AP/ IB English IV Hamlet Act III Guiding Questions

How much have Rosencrantz and Guildenstern learned from/about Hamlet? Not very much at all; they only understand that Hamlet is confused. They explain that Hamlet will not give any details pertaing to the cause of his madness.
Finally the planned meeting between Hamlet and Ophelia is arranged, spies and all. What does Polonius give Ophelia to read (3.1.46)? What response does his remark get (in an aside) from Claudius? Why is this speech of Claudius’ important? What do we learn that we have not learned before? Polonius gives Ophelia a prayer book to read as it detracts from her dishonesty. Claudius explains in the aside that the prayer book detracts from the dishonesty, but does not make it disappear. The comment suggests that Claudius might feel remorse for, or badly about, the murder of King Hamlet
Read Hamlet’s fourth soliloquy carefully (3.1.58-90). How is this soliloquy different from the first two? Think about the way Hamlet’s mind works within the first two–is the same thing happening here? What is the main idea of this third soliloquy? In the first two soliloquys Hamlet is enraged. They mark the beginning of a new action that Hamlet takes. However, the fourth soliloquy’s comparison of death to sleep suggests that Hamlet is contemplating suicide. Though suicide is an action, it would mark an end.
What happens between Hamlet and Ophelia in the so-called “Nunnery scene” (3.1.90-160)? Does Hamlet know that he’s being watched? Does he determine that during the scene? Can you spot a place where he might? (Remember how he changed his way of talking to Rosencrantz and Guildenstern at 2.2.267.) Who is the “one” referred to in “all but one” (3.1.147)? What does it add to note that in talking about marriage in 3.1.146-48 Hamlet seems to be echoing St. Paul in 1 Corinthians 7? The scene begins with Ophelia’s attempt to return the letters and mementos Hamlet had given her. Hamlet absolutely knows he is being watched, as evidenced by his questioning of Polonius’s whereabouts. The mention of “one” refers to Claudius. Hamlet refers to Corinthians because the verse states that “each man should have sexual relations with his own wife, and each woman with her own husband”. Later it explains that widows should remain unmarried.
How does Claudius respond to what he has seen and heard? Is he convinced that love is the cause of Hamlet’s madness? What does he plan to do about Hamlet? How does Polonius respond? Is he willing to give up his “love” answer? What does he propose as an additional way to find out what Hamlet is thinking? Are you surprised that it includes spying? Claudius believes that Hamlet is mourning his father, not lovesick. He plans to send Hamlet to England. Polonius still suspects love sickness as the cause. He proposes spying on Hamlet in Gertrude’s bedroom after the play. He explains that she would interrogate him about his madness. Polonius has a passion for spying, so the suggestion does not come as a surprise.
What advice does Hamlet have for the actors? Why? Hamlet says the actors should not over-exaggerate their movements/lines. By being more natural the actors will be able to emphasize the important parts; as, the audience would not at cheap jokes if the actors did not deliver them as usual.
Why does Hamlet say he especially likes Horatio (3.2.56-67, esp. 64-67)? Does Hamlet see Horatio as similar to him or different from him? Hamlet respects Horatio’s ability to remain level-headed at all times. They two are different. Hamlet’s actions are always a result of emotion, while Horatio’s are a result of contemplation and inner reflection.
What function is served by the discussion of Polonius as an actor (3.1.89-96)? Hamlet was written within a year or two of Julius Caesar; what is added to the scene for the audience if Richard Burbage, playing Hamlet, also played Brutus? Can you guess what part the actor playing Polonius might have played in Julius Caesar? The discussion foreshadows Polonius’s death. If the actors were the same in both plays, the murders of Polonius and Caesar would be perfectly parallel. Polonius most likely played Caesar in his college play.
Based on 3.2.116, how much time elapsed between Act 1 and Act 2 (since the action has been continuous since the beginning of Act 2)? Two months
How does the play-within-the-play ( reflect the issues bothering Hamlet? Can you identify the lines he has had inserted? What lines would hit the intended audience hardest? (Consider, certainly, 3.2.159-62.) Consider also the Player King’s more abstract speech in 3.2.1168-195. How does this speech reflect issues that appear elsewhere in the play? There is really no way to tell, but maybe the lines about the player queen remarrying. The Player King’s speech about remarriage reflects issues surrounding Gertrude and Claudius.
What is Claudius’ mood as he stops the play at 3.2.247? How does Hamlet respond? If Hamlet has learned that Claudius is indeed guilty (if that’s why he stopped the play and not for some other reason), Claudius has also learned something from the presentation of the play. What has Claudius learned? Claudius is angered but also anxious. Claudius realizes that that Hamlet has set up the play in order to anger Claudius. This realization also means Claudius knows that Hamlet is aware of his uncle’s crime.
What message do Rosencrantz and Guildenstern have for Hamlet? Despite the chaos at the end of the play, is this message unexpected after hearing Polonius’ suggestion at the end of the Nunnery scene (3.1)? What lesson does Hamlet teach with a recorder? The two men tell Hamlet his mother wants to speak in her bedroom. The comments come as no surprise when considering Polonius’s plot to spy on Hamlet. Hamlet teaches the men that he cannot be played by using the recorder as a metaphor for himself.
Read Hamlet’s fifth soliloquy carefully (3.2.358-69). How is it different from the other soliloquies? What is the mood of the soliloquy? How do you react to it? What about line 360? What is happening to Hamlet? Hamlet says he could be evil, a stark contrast to his former unwillingness to harm anyone. Hamlet wants to hurt his mother emotionally, but not physically (or so he claims). Hamlet has ignored the ghost’s request not to be cruel to Gertrude.
What has Claudius decided to do with Hamlet? Who will go with him? What “theoretical” message about kingship does Rosencrantz tell to Claudius? Claudius decides that Hamlet is to be sent to England along with Rosencrantz and Guildenstern. Rosencrantz tells Claudius that the death of a leader often results in other deaths.
Where is Polonius going? He is headed to Gertrudes bedroom. He will hide behind a tapestry in order to conceal himself.
What does Claudius admit in his attempt to pray? Has the play actually had an effect on him? Why can’t he ask for forgiveness? Claudius admits he has murdered his brother in his prayer. The play seems to have had an effect because Claudius asks for his hands to be washed of his brother’s blood. He is unable to ask for forgiveness because he continues to profit from the murder.
What happens when Hamlet enters? Why doesn’t Hamlet kill Claudius then? What is ironic about Hamlet’s decision? Hamlet immediatly draws his sword, but decides not to kill Claudius. If Claudius is killed in that moment he would go to heaven, as he was praying. It’s ironic that Hamlet won’t murder Claudius because Claudius isn’t really praying, he is just saying what he feels.
How successful is the first part of the interview between Gertrude and Hamlet? What goes wrong (even before Polonius’ death)? Who controls the conversation? Why does Gertrude call for help? The beginning is a disaster due to Hamlet’s anger with his mother. The queen is so scared of Hamlet’s emotions that she cries out for help…and Polonius answers, immediately giving up the reuse.
Does Gertrude know that Claudius killed Hamlet’s father? (Consider 3.4.27-29, 38-39, 50-51.) She has NO clue.
What device does Hamlet use to force Gertrude to consider what she has done? He compares the portraits hanging around their necks of his father and uncle.
Hamlet seems to be getting through to Hamlet when the Ghost enters. Why does the Ghost appear at this point? How is his appearance different from his appearances in Act 1? Who saw him then? Who sees him now? What is his message to Hamlet? The ghost reminds Hamlet that he is getting revenge on the wrong person. He should leave his mother alone and kill Claudius. The appearance is different from others because only Hamlet sees the ghost.
After the Ghost leaves, does Hamlet succeed in what he came to do? What is Gertrude’s state when he leaves? What should she do, and what should she not do? Yeppers! Hamlet has completely terrified his mother. Due to Hamlet’s ominous threats, it is in Gertrude’s best interest to keep her lips sealed about Hamlet’s madness act. If she tells Claudius that Hamlet is just pretending to be insane, Hamlet will kill her along with Claudius.
What does Hamlet think of his upcoming trip to England? What does he expect to do? Hamlet appears to be okay with the trip. He is delighted by the prospect of ruining Claudius’s murder plans with Claudius’s own plans.

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