Hamlet Act 1 Comprehension Questions

Where does this play take place? Elsinore, Denmark
As the play opens, Horatio joins Marcellus and Bernardo at their night watch. Why has Horatio joined them? Bernardo and Marcellus wanted to prove to Horatio that they witnessed the ghost of King Hamlet.
In line 69, how does Horatio interpret the appearance of the ghost? Horatio interprets that the ghost’s appearance is a bad omen for Denmark.
In lines 70 – 78, what three questions does Marcellus raise, and what explanation does Horatio provide? Marcellus asks about the strict guard schedule, why there are many cannons being built, and why shipbuilders are working constantly, especially on Sundays. Horatio answers these questions by saying that there is an impending threat for war from Fortinbras.
In lines 130 – 139, what three reasons does Horatio list for why the ghost may have returned from the grave? The ghost may have unfinished business, might be warning the sentinels about the war, or the ghost may be searching to find treasure.
What news does King Claudius announce at the opening of Scene 2? He married Gertrude.
Why does Claudius send Cornelius and Voltimand to Norway? (lines 27 – 39) To send a letter to young Prince Fortinbras’ uncle to warn him of Prince Fortinbras’ plan to take revenge.
What does Laertes ask King Claudius and why does he grant it so easily? Laertes is asking to go back to college in France. Since Polonius, Laertes’ father, lets him go, the King lets him go as well.
What bothers Claudius and Gertrude about Hamlet’s dress? Since Hamlet has worn all black since his father’s funeral, Claudius and Gertrude assume Hamlet is still grieving and depressed. Claudius wants Hamlet to celebrate their marriage, and Gertrude is worried about the welfare of her son.
Why does Claudius want Hamlet to remain at court? Claudius says to Hamlet that he wants him to stay because he is the next in line to the throne and because of Gertrude. Claudius actually wants him to stay so he can watch Hamlet closely.
About how long has Hamlet’s father been dead? Approximately < 2 months.
Explain why Hamlet says, “Frality, thy name is woman!” (line 146) This quote says, “Weakness, your name is woman!” He is referencing his mother, saying that she is weak because she gave up the throne and because she married her ex-husband’s brother.
At the end of Scene 2, what is Hamlet’s plan? He is going to keep quiet about his feelings, and he plans to join the guards.
What advice does Laertes give his sister? What does she, in turn, accuse him of? Laertes says to Ophelia to not fall for Hamlet because he is temporarily flirting and due to the difference of social class. She calls Laertes a hypocrite because he is doing the same thing.
Why is Laertes worried about his sister’s interactions with Hamlet? Who does he say will govern Hamlet’s marriage choice? His love is guided by the welfare of the government and his state.
In lines 58 – 80, Polonius gives a great deal of advice to his son Laertes. In this speech, Polonius covers nine items of advice. In your own words, explain what the following means:a. (lines 59 – 60) “Give thy thoughts no tongue, / Nor any unproportioned thought his act.”b. (line 68) “Give every man thy ear, but few thy voice;”c. (line 75 – 77) “Neither a borrower nor a lender be; / For loan oft loses both itself and friend,…” a. “Think before you speak / Don’t be too quick to act on what you think.”b. “Listen to everyone, keep your thoughts to yourself.”c. “Don’t borrow or lend money, if you lend to a friend, you often lose the friendship and the money.”
What are Polonius’ instructions to Ophelia about Hamlet? Polonius says to stay away from Hamlet and to not contact him. He tells her to be a “green girl”, innocent and inexperienced.
What is happening at the court while Hamlet, Horatio, and Marcellus are on the platform? The coronation. This occurs after a marriage of a royal, where every time someone toasts, everyone chugs their drink and a cannon is shot.
Why does Hamlet denounce the custom of drunken celebration? It opens Denmark to criticism, because it makes the country look like a bunch of drunkards.
What happens at the end of Scene 4?
Why does Claudius send Cornelius and Voltimand to Norway? (lines 27 – 39)