1. Describe the political situation in Denmark, as it is revealed in the conversation
between Horatio and the guard in scene i.
2. Why is the ghost of Old Hamlet denied his eternal rest?
3. What delicate issues are at the very top of Claudius’s agenda for the meeting of
4. Would the king rather have Hamlet stay at Elsinore or return to Wittenberg? Why? 5. Where is Laertes going? What advice does Polonius give him?
6. How does Polonius tell Ophelia to behave toward Hamlet?
7. How did Old Hamelt die? What is the official account of his death? 8. What is the task that Old Hamlet sets to Hamlet? What stragegy does Hamlet
decide to adopt at once, in order to reveal the truth?
9. What does Scene ii in Act I reveal about Hamlet’s character? (His attitudes and
10. Compare the relationship of Hamlet, Fortinbras, and Laertes to their fathers. 11. How do you think Ophelia feels after listening to her father and brother talk about
her love life?
12. What is “rotten in the state of Denmark”? How does this spiritual pollution affect
simple truth, honesty, and plain dealing among people?
13. What does Hamlet mean by putting on “antic disposition”? What does he hope to
accomplish? How does Hamlet’s disguise relate to the subjects of appearance vs.
reality and theater vs. life?
14. Compare Hamlet’s two soliloquies in Scenes ii and v. What do they reveal about
the changes in his nature? What does he talk to himself in the first place? 15. What do you think of Hamlet’s approach to his problems? Are there other actions
he could take at this point to get what he wants? If Hamlet lived today, how
might he resolve his problems?
1. Who is Reynaldo and what is his job?
2. Examine the line: “Your bait of falsehood take this carp of truth” (Scene I). Who
is fishing? For what? What kind of bait is being used?
3. How is Ophelia’s report to her father concerning Hamlet’s behavior evidence of
his “antic disposition”?
4. Who are Rosencrantz and Guildenstern? How is Claudius’s speech to them like
Polonius’s speech to Reynaldo?
5. How is the attitude of the uncle to Fortinbras like that of Claudius to Hamlet? 6. How has Ophelia betrayed Hamlet’s trust in the matter of his letters?
7. What trap does Polonius set to get Hamlet to reveal what may be on the young
man’s mind? How does Hamlet “play it”? Is he wise to the trick?
8. What is the source of the “transformation” of Hamlet according to (a) Polonius, (b)
Rosencrantz and Guilenstern, (c) Gertrude?
9. How does Hamlet compare himself to the actor he has auditioned? How does he
propose to use the visiting actors in his conflict with Claudius? 10. What does the Queen know, and when does she know it?
11. Cite three evidences of Hamlet’s sense of humor in his exchange with
Rosencrantz and Guildenstern. In each instance, what is the joke? 12. If Hamlet is acting as one distracted and confused in the scene Ophelia reports to
Polonius, why is he doing this, if he loves her?
13. By the close of Act II, we have several “fishing” parties organized: By Claudius,
Polonius, and Hamlet himself. Who is being used by each man to fish for
information or truth under the surface of things?
14.How do these actions relate to the idea of life as theater? Which characters are not
involved in the make-believe? Which are wearing masks of one kind or another? What kind of act are they putting on?
1. How is Ophelia being used by Claudius and Polonius in dealing with their Hamlet
2. Describe Hamlet’s contradictory ideas about death as expressed in the soliloquy
beginning “To be or not to be..”
3. What decision does the king make after observing Hamlet with Ophelia? 4. Summarize the main points of advice Hamlet gives, as a kind of director, to the
visiting actors. How does he use this advice in his own acting? (READING LOG) 5. What qualities does Hamlet admire in Horatio? Compare Horatio to Hamlet’s
other “friends,” Rosencrantz and Guildenstern.
6. According to Ophelia (III, ii), how long has it been since the death of Old Hamlet? 7. Explain “The Mousetrap”. Does it work?
8. After the play, how does Hamlet’s attitude toward Rosencrantz and Guildenstern
and Polonius change?
9. Explain why Hamlet doesn’t take his revenge during Claudius’s soliloquy.
10. What is the purpose of the Ghost’s appearance to Hamlet , and not to Gertrude?
What does he say to Hamlet? What is Gertrude’s reaction to this exchange?
11. What does Hamlet want Gertrude to do?
12. How does Hamlet propose to deal with Rosencrantz and Guildenstern and their
betrayal of him?
13. Act III always marks the turning point in a Shakespearean tragedy, that event or
moment that determines the hero’s fate. What would you say is the turning point
in this act? Why is moment so crucial to the plot?
14. Compare Hamlet’s dialogues with the two women in his life, Ophelia and
15. Show how Hamlet’s frustration and disgust becomes generalized in the soliloquy
“To be or not to be..” (Scene one). What makes life itself so miserable, as he now
sees it? Do you think he is suicidal, or is he just sounding off? Or is he just
meditating on a common problem?
16. Describe Hamlet’s state of mind as he moves from talking to himself to talking to
Ophelia (scene one) Are there points when he may actually be out of control?
1. Explain why the King doesn’t confront Hamlet directly after he finds out that
Hamlet has killed Polonius?
2. What does Hamlet resolve after his chance encounter with a captain in the army
3. What does Ophelia sing about? What does this tell you about her mental state?
4. Who becomes Claudius’s new ally in the plot against Hamlet? How does he
suggest that they are both threatened by Hamlet?
5. Describe the fate of Ophelia, as reported by Gertrude at the end of ACT IV
6. What kind of mail has Horatio received unexpectedly from Hamlet?
7. Look at Act Iv, Scene iv and describe Hamlet’s feelings at this point about the
relationship of thought to action, and about the idea of honor.
8. Consider Ophelia’s thought.. “We know what we are but we know not what we
may be.” Explain how this relates to herself, to Gertrude, to Hamlet.
9. What problems exist in the play at the end of Act IV? In what different ways
might they be resolved? Can the play end happily?
1. Why do you think Shakespeare wrote the gravediggers’ scene the way he did?
What effect does the scene and the conversation have on the TONE of the play at
2. Look at Hamlet’s remarks to Horatio in Scene ii beginning, “Our indiscretion
sometimes serves us well..” How do these remarks reflect significant changes in
his attitude toward his problems and toward life itself?
3. Compare Hamlet’s ideas about life and death at the beginning of Act V, as
expressed in his remarks about Yorick, and later, in his remarks to Horatio
moments before the duel Laertes. In what ways is his sense of resignation now
4. How do you explain the Queen’s final actions in the duel scene?
5. Why do you suppose there are no soliloquies in Act V? How do we learn
Hamlet’s deepest thoughts now?
6. What is ironic about Fortinbras becoming the new head of government? Think about the report Horatio will give to Fortinbras. Explain some of the ironies Fortinbras will find in the stories of “accidental judgements” an of “purposes mistook / Falln’ on the inventors’ heads.”