Yorick’s Skull The most obvious symbol in the play—and perhaps in Shakespeare’s entire body of work—this represents mortality. Should the audience have any question about this symbolism, Hamlet explains it to them (and Horatio) when he says, “No matter one’s stance in life, we all must face our own mortality.” Hamlet has learned that death is inevitable and, given the “haunting” by his father’s ghost, that the physical body is only temporary (Act 5, Scene 1).
The Mousetrap Hamlet, in asking the players to perform The Murder of Gonzago with a few revisions, suggests that he has an understanding and appreciation for the idea of life imitating art. In this particular case, Hamlet is hoping to put that idea to use to catch the conscience of the king. In this play, the edited version of the play, nearly everything is a symbol for the truth Hamlet hopes to uncover, with the most obvious symbols in the casting: “I’ll have these players play something like the murder of my father.” The King in this play symbolizes King Hamlet and The Poisoner obviously symbolizes Claudius.
The Ghost While the ghost symbolizes decay or evil—”Something is rotten in the state of Denmark” (Act 1, Scene 4)—it is an ambiguous character. It is not clear whether the ghost is truly the spirit of Hamlet’s father, a demon that wants to mislead the prince, or a figment of Hamlet’s imagination. Hamlet tries to find out by asking it, “Be thou a spirit of health, or goblin damned/… Be thy intents wicked, or charitable?” This appears with the purpose of seeking revenge for his death. He comes dressed in armor, prepared for battle, but because he is a spirit, he needs Hamlet’s physical strength to exact revenge. Vengeance is a dangerous emotion, however, and it nearly drives both Hamlet and Laertes mad through obsession: “O, from this time forth my thoughts be bloody, or be nothing worth!”
women are weak and lustful “Frailty thy name is woman”
going crazy “antic disposition”
crazy in the head “distraught Globe”
about the 1600s When was Hamlet written?
Hamlet; 4 hours What is Shakespeare’s longest play? How long is it?
Elsinore What is the name of the castle that Hamlet’s family lives in?
King Hamlet King of Denmark who is murdered by his brother, Claudius. His ghost will appear to his son Hamlet.
Queen Gertrude Married to King Hamlet; marries his brother, Claudius, when the kingdies.
Prince Hamlet Son to King Hamlet of Denmark and Gertrude; He comes home from school in Wittenberg because his dad was murdered.
Claudius King Hamlet’s brother. Uncle/stepfather of Hamlet; Murders the king/marries Gertrude.
Polonius Chief officer to the new King (Lord Chamberlain)
Laertes Son of Polonius
Ophelia Daughter of Polonius (love interest of Hamlet’s)
Horatio Hamlet’s most trusted friend from school (in Wittenberg). He is a man of reason and looked up to by others. They look to him for guidance.
Guildenstern friend of Hamlet’s from school
Rosencrantz friend of Hamlet’s from school
Fortinbras Young prince of Norway, whose father was killed by King Hamlet. He wishes to attack Denmark for revenge and to honor his dead father.
What are the elements of a Shakespearean tragedy? Tragic HeroTragic FlawHumorExternal ConflictInternal ConflictSupernaturalRevenge MotiveChance Happening
Tragic Hero Example Hamlet
Tragic Flaw Example Hamlet not acting on his goals/procrastination
Humor example the gravedigger scene
External Conflict example Fortinbras’s raids
Internal Conflict example Hamlet deciding whether to kill Claudius when he is prayingDad’s death, mom’s remarriage to his uncle, seeing dad’s ghost, girlfriend’s rejection, accidently killing Polonius, needing to get revenge against Claudius, saving his own life with switching orders on way to England, fencing match at the end-trying again to save his own life
Supernatural example the ghost of King Hamlet
Revenge Motive Example Fortinbras going after Hamlet/DenmarkHamlet going after ClaudiusLaertes going after Hamlet
chance happening example the killing of Polonius which leads to Ophelia’s madness and her eventual death
The theme of revenge and justice is achieved but at what cost? That death is neither heroic nor shameful, according to the moral logic of the play. Hamlet achieves his father’s vengeance, but only after being spurred to it by the most extreme circumstances one might consider possible: watching his mother die and knowing that he, too, will die in moments. Justice and revenge is achieved. but lives have been lost before their time.
Hamlet’s waiting for Laertes’ forgiveness gives him a normal state of mind. Exactly what has caused the change in Hamlet is unclear, but his desire to attain Laertes’ forgiveness clearly represents an important shift in his mental state. Whereas Hamlet previously was obsessed almost wholly with himself and his family, he is now able to think sympathetically about others. He does not go quite so far as to take responsibility for Polonius’s death, but he does seem to be acting with a broader perspective after the shock of Ophelia’s death.
Will Fortinbras’ rule over Denmark return it to a moral state? In marked contrast to the corrupted and weakened royal family lying dead on the floor, Fortinbras clearly represents a strong-willed, capable leader, though the play does not address the question of whether his rule will restore the moral authority of the state.
What were Gertrude’s actual motives in marrying Claudius? In Act 3 Scene 4, Hamlet accuses Gertrude of lust for marrying Claudius only few months after King Hamlet’s death – he believes that Gertrude married Claudius for he own desire. However, there also is a possibility that Gertrude was taking the responsibility to protect and stabilize the nation as a queen. Without a King, nation is exposed to outside threats and internal chaos. Through her marriage with Claudius, this can be prevented. (Which also would explain why she married so soon after King Hamlet death)
Themes seen throughout Hamlet The themes of revenge and justice are achieved.Hamlet wanting Laertes forgiveness gives him a normal state of mind. (madness)Death makes all equalDysfunctional familieslies/deceitMorality (moral corruption of the living)Political livelihood (something rotten in the state of Denmark)
Explain the quarrel between Denmark and Norway. The King of Denmark dueled the King of Norway and the King of Norway was killed and surrendered his territories to Denmark. Now the son of Norway’s King plans to retake the land that Norway lost.
How long after King Hamlet’s death did Gertrude and Claudius marry? about 1 month
Why is Hamlet so upset? 1. Hamlet is upset because his father died.2. Hamlet is also upset because his mother married his Uncle very quickly after his father died, less than a month.
How does Hamlet describe his father? Compared his father to God and his uncle to a beast; his father actually loved his mother while his uncle probably didn’t; less than a month between death and marriage. Good king and man, loving; good person. God of light. Means a lot to the people.
What are Hamlet’s feelings about his mother and new father Claudius? Consider this line: “Frailty, the name is woman!” Hamlet is not happy whatsoever with the new marriage. He speaks of how it has been such a short time period since his father’s funeral and how his mother jumped at the chance to marry his uncle when she used to hang on his father constantly. Hamlet states that his mother was lustful and weak for remarrying so quickly.
Explain the reasons that Laertes and Polonius give Ophelia to convince her not to trust Hamlet’s love. Don’t be a target of lust. Don’t always say what you’re thinking. Don’t be too quick to act on what you think. Be friendly but not too friendly. Listen to many people but speak to few. Reserve your own judgment. Don’t be quick to pick a fight but when you do hold your own.They stated that even the purest maid can find her reputation ruined. Worms can ruin flowers before they have a chance to blossom. Hamlet is of noble birth and because of this he can not make choices for himself (marry of non-noble name).
Evaluate Polonius’ advice to his son. Consider the following line: “To thine own self be true Polonius wanted his son to make sure that he was always staying true to himself. Contradicting himself- he’s worried about what everyone thinks of his family.
Marcellus states, “Something is rotten in the state of Denmark.” What might this quote signify? This might foreshadow the coming plots, the uncle killing his father. Claudius is what is rotten about Denmark. Because the king is rotten, its contagious.
According to the ghost, how did Claudius kill King Hamlet? While King Hamlet was sleeping in the orchard, Claudius snuck up to him and poured poison in his ear that later spread throughout his body. References the garden of Eden.
Describe Hamlet’s reaction to the ghost. Hamlet is outraged and wants revenge on his uncle. But he is also scared of the outcome.
In your opinion, is Hamlet mad (crazy)? He is not crazy he’s just acting like he is because of all of the stress he is under
What do Ophelia and Polonius decide about Hamlet’s odd behavior? That he’s lovesick over the rejection
Why has Fortinbras changed his plan to attack Denmark? Fortinbras swore to never threaten Denmark again, so he changed his plans and planned to attack Poland but wanted to go through Denmark to get there. Fortinbras’s uncle did NOT want him to go attack Denmark
How does Hamlet feel about R&G? Why? Hamlet knew that they had been sent by the king and queen when he saw the guilty look in their eyes after he had asked if they had come on their own free will. He knew they were honest men, has respect. He was excited when they first arrived, but once he figured out they were sent to spy he felt betrayed.
What idea does Hamlet get from having the players in town? Hamlet decides to have the actors perform something similar to how his father’s death was so that he could observe his uncle’s reaction and prove his claim, that his uncle killed his father.
What idea is suggested in Hamlet’s famous “To be or not to be…” speech? During his speech, Hamlet is basically contemplating suicide the whole time because he says that the world is so horrible to live in. But he is a Christian and realizes that he will be damned to hell if he does kill himself. He then decides not to commit suicide.
What gives universal qualities to the “To be or not to be…” speech? It think that because of the way the message is presented, it can be relatable to many different situations. Everybody goes through hard times and choices. His speech is referred to the greatness of man speech.
What does Ophelia say about Hamlet after he’s gone crazy (and also figured out that Claudius and Polonious are spying on their conversation)? That his once noble mind was overthrown by his madness. She thinks he is absolutely nuts.
What action does Claudius decide to take? Why? Claudius then wants to send Hamlet off to England because he feels he is dangerous.
Why does Hamlet trust and admire Horatio? He is a long time loyal friend.
What does the play-within-a -play (Mousetrap) reveal? The play reveals the outrage of the king as it continues after the poison is poured. The king reacts to this part in the play which is exactly what Hamlet was expecting. Reveals Claudius’s guilt.
Why doesn’t Hamlet kill Claudius when he has the chance? Hamlet realizes that killing him would not be a punishment while Claudius is praying.
What changes after the ghost visits (in his mother’s bedroom)? Hamlet is more gentle towards his mother because the ghost reminds him that Gertrude should be left to God, and he is to only get revenge on Claudius.
Do you believe Hamlet when he says he is only pretending to me mad (crazy)? Explain. To an extent yes. I think he is slightly unstable but I also think that he was trying to create the image of his madness so he could continue on with his plan.
After learning of Polonius’ death, what is Claudius’ reaction? Why? Claudius continues to think that Hamlet is mad after he killed Polonius and is going to ship him away to England right away because he is a threat.
Is Gertrude loyal to Claudius? Explain. I think that Gertrude is loyal to Claudius in the fact that she still seems to think Hamlet is mad. She does not reject Claudius as Hamlet asked but instead goes along with Claudius’s plan to send Hamlet away.
What figurative language does Hamlet use to describe Claudius? He compares him to something. He refers to the king as an ape. He says that the king keeps them in their mouth, chewing them well before swallowing them. He uses a simile to compare the king to an ape because he uses men as he pleases.
What effect does meeting Fortinbras’ captain have on Hamlet? It makes him think about why he hasn’t taken revenge yet. Everything he comes across makes him wonder why he hasn’t gotten the revenge yet. He is angry with himself for not acting against Claudius.
Describe Laertes’ response to his father’s death. How he is a foil (opposite) of Hamlet? Laertes is quite upset and wants revenge immediately on his father. Hamlet was somewhat calm at the beginning and drug out his revenge plot.
Ophelia distributes flowers to the King, Queen, and Laertes. How do what these flowers symbolize relate to the characters and their actions? These flowers show that the characters truly do show that they care about their father. But it also shows Ophelia’s madness.Gertrude: fennel and columbines for adultery.Claudius: daisy (unhappy love) and rue (repentance)Laertes: I would give you violets (faithfulness) but they died along with my father, rosemary for remembrance and pansies for thoughts.
What news is revealed in Hamlet’s letter to Horatio? What does this show about Hamlet? Hamlet was kept a prisoner on a pirates ship. It shows that hamlet fought for the others on his ship because they could not sail away fast enough. Hamlet is coming back and it shows that Hamlet hasn’t completely lost his mind after being able to convince the pirates to bringing him home.
What will happen to R&G? He changed the orders to the letters to have R&G killed instead of himself. They will be killed once they reach England.
Explain Claudius and Laertes’ plan to kill Hamlet. How is Claudius taking advantage of Laertes? Claudius is using Laertes to kill Hamlet instead of making himself do it. They plan to have a duel where Laertes is going to dip his sword in oil that no man can be saved from if scratched with it. If that does not work, they plan to poison Hamlet’s drink. Claudius knows that Laertes will do anything to avenge his father’s death so Claudius uses this to his advantage.
What happened to Ophelia? She drowned and is now dead.
What is symbolic about this scene (Ophelia’s death)? She has both literally and metaphorically drowned her sadness. There are flowers mentioned again, she dies surrounded with flowers “her own fragile beauty”
The clowns (gravediggers) discuss where and how Ophelia is to be buried. How does the issue of suicide affect the burial? Because she took her own life, she technically should not be getting a Christian burial. But being rich had its advantages. If she committed suicide, she technically wouldn’t be allowed to be buried in a sacred cemetery.
Who was Yorick? The king’s jester
What dramatic function do the gravediggers have and what theme do they express? Provide comic relief to relieve the seriousness of the scene. Theme: Death makes all people equal. Hamlet is fascinated by this because whether you were the King or a normal person, everyone becomes equal.
Explain Hamlet’s remarks to Horatio about fate. Hamlet said that if something was supposed to happen now, that it would. He also said that readiness is everything. Fate (in forms of the pirate’s intervention and his possession of the ring) allows Hamlet to return to avenge his father’s death. Fate as more power over people than most people” desires.
Describe Hamlet’s state of mind before he fences with Laertes. How has Hamlet changed? I think that Hamlet knew what was going to happen but might have been okay with it knowing that he had a plan going into this fencing match, as did Claudius and Laertes. Hamlet seems much more sane than he did in previous sections. Hamlet is ready to face whatever comes at him, even if it is death. Hamlet has mellowed out but still ready to face whatever comes. Before when he was mad, everything was done out of fear and pain.
Why did Shakespeare end it this way? The play was a tragedy. People die in tragedies. Also, to cleanse Denmark of the bad people; King Hamlet’s soul had been avenged.
Who and why does Hamlet appoint to tell his story? Horatio because it will save Hamlet’s honor (Horatio knew what really happened)
Who will the next King of Denmark be and why? Fortinbras, it was Hamlet’s dying wish because he claimed Hamlet’s respect.
What type of funeral was Hamlet given? Why? He was giving like a soldier’s funeral; Horatio says that if he would’ve had the chance to serve and rule as king, then he would’ve been a good one. Fortinbras wanted to give him an honorable death.
List in order the deaths that occurred in this play (there are 9 total). King Hamlet (Claudius poured poison in his ear), Polonius (stabbed by Hamlet through tapestry), Ophelia (drowned by apparent suicide), R and G (killed by the King of England because of Hamlet), Gertrude (Drank poisoned wine intended for Hamlet [by Claudius]), Claudius (by Hamlet and very much intentional), Laertes (dies from his own poisoned sword), and Hamlet (died from Laertes poisoned sword)