Hamlet Act 1

What happens when Francisco and Bernardo meet at the beginning of 1.1? Where are we, and when? Why is there confusion over which one is supposed to challenge the other by asking “Who’s there”? Why is Horatio with Bernardo and Marcellus? Who is he? The play, Hamlet, begins with Francisco, one of the sentinels at the guards platform at Elsinore,who is waiting for Bernardo to relieve him of his duty right after midnight. Bernardo calls wondering who is there, to which Francisco replies that Bernardo should tell him who he is first. There is confusion of who should be asking who the other is because both are equally ranked guards, and it would be Bernardo’s turn to be guarding the castle, and perhaps both are suspicious of the other. There have been previous sightings of an apparition around this same time, so both are tense and worried, hence the demanding questions and lack of trust. Horatio is with Bernardo and Marcellus because they want Horatio to witness the appearance of the apparition so that they will have someone else acknowledge its happening. Horatio is listed as Prince Hamlet’s friend and confidant and Marcellus refers to Horatio as a “scholar” when the apparition first appears.
What is Horatio’s initial response to the story of the apparition? What happens when the ghost appears for the first time (1.1.37.1)? Notice that Horatio addresses it as “thou.” This is the form of address used with friends or inferiors. Shakespeare’s audience would have been much more attuned to the difference than we are. What is the effect of Horatio’s addressing the ghost as “thou”? When Horatio was first told about the appearance of the apparition, he was skeptical, ” Horatio says ’tis but our fantasy And will not let belief take hold of him” ( 1.1.29). When the ghost was first sighted in the play, Bernardo remarks that the ghost looks similar to the King Hamlet, and Marcellus reasons with Horatio that he should address the ghost. Horatio reacts to the ghost with tormenting fear and surprise, but does note that the ghost looks like the King Hamlet. Horatio speaks to the ghost with ” What art thou that usurp’st this time of night,” (1.1.54) and demands the ghost to respond to him.This usage of the word ” thou” causes the ghost to exit. Marcellus comments that the ghost was offended, meaning that by Horatio speaking to the ghost of the King with such lack of respect and with demands the ghost left.
What does Horatio first assume the appearance of the ghost means (1.1.68)? Why are there such intense war preparations in Denmark? (Read 1.1.69-106 carefully to get the international background of the play.) What does Horatio suggest by his discussion of Julius Caesar’s death (1.1.106.5-.18)? Why does he choose the example of Rome? Why is the passage set off and in italics? (See note 2, line 106.) Horatio initially assumes that the ghost appearance must mean that there is something wrong with the current government, ” this bodes some strange eruption to our state”, and that the appearance is foreshadowing some ominous event that will soon occur. There are intense war preparations in Denmark, and Bernardo and Marcellus question Horatio is he knows the reason behind such actions. Horatio responds that there are rumors that the King Hamlet, who was very prideful in manner, was challenged to battle Fortinbras of Norway and did kill the King Fortinbras. Kind Fortinbras forfeited his land to whoever conquered him, but King Hamlet made a deal and bargained some of the given land to the son of King Fortinbras. The young Fortinbras is uncontrollable with his rage against King Hamlet and Denmark and has been attacking the edges of the land with a spirit of adventure , and is set on his attack to regain the lost lands. Denmark is preparing aggressively for the imminent battle against young Fortinbras of Norway. Horatio is suggesting a connection of Julius Cesar’s and the fall of Rome, in that he discusses that King Hamlet’s death will led to the fall of the land. Horatio chooses the example of Rome to emphasize the King Hamlet’s role in destruction. Both Cesar and King Hamlet are prideful in nature, and have had their pride challenged and their subsequent actions leading to their death. Rome is also known as a grand empire of strength but after the assassination of Julius Cesar, the Roman Republic collapsed and ended.
What happens when the ghost appears for the second time (at the SD before 1.1.108.1)? Why does it leave so abruptly? The questions Horatio asks it represent, according to the thought of the time, the reasons why a ghost could appear. When the ghost appears again, Horatio asks the ghost to speak concerning why it had come in the first place and the reason behind such appearances. When the ghost seems to begin to leave after Horatio questions it, Bernardo and Marcellus try to stop it by throwing their partisans at the ghost. Marcellus believes that the ghost left because they had angered it when they attempted to force the ghost to speak using violence, but Horatio notes that it was the roster crowing that stopped the ghost from speaking and then leaving.
What is the purpose of the two discussions of the crowing of the cock, Horatio’s pagan one (1.1.130-37) and Marcellus’ Christian one (1.1.138-45)? Horatio tells the others that the rosters crowing awakens a god of daylight and any ghosts who are wandering on the earth are forced to hide until night comes. On the other had Marcellus states that daytime is similar to Christs’ Resurrection, and that no evil thing can roam the Earth during the sacred and hallowed time. These two different discussions regarding the rooster crowing are symbolic of the overall confusion and determination of the ghost’ purpose there. Prince Hamlet later questions if the ghost is something of evil origins there to tempt him into committing sins, or if the ghost is merely trying to help and warn him, and is a victim of the the daylight gods’ reign.
What do we know so far about the nature of the ghost? Do we know yet if it is a “good” ghost (i.e., “really” the spirit of the person it appears to be) or a “damned” ghost (a devil or evil spirit in the shape of the person it appears to be)? So far, the audience knows that the ghost can appear every night right after midnight, and leaves right after the cock crows ( dawn). There is no way of being sure whether the ghost is a good spirit or an evil one, but both sides of the argument have been discussed and reflected from Horatio and Marcellus.
(beginning of scene 2)What is Claudius telling the court in the first part of his speech (1.2.1-16)? What does he say about young Fortinbras and his uncle the king of Norway (ll. 17-41)? How is Claudius responding to the threat? (You may also want to keep in mind that the name “Claudius” appears only in the opening stage direction for 1.2. The name is never spoken in the play. He is simply “the King.”) Throughout his speech, Claudius is telling the court of the sorrow in losing Hamlet, but in joy in the court accepting the marriage of Claudius to Queen Gertrude.Claudius refers the young Fortinbras of his ignorance in believing that Denmark would be weak after the death of King Hamlet, and though Fortinbras is demanding the lands which were lost by King Fortinbras, Claudius is ignoring those demands. King Claudius is also telling the court about the uncle of the king of Norway, who is weak and sick and unaware of young Fortinbras’ actions. King Claudius responds to the threat of war from Norway, by sending a message to the uncle of the king of Fortinbras informing him of young Fortinbras’ mission and in that he is using war supplies from Norway’s subjects, and to stop young Fortinbras from moving further.
What does Laertes want from the King? How does Claudius respond to him? Based on his first 64 lines in office (1.2.1-64), how would you rate Claudius as a ruler? In what ways does he already differ from Old Hamlet as king? (Consider how Old Hamlet would have responded to Young Fortinbras.) Laertes asks King Claudius if he would let him return to France with approval and permission, to which Claudius responds first by asking if Polonius, the father to Laertes, approves. Polonius states that he is reluctantly accepting of Laertes’ question and Claudius formally gives him permission to return to France. So far Claudius’ behavior is very different from those spoken about King Hamlet’s. King Hamlet was said to have been very prideful and warlike in his actions, while Claudius is taking a more diplomatically aggressive reaction. Claudius is avoiding physical confrontation with young Fortinbras and is instead implementing the uncle of King Fortinbras to take action to avoid war. This reaction shows the amount of research done and clear thoughts dedicated to how to react to the threat of young Fortinbras without battle that could be destructive. King Hamlet probably would’ve reacted pridefully by force. Young Fortinbras is basically challenging Denmark to fight, which is how King Hamlet was brought to battle in the first place.
What do Claudius and Gertrude want Hamlet to do that he doesn’t want to do? What won’t they let him do it? How does he respond to them? How do they respond to the way he responds to them? (You probably know three names associated with the University of Wittenberg in Germany: Martin Luther, Doctor Faustus, and Hamlet. Can you see any connections among the three?) Claudius and Gertrude want Hamlet to stay in Elsinore instead of going back to the University in Wittenberg, and in response he said, forcibly,” i shall in all my best, obey you, madame”, and only responds to his mother. This choice in response displays the amount of anger and repressed emotions Hamlet has against Claudius, and not excluding Gertrude. Claudius responds to Hamlets reply by pronouncing how loving and joyfully kind Hamlet is and that they should go to celebrate their marriage with a feast in celebration. Martin Luther translated the Bible into German, and created a whole new religion after he separated himself from the Catholic Church. Doctor Faustus, in the play, had discarded the Bible, in favor of books of magic, and forbidden arts. If Hamlet had gone to this University as well, it is clearly a connection to the separation from Catholicism and religion, in that Hamlet will begin to question the reason behind the ghost and the incentive of his morality, if religion is no longer needed or believed.
How seriously do you take Claudius’ argument against Hamlet’s “prolonged” mourning (1.2.87-108)? How long has Hamlet been mourning (1.2.138)? (The normal mourning period of a noble or gentle woman for a dead husband at this time [ca. 1600] was a year or more.) Claudius’ argument with Hamlet regarding Hamlet’s prolonged mourning seems ridiculous. Queen Gertrude has also regarded Hamlet’s mourning to be too long and asks why he felt such a personal connection to the death of his father. According to the time period, the mourning period was so recent in relation to the year long usually seen, in that King Hamlet had died only months ago
*****Read Hamlet’s first soliloquy (1.2.129-59) carefully. What is it that is really bothering him about what has happened since his father’s death? How would you describe the tone of his feelings: detached, impassioned, rational, ironic, or what? It seems that Hamlet is more confused than angry from his soliloquy. He has been raised in Catholicism and expects the reaction to the marriage of his uncle and mother to be as detested and disgusting throughout society, but notices how he is alone in his reaction. The double relation, uncle and father, is seen as incestuous and wrong, but he still is unable to know how to comfortably act towards the marriage. Throughout the soliloquy it is clear that Hamlet is more upset from his mother marrying his uncle, than his father’s death, but uses his father death to give him reason for being so upset and betrayed.
What is Hamlet’s response to the news from Horatio, Marcellus, and Bernardo? Notice the way Hamlet questions them. How much do we know about how his mind works at this point of the play? What does he suspect as the reason for the ghost’s appearance (1.2.254-57)? When Horatio first tells Hamlet of what they have seen, Hamlet doesn’t need any persuading to the truth of their words, but rather begins to rapidly questioning the men of specific details. Hamlet asks about how the ghost looked, about his mood to determine the reasoning behind the initial appearance. After Horatio, Marcellus, and Bernardo left, Hamlet has already determined that some foul play must’ve occurred as the ghost is seen as a confirmation of his earlier concerns. The audience should note how Hamlet quickly believes on the reality of ghosts and late reaction to whether the ghost has nefarious motives or not.
(beginning of 1.3)What does Laertes warn Ophelia about? What, apparently, has been the relationship between Hamlet and Ophelia since his return from Wittenberg? Laertes warns Ophelia about Hamlet’s affections, and that loving him closely will end in heartache, as his intentions are not serious. It seems that Ophelia and Hamlet have had a seemingly private love affair, but one not physcially. Hamlet has seen sure in his love to Ophelia but not obvious in his intentions to the public, which Ophelia is public and sure in her lasting love for him. Laetes tells Ophelia to keep Hamlet at arms length and remember he might not love her as much as she believes he is.
How seriously do you take Polonius’ precepts (1.3.58-80)? Consider especially the last one (1.3.78-80). Polonius’ rapid advice given to Laertes right before he leaves is somewhat random advice that should be learned rather than told so briefly. Polonius continues to sound off many lines about what Laertes should act like in order to succeed in France, and lastly informs Laretes about how the France show their social status purely by their clothing, and as such, he should choose his apparel with much though. This seems so materialistic and generalizing to how to survive, but one should continually take in the time period into consideration and understanding.
How willing is Ophelia to discuss with her father what she has discussed with Laertes? What is his response to Hamlet’s interest in her and her response to him? How seriously should she take their warnings about Hamlet’s lack of seriousness and his inability to choose his own wife? Ophelia seems dutiful but reluctant in her dicussion with her father about her preivous converstaion with Laertes. Polonius begins by demanding information about her converstaion and her relationship with Hamlet, to which she attempts vagueness. When Polonius learns of the affections form Hamlet to his daughter he aggressively informs her about how naivve and ignorant she is behaving. In turn, Ophelia responds by insisting that Hamlet is an honorable and truthful man in his communicated affections. So far, the audience should note that Ophelia should take thier warningss with seriousness, since Hamlet has been previously seen without any referenes to Ophelia. Hamlet hasn’t shown any influnce from his supposed lover, and seems greatly preoccupied with family matters instead.
What do we know about Laertes, Polonius, and Ophelia by the end of 1.3? What sort of people are they? What sort of family are they? Who is missing from this family? How strong-willed in Ophelia? Laertes, Polonius, and Ophelia are a family of protecting Ophelia throughout, and it would seem that Polonius is very strict with how Ophelia’s reputaion and honor might be affected. Also, Laertes and Ophelia are closer than Ophelia is with her father, as Polonius is more restrictive towards her. The one missing from this family is the mother figure to Laertes and Ophelia, and Polonius’ wife. Ophelia seems strongwilled only away from direct confrontation with her father. Though she promises to obey and to remember the advice and demands been given she seems reluctant to recount her beliefs in Hamlet’s love for her yet.
(beginning of 1.4)Why do the trumpets and cannons sound, according to Hamlet? What does Hamlet think of the custom? The trumpets and cannons sounds while Hamlet, Horatio and Marcellus are about to leave to visit the supposed ghost of King Hamlet. According to Hamlet, the sounds signify the beginning of the custom of drinking the night away in celebration of King Claudius’ and Queen Gertrude’s recent marriage. Hamlet has a negative attitude toward this celebration. He sees this drunken behavior as the cause for Denmark’s deteriorating reputation by foreign countries. Hamlet announced to Horatio and Marcellus that other countries saw Denmark as swine with the nobles acting like the lower class.
2. Read 1.4.18.7-.22 carefully. What is Hamlet saying here? In this part of the passage, Hamlet is talking about the dissarray that his coutnry, Denmark, is in all due to the customs being endorsed by King Claudius. Hamlet continues to describe how the reputation of Denmark ( All the Pretty Horses) has been tainted and is quickly deteriorating.
How does Hamlet respond to the ghost? If it is a “damned ghost,” is he as safe as he thinks he is in 1.4.45-48? Why don’t the others want him to go? Why can’t/don’t they stop him? What does Marcellus still think the nature of the problem is (1.4.67?) ???
(beginning of 1.5) Is Hamlet surprised when the Ghost asks him to revenge his father’s murder? Is he surprised when he learns who the murderer is? When the Ghost announces to Hamlet who he is and that he had been murdered, Hamlet quickly promises that he will swiftly revenge his father without even knowing the full story of what had led to his father’s death. Once the Ghost had been told that his uncle, Claudius was the one who murdered his father, Prince Hamlet cries out “O, my prophetic soul! My uncle!” (48). This claim causes the audience to understand that Hamlet had previously prophesied of Claudius being a villain, and takes credit for his realization beforehand.
Do father and son have the same opinion of Claudius? (Compare 1.2.139-40, 152-53 and 1.5.47-52.) Would others in the court, not knowing about Claudius’ crime, see Claudius as this much below his dead brother? Both Prince and King Hamlet describe Claudius as being incestuous, traitorous, wicked, and unrighteous person, even though only King Hamlet had known of Claudius’ murderous deceit, which Prince Hamlet only felt betrayal for the rapid marriage of his uncle to his mother. The others in court would probably have seen Claudius as above his brother rather
How did Claudius murder Old Hamlet? King Hamlet was napping in his orchard one afternoon when Claudius poured a poison named, hebona into King Hamlet’s ears. The poison resulted in the King Hamlet’s skin instantly displaying sores and scabs all over his body like a leper and then quickly dying.
What does the Ghost tell Hamlet to do about his mother? Unlike his uncle, the Ghost told Hamlet to leave his mother to face justice after she dies naturally. Hamlet has been ordered to simply leave his guilt mother alone so she might be found in her guilt in the afterlife, an almost equally harsh sentence.
. Read Hamlet’s second soliloquy carefully (1.5.92-113). What does Hamlet say he has learned? In other words, what general piece of wisdom does he want to save from this encounter (1.5.109). Is this shockingly new information to us? Or is Hamlet just becoming “grown up”? (When did you first learn that you couldn’t always trust people?) Notice how quickly Hamlet moves from the specific (Claudius) to the general (“one”). Compare the same movement he makes from the specific person Gertrude to “frailty, thy name is woman” (1.2.146). Given this soliloquy, how soon would you expect Hamlet to go for his revenge? ????
What happens when the others find Hamlet. What does he ask them to swear? What does his mention of an “antic disposition” (1.5.173) suggest about his future plans? How might you expect Hamlet to be acting when next we see him? When the others find Hamlet, his attitude has changed from anxiety to one of peace and almost excitement. Backed up by the ghost of his father, Hamlet demands both Horatio and Marcellus to swear that they would not reveal what had occurred that night to anyone; at least all that they had known that had occurred. Hamlet’s mention of an “antic disposition” means that he might soon behave in an irrational way as a way of avenging his father’s death and discovering his uncle’s traitorous methods to be real. From the previous experience with Hamlet, I expect Hamlet to be acting peculiarly but with a method to his madness.

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