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Act V: The Resolution All students

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1 Act V: The Resolution All students
While the beginning of the act seems slow (there's a lot of talk in Scene 1), every conflict in the play is somehow resolved by the end of Scene 2. This Act is fast. You'll notice that some of the resolutions seem a bit too abrupt, but you might appreciate how the accelerated pacing adds to the fear and pity necessary to tragedy. That being said, take time to note the essential "ingredients" of tragedy in this last act: Who is the tragic hero and why? Tragic flaw? Downfall of individual and society? In what way does he and the audience reach a catharsis? When does this moment occur? Why? All students

2 Consider the following issues and dilemmas we have been trying to resolve throughout the play:
Truth and Trustworthiness: Can you know the truth about anything? Is it worthwhile to constantly test how trustworthy an idea or a person is? Loyalty and Betrayal: How does one prove one's loyalty? What is an appropriate cost for betrayal? Duty and Obligation: What does one owe to another person? How much can duty demand of a person, especially if it's at the expense of the individual? Familial Love: What are the appropriate roles in a family? How are those roles enforced and valued? Political Manipulations: Is there any honor in a political court? Or are there only constant attempts to win favor and play games? Sanity and Madness: Is there an objective difference between the two concepts, or is it all a matter of opinion and perspective? Is there less truth in madness than in sanity? Acting and Reality: Is acting less true or valuable than reality? Can it communicate meaning more powerfully? Life and Death: What makes life more valuable than death? What gives us confidence in the meaning of our current actions--and the legacy of those actions--apart from what we have been taught to believe (ideas of Heaven and Hell, etc.)? Revenge and Justice: Can a person achieve justice through revenge? Is revenge ignoble by definition, or can it be noble?

3 Scene 1: Two Gravediggers (Clown and Other)
Group 1 The gravediggers discuss the burial of Ophelia. What is their problem with the nature of her death and her burial? What social critique is made when the Other gravedigger notes, "If this had not been a gentlewoman, she should have been buried out o'Christian burial"? The opening of this scene is traditionally regarded as comic relief. What is comic relief and its purpose? In what ways is the exchange between the two gravediggers funny? How is the discussion relevant to the more serious themes and issues of the play?

4 Scene 1: Hamlet and Horatio
Group 1 Scene 1: Hamlet and Horatio Hamlet enters upon the scene to remark on the universality and anonymity of death. What language and syntax does he use to marvel at the effects of death? Is this different from or similar to his conversation with the king in Act IV (IV.3:19-30)? How? Hamlet's exchange with the gravediggers reveals some facts about the situation (Denmark considers Hamlet mad, Hamlet is about 30 years old, etc.), but it also offers an opportunity to see Hamlet as a caring, empathetic person (not a vengeful monster). How does the language and tone of Hamlet's reaction to Yorick's skull characterize him? How does Hamlet's consideration of Alexander the Great characterize his attitude towards life and death?

5 Scene 1: Ophelia and Grief
Group 1 Group 2 Scene 1: Ophelia and Grief The Doctor has ruled that Ophelia's "doubtful" death should result in an "unsanctified" burial, if not for the king's interference. How does Laertes react to news that his sister's death is considered a suicide? What does this reveal about their relationship? How does Hamlet react to the news? How does Gertrude respond? What does this reveal about their relationship?

6 Scene 1: Hamlet's Grief Group 2
When Hamlet emerges to confront Laertes and grieve for Ophelia, he announces himself as "Hamlet, the Dane." What is the effect of Hamlet announcing himself as though he were king? Why might have Shakespeare chosen this moment for Hamlet to assume this attitude? Hamlet believes he has the right to "fight with [Laertes]...until [his] eyelids will no longer wag" because he loved Ophelia so dearly. Do his speech, attitude, and actions in this exchange support this claim? Be specific.

7 Scene 2: Hamlet and Horatio
Group 2 Group 3 Scene 2: Hamlet and Horatio The scene begins in medias res (specifically, in the middle of a conversation) in which Hamlet explains how he separated himself from Rosencrantz and Guildenstern. He introduces a new attitude of acceptance and higher power: "There's a divinity that shapes our ends,/ Rough-hew them how we will." What does he mean? How does Hamlet separate himself from his former friends? Hamlet uses his father's seal as though he were the king: in what way is this troubling or appropriate? Does Hamlet feel any guilt for his actions? Find evidence to support your answer. Osric, a new courtier, delivers news of Claudius's plan for Laertes and Hamlet to fight. What is Hamlet's attitude towards Osric? Is this consistent with Hamlet's attitude towards all courtiers? What is Hamlet's attitude towards Laertes?

8 Scene 2: Hamlet's Acceptance
Group 2 Scene 2: Hamlet's Acceptance Horatio does not believe that Hamlet has the skill to best Laertes in the fencing match: Hamlet believes that he "shall win at the odds." Shouldn't Hamlet suspect that Claudius is up to no good? What does his attitude in regards to this match suggest about a shift in character? Consider Hamlet's last private words to Horatio: "There is special providence in the fall of a sparrow. If it be now, 'tis not to come; if it be not to come, it will be now; if it be not now, yet it will come. The readiness is all. Since no man of aught he leaves knows, what is't to leave betimes? Let be." Translate this section into modern prose. Identify Hamlet's tone. Explain how this reflects on Hamlet's personal situation. Explain how this is a philosophical reflection on the state of all humankind.

9 Scene 2: The Fight, The Folly
Group 3 Hamlet apologizes to Laertes, blaming his madness for any action that harmed him (and his family). Laertes demands more satisfaction than an apology. Is Hamlet sincere? What does this indicate about Hamlet's thoughts about his previous actions and sanity? Is Laertes justified in requiring more than an apology? What does this say about justice and revenge? The contest begins! And so does the plot... Why might Shakespeare portray Hamlet and Laertes as being evenly matched in skill?

10 Scene 2: The Poisoned Cup
Group 3 The King plants a poisoned pearl in a wine cup and offers it to Hamlet when Hamlet wins a hit against Laertes. What dramatic irony! What prevents Claudius's plan from working immediately? Gertrude really ruins Claudius's plan by drinking the cup in honor of her son. What might this final act reveal about her loyalties to her husband and son? What do Claudius and Laertes do when they see that Gertrude has been poisoned instead of Hamlet? How does this reflect on their characters?

11 Scene 2: The Poisoned Foil
Group 3 Both Laertes and Hamlet are pricked by the poisoned foil (because their foils are switched in a scuffle). Laertes's imminent death prompts him to reveal Claudius's guilt in the poisoning. How does Laertes's response--"I am justly killed with mine own treachery" as well as his explanation to Hamlet (V.2: , )--reflect on his character and attitude towards political scheming, revenge, etc.? How does Hamlet's response--"Then venom, to thy work" and his accusation of his uncle (V )-- reflect on his character and attitude towards political scheming, revenge, etc.?

12 Scene 2: Hamlet's History
Group 4 Hamlet famously charges Horatio with the task of telling his story once he is dead: "Horatio, I am dead;/ Thou livest; report me and my cause aright/ To the unsatisfied." Given his preoccupation with life, death, and the dead (think Alexander here), what is Hamlet really asking Horatio to do that he cannot do once he has died? Horatio would rather commit suicide as an act of loyalty, being "more an antique Roman than a Dane," but Hamlet stops him again (V.2: ). In what way might Hamlet's order validate the power of life over death? How might it give meaning to life after death?

13 Scene 2: Fortinbras (wait, who?)
Group 4 Hamlet doesn't die without saying that his "election lights/on Fortinbras": in other words, he wants Fortinbras to be king next. He finishes his life with the phrase "the rest is silence." In what ways is it appropriate for Fortinbras to be the next king? Does he deserve it (consider his claim for revenge)? Does he have kingly qualities (or qualities that Hamlet lacked)? What is significant about Hamlet's last words? How do his words relate to his previous speeches about life and death?

14 Scene 2: The Very, Very End
Group 4 The scene concludes with all bodies being displayed so Horatio's explanation can "presently [be] performed,/ Even while men's minds are wild, lest more mischance/ On plots and errors happen": in other words, he'll explain what happens before anyone further misunderstands what Hamlet did and why he did it. Everyone immediately bows to Fortinbras and Horatio's orders: what does this suggest about the nature of the court and the courtiers? What do political courts require (and apparently crave)? While Horatio has yet to explain the events to everyone else, we (the audience) just viewed/read those events! Why do you think Shakespeare ends essentially where he began? What does it mean to insist on an accurate story (or trustworthy truth) in this play?

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