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Hamlet
OBJECTIVES
By the end of this Unit, the student will be able to:
1. identify and discuss the characteristics of this play that mark it as a Shakespearean
tragedy.
2. discuss the major themes in the play:
A. Each person must experience evil, including his or her own contamination as a
result of it.
B. People are not always what they seem; they often play a deceptive part.
C. Revenge is not always justifiable for an individual.
D. The psychological state of depression, or thinking too much, can prevent a person
from taking practical action.
3. discuss Shakespeare’s style, including the use of figurative language, symbolism, and
the dramatic techniques of soliloquy, aside, dramatic foil, and allusion.
4. identify the aspects of Hamlet that classify it as a revenge tragedy.
5. understand Hamlet’s varying state of mind and how his condition relates to his
soliloquies.
6. discuss Hamlet and Ophelia’s relationship, including what aspects lead to her madness
and death.
7. describe the importance of the ghost as it relates to Hamlet and the themes of the play.
Hamlet
Questions for Essay and Discussion
1. Does Hamlet believe in divine justice? Identify evidence of Hamlet’s religious or supernatural
beliefs.
2. Discuss the motif of sickness in terms of its literal and symbolic functions in this tragedy.
3. Compare and contrast the father/son relationships that appear in the play: those of
Hamlet and his father(s), Laertes and Polonius, and Fortinbras and Old Norway.
4. Hamlet is famous for his long, agonizing moral deliberations. Is Hamlet truly con-
cerned with doing the right thing, or is he just indecisive?
5. Identify instances of espionage in the play. Which characters act as spies, and why?
6. Analyze any one of Hamlet’s soliloquies. Rephrase it and make his thoughts clear.
7. What do the characters say about words, their meanings, and how they are used?
Identify passages in which characters analyze one another’s speech.
8. Who is Horatio, and what purpose(s) does he serve in the play? Compare and contrast
his nature with that of Hamlet.
9. Does Hamlet feel that human reason is a gift or a curse? What responsibilities accom-
pany the human capacity for reason?
10. The motif of destiny appears throughout the play. Are the characters in Hamlet con-
trolled by fate or by their own choices?
11. Describe Hamlet’s behavior toward Ophelia, and his reaction to her death. Make sure to
include how Ophelia believes Hamlet treats her. Why might Hamlet behave this way?
12. Why does Hamlet postpone killing Claudius? What does this incident reveal about
Hamlet’s character?
13. Do you think Hamlet’s “antic disposition” is genuine insanity, or is it something else?
Support your belief with textual evidence.
14. In what light do the other characters view Hamlet after his death?
15. Revenge, both sought and postponed, is a major theme in Hamlet. Aside from Hamlet,
which other characters seek vengeance?
16. Look at the character of Polonius and determine whether he is a fool or simply an old
man who is wise, but long-winded. Use passages from the play to support your opinion.
17. What were Gertrude’s actual motives in marrying Claudius? For this answer, looking
beyond the play, into what happened before it begins, may be helpful. If you use this
technique, you should still support your reasoning with textual evidence.
Hamlet
QUIZ
Act I
Quotes: For the three quotes, identify the speaker and the situation or meaning:
1. “Neither a borrower nor a lender be:…
This above all,- to thine own self be true;”
2. “…meet it is I set it down,
That one may smile, and smile, and be a villain;”
3. “The serpent that did sting thy father’s life,
Now wears his crown.”
4. Write a paragraph to describe Hamlet’s situation regarding his parents, his rights to the
throne, his oath to the ghost, and his state of mind. Include the attitude other people
have toward him.
Hamlet
QUIZ
Act II
For the three quotes, identify the speaker and the situation or meaning:
1. “Lord Hamlet,…
with a look so piteous in purport,
As if he had been loosed out of hell
To speak of horrors,–he comes before me.”
2. “But what might you think,
When I had seen this hot love on the wing-
As I perceived it, I must tell you that, . . .
what might you,
Or my dear Majesty your Queen here, think,
If I had play’d the desk or table-book;
Or given my heart a winking, mute, and dumb,
Or look’d upon this love with idle sight;
What might you think?”
What is revealed about the speaker in the above quote?
3. “…the play’s the thing,
Wherein I’ll catch the conscience of the king.”
4. Write a short paragraph to describe Hamlet’s state of mind, giving examples. What does
he do and say?
5. Explain “antic disposition,” now that you have had an opportunity to judge Hamlet’s
behavior.
6. How does Hamlet treat Polonius?
Hamlet
QUIZ
Act III, Scene I
For the four quotes, identify the speaker and the situation or meaning:
1. “The harlot’s cheek, beautied with plast’ring art,
Is not more ugly to the thing that helps it,
Than is my deed to my most painted word:
O, heavy burden!”
2. “I have heard of your paintings too, well enough; God hath given you one face, and
you make yourselves another: you jig, you amble, and you lisp,…”
3. “And I, of ladies most deject and wretched,
That suck’d the honey of his music vows,
Now see that noble and most sovereign reason,
Like sweet bells jangled, out of tune and harsh;”
4. “Madness in great ones must not unwatch’d go.”
5. How does Hamlet treat Ophelia?
6. Describe Hamlet’s state of mind in his most famous soliloquy.
Hamlet
QUIZ
Act III, Scene II
For the three quotes, identify the speaker and the situation or meaning:
1. “Give me that man
That is not passion’s slave, and I will wear him
In my heart’s core, ay, in my heart of heart,
As I do thee.”
2. “The lady doth protest too much, methinks.”
3. “Let me be cruel, not unnatural;
I will speak daggers to her, but use none;”
4. Describe the relationship between Horatio and Hamlet. How does Hamlet feel about
Horatio? Why?
5. How does Gertrude react to the play? How does Claudius react?
6. Describe Hamlet’s state of mind at the end of this emotional scene.
Hamlet
QUIZ
Act III, Scenes III and IV
For the four quotes, identify the speaker and the situation or meaning:
1. “I…do this same villain send to heav’n.
O, this is hire and salary, not revenge…
To take him in the purging of his soul,
When he is fit and season’d for his passage? No!
Up, sword;”
2. “May one be pardon’d, and retain the offense?”
3. “I must be cruel, only to be kind:
Thus bad begins, and worse remains behind.”
4. “O, Hamlet! thou hast cleft my heart in twain.”
5. Describe Gertrude’s reaction to Hamlet.
6. Explain Hamlet’s position at the end of this act. Consider many different aspects.
Hamlet
QUIZ
Act IV
For the three quotes, identify the speaker and the situation or meaning:
1. “Sure, he that made us with such large discourse,
Looking before and after, gave us not
That capability and god-like reason
To fust in us unus’d. Now, whether it be
Bestial oblivion, or some craven scruple
Of thinking too precisely on the event,”
2. “O, this is the poison of deep grief; it springs
All from her father’s death.”
3. “To hell, allegiance! vows, to the blackest devil!
Conscience and grace, to the profoundest pit!
I dare damnation: to this point I stand,
That both the worlds I give to negligence,
Let come what comes; only I’ll be reveng’d
Most thoroughly for my father.”
4. In what three ways do the King and Laertes plan to kill Hamlet?
5. Compare the reactions of Fortinbras, Laertes, and Hamlet to “outrageous fortune” (i.e.
the death of their fathers and human hypocrisy). Whose reaction shows the most:
• wisdom
• control of emotions
• practicality
• strength of purpose
• righteousness (acting in a just, upright manner, virtuous, morally
• right, or justifiable)
Hamlet
QUIZ
Acts
For the three quotes, identify the speaker and the situation or meaning:
1. “Now get you to my lady’s chamber, and tell her, let her paint an inch thick, to this
favour she must come; make her laugh at that.”
2. “This is mere madness,
And thus a while the fit will work on him;
Anon…
His silence will sit drooping.”
3. “Was’t Hamlet wrong’d Laertes? Never, Hamlet:
If Hamlet from himself be ta’en away,
And when he’s not himself does wrong Laertes,
Then Hamlet does it not,…
Who does it then? His madness;”
4. Explain how Hamlet, Laertes, Gertrude, and Claudius die.
5. Why does Horatio not kill himself?
Hamlet
QUIZ ANSWERS
Act I
1. Act I, Scene III. Polonius is giving advice to his son Laertes before Laertes leaves for France.
2. Act I, Scene V. Soliloquy. Hamlet speaks about Claudius after seeing the ghost. He learns
that Claudius murdered old Hamlet. Hamlet is pointing out that Claudius seems caring but
is evil.
3. Act I, Scene V. The ghost of Old Hamlet is speaking to Hamlet, telling Hamlet the details of
his death.
4. Answers should include:
intense grief over father’s death
disgust with mother
disturbed that he will have to “set things right”
fear and wonder at the ghost and the information from the ghost
contempt for Claudius
Act II
1. Act II, Scene I. Ophelia is describing Hamlet to her father. Hamlet is behaving in a wild,
bizarre manner. He is unkempt and pitiful.
2. Act II, Scene II. Polonius is explaining to Claudius why he told Ophelia to reject Hamlet.
Polonius’ main concern is his own reputation. He is not considering his daughter or her
feelings.
3. Act II, Scene II. Hamlet, in another soliloquy, questions the truthfulness of the ghost; it may
be the devil tricking him into murdering Claudius. He needs objective evidence of Claudius’
guilt, and Hamlet’s altered play will prove or disprove Claudius’ murder.
4. Hamlet is angry with himself because he hasn’t acted against Claudius, he is questioning the
ghost’s honesty, and he is thinking instead of acting.
5. The “antic disposition” is questionable:
Is he mad or pretending to be mad?
Is he mad or just telling himself he is not?
Will behaving like a madman really convince Claudius that Hamlet is no danger and
give Hamlet time to find objective evidence to validate the ghost?
6. He treats Polonius with complete contempt. This is a deliberate act to confuse Polonius as to
Hamlet’s sanity. Hamlet’s brilliant mind and clever wordplay keep Polonius off-guard,
unsure, and bewildered.
Act III, Scene I
1. Act III, Scene I. Claudius, an aside. He is feeling guilt for his crime.
2. Act III, Scene I. Hamlet to Ophelia. He is raging at her about her falseness. He is also
speaking about women in general, including Gertrude.
3. Act III, Scene I. Ophelia, alone on stage after Hamlet leaves. She is suffering because she
had believed Hamlet loved her and because she believes Hamlet is insane.
4. Act III, Scene I. Claudius to Polonius. Claudius feels the threat of Hamlet. Hamlet needs to
be sent away to England.
5. He treats her with scorn. He feels her love for him was as shallow as his mother’s love for
his father. She allowed herself to be manipulated by both her father and Claudius, just as
his mother has been manipulated.
6. “To be or not to be…” Hamlet has both a desire for death and a fear of death. He is
wondering if he should use force against what is wrong and become soiled himself, or if he
should be passive. He fears death because he might dream. His conscience has made him a
coward.
Act III, Scene II
1. Act III, Scene II. Hamlet to Horatio. Hamlet is expressing his high regard for Horatio. He
respects Horatio because Horatio has self-control and he doesn’t let his emotions control
him.
2. Act III, Scene II. Gertrude, in response to Hamlet’s question of how she likes the play.
3. Act III, Scene II. Hamlet, soliloquy. He is going to see his mother to confront her with her
wrongdoing. He wants to sway her to his side against Claudius. He must not harm her (the
ghost’s command), but he must speak sharply to her.
4. It is one of complete trust. Horatio can be trusted because his “reason” dominates his
behavior. Horatio is a philosopher and a student, much as Hamlet himself is.
5.
She is concerned because Hamlet has offended Claudius. She is confused and worried about
Hamlet’s behavior.
6. He knows he must go to England. He plans to outwit Rosencrantz and Guildenstern. He
becomes rational as he pleads with his mother to turn away from Claudius. He says that he
is not insane, “but mad in craft.” Hamlet is eager to outsmart Claudius and not overly sad
to have killed Polonius.
Act III, Scenes III and IV
1. Act III, Scene III. Hamlet is ready to kill Claudius, certain of the King’s guilt. Claudius,
however, is praying.
2. Act III, Scene III. Claudius’ soliloquy. Can he be forgiven for killing his brother while he still
keeps the crown? He knows he can not.
3. Act III, Scene IV. Hamlet to his mother. He is telling her the painful truth to save her from
sin, etc. He had not wanted to kill Polonius, but more evil will occur.
4. Act III, Scene IV. Gertrude to Hamlet. He has broken her heart and hurt her with his words,
lunacy, and cruelty. It is possible that she has realized her sins.
5. Mainly she is fearful of him and has intense concern over his madness and what she
believes are hallucinations.
6. a. He is being sent to England; the King is aware that Hamlet knows about the murder.
b. He is positive of the King’s guilt.
c. Horatio is also convinced of the King’s guilt.
d. He feels obligated to revenge his father’s death, but when he has
the opportunity to murder Claudius, he can’t.
e. He feels that the ghost believes him to be weak and unable to act.
f. He knows that there will be more deaths.
g. He may be unsure of his own sanity because Gertrude did not see the ghost.
Act IV
1. Act IV, Scene IV. Hamlet, soliloquy. Hamlet realizes he has spent too much time thinking,
not acting. He realizes that to think is to use his greatest gift: reason.
2. Act IV, Scene V. Claudius to Gertrude about Ophelia’s madness. He is sorry for the indirect
consequences of his evil act.
3. Act IV, Scene V. Laertes is speaking to Claudius. He is demanding to know how his father
died. He will avenge his father’s death no matter what the consequences.
4. Laertes will wound Hamlet with a poisoned rapier during the duel. Hamlet will use a
blunted rapier, but Laertes will pick up a pointed sword. The King will offer Hamlet
poisoned wine.
5. Fortinbras:
• wisdom - gains public support, uses no false appearance
• control of emotions - honors uncle’s wish that he not attack
Denmark
• practicality
• strength of purpose
Hamlet:
• righteousness - finds it difficult to go against the Christian
ideal which says to leave vengeance to God
Laertes:
• strength of purpose - won’t take time to think
Act V
1. Act V, Scene I. Hamlet to the skull of Yorick. Hamlet is musing on death, claiming that no
matter how a person (in this case Gertrude or Ophelia) tries to look pleasing to the eye, she
will still end up in a grave.
2. Act V, Scene I. Gertrude to Laertes. She wants the fighting to stop and tells Laertes that
Hamlet is simply insane and will calm down soon.
3. Act V Scene I. Hamlet to Laertes. He is explaining (or lying) that it was not really Hamlet
who killed Polonius and is responsible for Ophelia’s death; it is Hamlet’s lunacy.
4. Hamlet is wounded by Laertes’ poisoned sword.
Laertes, after Hamlet grabs the poisoned sword, is also wounded by it.
Gertrude accidentally drinks the poison Claudius had prepared for Hamlet. Claudius is
stabbed by Hamlet and is then forced to drink the poison.
5. Horatio wants to commit suicide, but Hamlet prevents it because someone must remain alive
to tell Hamlet’s story truthfully.
I. Multiple Choice
1. Hamlet feels nothing but contempt for
A. Ophelia.
B. Gertrude.
C. Horatio.
D. Polonius.
2. Claudius is able to manipulate
A. Laertes.
B. Polonius.
C. Gertrude.
D. All of the above
3. The gravediggers suggest the idea that
A. death is inevitable.
B. life is meaningless.
C. Hamlet is mad.
D. evil is punished.
4. Hamlet admires
A. Rosencrantz.
B. Horatio.
C. Osric.
D. Gertrude.
5. Claudius decides to send Hamlet to England because
A. Hamlet is hurting Gertrude.
B. Hamlet needs a change.
C. Hamlet is a threat to Claudius.
D. Hamlet is inspiring too much sympathy from the people of Denmark.
6. Claudius refers to his deeds as
A. noble.
B. rank.
C. the result of his drinking.
D. necessary in order to protect Denmark from Norway.
7. Gertrude tells Hamlet that
A. he should be king.
B. he has broken her heart.
C. he made her realize her shame.
D. Both B and C
8. Hamlet kills Laertes because
A. Laertes deserted Ophelia.
B. the swords are switched.
C. he realizes that Laertes is a friend of Claudius.
D. he knows Laertes is delivering Hamlet’s death orders to England.
9. The ghost tells Hamlet
A. not to be unkind to Gertrude.
B. Denmark will be attacked by Norway.
C. Horatio is not to be trusted.
D. Claudius will try to kill young Hamlet, too.
10. Who requests the play, “The Murder of Gonzago,” to be performed?
A. Horatio
B. Hamlet
C. Rosencrantz
D. Polonius
11. Polonius is convinced that Hamlet is
A. a danger to Claudius.
B. in love with Ophelia.
C. beyond all hope of saving.
D. not good enough for Ophelia.
12. Fortinbras
A. is a friend of Laertes.
B. is a school friend of Hamlet.
C. is a political friend of Claudius.
D. is a foil to Hamlet.
13. Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are
A. convinced that Hamlet is their friend.
B. killed by pirates before they arrive in England.
C. agents of Claudius.
D. All of the above
14. Hamlet confides in
A. Gertrude.
B. Horatio.
C. Fortinbras.
D. Rosencrantz.
15. Ophelia was driven mad in part by
A. her father’s death.
B. her brother’s treachery.
C. her father’s refusal to let her comfort Hamlet.
D. All of the above
16. Hamlet believes women are
A. fragile and need protection.
B. not capable of schemes.
C. weak and deceptive.
D. selfish.
17. Hamlet wants Horatio to
A. kill the King for him.
B. remind Gertrude of her duty toward Ophelia and Denmark.
C. leave Denmark for his own protection.
D. confirm his own suspicions about the King.
18. Hamlet’s “antic disposition”
A. is one of many deceptive appearances in the play.
B. convinces Polonius that Hamlet will take advantage of his daughter.
C. worries Horatio.
D. causes Laertes to plot with Claudius.
II. Matching (one is used twice):
A. Ophelia E. Laertes
B. Hamlet F. Gertrude
C. Claudius G. Fortinbras
D. Horatio H. Yorick
19. lives because a friend will not let him drink poison
20. dies by drowning
21. becomes the King of Denmark after Claudius’ death
22. apologizes to Laertes
23. dies from drinking poisoned wine
24. increases Hamlet’s awareness of death in the graveyard scene
25. is a loyal friend to Hamlet
III. Literary Terms: Identify the literary term which is used in the following quotes. One
term is not used.
A. litotes D. metaphor
B. hyperbole E. alliteration
C. personification F. metonymy
26. “The cock that is the trumpet of the morn”
27. “…the morn in russet mantle clad, walks o’er the dew of yon high eastern
hill.”
28. “I do not set my life at a pin’s fee.”
29. “I could be bounded in a nut shell and count myself a king of infinite space…”
30. “Marry, this is miching mallecho; it means mischief.”
IV. Quotations: Explain four of the following quotes by:
(1) identifying the speaker,
(2) the situation, and
(3) explaining the meaning
31. “What a piece of work is a man! how noble in reason! how infinite in faculty! in form
and moving how express and admirable! in action how like an angel…”
32. “all that lives must die,
Passing through nature to eternity.”
33. “‘Tis dangerous when the baser nature comes
Between the pass and fell incensed points
Of mighty opposites.”
34. “For there is nothing either good nor bad, but thinking makes it so: to me it is a
prison.”
35. “To die, to sleep;–
To sleep, perchance, to dream;– ay, there’s the rub; . . .”
Essay Questions: (Answer any two)
1. Hamlet is a play about revenge. Is revenge justified? Why is it or why is it not? Support
your convictions by references to the play.
2. Discuss the causes of Ophelia’s mental breakdown. Support your answer.
3. How is it possible to interpret Hamlet’s violent denunciations of Ophelia and of his
mother as unconscious denunciations of himself?
4. What images predominate in Hamlet? Refer to as many categories as you can and give
specific examples (corruption, death, etc.).
5. What Hamlet has to do may be necessary, or even just, but it is a defilement of his own
ideals, and difficult for him to justify. How is Hamlet a tragedy?
6. Of all the ideas or themes presented in Hamlet, which is most meaningful to you?
Explain why by relating it to personal experience.
Hamlet
TEST ANSWERS
I. Multiple Choice
1. D 7. D 13. C
2. D 8. B 14. B
3. A 9. A 15. A
4. B 10. B 16. C
5. C 11. B 17. D
6. B 12. D 18. A
II. Matching III. Literary Terms
19. D 26. D
20. A 27. C
21. G 28. A
22. B 29. B
23. F 30. E
24. H
25. D
IV. Quotations:
31. Act II, Scene II. Hamlet is speaking to Rosencrantz of his depression and loss of faith in
man. Hamlet, the idealist, felt man was next to the angels in his capacity to think.
Now, Hamlet has become disillusioned.
32. Act I, Scene II. Gertrude is speaking to Hamlet. She is telling him to accept his father’s
death.
33. Act V, Scene II. Hamlet is justifying to Horatio the fact that he had sent Rosencrantz
and Guildenstern to their death. According to Hamlet, these men chose to help the
King against Hamlet. They put themselves in the middle between two mighty powers
in conflict.
34. Act II, Scene II. Hamlet is speaking to Rosencrantz. Hamlet is saying Denmark is the
worst of confines; Rosencrantz replies that he doesn’t see Denmark that way at all.
Hamlet concludes that it’s the attitude that a person takes toward something that
makes it what it is.
35. Act III, Scene I. Hamlet’s soliloquy. He is wishing he could die, but what prevents him
(the rub) is the unknown quality of death. He is not sure if it is possible that people
dream after they die.
Terms and Definitions
Allusion - a reference to a person, place, poem, book, event, etc., which is not part of the
story, that the author expects the reader will recognize. Example: In The Glass
Menagerie, Tom speaks of “Chamberlain’s umbrella,” a reference to British Prime
Minister Neville Chamberlain.
Aside - words spoken by an actor in such a way that they are heard by the audience but
supposedly not by the other actors. These words usually represent the inner thoughts
of the speaker. Example: In Hamlet, Polonius says in an aside, while talking with
Hamlet, “Though this be madness, yet there is method in it.”
Blank Verse - unrhymed lines of poetry written in iambic pentameter. Example:
Was this´ the face´ that launched´ a thou´sand ships´
And burned´ the top´less towers´ of Il´i um´?
–Dr. Faustus
Figurative Language- words and phrases that have meanings different from their usual ones
in order to create a poetic and/or literary effect. Examples: Love certainly has its own
seasons; crumbling cities made of matches.
Foil - a character whose qualities or actions usually serve to emphasize the actions or
qualities of the main character, the protagonist, by providing a strong contrast. On
occasion, the foil is used as a contrast to a character other than the main one.
Examples: Hotspur contrasts Prince Hal in Shakespeare’s Henry IV, Part I; the
Roadrunner of cartoon fame uses Wile E. Coyote as his foil.
Irony - a perception of inconsistency, sometimes humorous, in which the significance and
understanding of a statement or event is changed by its context. Example: The
firehouse burned down.
• Dramatic Irony - the audience or reader knows more about a character’s situation
than the character does and knows that the character’s understanding is incorrect.
Example: In Medea, Creon asks, “What atrocities could she commit in one day?”
The reader, however, knows Medea will destroy her family and Creon’s by day’s
end.
• Structural Irony – the use of a naïve hero, whose incorrect perceptions differ from
the reader’s correct ones. Example: Huck Finn.
• Verbal Irony - a discrepancy between what is said and what is really meant; sarcasm.
Example: A large man whose nickname is “Tiny.”
Malapropism - misuse of a word for humorous effect. The term comes from a character
named Mrs. Malaprop in The Rivals, by Sheridan. Example: A lawyer has
“obfuscations” to the question, rather than “objections.”
Metaphor - a comparison of two things that are basically dissimilar in which one is described
in terms of the other. Example: The moon, a haunting lantern, shone through the
clouds.
Pun - an expression that achieves emphasis or humor by utilizing:
• two distinctly different meanings for the same word. Example: “play” meaning
“fun” and “play” meaning a performance on stage.
or
• two similar sounding words. Example: close/clothes. Example: In Romeo and Juliet,
one character, Mercutio, says after being fatally stabbed, “Ask for me tomorrow and
you will find me a grave man.”
Simile - a comparison between two different things using either like or as. Examples: I am as
hungry as a horse. The huge trees broke like twigs during the hurricane.
Soliloquy - lines in a play in which a character reveals thoughts to the audience, but not to
the other characters; it is usually longer than an aside and not directed at the audience.
Example: Hamlet’s famous “To be or not to be” speech.
Hamlet
Study Guide
Teacher’s Copy
Act I, Scene I
Vocabulary
rivals-companions
sometimes-previously
mart-trade
impress-draft
moist star-moon
partisan-sword
1. What exposition is provided in this scene? Include an explanation of the quarrel with
Norway.
The ghost of late King Hamlet has appeared in armor. The ghost has been seen by Marcellus
and Bernardo. They have, in turn, brought Horatio, an educated friend, who may
understand this mystery. The late King Hamlet of Denmark defeated and killed old King
Fortinbras of Norway. King Fortinbras had been jealous of Hamlet and had challenged
Hamlet to combat, staking all his possessions on the outcome. Now, the young Fortinbras
has raised an army to reclaim his father’s lands from Denmark.
2. What atmosphere is created by this scene? How?
Emotions of fear and dread are suggested by the “bitter cold” and people who are “sick at
heart.” Frightening apparitions are described. Attack by Fortinbras is threatened.
3. Why has Horatio been asked to join the soldiers in the night watch? What has he
decided to do?
Horatio is educated and skeptical. He proves the ghost is real, not a hallucination. Horatio
is a scholar capable of communication with a ghost. He decides to tell Hamlet, who is his
friend, about the ghost.
4. How does the reader know this ghost is not a hallucination?
Horatio believes the ghost is real. Its “war-like form” may suggest the spirit’s concern over
the threat from Fortinbras.
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5. How could this ghost be explained as a foreshadowing of coming evil?
It suggests violence as it frowns, and it “starts like a guilty thing.”
6. Describe each of the following characters: Old Hamlet, Horatio, and Fortinbras.
Old Hamlet is strong and aggressive. Horatio is a man of reason, a friend of young Hamlet,
and is held in high esteem by others. Fortinbras is a man of “improved mettle,” who is
determined to recover his father’s losses.
Act I, Scene II
Vocabulary
rouse-to toast before drink
bruit-to state
beteem-allow
cap-a-pie-head to foot
beaver-a cover for the lower face
1. Why is Hamlet upset?
He is mourning his father’s death. He is disgusted that his mother could remarry his uncle
so soon after his father’s death and considers their marriage incestuous. His uncle is
unacceptable as a father and a King.
2. What is your opinion of the marriage of Gertrude and Claudius? Consider the customs
of the time.
The Canon law of the church would have considered the marriage incestuous. Gertrude and
Claudius were married less than two months after Hamlet’s death.
3. Why did Hamlet not become King when his father died?
Claudius convinced the court that it was in Denmark’s best interest. Old Hamlet declared
that Gertrude should have the throne upon his death: “Therefore our sometime sister, now
queen, The imperial jointress to this warlike state…”
4. Describe Claudius’ personality and attitude.
He is forceful, clever, determined, and in control. He gives the impression that he is
motivated by reason and public duty, while Hamlet is emotional and not able to lead.
T-2
5. How does Hamlet describe his father?
Hamlet says his father is a “Hyperion,” a god of light.
6. What are Hamlet’s feelings about his mother and his new father Claudius? Consider,
“Frailty, thy name is woman!”
He sees his mother as weak and lustful. Claudius is a “satyr,” a goat-like caricature of a
lecherous man. Hamlet sees their relationship as lusty and incestuous in nature and is
disgusted by it. He also does not like the way Claudius behaves as King, drinking and
having parties.
7. Explain Hamlet’s state of mind. Consider the following quote:
“O, that this too solid flesh would melt,
Thaw, and resolve itself into a dew!”
He is overwhelmed by the evil he has encountered. His despair has led to a feeling that life
is meaningless and the world is an “unweeded garden.” Many critics have voiced the
opinion that the word “solid” was originally intended to be “sullied,” which would reinforce
the reasons for Hamlet’s suicidal thoughts and comments he makes later in the play. This is
also the first time Hamlet declares that he does not want to live. He yearns to escape his
physical, solid, self and become something lighter, like liquid.
8. What does the King want Hamlet to do? Why does Hamlet give up his plan to return
to Wittenburg so easily?
Claudius wants Hamlet to stay in Denmark. Gertrude and Claudius wish Hamlet would
stop his excessive grief, accept the death of his father, and go on with his life. Hamlet obeys
his mother, not the King, and demonstrates this when he says, “I shall in all my best obey
you, Madam”.
T-3
Act I, Scene III
Vocabulary
primy-in prime time
crescent-flourishing
thews-muscular power
temple-body
cautel-deception
buttons-flower buds
liquid-changeable
censure-belief
habit-clothing
husbandry-management of money
1. Describe the attitudes and values that Laertes gives to Ophelia and those which
Polonius gives to Laertes.
The advice is wordy, pretentious, and concerned mainly with a public image. Laertes and
Ophelia fear being foolish. Laertes is worried about his sister’s virtue, and Polonius’ advice
is sensible but overly simplistic. Later in the play, Polonius contradicts much of what he
says here, when he uses Reynaldo to spy on Laertes. Ophelia must know something of
Laertes’ habits in her rejoinder to him. She tells him not to contradict himself: “primrose
path,” “recks not his own reed”. Both men seem to like to hear their own words.
2. Explain the reasons that Laertes and Polonius give Ophelia to convince her not to trust
Hamlet’s love.
Hamlet is not serious; his intentions toward Ophelia are probably not honorable and Hamlet
would not be able to marry her because she is not of noble birth.
3. Evaluate Polonius’ advice to his son.
Answers may vary. Example: Most of the advice is how to act or seem to others. Polonius
seems to parrot it; there is no tenderness or fatherly concern. The speech might just as well
have been given to a stranger.
4. What is comical about Polonius?
He is a pompous man of show, with little substance. He, once, was a keen, trusted advisor,
but now, old and in his dotage, cannot be trusted to be accurate in his opinions. It is a
serious fault in a King to put faith in such a weak counselor. Polonius, however, still gives
wise advice, but often appears as a man who likes to hear himself talk.
T-4
Act I, Scene IV
Vocabulary
upspring-a German dance
clepe-call
pales-fences
o’er-leavens-perverts
impartment-conversation
Nemean lion’s-Herculese strangled the lion in his twelve labors
1. What is the point of Hamlet’s long speech?
Hamlet discusses several issues in his speech:
Denmark has seriously deteriorated with Claudius as king.
The drunkenness in Denmark is giving Danes a bad reputation.
One fault in an individual can destroy an otherwise good person.
2. Why do Hamlet’s friends fear for him?
Hamlet follows the ghost alone. His friends fear for him since the ghost may be a devil
disguised as his father. They worry the ghost may try to kill him or make him mad.
3. Marcellus states, “Something is rotten in the state of Denmark.” What might this
quote signify?
His quote is a reference to the overall condition of the state. The king has died but the
brother, instead of the son, is on the throne and pursues an incestuous relationship with the
Queen. The state is full of drunkards and the people are regarded as swine. In addition, a
ghost has arrived to avenge the death, leading Hamlet away from his friends and possibly
endangering his life.
T-5
Act I, Scene V
Vocabulary
Lethe-in the underworld, it is the river of forgetfulness
eager-bitter
lazar-like-leprous
unaneled-without the sacrament
matin-sun rise
globe-mind
Saint Patrick-said to be the keeper of Purgatory
truepenny-honest
antic-abnormal
1. According to the ghost, what has happened? What does the ghost want Hamlet to do?
Claudius seduced Gertrude and murdered King Hamlet. The ghost wants Hamlet to seek
revenge against Claudius for the regicide.
2. Describe Hamlet’s reaction to the ghost.
He is excited and ready to take revenge against Claudius. Hamlet, however, is repulsed by
like the idea of committing the murder: “O cursed spite,That ever I was born to set it right!”
3. Discuss the nature of the ghost; is it a devil or an angel in the form of King Hamlet
who is in purgatory?
If it is a devil, Hamlet could be led to his eternal destruction by killing Claudius. If King
Hamlet was murdered, though, it was believed at the time that he would be able to go
directly to heaven once his earthly sins had been remedied. One of the reasons Hamlet is so
stressed by this situation is that the king has died without a religious relief for those sins.
4. In your opinion, is Hamlet mad?
Answers may vary. Example: There is no definitive answer to this. Hamlet tells Horatio and
the guards that he might assume “an antic disposition.” He has shown himself capable of
shifts between clear, rational thought and emotional excitability. Hamlet at times claims
insanity and at other times denies it. Others in the play are not sure about his mental state
either as they allude to his condition: the “method” in his “madness”; his “noble mind”
“o’erthrown”.
T-6
Act II, Scene I
Vocabulary
incontinency-lacking morals in sexual activity
videlicet-that is
gyved-shackled
ecstasy-lunacy
1. List what has occurred between Act I and Act II.
Between these times, Ophelia has refused contact with Hamlet, as her father has instructed
and Hamlet is behaving madly. Ophelia describes him as a man “with a look so piteous in
purport, as if he had been loosed out of hell to speak of horrors”.
2. What do Ophelia and Polonius decide about Hamlet’s odd behavior?
Polonius decides Hamlet is lovesick from Ophelia’s rejection; Ophelia is not sure.
3. How do you think Ophelia treated Hamlet? Imagine you are Ophelia. How would you
treat Hamlet? Or, imagine that you are Hamlet. How would you like Ophelia to treat
you?
Ophelia seems to reject him for no reason other than to meet her father’s demands. She
realizes hat she cannot marry Hamlet because she is not of noble birth. If her honor is
ruined she will have few options in the future without Hamlet. She would probably live
the rest of her life in a nunnery since without her virginity she would not be desirable
for marriage. Answers will vary.
4. Do you think Polonius follows his own advice regarding his instructions to Reynaldo,
considering the values he expresses to his son?
Polonius is underhanded as he arranges to spy on his son. He seems convinced that Laertes
could not behave properly away from home.
T-7
Act II, Scene II
Vocabulary
sith-since
Polack-King of Poland
perpend-consider
machine-heart
round-immediately
watch-inability to sleep
springes-traps
breathing-talking
privates-those not in public office
coted-passed
inhibition-prohibition
eyases-young hawks
mows-faces
garb-method
extent-welcome
Jeptha-Biblical figure who sacrificed his daughter
valanced-bearded
chopine-woman’s shoe
digested-arranged
sable arms-armor
bisson rheum-blinding tears
scullion-kitchen servant
1. How does this scene prepare the reader for future scenes?
Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, now the King and Queen’s spies, are instructed to find the
cause of Hamlet’s misery. Claudius and Polonius will spy on a meeting between Ophelia and
Hamlet to see if Hamlet is lovesick or insane.
2. Compare and contrast Hamlet and Fortinbras. Why has Fortinbras changed his plan to
attack Denmark?
It has been negotiated that the King of Norway, Fortinbras’ uncle, will intercede and have
Fortinbras attack Poland instead of Denmark. Fortinbras is like Hamlet because he has
committed to avenging his father’s death. Fortinbras, however, takes rational action by
gathering public support. Hamlet has adopted irrational behavior and looked for no public
support.
3. Why does Claudius hire Rosencrantz and Guildenstern as spies?
He is threatened by Hamlet’s lunacy. He feels Rosencrantz and Guildenstern can find out
what Hamlet is thinking because Claudius believes they are Hamlet’s friends. In addition,
they will report back to Claudius because they are loyal subjects of the King.
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4. How does Hamlet feel about Rosencrantz and Guildenstern? Why?
He behaves normally and is friendly at first, but discovers the two are the King’s spies. He
then returns to his depression because, just as brother has killed brother, his friends have
betrayed him. It appears that deception and disloyalty know no bounds.
5. What is the story of Hecuba and Priam? Explain the story’s significance. What is
Hamlet’s reaction to the story? Explain.
Hecuba is grieving over her murdered husband Priam. Hamlet is angry with himself because
he has taken no action against Claudius and feels his mother has not properly grieved.
Actors who have no connection to the story can shed tears, but he is able to do nothing.
6. Explain Hamlet’s state of mind as revealed by his soliloquy. What do Hamlet’s remarks
to Polonius tell about Hamlet’s thoughts? In his dialogue with Rosencrantz and
Guildenstern, Hamlet reveals a change he has undergone. What is it?
He is deliberately mad and can switch his pose as it suits him. Hamlet is a disillusioned
idealist. Although he had believed the Renaissance idea that man is capable of noble reason
and sublime thought, Hamlet realizes man is also capable of animal-like behavior and evil.
He sees the world now as empty and man as nothing.
7. What idea does Hamlet get from having the players in the court?
He will have the players perform “The Murder of Gonzago” for Claudius and the court. If
Claudius is guilty of the murder and the ghost is truthful, Claudius will act uncomfortable
during the play and Hamlet will observe this. This will give him the proof he needs to take
his revenge.
Act III, Scene I
Vocabulary
blench-flinch
espials-spies
bodkin-dagger
fardels-packs
inoculate-to bud
1. What is Claudius’ opinion of Hamlet’s madness? What action does he decide to take?
Why?
Claudius decides to send Hamlet to England since he sees Hamlet as dangerous: “Madness
in great ones must not unwatch’d go”.
T-9
2. To what idea of Hamlet’s madness does Polonius cling? Why?
He insists that Hamlet is lovesick. Polonius is completely unaware of the increasing
animosity between Claudius and Hamlet.
3. Describe and explain Hamlet’s treatment of Ophelia. Is Hamlet aware that he is being
watched?
Hamlet vents his anger on Ophelia for his mother’s falseness and for his own inability to
act. He considers Ophelia false because he realizes that Ophelia has betrayed him by going
along with the plan to have Polonius spy on them.
4. What is your opinion of Ophelia’s reactions to her father’s ideas?
Answers may vary. Example: In agreeing to her father’s plan without question, she is being a
dutiful daughter.
5. What ideas are suggested in Hamlet’s speech “To be, or not to be…”?
In his speech, Hamlet discusses his ideas of:
Human misery, despair over injustice: “slings and arrows of outrageous fortune”
The frustration of wanting to eradicate corruption from the world: “the oppressor’s
wrong”
The desire to end life because it asks too much: “a sea of troubles”
Illness and pain: “the thousand natural shocks”
The fear of death: “The undiscover’d country”
The inability to avenge: “lose the name of action”
The choice of life or death: “his quietus make”
6. What gives a universal quality to this speech?
They are concerns that every thinking person has at one time or another.
7. What does Ophelia say about Hamlet?
She expresses the opinion that Hamlet’s brilliant mind is lost. He had been the ideal
Elizabethan man, but his behavior and anger have frightened and upset her.
T-10
Act III, Scene II
Vocabulary
Termangant-a Muslim deity
Herod-presented as a tyrant in medieval drama
coped-encountered
pregnant-ready
thrift-profit
Vulcan’s-god of fire and metal working
miching mallecho-mischief
Phoebus’ cart-chariot of the sun god
Hymen-god of marriage
Hectate’s ban-the curse of the goddess of magic and the underworld
Nero-Roman emperor who put his mother to death
1. Why does Hamlet trust and admire Horatio?
Horatio is a man with control over his emotions.
2. When Hamlet speaks to Ophelia, what shows that he has lost faith in her?
He acts as if she is corrupt and immoral. He treats her and speaks to her as if she were a
whore instead of the woman he previously loved.
3. What does the play-within-a-play reveal?
Hamlet and Horatio have two chances to watch the King’s reaction to the act of murder
performed in the play. The King does reveal his guilt; both Hamlet and Horatio are now
convinced the ghost was truthful. Hamlet has objective evidence of the King’s guilt.
4. What is Hamlet’s attitude toward Rosencrantz and Guildenstern?
Hamlet is angered by their intrusion and betrayal.
5. What is Hamlet’s state of mind at this point in the play?
He is ready to fulfill the ghost’s request by killing Claudius.
T-11
Act III, Scene III
Vocabulary
noyance-harm
cess-death
flush-lusty
physic-remedy for disease
1. How does Claudius feel about himself? What has changed?
Claudius is now fearful for his soul. He knows he cannot repent while he keeps the spoils of
his crime, i.e., the crown and the Queen. If he cannot give them up, however, and his crime
is tormenting him.
2. How does Rosencrantz describe the role and consequences of being King?
Rosencrantz says that the livelihood of the kingdom rests upon the King. If the King dies,
all are affected, no matter how insignificant their role may seem. The King also never sighs
alone, meaning the kingdom suffers with him and under the consequences of his actions.
“To keep those many many bodies save That live and feed upon your Majesty…The cess
of majesty Dies not alone, but like a gulf doth draw What’s near it.…Never alone Did the
King sigh…”
3. Why doesn’t Hamlet kill Claudius when he has the opportunity?
He says he cannot kill Claudius while Claudius is praying. Unlike his father, who had no
time to ask forgiveness before his death, Claudius would go directly to heaven. This would
be no revenge. Perhaps, Hamlet is still unable to commit murder and is looking for more
excuses.
T-12
Act III, Scene IV
Vocabulary
braz’d-brass-coated
rhapsody-empty
grained-dyed red in grain
enseamed-sullied
conceit-idea
gambol-to skip
unction-ointment
reechy-foul smelling
paddock-toad
gib-tomcat
1. How does Hamlet behave towards his mother? What changes after the ghost visits?
He frightens her with his rage. He stops his harangue when the ghost appears.
2. What happens to Polonius?
He is hiding behind a screen in order to spy on Hamlet. When Polonius, still hidden, cries
out in response to Gertrude’s cries of fear, Hamlet kills him by stabbing him through the
screen.
3. Describe Gertrude’s reactions to Hamlet. Do you think she is guilty in any way?
Explain.
Answers may vary.
Example: She believes Hamlet is mad and hallucinating, especially since the ghost is visible
only to Hamlet. She does not show signs of guilt, only an inability to understand and a
concern for Hamlet.
4. Do you believe Hamlet when he says he is only pretending to be mad?
Answers may vary. Example: Hamlet’s emotions are at their highest pitch of intensity at this
point in the play; he is wild and rash, torn with emotion, fear, anger, and disillusionment.
T-13
Act IV, Scene I
Vocabulary
brainish-brainstick
divulging-becoming public
blank-target
1. After learning of Polonius’ death, what is the King’s reaction? Why?
He tells Rosencrantz and Guildenstern that he will send Hamlet to England without delay.
Hamlet has become a threat to everyone.
2. Is Gertrude loyal to Claudius?
Gertrude does not reject Claudius as Hamlet requests, but she focuses on Hamlet’s lunacy. In
her loyalty to Claudius, she goes along with the plan to send Hamlet away.
Act IV, Scene II
Vocabulary
scourge-punishment
1. How does Hamlet react now to Rosencrantz and Guildenstern?
Instead of accusing them of trying to play him like an instrument, Hamlet now calls
Rosencrantz a “sponge” for soaking up Claudius’ favors. He is extraordinarily vicious and
rightfully does not trust them.
2. What figurative language does Hamlet use to describe the King?
The King is “like an ape” (simile) who uses the men as he pleases.
T-14
Act IV, Scene III
Vocabulary
England-the king of England
hectic-fever
1. How does Hamlet react to being sent to England?
Hamlet submits to going to England, but makes it clear to the King that he bids farewell to
his mother, not to Claudius.
2. Where does Hamlet say Polonius’ body is?
Hamlet does not immediately reveal the location of the body. Instead, he describes the cycle
of life and “how a King may go a process through the guts of a beggar”.
3. What does the King’s closing soliloquy reveal? What contradiction between his surface
behavior and his real feelings is apparent?
He has ordered that Hamlet be put to death when Hamlet reaches England. He is calm on
the surface, but he says Hamlet “rages” in his blood.
Act IV, Scene IV
Vocabulary
imposthume-abscess
fust-to go moldy
trick-trifle
1. What effect does meeting Fortinbras have on Hamlet?
Again, Hamlet is angry at himself for not acting against Claudius. He compares his
inactivity to Fortinbras’ decisive, honorable behavior.
2. What does Hamlet’s soliloquy reveal about his present idea of himself?
He is a coward for allowing Claudius to live. Hamlet seems to despise himself, but at the
end of the speech vows to commit himself to the regicide (“My thoughts be bloody, or be
nothing worth!”).
T-15
Act IV, Scene V
Vocabulary
spills-destroys
shoon-shoes
larded-adorned
dupp’d-opened
Gis-slanderous term for Jesus
Cock-slanderous term for God
arraign-accuse
wheel-burden
fennel-columbines-flowers symbolizing infidelity
rue-plant symbolizing repentance
daisy-flower symbolizing unrequited love
violets-flowers signifying faithfulness
1. Describe Ophelia’s behavior. How does Claudius react to Ophelia?
She is completely mad, without pretenses. He is concerned and orders that she be watched.
2. Describe Laertes’ response to his father’s death. How is he a foil for Hamlet?
Laertes is in a rage. Intent on revenge, he doesn’t consider the consequences. Because
Laertes is able to gather a small army of supporters, the implication is that Hamlet, who is
so popular, could have unseated Claudius this way. Laertes contrasts with Hamlet because
he focuses his energy on action while Hamlet focuses on pondering before action.
3. Ophelia distribute flowers to the King and Queen before she dies. How do these
flowers relate to the characters and their actions?
She gives the Queen fennel and columbines, flowers identified with unfaithfulness because
the Queen has been unfaithful to her late husband and son. She gives the King rue for
repentance, signifying he should repent for the murder of his brother. She also gives him a
daisy, the symbol of unrequited love. Perhaps she is alluding to the idea that the Queen does
not truly love him.
4. What happens to Ophelia?
She drowns. Suicide is the apparent cause.
T-16
Act IV, Scene VI
Vocabulary
overlooked-read
1. What news is revealed in Hamlet’s letter to Horatio? What does this show about
Hamlet?
The ship bringing Hamlet to England had been attacked by pirates. The pirates are bringing
Hamlet back to Denmark. He is clever enough to have negotiated this arrangement.
2. What will happen to Rosencrantz and Guildenstern?
Hamlet opens the sealed orders that decreed his death. He changes them to order
Rosencrantz and Guildenstern’s death.
Act IV, Scene VII
Vocabulary
feats-wicked actions
naked-impoverished
abuse-deception
siege-rank
scrimers-fencers
simples-medicinal herbs
gall-wound
cold-chaste
lauds-hymns
1. Why does the King tell Laertes he will not kill Hamlet himself?
The King does not kill Hamlet for two reasons. He explains: The Queen loves Hamlet and
since the King loves her, he will not hurt her. “She’s so conjunctive to my life and soul That,
as the star moves not but in his sphere, I could not but by her.” Claudius also cannot kill
him because the people love him and find no fault in him. If the King kills him, the people
will be angry.
2. Explain Laertes and Claudius’ plan to kill Hamlet. How is Claudius taking advantage of
Laertes?
He knows Laertes will do anything to avenge his father’s death. Laertes and Hamlet are to
have a fencing match. Laertes will use a pointed, poisoned rapier and seem to kill Hamlet
by accident. If this fails, the King will give Hamlet a drink of poisoned wine.
T-17
Act V, Scene I
Vocabulary
crowner-coroner
se offendendo-blunder for in self-defense
argal-ergo
quest-in quest
jowls-throws
chapless-without jaws
quiddities-arguments
indentures-contracts
flaw-wind gust
fordo-destroy
strewments-strung flowers; garland
woo’t-will you
eisel-vinegar
quick-alive
1. The clowns (gravediggers) discuss where and how Ophelia is to be buried. How does
the issue of suicide affect the burial?
If Ophelia committed suicide, according to Christian practices of the time, she would not be
buried in consecrated ground.
2. Who was Yorick? How has Hamlet’s attitude toward death changed?
Yorick was a court jester when Hamlet was young. Hamlet no longer fears death. He
realizes that everyone must die, and he is ready, if it should happen.
3. What dramatic function do the gravediggers have, and what theme do they express?
The gravediggers provide comic relief with their humor and sarcasm in attempts to relieve
the disgusting qualities of their tasks. Shakespeare often uses comical figures to relieve the
seriousness of a scene, as he does here with their words and actions. The theme they express
is that death makes all people equal.
4. Explain Hamlet’s reaction to Laertes’ behavior at Ophelia’s funeral.
He is disgusted by Laertes’ over-emotional display. He seems to question Laertes’ sincerity.
T-18
Act V, Scene II
Vocabulary
bilboes-restraints
statists-statesmen
pass-thrust of the sword
cozenage-deceit
crib-trough
perdition-loss
meed-service
poniards-daggers
german-appropriate
yesty-frothy
union-pearl
o’er-crows-victorious
passage-death
1. Explain Hamlet’s remarks to Horatio about fate.
Fate (in the form of the pirate’s intervention and Hamlet’s possessing his father’s ring) has
allowed him to return to Denmark to act against Claudius. Hamlet also says that fate has
more power over people than their own desire for control.
2. Describe Hamlet’s state of mind before he fences with Laertes. How has Hamlet
changed?
He is calm, senses danger, but is ready to face death.
3. Why does Hamlet apologize to Laertes?
He regrets killing Polonius, telling Laertes that it was his madness or “distraction” that
caused him to kill rashly. Hamlet says he admires Laertes for his ability to act so quickly
and so strongly.
4. Explain how each character dies in the end.
Hamlet dies when Laertes wounds him with the poisoned rapier. Laertes and Hamlet change
swords and Hamlet wounds Laertes with the same poisoned rapier. Before Laertes dies, he
confesses what he and Claudius had planned. The Queen dies when she drinks the poisoned
wine that was meant for Hamlet. The King dies after Hamlet stabs him with the poisoned
rapier and forces him to drink the poisoned wine.
T-19
5. Why did it end this way?
With the deaths of the characters the evil is gone, King Hamlet is avenged, and the ghost
can rest in peace.
6. Who does Hamlet appoint to tell his story to the world? Why?
Hamlet wants Horatio, who is respected, to tell all. This will save Hamlet’s honor.
7. Who will be the next King of Denmark?
Fortinbras marches in and assumes leadership, with Hamlet’s dying acknowledgment that
Fortinbras has a claim to Denmark’s throne.
T-20
Hamlet
Study Guide
Student Copy
Act I, Scene I
Vocabulary
rivals-companions
sometimes-previously
mart-trade
impress-draft
moist star-moon
partisan-sword
1. What exposition is provided in this scene? Include an explanation of the quarrel with
Norway.
2. What atmosphere is created by this scene? How?
3. Why has Horatio been asked to join the soldiers in the night watch? What has he
decided to do?
4. How does the reader know this ghost is not a hallucination?
5. How could this ghost be explained as a foreshadowing of coming evil?
6. Describe each of the following characters: Old Hamlet, Horatio, and Fortinbras.
S-1
Act I, Scene II
Vocabulary
rouse-to toast before drink
bruit-to state
beteem-allow
cap-a-pie-head to foot
beaver-a cover for the lower face
1. Why is Hamlet upset?
2. What is your opinion of the marriage of Gertrude and Claudius? Consider the customs
of the time.
3. Why did Hamlet not become King when his father died?
4. Describe Claudius’ personality and attitude.
S-2
5. How does Hamlet describe his father?
6. What are Hamlet’s feelings about his mother and his new father Claudius? Consider,
“Frailty, thy name is woman!”
7. Explain Hamlet’s state of mind. Consider the following quote:
“O, that this too solid flesh would melt,
Thaw, and resolve itself into a dew!”
8. What does the King want Hamlet to do? Why does Hamlet give up his plan to return
to Wittenburg so easily?
S-3
Act I, Scene III
Vocabulary
primy-in prime time
crescent-flourishing
thews-muscular power
temple-body
cautel-deception
buttons-flower buds
liquid-changeable
censure-belief
habit-clothing
husbandry-management of money
1. Describe the attitudes and values that Laertes gives to Ophelia and those which
Polonius gives to Laertes.
2. Explain the reasons that Laertes and Polonius give Ophelia to convince her not to trust
Hamlet’s love.
3. Evaluate Polonius’ advice to his son.
4. What is comical about Polonius?
S-4
Act I, Scene IV
Vocabulary
upspring-a German dance
clepe-call
pales-fences
o’er-leavens-perverts
impartment-conversation
Nemean lion’s-Herculese strangled the lion in his twelve labors
1. What is the point of Hamlet’s long speech?
2. Why do Hamlet’s friends fear for him?
3. Marcellus states, “Something is rotten in the state of Denmark.” What might this
quote signify?
S-5
Act I, Scene V
Vocabulary
Lethe-in the underworld, it is the river of forgetfulness
eager-bitter
lazar-like-leprous
unaneled-without the sacrament
matin-sun rise
globe-mind
Saint Patrick-said to be the keeper of Purgatory
truepenny-honest
antic-abnormal
1. According to the ghost, what has happened? What does the ghost want Hamlet to do?
2. Describe Hamlet’s reaction to the ghost.
3. Discuss the nature of the ghost; is it a devil or an angel in the form of King Hamlet
who is in purgatory?
4. In your opinion, is Hamlet mad?
S-6
Act II, Scene I
Vocabulary
incontinency-lacking morals in sexual activity
videlicet-that is
gyved-shackled
ecstasy-lunacy
1. List what has occurred between Act I and Act II.
2. What do Ophelia and Polonius decide about Hamlet’s odd behavior?
3. How do you think Ophelia treated Hamlet? Imagine you are Ophelia. How would you
treat Hamlet? Or, imagine that you are Hamlet. How would you like Ophelia to treat
you?
4. Do you think Polonius follows his own advice regarding his instructions to Reynaldo,
considering the values he expresses to his son?
S-7
Act II, Scene II
Vocabulary
sith-since
Polack-King of Poland
perpend-consider
machine-heart
round-immediately
watch-inability to sleep
springes-traps
breathing-talking
privates-those not in public office
coted-passed
inhibition-prohibition
eyases-young hawks
mows-faces
garb-method
extent-welcome
Jeptha-Biblical figure who sacrificed his daughter
valanced-bearded
chopine-woman’s shoe
digested-arranged
sable arms-armor
bisson rheum-blinding tears
scullion-kitchen servant
1. How does this scene prepare the reader for future scenes?
2. Compare and contrast Hamlet and Fortinbras. Why has Fortinbras changed his plan to
attack Denmark?
S-8
3. Why does Claudius hire Rosencrantz and Guildenstern as spies?
4. How does Hamlet feel about Rosencrantz and Guildenstern? Why?
5. What is the story of Hecuba and Priam? Explain the story’s significance. What is
Hamlet’s reaction to the story? Explain.
6. Explain Hamlet’s state of mind as revealed by his soliloquy. What do Hamlet’s remarks
to Polonius tell about Hamlet’s thoughts? In his dialogue with Rosencrantz and
Guildenstern, Hamlet reveals a change he has undergone. What is it?
7. What idea does Hamlet get from having the players in the court?
S-9
Act III, Scene I
Vocabulary
blench-flinch
espials-spies
bodkin-dagger
fardels-packs
inoculate-to bud
1. What is Claudius’ opinion of Hamlet’s madness? What action does he decide to take?
Why?
2. To what idea of Hamlet’s madness does Polonius cling? Why?
3. Describe and explain Hamlet’s treatment of Ophelia. Is Hamlet aware that he is being
watched?
4. What is your opinion of Ophelia’s reactions to her father’s ideas?
5. What ideas are suggested in Hamlet’s speech “To be, or not to be…”?
6. What gives a universal quality to this speech?
7. What does Ophelia say about Hamlet?
S-10
Act III, Scene II
Vocabulary
Termangant-a Muslim deity
Herod-presented as a tyrant in medieval drama
coped-encountered
pregnant-ready
thrift-profit
Vulcan’s-god of fire and metal working
miching mallecho-mischief
Phoebus’ cart-chariot of the sun god
Hymen-god of marriage
Hectate’s ban-the curse of the goddess of magic and the underworld
Nero-Roman emperor who put his mother to death
1. Why does Hamlet trust and admire Horatio?
2. When Hamlet speaks to Ophelia, what shows that he has lost faith in her?
3. What does the play-within-a-play reveal?
4. What is Hamlet’s attitude toward Rosencrantz and Guildenstern?
5. What is Hamlet’s state of mind at this point in the play?
S-11
Act III, Scene III
Vocabulary
noyance-harm
cess-death
flush-lusty
physic-remedy for disease
1. How does Claudius feel about himself? What has changed?
2. How does Rosencrantz describe the role and consequences of being King?
3. Why doesn’t Hamlet kill Claudius when he has the opportunity?
S-12
Act III, Scene IV
Vocabulary
braz’d-brass-coated
rhapsody-empty
grained-dyed red in grain
enseamed-sullied
conceit-idea
gambol-to skip
unction-ointment
reechy-foul smelling
paddock-toad
gib-tomcat
1. How does Hamlet behave towards his mother? What changes after the ghost visits?
2. What happens to Polonius?
3. Describe Gertrude’s reactions to Hamlet. Do you think she is guilty in any way?
Explain.
4. Do you believe Hamlet when he says he is only pretending to be mad?
S-13
Act IV, Scene I
Vocabulary
brainish-brainstick
divulging-becoming public
blank-target
1. After learning of Polonius’ death, what is the King’s reaction? Why?
2. Is Gertrude loyal to Claudius?
Act IV, Scene II
Vocabulary
scourge-punishment
1. How does Hamlet react now to Rosencrantz and Guildenstern?
2. What figurative language does Hamlet use to describe the King?
S-14
Act IV, Scene III
Vocabulary
England-the king of England
hectic-fever
1. How does Hamlet react to being sent to England?
2. Where does Hamlet say Polonius’ body is?
3. What does the King’s closing soliloquy reveal? What contradiction between his surface
behavior and his real feelings is apparent?
Act IV, Scene IV
Vocabulary
imposthume-abscess
fust-to go moldy
trick-trifle
1. What effect does meeting Fortinbras have on Hamlet?
2. What does Hamlet’s soliloquy reveal about his present idea of himself?
S-15
Act IV, Scene V
Vocabulary
spills-destroys
shoon-shoes
larded-adorned
dupp’d-opened
Gis-slanderous term for Jesus
Cock-slanderous term for God
arraign-accuse
wheel-burden
fennel-columbines-flowers symbolizing infidelity
rue-plant symbolizing repentance
daisy-flower symbolizing unrequited love
violets-flowers signifying faithfulness
1. Describe Ophelia’s behavior. How does Claudius react to Ophelia?
2. Describe Laertes’ response to his father’s death. How is he a foil for Hamlet?
3. Ophelia distribute flowers to the King and Queen before she dies. How do these
flowers relate to the characters and their actions?
4. What happens to Ophelia?
S-16
Act IV, Scene VI
Vocabulary
overlooked-read
1. What news is revealed in Hamlet’s letter to Horatio? What does this show about
Hamlet?
2. What will happen to Rosencrantz and Guildenstern?
Act IV, Scene VII
Vocabulary
feats-wicked actions
naked-impoverished
abuse-deception
siege-rank
scrimers-fencers
simples-medicinal herbs
gall-wound
cold-chaste
lauds-hymns
1. Why does the King tell Laertes he will not kill Hamlet himself?
2. Explain Laertes and Claudius’ plan to kill Hamlet. How is Claudius taking advantage of
Laertes?
S-17
Act V, Scene I
Vocabulary
crowner-coroner
se offendendo-blunder for in self-defense
argal-ergo
quest-in quest
jowls-throws
chapless-without jaws
quiddities-arguments
indentures-contracts
flaw-wind gust
fordo-destroy
strewments-strung flowers; garland
woo’t-will you
eisel-vinegar
quick-alive
1. The clowns (gravediggers) discuss where and how Ophelia is to be buried. How does
the issue of suicide affect the burial?
2. Who was Yorick? How has Hamlet’s attitude toward death changed?
3. What dramatic function do the gravediggers have, and what theme do they express?
4. Explain Hamlet’s reaction to Laertes’ behavior at Ophelia’s funeral.
S-18
Act V, Scene II
Vocabulary
bilboes-restraints
statists-statesmen
pass-thrust of the sword
cozenage-deceit
crib-trough
perdition-loss
meed-service
poniards-daggers
german-appropriate
yesty-frothy
union-pearl
o’er-crows-victorious
passage-death
1. Explain Hamlet’s remarks to Horatio about fate.
2. Describe Hamlet’s state of mind before he fences with Laertes. How has Hamlet
changed?
3. Why does Hamlet apologize to Laertes?
S-19
4. Explain how each character dies in the end.
5. Why did it end this way?
6. Who does Hamlet appoint to tell his story to the world? Why?
7. Who will be the next King of Denmark?
S-20
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