Hamlet Suggested Essay Topics
by William Shakespeare

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Suggested Essay Topics

Act I
1. Contrast the attitudes towards the death of the old King as expressed by Claudius and Hamlet.

2. Compare the advice given to Ophelia by Laertes and that given by Polonius.

Act II
1. Draw a character profile of Polonius from his interactions in this act with Reynaldo (Scene 1), Ophelia (Scene 1), Gertrude and Claudius (Scene 2), Hamlet (Scene 2), and the Players (Scene 2).

2. Compare/contrast the relationship which the King and Queen have with Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, to the relationship which Hamlet has with Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, as defined in Scene 2.

1. Discuss the thematic connection between Hamlet’s scene with Ophelia where he speaks of honesty, his speech to the Players on acting, and his speech to Horatio on flattery.

2. Compare Claudius’ thoughts on his own guilt as he tries to pray to Gertrude’s recognition of her guilt when confronted by Hamlet.

3. Discuss the grouping of characters from scene to scene in Act III, beginning with a crowded stage in Scene 1 and ending with Gertrude alone in Scene 4. What does Shakespeare achieve with the rapidly changing cast on stage as the action in this act unfolds?

Act IV
1. Trace the way Claudius tries to manipulate the following characters in this act in order to achieve his own ends: Gertrude, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, Hamlet, and Laertes.

2. Discuss the implications of Ophelia’s song lyrics. What do they suggest about her relationship with Hamlet, and her grief for her father, especially as causes for her apparent madness?

Act V
1. Compare Claudius’ use of the “arranged” fencing match between Laertes and Hamlet to Hamlet’s use of “The Mousetrap,” and his rewriting of the letters carried by Rosencrantz and Guildenstern.

2. Discuss the professions of love and grief expressed at Ophelia’s funeral by Laertes and Hamlet, as compared to similar scenes featuring Claudius, in terms of their implications for the play’s outcome: who is honest, deserving, and just, among the play’s key players?