Act 1 scene 2 hamlet

1. Look at the first section of lines we hear from King Claudius, Hamlet’s uncle/step-father. What should rub you the wrong way about the King’s message to the court? Write a specific passage from the section of Lines 1-16 and explain what bothers you about the passage. In his address to the court, Claudius speaks about grieving over his dead brother, but in the very same breath he describes his joy at marrying his sister-in-law. It’s gross and his grief over King Hamlet seems insincere. Students will choose a variety of lines, but one that is especially icky in found in Line 22 when Claudius speaks of their grief-stained courtship. He says he and Queen Gertrude had “mirth in funeral” and “dirge in marriage.” This means that they were flirting at the funeral. Again, ick. We in the audience should be feeling what Hamlet’s feeling in this moment – disgust.
2. At the end of this passage, King Claudius says, “So much for him.” The use of the “him” pronoun is interesting here because it creates a double-meaning in the line. Which two different men might the King be referring to? What does each of the two different readings of the line show us about King Claudius? The “him” in the line could mean young Fortinbras, as most of the court would assume, or it could refer to the closest antecedent/noun, which is the “most valiant brother,” King Hamlet. If the reader thinks that Claudius means young Fortinbras, then it is clear that Claudius feels confident about his own military power and is even a bit arrogant. If the reader thinks that Claudius means his brother, then he is being callous and it should suggest a heartlessness to the reader. At the end of this scene, Hamlet begins to suspect foul play against his father and this line could be read as evidence to support that suspicion.
3. King Claudius sends a letter to the King of Norway to tell young Fortinbras to back off from his plans to attack Denmark. What makes the audience think that this letter/request will not be effective? Claudius says that the current King of Norway is “impotent and bedrid” and that he is unaware of young Fortinbras’ actions. A ruler who is so out- of-touch likely doesn’t have much real power, so the audience should remain concerned that the threat from Norway will continue to be a factor in this story.
4. Hamlet uses a subtle pun to express his displeasure at having Claudius as his new father. Write the line that includes the pun. In Line 70 of the Folger edition, Claudius asks Hamlet, “How is it that the clouds still hang on you?” Then, in Line 71, Hamlet uses the pun, saying, “Not so, my lord. I am too much i’ the sun.” This means, of course, that he doesn’t like being referred to as “son” by Claudius, which happens three lines earlier in Line 67.
5. Look at King Claudius’ passage that begins, “‘Tis sweet and commendable in your nature, Hamlet.” List four of the reasons that Claudius says Hamlet ought to stop grieving. What do you think of Claudius’ arguments? 1. Claudius tells Hamlet that it’s natural for a father to die and that life goes on. 2. He calls Hamlet’s grief “unmanly,” meaning that Hamlet is acting too girlish with all of this depression and moping around. This builds on his characterization of Hamlet as “sweet” in the earlier line and we realize that Claudius does not mean this as a compliment. 3. He says Hamlet is acting against God’s plan; there’s a season for grieving, but that season has passed. 4. He says that continuing to grieve like this shows that Hamlet has a weak heart and mind. In the audience, we should be offended by Claudius’ comments, since they are criticisms and veiled insults. “Get over it” and “man up” are not appropriate things to say to someone struggling with the loss of a beloved parent.
6. Claudius agrees to send Laertes, a young nobleman and son of a trusted advisor, back to France, yet he wants Hamlet to stay put at Elsinore castle and not return to school in Wittenberg. Why, do you suppose, Claudius wants to keep Hamlet close? Claudius does not have Hamlet’s best interests at heart. It’s most likely that Claudius wants to keep an eye on Hamlet, who has a legitimate claim to the throne. Claudius intends to have Hamlet killed in the future.
7. Hamlet is more than just a little depressed. He is heartbroken, devastated not only by the death of his father but also the alarmingly fast nuptials of his mother. Write the line that shows us he wishes he could die, just to end the pain he’s feeling. Two lines promote the idea that Hamlet has begun to think about suicide. In Lines 135-136 of the Folger edition, he says, “O that this too too solid flesh would melt, Thaw and resolve itself into dew.” He wishes he could just evaporate/disappear. Students will also likely notice Lines 137-138: “Or that the Everlasting had not fixed His canon ‘gainst self-slaughter!” He wishes it weren’t a sin to kill himself. These are heavy thoughts for a young man to be having.
8. How long has it been since King Hamlet died? How long after the funeral did Queen Gertrude marry Claudius, her brother-in-law? Did Queen Gertrude love her first husband, Hamlet? What makes you think this? King Hamlet died a little less than two months ago. Gertrude and Claudius married about a month after the funeral.
9. Hamlet says he must “hold his tongue” and not discuss his displeasure about the marriage with anyone, including his mother. Why, do you suppose, he feels he can’t talk about his feelings with his mother? If your own mother married one of your uncles or a close family friend just a month after your father’s death, what would you think? What would you say to your mom? Hamlet views his mother as weak (“Frailty, thy name is woman!”) and that there’s nothing he can do now to change what has happened. Gertrude is also not only his mom, but the queen and he would be unwise to disrespect the queen. Finally, he must have suspicions about his father’s death, wondering who (Claudius? His own mother?) was in on the plot. He doesn’t admire, respect, or trust his mother right now.
10. When Horatio and the guards tell Hamlet about the ghost of his father, he is intrigued and promises to join them in hopes of contacting the ghost again this evening. Hamlet asks the men to keep this a secret. Why? He hopes the ghost will lead him to evidence that will help reveal the identity of the murderer. Interestingly, no one here seems too concerned that people will think they’re crazy because they are seeing a ghost. This emphasizes the point made earlier in the play when talking about Julius Caesar that the natural world likes to get involved in the affairs of mankind.

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