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By William Shakespeare

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1 By William Shakespeare 1599-1601
Hamlet By William Shakespeare

2 Pre-Reading Survey Family can get in the way of love.
Family values are more important than power. Has been translated more than any other play. Mothers should always stand up for their children. Family is more important than friendship. A person’s behavior and appearance shows you what the person is like. Love conquers all.

3 Trivia Has been performed more than any other play in the world.
More criticism has been written about Hamlet than any other piece of literature. Has been translated more than any other play. Nearly 50 movie version, 25 ballets, six operas, and dozens of musical compositions of Hamlet have been made. “To be or not to be” is the most quoted phrase in English. First staged in London around 1600.

4 Genre Revenge Play: a hero seeking bloody justice for wrongful acts of one or more villains. Usually a crime committed against a family member Hero’s obsession with family honor and violent means they’ll take to preserve it A rape, dismemberment, or act of incest might add sensationalism Often a ghost incites the avenger to do his bloody business.

5 Genre Lead male character disguising himself or feigning insanity
Lead female character going mad and dying of grief By the last act, the stage is usually littered with dead bodies

6 Major Themes Identity Religion (or religion vs. revenge)
Gender: weakness of women/treatment of women Madness Lies and Deceit Self-loathing Corruption Contrasting worlds/characters Appearance/illusion vs. reality Uncertainty

7 Major Themes Revenge and atonement Superstition/supernatural
Rise of one person at expense of another Disorder/chaos vs. order Family dynamics and relationships Allies vs. enemies Inaction vs. action

8 Religion Hamlet is a play presents a conflict between religion and the typical Revenge Tragedy: It expresses the religious uncertainty that that surrounded the time period. Elizabethans had only recently come under Protestant rule, but still were familiar with Catholic ideology.

9 Overview of the Play- Religion
Protestant world? England was Protestant at the time the play was written. Hamlet lives in Denmark (a Protestant nation by the time Shakespeare wrote the play). Hamlet went to school in Wittenberg, Germany, which is where Martin Luther wrote his Ninety-Five Theses in 1517.

10 Overview of the Play- Religion
The Christian elements do not always match up with usual components of Revenge Tragedy, such as Christian attitudes about murder, suicide, and revenge. Spiritual anxiety in the play is heightened by the major question of whether the play is set in Protestant or Catholic world.

11 Act I To understand Hamlet, you must be able to follow the plot and imagine the setting. Above all, you must understand and get acquainted with the characters (their physical appearance, the ways they behave, and their reasons for behaving as they do). A soliloquy (a speech made by an actor who is alone on the stage) can even let you know what the character is thinking.

12 Act I 1. In Scene I, Horatio, a sensible and practical man, doubts Marcellus’s and Bernardo’s ghost story until he sees the apparition himself. After its appearance, how does he show that he too believes in ghosts? 2. When the ghost reappears, what does Horatio do that shows his courage? (lines )

13 Act I 3. In Scene II, you meet Claudius, the new king of Denmark. What two actions does he take that show he is an able administrator? 4. Why is Claudius so pleased when he believes that Hamlet intends to stay at court rather than return to the university?

14 Act I 5. When Hamlet is alone in Scene II, line 129, he begins his first soliloquy, “O that this too too solid flesh would melt.” Describe briefly his state of mind. 6. In Scene III, both Polonius and Laertus are suspicious of Hamlet’s intentions toward Ophelia. Since they have nothing on which to base their suspicions, what conclusions might you draw about their own attitudes toward women? (See Ophelia’s reply to Laertes’s advice, lines ) 

15 Act I 7. In Scene IV, what reasons does Hamlet give for being unafraid to follow the ghost? (See lines ) How does this speech reinforce the statement that Hamlet made in the soliloquy referred to in question 5? 8. At the end of Act I, without revealing what the ghost has said, Hamlet swears his friends to secrecy. He tells them that if his behavior is strange in the future, they must pretend that they do not know why. Why does he decide to act like a madman?

16 Act I 9. Before he knows how or by whom his father was murdered, Hamlet has already said he will take swift revenge. In his final speech in Act I, how has his attitude changed slightly, and how do you account for the change? 10. How old do you think Hamlet is, and what do you think he looks like? Explain what lines in the play have given you these impressions.

17 Act II Taking a Closer Look at the Play:
Not only is Hamlet a play about murder and revenge—when and how Hamlet will take his revenge becomes the subject of the play. Hamlet is also a play about two enemies: Hamlet and Claudius one an intellectual who lives by his ideals the other a clever and merciless man, willing to use any means to get and keep what he wants. Hamlet then becomes a psychological play, or a study of men’s minds.

18 Act II Taking a Closer Look at the Play:
Additionally, Hamlet is a study of family relationships. Hamlet’s family’s destiny is intertwined with that of another family-Polonius, Laertes, and Ophelia. Finally, the play emphasizes the difficulty Hamlet has in distinguishing illusion from reality. He is uncertain as to what he can believe.

19 Act II 1. Reread Polonius’s advice to Laertes (Act I, Scene III, lines 55-81). Having sent his son off with so much good advice, why would Polonius think it necessary to send someone to check up on him? 2. What do you think of his way of checking up on Laertes?

20 Act II 3. In his instructions to Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, Claudius seems genuinely concerned for Hamlet’s welfare. Reread his opening speech in Act II, Scene II. Do you find anything to indicate that he is suspicious of Hamlet? 4. Who seems more willing to accept Polonius’s explanation of Hamlet’s madness, Gertrude or Claudius? On what do you base your answer?

21 Act II 5. Why do you think Hamlet’s mother makes no protest when Polonius suggests listening in on Hamlet and Ophelia? 6. Which is more important to Polonius, his daughter’s happiness or maintaining a good relationship with the king and queen? How do you know?

22 Act II 7. In his speech to Rosencrantz and Guildenstern in Act II, Scene II, lines , Hamlet contrasts how the world is with how it seems to him. Why does it seem that way?

23 Act II 8. Hamlet is impressed that the First Player; who is simply acting a part, has effectively portrayed a highly emotional state. How does Hamlet plan to use the play (an illusion of reality) to determine what is really true? 9. Since the ghost has already explained how and by whom he was murdered, why does Hamlet seek further proof of his uncle’s guilt?

24 Act III Two Adversaries and Their Allies:
It is in Act III that the contest between Hamlet and Claudius truly begins, for then Hamlet gets the proof that his father’s murderer is Claudius. Claudius, in turn, realizes that Hamlet is a threat that he must get rid of. Claudius’s position assures him allies and courtiers willing to lower themselves to gain the king’s favor.

25 Act III Two Adversaries and Their Allies:
Hamlet can only trust Horatio, whom he asks for help. By the end of Act III however, Gertrude’s loyalty is to her son and he trusts her enough to confess his madness is not real.

26 Act III Two Adversaries and Their Allies: 1. Until Claudius perceives Hamlet as an enemy (in this act), what tells you that he is trying to treat Hamlet unkindly? Why does he want to win Hamlet over? 2. Shakespeare portrays Claudius as an overly ambitious man. Is he totally without a conscience? Make references to the play to support your point.

27 Act III Two Adversaries and Their Allies: 3. In his speech to Polonius after they have spied on Hamlet and Ophelia, how does Claudius show that he is a man of keen observation? 4. Why is it so important to Hamlet at this time that his friend Horatio is quite unexcitable and of sound judgment?

28 Act III Two Adversaries and Their Allies: 5. Why is Gertrude able to watch the play without becoming emotionally involved in it? (Think about her reaction later that night to Hamlet’s accusation of murder.) 6. When Hamlet compares himself to the recorder that Guildenstern says he cannot play, how is Hamlet scolding Guildenstern? How does that rebuke show that he, like Claudius, is a man of keen perception?

29 Act III Two Adversaries and Their Allies: 7. In his soliloquy at the end of Act III, Scene II, lines , does Hamlet show that he does not entirely trust his self-control? 8. Why are Rosencrantz and Guildenstern willing to betray their friendship with Hamlet and do as Claudius asks? Is their motivation the same as Polonius’s when he stoops to spying on Hamlet and Ophelia or Hamlet and his mother?

30 Act III Two Adversaries and Their Allies: 9. Hamlet thinks before he acts. Why can’t he bring himself to kill Claudius, presumably at his prayers? To Hamlet, how is Claudius’s state different from King Hamlet’s when Claudius killed him? 10. At the end of this act, how has Hamlet’s opinion of his mother changed?

31 The Closet Scene: Act III, scene 4
1. Why is the first line of Gertrude to her son, “Thou hast thy father much offended,” though it follows Polonius’s advice to be firm, the wrong thing to say? 2. Why does the queen begin to call for help? 3. When Hamlet stabs through the curtain, does he know who is behind it?

32 The Closet Scene: Act III, scene 4
4. Of what does Hamlet accuse his mother? Is she guilty of murder as well as adultery and incest? 5. Why does the Ghost intervene? Why does Gertrude not see him? 6.What appeal does Hamlet make to his mother to reform? What additional plea does he make?

33 The Closet Scene: Act III, scene 4
7. Hamlet shows his perceptiveness again in his comments about his erstwhile friends, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern. How does he now regard them? 8. How is he planning to thwart the king’s plot? 9. Discuss your views of Gertrude in this scene by giving several adjectives to describe her and indicate where in the play she exhibits these qualities.

34 The Closet Scene: Act III, scene 4
10.What is the importance of Polonius’ death? Why does Shakespeare cause Hamlet to kill Polonius at this time? Does Polonius deserve this fate? 11. Does Hamlet repent of having killed him? Why does Hamlet seem so callous about having murdered Polonius?

35 Act IV Discovering Contrasts Between Characters and Within the Characters Themselves: In Act III, just as Hamlet finds proof of Claudius’s guilt, Claudius learns that Hamlet’s madness is not real and that Hamlet is probably a threat to him.

36 Act IV Discovering Contrasts Between Characters and Within the Characters Themselves: In Act IV, the actions of Fortinbras and Laertes are contrast to Hamlet’s inaction. Finally though, Hamlet acts impulsively when he kills Polonius, and apparently he is not very remorseful. Also, in his disillusionment, he is cruel to both Gertrude and Ophelia, thus displaying a hero’s faults.

37 Act IV 1. Reread the opening dialogue between Claudius and Gertrude in 4.1. How accurately is Gertrude describing how Hamlet killed Polonius? How much of her interview with Hamlet does she reveal to Claudius? 2. Do you think Gertrude’s attitude toward Claudius has changed? Explain.

38 Act IV 3. Claudius murdered King Hamlet, the Prince’s father. Hamlet, has murdered Ophelia’s father. What does this do to the relationship of Hamlet and Ophelia? 4. Why does Claudius decline to put Hamlet on trial?

39 Act IV 5. In Scene 2, how much truth does Hamlet utter under the guise of a madman’s prattle? 6.Do you think the Claudius, in Scene 3, believes Hamlet is mad? Why or why not?

40 Act IV 7. Look at 4.5, beginning with line 112, as Laertes bursts in upon Claudius and Gertrude. How would you describe Gertrude’s attitude toward Laertes? How does it reflect her attitude toward her husband? 8. At the beginning of Scene 5, why is Gertrude reluctant to see Ophelia? (See her speech in lines )

41 Act IV 9. Why are Ophelia’s snatches of bawdy songs both startling and sad? 10. Is Claudius sincerely sorry about Polonius’s death and Ophelia’s mental state? On what do you base your opinion?

42 Act IV 11. Claudius gives Laertes two reasons for not having taken action against Hamlet sooner (Scene 7, lines 9-24). Is he honest in both cases? Explain. 12. What is particularly unpleasant about the way Claudius and Laertes plan to kill Hamlet? (Remember that both must have been educated as gentlemen and taught a code of honor.)

43 Act IV 13. Reread Laertes’s speech in Scene 7, lines How does it reveal both the best and the worst in his nature?

44 Act V A Close Look at the Final Act: 1. The gravedigger’s task is a sobering one, but their conversation is humorous. Why do you think Shakespeare creates humor at this time? Why might the men joke at such a time? 2. What general view of life and death does Hamlet express in his comments to Horatio in the graveyard and the discussion of the skull o f Yorick?

45 Act V 3. Why does the priest insist that the burial service for Ophelia be brief? 4. Hamlet says in this scene that he once love Ophelia more than “forty thousand brothers.” Do you believe him? How does this change your attitude about how he treated Ophelia in earlier scenes?

46 Act V 5. How would you describe the courtier Osric? Does he remind you of someone else in the play? Explain. 6. Throughout the play, it is clear that Claudius loves Gertrude dearly. Yet in this act, he tells her not to drink the wine but does not tell her it is poisoned. How do you account for that?

47 Act V 7. What final compliment does Fortinbras, the man of action, give to Hamlet? How does his command to give Hamlet a soldier’s funeral appropriate or not appropriate for Hamlet?  8. What events in this scene point to earlier events in the play? 9. Which death in this scene is the most tragic and why?

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