Hamlet Act 1+2 Discussion Questions

What is Polonius’s purpose in sending Reynaldo to France? Polonius wants Reynaldo to question Laertes’ acquaintances and make sure that he is listening to his advice
How does Ophelia describe the appearance and condition of Hamlet in his interview with her? Hamlet looks very pale and he showed up to the door with his pants around his ankles. After he came to the door, he stood there for a while and then eventually left. He seemed as if he was crazy.
Describe Hamlet’s effect upon Ophelia? Ophelia is very concerned and scared for Hamlet after seeing him like this.
To what does Polonius attribute the actions of Hamlet? Polonius says that Hamlet is mad because Ophelia broke up with him
Had Ophelia obeyed her father’s commands not to receive letters from Hamlet and to deny his seeing her? Yes
Does Polonius become more certain that the attitude of Hamlet is due to love for Ophelia? Yes, He believes that Hamlet is mad that Ophelia broke things off with Hamlet and now he is acting crazy
describe how Ophelia is now feeling after her most recent encounter with Hamlet. What do you think Hamlet’s true intentions were when seeing Ophelia? What are your predictions for both characters following this scene? Ophelia is now afraid of Hamlet, Polonius will tell the king and queen about Hamlet and his actions, Hamlet may have been trying to distract everyone so he can get to his true motive (killing his uncle)
What is the king’s plan to learn the cause of Hamlet’s state? He wants Rosencrantz and Guildenstern to spy on Hamlet
Who are Rosencrantz and Guildenstern? They are Hamlet’s old friends that King Claudius is using as spies
What do Voltemand and Cornelius report? What request from Norway do the ambassadors bring? They say that Fortinbras’ uncle scolded Fortinbras Jr. and he will no longer try to attack Denmark. Fortinbras Jr. however, wants to attack Poland, so he asks if he can march his army through Denmark to reach Poland
According to Polonius, from where is Hamlet’s madness derived? Why? Hamlet’s madness is derived from Ophelia breaking up with him. This has made him mad and angry
Explain Polonius’s plan to determine the root of Hamlet’s madness. He will have his daughter speak to him and see if his madness is because of her
How do Queen Gertrude and King Claudius feel about Polonius’s suggestion? They decide to go along with Polonius’s suggestion, since he has proved to them in the past that he is trustworthy
When Polonius confronts Hamlet, how does Hamlet appear? Hamlet looks as if he is “crazy” and begins acting like it as well
What does Hamlet call Polonius and why? He calls him a fishmonger-pimp for selling off his daughter
What observations does Hamlet make about Polonius? He describes him as a crab and the way he acts can be compared to this. He also thinks that he acts like a baby and is very childish
Explain Hamlet’s state of mind. Is it believable? Hamlet acts crazy when he is around people that he knows he needs to distract. Yes, his state of mind is very believable
In Polonius’ aside, “Though this be madness, yet there is method in ‘t” (II.ii.223), to what is her referring? How does Hamlet respond? Polonius says that Hamlet is mad, yet there is method in it. Hamlet laughs and agrees
Explain Hamlet’s treatment towards Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Hamlet knows why they are there and he confronts them about it.
How does he speak to them? Does he see through their purpose? He speaks to them as old friends, yet he knows their true purpose in being there
What does Hamlet say about his condition? Be sure to find the key quote “When the wind is southerly, I know a hawk from a handsaw.” He is saying that he can control when he acts crazy and when he isn’t.
How does Hamlet describe Polonius to Rosencrantz and Guildenstern? He describes him as a great baby.
Rosencrantz informs Hamlet of the player arrival. What advantage does Hamlet hope to gain from the players? He hopes to show a play for the King and Queen that is very similar to his own father’s death and try to get them to be guilty and confess to their crimes
What does Hamlet say about the King and Queen in the play? He says that the king will be struck down and the Queen will be left to rot in her guilt
While speaking to Polonius, Hamlet states the importance of the players. What does he say? Explain the specific lines They are the chronicles of the century and deserve his every ounce of respect and honor
What is the plot of the “Murder of Gonzago?” The plot of this play is almost exactly the same and depicts a picture such as King Hamlet being murdered
Act II closes with “The play’s the thing/Wherein I’ll catch the conscience of the King” (II.ii.633). Explain the significance of Hamlet’s heroic couplet Hamlet is going to use the players and have them perform a play in front of his uncle and mother that is almost exactly like the death of his father. He will then interrogate his uncle after the play is over to see his reaction. He believes that if his uncle makes any certain facial expressions or he asks him the right questions, this will lead his uncle to confess to murdering his father and he can exact his revenge
How does Shakespeare produce the opening atmosphere of the play? Shakespeare starts off the play, telling of Barnardo and Marcellus standing guard and they see a ghost, which appears to be the late King Hamlet. This provides tension and dread about what is going to happen during the rest of the play
Explain “Long live the king.” long live King Hamlet. They all respect Hamlet when he was alive and now that they see his ghost, they believe he is still “alive” in some way
What is Barnardo’s state of mind and how is it evident? He was both puzzled and fascinated by the ghost. This shows that people didn’t understand what they were seeing, but it amazed them at the same time
What is the significance of Francisco’s words: “And I am sick at heart?” He needed a lot of his relief from being out so long
Provide the first reference to the ghost. What does Horatio think the ghost is? How is Horatio affected? The first reference to the ghost was at the guard’s platform in Elsinore. Horatio believes the ghost is a fantasy. Horatio did not believe there was ghost until he saw it with his own eyes. He believes it expresses some evil to the state
Explain the significance of “Thou art a scholar, speak to it, Horatio”? He means that he is good with words and educated and he should be able to communicate with the ghost due to the level of his education
How do Bernardo and Horatio describe the ghost? Describe Horatio’s conclusions by the end of the encounter. They believe that the ghost looks a lot like Hamlet Sr., the previous king. Horatio tries to talk to the ghost but the apparition does not answer him. Horatio believes that the king only comes out at certain times, but refuses to speak to anyone
Describe young Fortinbras? Young Fortinbras is the prince of Norway. When Hamlet Sr was the king, he acquired land in Norway from their former king. Now that young Fortinbras took over the throne, he wants the land back that Hamlet took
What connection does Bernardo make between the appearance of the ghost and the disturbed conditions in Norway? The connection made between the ghost and Norway is that the ghost is worn just like the country is due to the recovery of war and the looming threat of war over the country
How does Horatio react when the ghost appears? Why does the ghost appear? Horatio is very surprised when the ghost appears again and asks for the ghost to try and talk to him again. The ghost appears to warn the guards about the attack.
The first speech of Claudius is unrealistic. Explain the purpose of his speech He married the Queen right after the death of the King and no one is objecting or questioning their motives. He wants to inform the public and thank them for their support, address the dead king, and talk more about their marriage
Describe Laertes and the request he makes Laertes is the son of the King’s right hand. He asks to go to France to continue his studies (fencing).
Find the quote where Hamlet describes Claudius as an aside. Describe their conversation that follows. “A little more than kin and less than kind.” Claudius tries to convince Hamlet that their marriage is acceptable and he needs to understand that he will be acting as a father figure for Hamlet now that his father passed away
What does Gertrude say to her son about his condition? How would you react to his situation? “All that lives must die…Cast thy nighted color must die.” She is trying to convince him that Hamlet Sr’s death was coming because everything must die eventually and he needs to get over it. She therefore says that his unhappiness needs to ‘die’ as well and he needs to become happy once more
Explain Hamlet’s riddling lines: “I am too much i’ the sun.” How does Hamlet answer his mother and uncle? Hamlet is being sarcastic about being overly happy. Hamlet says that he will only obey his mother and goes on to say what everything ‘seems
What idea do we get of Hamlet’s mental and emotional condition at the beginning of the drama? Use support Hamlet is very bitter and depressed over the death of his father. He also is angry and disgusted with his mother and uncle for getting married right after Hamlet Sr. passed away
From where has Horatio come? What is Hamlet’s response to Horatio’s statement that he comes to Elsinore to see the funeral of Hamlet’s father? Horatio came from a school in Wittenberg. Hamlet believes that Horatio was only there to see the wedding of his uncle and mother.
What does his response say about Hamlet? It shows that Hamlet is still upset about the death and the marriage and he is very snarky with others.
How does Hamlet describe his father (find a quote here)? He describes his father as a good man and a good king, but all good men and rulers are unfortunately mortal
Hamlet says “O, that this too, too sullied flesh would melt, thaw and resolve itself into dew!” What does he mean? Hamlet wishes that everything would disappear. At this point, he is so overwhelmed with everything that is happening and as more events keep taking place, he becomes even more depressed than before
What does Hamlet say about foul deeds, if there are such? Hamlet believes that there is trouble coming but he won’t do anything until he has proof
Who is Polonius? What is his relationship to Claudius and to Hamlet? Polonius is Ophelia and Laertes’ father. He is the advisor of Claudius and Hamlet
Why does Laertes caution Ophelia against Hamlet? Laertes cautions Ophelia against Hamlet because he thinks that Hamlet will be too caught up to love her when Hamlet becomes the next King of Denmark
What pieces of advice does Polonius give Laertes? Polonius tells Laertes to listen to other people but to keep his own thoughts hidden. He also says to make sure that he looks rich but don’t go over the top and don’t borrow or lend things to anyone else. He also tells Laertes to not lie. He also tells Laertes to be true to himself
Explain Polonius’s feelings about Ophelia’s relationship with Hamlet and the reasons behind those feelings. Polonius thinks that Hamlet does not actually love Ophelia and he does not approve of the ‘relationship.’ He considers Hamlet a liar and not committed enough to be in a relationship with his daughter
Who enters into this scene and acts as comic relief? (Act one scene 3) Polonius
Describe Hamlet’s first encounter with the ghost Hamlet immediately recognizes the ghost to be his father. He is very surprised and transfixed on the apparition. He is amazed that his father is back again, only this time as a spirit. The ghost beckons to Hamlet Jr. and he wants to follow him.
What is Marcellus’ famous quote and what does it mean? “Something is rotten in the state of Denmark.” This means that since the ghost wanted Hamlet Jr. to follow it, there is most likely trouble within the state and he is predicting that something bad is going to happen
What conclusions can we make about Hamlet’s state of mind at this point? (act one scenes four and five) Hamlet is very overwhelmed because he is seeing his father again since he passed away. It is also easy to see that Hamlet’s decision to follow the ghost were based upon emotions at seeing his father once again
How does the ghost of King Hamlet describe the murder? What is the image he uses to describe the perpetrator? King Hamlet describes himself sitting outside in his chair, taking a nap as he often does, when someone came up and poured a poisonous liquid in his ears. The liquid spread through his body quickly, killing him. He got a glimpse of the killer which happened to be his brother. He describes the perpetrator as a serpent
What does the ghost request of Hamlet? He asks Hamlet to get revenge on his murderer
How is Gertrude responsible? What must Hamlet do in her case? Although Gertrude did not know that King Hamlet was going to be murdered, she did fall for Claudius while he was still alive. She paid no attention to her actual husband and once he passed away, it was the perfect time for her to marry Claudius. Hamlet isn’t supposed to touch her because when she eventually passes away, her guilt will eat away at her for what she did
What is the nature of Hamlet’s speech once the ghost has left? Should we conclude that Hamlet is insane? Why or why not? Evidence? After the ghost leaves, Hamlet begins to slightly freak out. He makes a promise to his father that he will get revenge for him and he promises to remember him. Hamlet isn’t necessarily insane, although he slightly acts like he is. He just interacted with his dead father and learned that his uncle is the reason that he is dead, so his actions after the ghost leaves are pretty self-explanatory
What is Hamlet’s request to his men? Hamlet asks his men to swear not to tell anyone what they have seen. They are to pretend that they haven’t seen the ghost or have seen Hamlet speaking to his father. He makes sure that his men swear upon his sword.
What words express Hamlet’s feelings about carrying out his promise to avenge his father’s death? “That ever I was born to set it right!” Hamlet feels that was born and destined to carry out revenge for his father’s death.
What has Shakespeare accomplished in the first act? Conflicts? Dramatic pyramid? Within the first act, Shakespeare has given us a solid cast and we have begun to learn about the character and their personalities. He has shown us that Hamlet is battling an inner conflict with himself and his emotions over his father’s death. Eventually, Shakespeare gives us another conflict where Hamlet learns about how his father died and has agreed to take revenge upon his father’s murderer