ’till later on for several reasons. First of all some say that these lines of Hamlet in act 3 scene 3″Now might I do it pat, now he is a-praying, and now I’ll do’t. And so goes to heaven, and am I re[ven]ged. That would be scanned. A villain kills my father, and for that, I his sole son do this same villain send to Heaven.” Prove that he was a religious man. So how can he kill the king? The God’s spokesman on earth. Second, he wasn’t very sure that his father was the ghost and what he had told him was true. Finally, some say that Hamlet didn’t want to hurt his mother. First his father dies and now her new husband. His love for her is found in act 3 scene 2 “I will speak daggers to her but use non.” The Palestinian couldn’t avenge his father’s death not because Israel is Allah’s representative on earth, or because he is not sure that Israel was the reason behind the death of his father nor is it because he didn’t want to hurt “Palestine” his mother. But because he simply doesn’t have the means to and if he could at this moment to get out there and avenge the death of his father he would do it without any delay or hesitation. The second thing they don’t have in common is that Hamlet at the end of the play manages to kill his father’s killer. Unlike the Palestinian guy who is still trying, hoping and wishing. So again yes Hamlet, in a way, can be a typical Palestinian guy.

Other students give a more politically universalizable youth-centered reading:

Of course, any Palestinian at one day of his life will face the same as Hamlet.
What Hamlet faced is called The identity crises .Your parents want you to be something you don’t want ,or against your future plans and the only thing is available to you is to follow them. Father wants you to be a doctor and your intelligence is linguistic you want to be a writer .To sum up you will do something for your father as Hamlet did.

As with teaching everywhere, it’s humbling to see what students get from the assignment, what they don’t get, what they appropriate as their own and what passes them by.  Of course there are local constraints too.  The student who wrote the long response above also posted: “But plz stop increasing the number of questions !! 3 weeks won’t be enough to answer them all !! First, no electricity. Second, no enough hours in the day !”

2 thoughts on “"5) Do you agree that Hamlet can be a typical Palestinian guy? How?"

  1. Hi Margaret, So, I was checking the Shakespeare homework I assigned my students and was making sure they did not plagiarize when i stumbled upon your post on the homework, stds' answers and me (thanks for the compliment). I was thrilled to finally find someone interested in Shakespeare and the Arab world. Maybe we can get in touch and arrange an online seminar/talk for some of my students if you are interested. best.Refaat this is my gmail: refatr17@gmail.com

  2. Hello, I was surprised to see that my answer got someone impressed( thank you so much for that )When we were assigned to do this homework, i felt very happy that we got to go and dig for the secrets behind Shakespeare's amazing writings. Mr Refaat always makes sure we go beyond what we read and have. 'Read what's between the lines' he says. Shakespeare's works seem to be suitable for all times and places which is pretty cool to read something written years ago and yet you find some things still here today. In his writings he would always represent 'The Other' and what we go through makes us feel that in Shakespeare's plays we would be portrayed as the other. And it would be really great to attend a skype talk with you if Mr Refaat works on it. And we can discuss things about Shakespeare and so.My Best WishesNour

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