Act I Questions and Answers

Study Questions
1. Why does the Ghost of Hamlet’s father appear but not speak to the officers on sentinel duty?

2. What do Ghostly apparitions usually portend, according to these witnesses?

3. What is the content of the dispatches Claudius has sent with Voltemand and Cornelius to the King of Norway?

4. In his soliloquy, what are Hamlet’s reasons for objecting to his mother’s remarriage?

5. What advice does Laertes give to Ophelia as he says farewell to her prior to his departure for Paris?

6. What advice does she give Laertes in return?

7. What is the thrust of the advice Polonius gives Laertes as his son prepares to leave?

8. What does Polonius instruct Ophelia to do regarding Hamlet?

9. What does the apparition tell Hamlet?

10. What two-part oath does Hamlet extract from his companions following the encounter with the Ghost?

1. Horatio believes he has offended it by demanding that it speak, and Marcellus believes his threat of violence was ill-conceived on a spirit, which is “as the air, invulnerable.” Horatio and Marcellus also recall the folk wisdom that the cock’s crowing sends spirits to their “confine.” Additionally, in the season just before Christmas, the cock crows all night, and “no spirit dare stir abroad . . . So hallowed and so gracious is that time.”

2. Horatio remembers similar Ghostly appearances were reported shortly before Julius Caesar’s fall, and believes the Ghost to be a...

(The entire section is 655 words.)

Act II Questions and Answers

Study Questions
1. What task does Polonius assign Reynaldo in Paris?

2. Why is Ophelia so upset when she speaks with her father?

3. In what respect does Polonius change his mind about Hamlet and the prince’s relationship to Ophelia?

4. What task does Claudius assign to Rosencrantz and Guildenstern?

5. What news do Voltemand and Cornelius bring back from Norway?

6. What do Claudius and Gertrude conclude after hearing Polonius read the letter from Hamlet to Ophelia?

7. What does Polonius mean in an aside, as he speaks with Hamlet, “Though this be madness, yet there is method in’t”?

8. What does Hamlet make Rosencrantz and Guildenstern confess?

9. Why have Hamlet’s two friends arranged for the theatrical troupe to perform at the palace?

10. What is the significance of the speech which Hamlet requests from the actor, taken from the story of the Trojan War?

1. Polonius gives Reynaldo “money and . . . notes” to give to Laertes; and instructs him “to make [indirect] inquire / Of his behavior.” Polonius wants to know what Laertes is doing in Paris, and intends “By indirections [to] find directions out.”

2. “Affrighted,” she reports that Hamlet came to her private room, his clothing undone and dirty, and his expression looking “As if he had been loosed out of hell / To speak of horrors—. . . . ” He held her by the wrist and stared and sighed, and then went out the door, his eyes still on her “with his head over his shoulder turned.”

3. Polonius diagnoses Hamlet’s behavior as “the very ecstasy of love, / Whose violent property fordoes itself / And leads the will to desperate undertakings. . . . ” He apologizes that he had earlier misjudged Hamlet, fearing “he did but trifle / And meant to wrack thee. . . . ” He excuses his error by noting that it is as common for elders...

(The entire section is 818 words.)

Act III Questions and Answers

Study Questions
1. What do Rosencrantz and Guildenstern report to Claudius regarding their conversation with Hamlet?

2. What do the pair fail to reveal to Claudius?

3. What favor does Hamlet ask of Horatio?

4. What is the plot of the Dumb Show the Players present?

5. What is the significance of the play’s title, “The Mousetrap”?

6. What does Hamlet mean, as he prepares to visit his mother, when he says, “O heart, lose not thy nature”?

7. What rationale do Rosencrantz and Guildenstern give for accepting Claudius’ commission to take Hamlet to England forthwith?

8. What is ironic about Hamlet’s failure to kill Claudius while the King is kneeling in prayer?

9. What is Hamlet’s reaction when he realizes he has killed Polonius rather than Claudius, whom he had presumed to be the one hiding behind the curtain?

10. What is the apparent purpose of the Ghost’s appearance in the Queen’s bedroom while Hamlet speaks with his mother?

1. They say Hamlet was polite but not very inclined to talk about what was bothering him. They report that Hamlet seemed pleased that the Players had been engaged for a performance.

2. They do not disclose that Hamlet made them admit that they had been sent by Claudius, nor that Hamlet revealed that Claudius and Gertrude are deceived about his seeming madness.

3. He wants Horatio to carefully observe Claudius during the play, to watch his reactions, to help to determine whether the Ghost which named Claudius murderer was heaven sent...

(The entire section is 679 words.)

Act IV Questions and Answers

Study Questions
1. What is Claudius’ response when Gertrude tells him that Hamlet has murdered Polonius?

2. What does Claudius direct Rosencrantz and Guildenstern to do?

3. Why does Hamlet hide Polonius’ corpse and then dash away when Rosencrantz and Guildenstern question him about it?

4. Why does Hamlet call Claudius “dear Mother”?

5. Why does Fortinbras send word to the Danish king (Claud¬ius)?

6. How does Hamlet contrast himself (all men) to beasts?

7. How does Claudius propose to satisfy Laertes’ suspicions?

8. What reasons does Claudius give Laertes for not taking action against Hamlet, who, Claudius says, “Pursued [his] life”?

9. Why does Claudius plan to poison the drink, in addition to poisoning the rapier tip which Laertes will wield?

10. How does Ophelia drown?

1. He says he himself would have been killed, had he been behind the curtain; that Hamlet’s continued freedom threatens him, the Queen herself, and everyone. He fears he will be blamed for not keeping Hamlet restrained, but that love often prevents us from seeing the best course. Claudius tells her that Hamlet must be sent away (by ship), and that they must make people understand and approve their actions.

2. He directs them to get help and find Hamlet, “speak fair” to him, and bring Polonius’ body into the chapel; “I pray you haste in this.”

3. Hamlet is continuing in his “madness,” behaving in ways which seem irrational to his family and friends....

(The entire section is 663 words.)

Act V Questions and Answers

Study Questions
1. Why is there debate surrounding the nature of Ophelia’s funeral?

2. How long has the gravedigger been sexton, and when did he first become employed?

3. What joking insult to the English does Shakespeare put into the gravedigger’s dialogue, regarding Hamlet’s madness?

4. What cause does Laertes ascribe to Ophelia’s madness, which led to her death?

5. What prompts Hamlet’s outburst at Ophelia’s graveside?

6. What order did Claudius’ letter, carried by Guildenstern and Rosencrantz, convey to the English regarding Hamlet’s fate?

7. How does Hamlet justify his counterfeit command that Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are to be murdered by the English?

8. In his apology to Laertes, what does Hamlet mean when he says, “I have shot my arrow o’er the house and hurt my brother”?

9. Why does Hamlet forbid Horatio to drink the rest of the poisoned cup?

10. Who will ascend to power as the new King of Denmark?

1. The issue is whether her drowning was accidental, in which case she may have a Christian burial—which the coroner has ruled, the gravedigger says; or whether it was intentional, in which case she may not have a Christian burial. Later, the Doctor of Divinity confirms that though “Her death was doubtful,” the King has ruled that her burial be Christian. Thus,...

(The entire section is 489 words.)