Essay Topics for Hamlet

By Greg Ellis,2014-08-12 10:23
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Essay Topics for Hamlet ...

    Essay Topics for Hamlet

    1. The structure of drama is sometimes based on the principle of action followed by

    reaction. Cite examples in Hamlet of a character’s own actions backfiring or reacting

    against hima pattern that the Greeks called nemesis.

2. Relate Hamlet’s mental development to the meaning of the play.

    3. How does the question of appearance and reality affect the meaning of the play?

    4. Shakespeare’s greatest tragedies have moments of low comedy. Is comedy as serious a

    commentary on life as tragedy?

5. Our editor, Bernard Lott, (New Swan Shakespeare, Essex: Longman, 1990) on page ix

    says, “Hamlet lives and is significant today primarily because his experience…stirs the

    awareness of similar experiences in ourselves…Hamlet, placed in his own peculiar

    predicament, is shown responding to it in ways which are totally familiar to our own

    deepest natures.” Do you agree or disagree? Why?

6. How do characters in the play change? From the following list choose two and trace the

    changes in their characters and account for these changes. Hamlet, Laertes, Claudius,

    Gertrude Ophelia

    7. Emotion, reason and fate (i.e. time and accident) are key aspects of what happens in the

    play. Discuss how these elements interact to create tensions in the play and the role

    each plays in determining events in the play.

    8. There are political and ethical dilemmas in the play; some apply only to Shakespeare’s

    time, but many other are universal. Discuss the dilemmas and why they belong only to

    the Renaissance or why they belong to all times.

    9. Discuss the leitmotif (recurring imagery) of nature in the play and how the constant

    references to nature and to blemished (faulty) nature enhance the meaning of the play.

    10. In the final analysis, is the stratagem of feigned madness necessary to Hamlet’s purposes?

    If you are of the opinion that the “antic disposition” is not necessary to Hamlet’s

    purposes, why then did Shakespeare add the element of feigned madness to the play?

    11. The introduction and excerpts from noted literary critics, especially Coleridge, Bradley

    and Eliot, account for Hamlet’s delay in taking action. What are some theories that

    account for Hamlet’s procrastination of his “duty” to revenge his father?

12. After all of your reading, thinking and discussion, who finally, is Hamlet? There is no

    right answer to this question but there are well-reasoned and well-supported answers.

    13. Setting: In Act 1, what figurative or symbolic images of apprehension, sickness, decay

    and disorder does Shakespeare use in order to introduce the overall concept of personal

    and political corruption in Denmark.

    14. Setting: What does Shakespeare accomplish dramatically by beginning the last act in a


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    Essay Topics for Hamlet

    15. Character: When and to whom does Claudius openly reveal his determination to remain

    king? Quote specific passages to illustrate your points.

    16. Character: Why is Fortinbras the logical person to assume command of Denmark?

    17. Plot: How does Hamlet’s unexpected return to Denmark affect Claudius? What does it

    prompt Claudius to do that speeds up the plot?

18. Plot: How does the ghost affect the plot?

    19. Theme: One of the most pervasive themes throughout the play is that of appearance

    versus realitythat is the contrast between what seems to be and what actually is. Give

    specific examples of characters in the play who illustrate this theme.

    20. Theme: Give examples of both situations and dialogue that emphasize the theme that

    love wanes with time. Cite also instances in which the opposite of this theme is


    21. Analysis: What particular episodes in the play focus on the use of poison?

    22. Analysis: Compare the common technique and purpose of the opening scene of Hamlet

    and those of other Shakespearean plays. Discuss the specific occurrences in the first

    scene of Hamlet and suggest why they are dramatically effective.

    23. Comparative Literature: In what ways is the quest for revenge both similar and

    dissimilar in The Scarlett Letter and Hamlet?

    24. Comparative Literature: Compare the dramatic conclusions of other tragedies by


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