Hamlet

What is the significance of the opening line of the play? Tone? Mood? Atmosphere? >By opening the play with a question, Shakespeare intends the play to have more questions and end with unanswered questions>Eerie tone>Uncertain Atmosphere
Discuss the significance of the appearance of the ghost. Motif introduced? >Shakespeare gives the audience what the love, the supernatural>Motif: Supernatural
Which character in particular emerges as reliable and trustworthy? Horatio
What themes do you see emerging in this scene? (1.1) >Uncertainty>Martial>Supernatural
What is the image of Claudius he audience is first presented? >He appears royal and regal (all an act)
What is the significance of the first dialogue exchange between Hamlet and Claudius? >Shows the nerve of Claudius to dare call Hamlet his son
Describe the image of Hamlet the audience is first presented? Be specific. Mourning, black, very close with father
Do you form any opinion about Gertrude at this point? (1.2) Why? Why not? Be specific. Pay attention to Hamlet’s words to Gertrude: “Seems, madam?…” >Gertrude may seem to appear as a grieving widow>Is she just the type of woman who needs a man?>It was foolish of her to ask why Hamlet seems upset
How does the news of the ghost transform Hamlet? >Hamlet seems interested and alive>Hamlet seems much more animated when he realizes he may have a chance to speak to his beloved father
Why, specifically, is Hamlet so distressed about his mother’s remarriage to his Uncle Claudius? >The idea of incest
Discuss the points presented in Hamlet’s first soliloquy– his mood, his tone, his language (The “unweeded garden” is especially strong and important) >Talks about suicide and says he would commit suicide if it wasn’t against God’s law>Compares Denmark to “unweeded garden” [weeds take over, garden dies; ugliness of incestuous marriage]>Chastises his mother (“Frailty thy name is woman)
What themes do you see emerging or reinforced in this scene? (1.2) >Appearance vs Reality>Good vs Evil (Natural vs Unnatural)
Discuss the interaction between Laertes and Ophelia, between Laertes and Polonius, between Ophelia and Polonius. What advice is given throughout the scene? Why? >Laertes tells Ophelia to be careful with Hamlet in order to avoid getting her heart broken (genuine love)>Polonius tells Laertes a bunch of superficial nonsense then says something of actual importance:”above else by thyself”>Polonius tells Ophelia he hears her and Hamlet have been in each other’s company a lot and she confirms it…. he asks her if she’s stupid, doesn’t she realize he is taking advantage of her; she is devastated because she really loves Hamlet >Polonius tells her he doesn’t want her communicating with him anymore and she says she will obey
Characterize Polonius and Ophelia >Ophelia- typical Renaissance “yes father”>Polonius- Loves his children but in an odd way; He puts his career and himself before his children; He doesn’t want a bad reputation because of his children’s scandals
What themes do you see emerging or reinforced in this scene? (1.3) Appearance vs Reality (Polonius appears concerned about his children but he is really only concerned about himself and his career)
Marcellus’ famous line “something is rotten in the state of Denmark”
What does the ghost reveal to Hamlet? >The ghost tells Hamlet the truth that his father’s death was not because of a snake
Discuss the tone of the language exchanged in Hamlet’s conversation with the Ghost. >Hamlet’s tone is very clipped like he can’t take in all he is being told>Hamlet is breathless and anxious >The ghost’s tone is very calm and informative because this is information the audience needs so he can’t be rushed
What promise does the ghost exact from Hamlet? Discuss its significance. >Two-part promise>Part 1: Hamlet will avenge his father’s death by killing Claudius>Part 2: Hamlet will not lay a hand on Gertrude; He will leave her for heaven to deal with
Discuss Hamlet’s “antic disposition”. >He decides if he pretends to act crazy he will have better access to what people are thinking and doing since as a crazy person he will be nonthreatening >He believes he will also have a better chance of getting to Claudius>introduces theme of madness
Discuss the significance of the closing of this act: “The time is out of joint. O cursed spite, / That ever I was born to set it right!” >”Time is out of joint”–something is wrong, something is unnatural>”That I was born to set it right”–Hamlet knows he is the only one who can fix the situation>”O cursed spite”–Hamlet knows it has to be him and that he will die, so he is asking “why me?”
What business does Polonius have with Reynaldo? Discuss its significance, its possible foreshadowing. What motif is introduced into the play? >Polonius has hired Reynaldo to spy on Laertes in Paris>Foreshadows all the spying schemes Polonius devises>Motif: Spying
What important information is exchanged between Polonius and Ophelia? What possible ramifications does the father-daughter conversation suggest? >Ophelia reveals how Hamlet came in her room all disheveled and crazy>Polonius thinks he has made Hamlet crazy/ovesick by stopping the communication between Ophelia and Hamlet>Polonius worries how this will affect his political standing and says they need to go to the king
Throughout the scene does Polonius’ concern seem that of a devoted father for his children? Why? Why not? (2.1) >No>He is only concerned for his own personal gain and political standing
At this point Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are introduced. At whose request are they in Denmark? How do they function in this scene? (2.2) >Claudius and Gertrude have sent for them to see if they could find out what is wrong with Hamlet>Hired to spy on Hamlet
Polonius begins his scheming, plotting, and eavesdropping in this scene. What does Polonius concoct? Why? Discuss its significance (“…loose my daughter to him.”) >Polonius tells Claudius that he thinks Hamlet is lovesick… Ophelia will by chance run into Hamlet and Polonius and Claudius will hide to listen because of Hamlet will reveal anything, he will reveal it to Ophelia>Polonius is using his daughter
Discuss the significance of the exchange between Polonius and Hamlet. (2.2) >Hamlet convinces Polonius that his craziness is because of Ophelia>Polonius thinks there may be some sense to his craziness
“Denmark’s a prison.” Discuss Hamlet’s comment within the context of the theme of the play. >R&G laugh at him for saying it>Hamlet means it in the way that he is trapped in his own fate>He can’t leave Denmark until natural order is restored, so to him, Denmark is a prison
What is Hamlet’s reaction to the presence of Rosencrantz and Guildenstern? Explain. >At firs t he is excited, them he is skeptical as to why they are there since he hasn’t seen them in forever>He doesn’t believer they came just to see him and offer condolence for his father>They finally admit they were sent and Hamlet realizes he can’t trust them
Discuss the significance of the “sterile promontory.” >Not only a prison, a sterile promontory (cliff that juts out)>Some people say Denmark is a “jutland”>Sterile in negative connotation– Denmark is empty, there is nothing there but rottenness
Discuss the significance of the “What a piece of work is man,…” speech. >Hamlet says man is so intelligent and agile and talented but now he feels nothing (clinical depression), very melancholy>Quintessence of dust=reference of death (ashes to ashes, dust to dust)>Hamlet’s tragic flaw is indecisiveness
What is the purpose/function of the Pyrrhus legend, possible contracts, parallels? >Parallels: Specific to Gertrude-did she week or cry or anything? >Contrast: No, she just marries someone else
What request does Hamlet make of the players? To what purpose? >He asks the leading actor to perform the murder of Gonzago>He also asks that if he wrote some lines would they be able to memorize them? (The actor says yes)
Name the actual play the players will enact. Discuss its significance, relevance. >The Murder of Gonzago>King is poisoned for his money and wife, drawing parallel to Hamlet’s situation>Hamlet is doing this to tweak the consciences of C&G
The act (2.2) ends with Hamlet’s second soliloquy. Discuss his mood, the points he addresses and their significance. >Hamlet explains to us why he is using this ploy of the play>Because he has heard that guilty people watching a play close to the act that they have done will confess
What are the points discussed in Hamlet’s third and most famous , soliloquy? Address Hamlet’s mood and his “decision” at this point. >Hamlet is disussing suicide (To be or not to be)>Thinks: is it more noble to put up with what he has to put up with on earth or kill himself>Mentions suicide is a mortal sin>He perceived himself cowardly for not killing himself>We see his indecision (should I or shouldn’t I)>He decides not to obviously
Discuss the exchange between Hamlet and Ophelia. What are his motives? What are hers? For whose benefit is each speaking? (Reinforces motif of eavesdropping and spying) How is “honesty” handled in this scene? How does it interrelate with the honesty motif in the play? >The exchange is very harsh>Ophelia tries to give back the love letters but Hamlet knows something is going on>Ophelia’s motive is to help him, but his guard comes back up when she tries to give him back the love letters>They are each speaking for their own benefit at this point >But Ophelia knows they are being spied on>Hamlet asks her if she is honest and fair because if she is honest than she is fair and beautiful>He is saying “you’ve betrayed me too?” (motif of betrayal) >Hamlet tells her to go to nunnery because if she breeds children she is just breeding more liars
Discuss Ophelia’s “O what a noble mind is o’erthrown!” speech. To whom is she referring? How does this speech relate to the Renaissance world view? >She is convinces Hamlet is out of his mind, even though he used to be brilliant. >She is describing the perfect Renaissance man but now is the antithesis
Do Claudius and Polonius achieve the results they desire/anticipate in this scene? What new plan does each hatch? >No>What they witnessed did not prove Polonius’ thought that Hamlet was lovesick
Discuss Claudius’ closing line in the scene: “Madness in great ones must not unwatched go.” What are the possible multiple meanings of this line? >Essentially saying “if an ordinary citizen is crazy that’s one thing but if the heir to the throne is crazy, that’s a whole another thing
In the opening of this scene (3.2), Shakespeare, the director, cannot resist putting his protagonist in the “director’s chair.” Why are Hamlet’s words to the players significant (“… to hold, as t’were, the mirror up to nature;…”)? >Hamlet is the director of the play company by saying how he wants them to perform (does not want them to overact, or underact, so they replicate human nature as closely as possible)>Shakespeare is telling actors in real life how he wants his plays to be acted out
Again, Horatio emerges as the “norm” character in the play. Discuss thoroughly, citing specific textual references. >”norm” character– he is right in the middle>He is trying to tell Hamlet to be as objective as possible when he watches C&G observe the play
What function does Horatio perform for Hamlet? How does it relate to the play as a whole? >Horatio will observe C&G as well>Hamlet is asking Horatio to spy (for a good reason), which relates to the theme/motif of spying and eavesdropping
What is the purpose/function of the Dumb Show? >It is the opening act>It is the exact portrayal of what happened
What is the significance/function of the Player King and the Player Queen? >they are the opening act>Ironic that Gertrude thinks the Queen protests too much when she did not protest at all>Shows Gertrude is a weak character (obtuse/ignorant)
Has Hamlet succeeded in catching his “mouse”? Explain. >Yes>Claudius is in an emotional fit (says: that’s enough, get me out of here)>Claudius being so startled reveals his guilt
Explain Hamlet’s words to Rosencrantz and Guildenstern: “why, look you now, how unworthy a thing you make of me!”. >R&G say they can’t play an easy little recordee and Hamlet is surprised by this saying “well you can play me? I think I am more complex than a recorder. Get out of my sight.”
As the scene (3.2) closes, Hamlet is off to see his mother. Discuss his fourth soliloquy: “tis now the very witching time of night,”. >Hamlet is preparing himself to see his mother >He says he wants to be cruel in words but not unnatural (kill her) because the ghost of his father told him not to touch his mother>Hamlet says it breaks his heart to do this but he must let his soul and words be hypocrites because this is something he has to do
Discuss the significance of Claudius’ “praying.” Does the audience actually see a conscience in this character? Be specific. >Audience sees Claudius in confessional state and know that he knows what he did was wrong (so yes we see conscious) and that he couldn’t have done anything worse (Cain and Abel are first sin besides original sin)>He is very clear about what he did and why he did it >He says he can talk all he wants but until he is truly repentant in his soul it won’t help
Discuss Hamlet’s reaction as he comes upon Claudius at prayer. Why is his decision at this point so critical to both character development and to plot. >Hamlet knows he could kill Claudius right there but he decides he shouldn’t because if he kills Claudius while he is praying, Claudius will go to heaven and he can’t give Claudius this chance because Claudius did not give his father the same chance and should go to hell. >Shows indecision and allows the plot to continue
Discuss Polonius’ death. How is the manner of his death befitting his character. Explain. >Because he is spying and eavesdropping when he is killed>what goes around comes around
Discuss in detail the meeting between Hamlet and Gertrude. What does he tell her? What does he ask of her? >The meeting revealed that Gertrude did not know about the murder of king Hamlet >Hamlet tells her to look into her soul, look at what she’s done.>He asks her not to have sex with Claudius anymore
Discuss the importance of the re-appearance of the Ghost at this point. Reactions of/from both Hamlet and Gertrude? >Since Gertrude cannot see the ghost, she sees her son as everyone else does, crazy>Ghost reappears for Hamlet’s benefit to remind him to hurry up and get revenge>Hamlet convinces Gertrude he is not crazy>Hamlet than says forget what I said, act as you ave been, otherwise, Claudius will be suspicious >The one thing Hamlet tells Gertrude to remember is to not say a word to anyone about what has transpired between them and she promises (first time we see Gertrude acting as a mother
Polonius’ “accidental” death gives Claudius the perfect excuse for “getting rid of” Hamlet. Explain. >Claudius can easily say Hamlet is a danger and so he should go to England to recover
What is the significance of Hamlet’s encounter with Fortinbras’ Captian? >Shows Claudius’ foolishness to let a young hothead travel through his land with an army. >Hamlet thinks “here is a man who has no connection to a piece of land and yet are willing to die for it while here I am with a murdered father and defiled mother and I’ve done nothing”
In his fifth, and final, soliloquy, “How all occassions do inform against me”, Hamlet sounds his most decisive. Explain. >Hamlet is disgusted with himself for not acting more decisive sooner and more swiftly>He decides this must change and he must act>no more time for just thinking
Describe the pitiable sight of the mad Ophelia Of what is her madness a direct reflection? Address both Claudius’ and Gertrude’s responses to her madness. >Her madness is a direct reflection of the madness going on around her in the play, of the unnaturalness in the play>Claudius never really intended for anyone else to get hurtGertrude can’t even look at her
How does Laertes function as a “foil” to Hamlet in this scene (4.5)? Explain in detail. >Laertes is the kind of person who acts before he thinks (busting in to see the king) while Hamlet thinks too much before he acts
Discuss Ophelia’s “flowers” and their significance. >Rosemary for remembrance>Pansies for thoughts>intends different flowers to go with different people>Everyone in Renaissance audience would have known the flower symbols
Hamlet’s letter to Horatio provided needed narrative. Explain. >Shakespeare needed a way to get Hamlet back to Denmark and off the ship>Hamlet makes deal with pirates that he was worth more alive than dead and to take him back to Denmark and Hamlet will reward them so he is on his way back
Claudius hatches his scheme to murder Hamlet. Describe the elements of his plot. What is Laertes’ “improvement”? What is Claudius’ “improvement” on Laertes’ “improvement”. >Claudius knows Laertes is impressionable and grieving so he will use him to get rid of Hamlet since he is coming back>Claudius tells Laertes to have an exhibition dual with Hamlet>Laertes says okay and adds “improvement”: He will put poison on the tip of his sword and get Hamlet with it… Hamlet will not even notice the sword is uncapped>Claudius adds another “improvement”: He will put poison in Hamlet’s wine so once Hamlet is tired and thirsty he will drink the poison (in case Laertes doesn’t get him)>With exhibition match, Claudius can’t be blamed –> accident
The act (4.7) closes with the sad recounting of Ophelia’s death. What dramatic impact does her death have? >Claudius spent all this time calming Laertes down and now this? >Gertrude doesn’t follow them, turning point
Discuss the Gravesdiggers’ Scene– he subject being discussed, the type of humor, and the relevance to the rest of the play. Does this scene contradict any other information in the play? >Gravediggers there for comic relief >They are talking about whether or not Ophelia should be buried on holy ground because they don’t know if it were accidental or suicide >They say if it wasn’t for the direct order of the king she wouldn’t be buried there>Before this we have no inclination to Ophelia’s suicide >Suicide contradicts the fact that it is a Christian play nd suicide is a mortal sin
Analyze Hamlet’s “Alas, poor Yorick” speech. >Yorik used to be King Hamlet’s jester who was like a nanny to Hamlet; Gravedigger throwing up bones and Hamlet holds Yorik’s skull >Hamlet comes face to face with mortality
Discuss the significance of Ophelia’s association with flowers. What metaphor of Ophelia has emerged during the play? >Ophelia is like an innocent flower who loves the wrong person; she is like flowers choked out by weeds (she was choked out by Claudius who started everything with murdering King Hamlet)
Ophelia’s graveside provides the occasion for high emotional actions and reactions. Discuss the characters of Gertrude, Hamlet, and Laertes as they acquit themselves at this point in the play. >Laertes is jumping into the grave because he doesn’t want to lose Ophelia>Gertrude is strewing flowers on her grave saying she had hoped she would be doing this at her wedding not her grave>Hamlet calls himself “Hamlet the Dane”- first time identifying himself as the heir to the throne-jab at Claudius
As 5.2 opens, Hamlet has demonstrably changed. Comment. >Hamlet is now ready to act, without a doubt
What justification, if any, can be offered for the murder of Rosencrantz and Guildenstern? >They took money to spy on Hamlet>Get what they deserve
In what precise chronological order do the deaths at the end of the play occur? Discuss the significance of that order. >1st: Gertrude (accidentally poisoned by Hamlet’s wine)>2nd: Claudius (Hamlet force feeds him the poison)>3rd: Laertes (Hamlet is woundd by poison sword first then at one point the swords get switched and Hamlet cuts Laertes with the poisonous tip)>4th: Hamlet (poison sword tip)>Gertrude dies first because she is the least involved in the murders – only crime is frailty/weakness>Claudius has to die before Laertes so Laertes can admit everything Claudius has done; Claudius would never had admitted it >Hamlet dies last because the minute Claudius dies Hamlet becomes King of Denmark for seconds>Hamlet is able to name the next king of denmark (Fortinbras)>Natural order is restored when Claudius dies and Hamlet names successor
Comment on the appropriateness of poison as the means of the deaths at the end of the play. >Poison opens and closes the play
Discuss the roles of both Horatio and Young Fortinbras at the end of the play. >Horatio wants to kill himself but Hamlet won’t let him because he is the only one who knows everything from beginning to end>Horatio will serve as Hamlet’s mouth>Young Fortinbras will be next King of Denmark

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