Hamlet Final Exam Study Guide

Hamlet The Prince of Denmark, the title character, and the protagonist. About thirty years old at the start of the play, Hamlet is the son of Queen Gertrude and the late King Hamlet, and the nephew of the present king, Claudius. Hamlet is melancholy, bitter, and cynical, full of hatred for his uncle’s scheming and disgust for his mother’s sexuality. A reflective and thoughtful young man who has studied at the University of Wittenberg, Hamlet is often indecisive and hesitant, but at other times prone to rash and impulsive acts.Fate: Dies after being stabbed by Laertes with a poisoned blade and getting his revenge on Claudius.
Polonius father of Ophelia and Laertes, lord chamberlain to King ClaudiusFate: Hamlet murders him with his sword through a tapestry behind Polonius was standing
Laertes Polonius’s son and Ophelia’s brother, a young man who spends much of the play in France. Passionate and quick to action, Laertes is clearly a foil for the reflective Hamlet.Fate: Dies from his own poison blade a
Ophelia Polonius’s daughter, a beautiful young woman with whom Hamlet has been in love. Ophelia is a sweet and innocent young girl, who obeys her father and her brother, Laertes. Dependent on men to tell her how to behave, she gives in to Polonius’s schemes to spy on Hamlet. Even in her lapse into madness and death, she remains maidenly, singing songs about flowers and finally drowning in the river amid the flower garlands she had gathered.Fate: Commits suicide after her father’s death
Gertrude The Queen of Denmark, Hamlet’s mother, recently married to Claudius. Gertrude loves Hamlet deeply, but she is a shallow, weak woman who seeks affection and status more urgently than moral rectitude or truth.Fate: Drinks poison wine meant for Hamlet after being warned by the king not to
Claudius The King of Denmark, Hamlet’s uncle, and the play’s antagonist. The villain of the play, Claudius is a calculating, ambitious politician, driven by his sexual appetites and his lust for power, but he occasionally shows signs of guilt and human feeling—his love for Gertrude, for instance, seems sincere.Fate: Hamlet forces him to drink the rest of the poisoned wine by holding him captive with his poisoned blade at his throat
Old Hamlet The specter of Hamlet’s recently deceased father. The ghost, who claims to have been murdered by Claudius, calls upon Hamlet to avenge him. However, it is not entirely certain whether the ghost is what it appears to be, or whether it is something else. Hamlet speculates that the ghost might be a devil sent to deceive him and tempt him into murder, and the question of what the ghost is or where it comes from is never definitively resolved.Fate: Poison was poured into his ear by Claudius
Rosencrantz & Guildenstern Two slightly bumbling courtiers, former friends of Hamlet from Wittenberg, who are summoned by Claudius and Gertrude to discover the cause of Hamlet’s strange behavior.Fate: Hamlet leaves them for dead on a ship to England after being attacked by pirates. He changes the letter ordering his death to order the deaths of Rosencrantz and Guildenstern.
Horatio Hamlet’s close friend, who studied with the prince at the university in Wittenberg. Horatio is loyal and helpful to Hamlet throughout the play. After Hamlet’s death, Horatio remains alive to tell Hamlet’s story.Fate: Lives
Fortinbras The young Prince of Norway, whose father the king (also named Fortinbras) was killed by Hamlet’s father (also named Hamlet). Now Fortinbras wishes to attack Denmark to avenge his father’s honor, making him another foil for Prince Hamlet.Fate: Fortinbras invades Poland
Setting of the play Elsinore, Denmark: in and around the royal palace, set in the late middle ages (14th and 15th centuries, or 1300 to 1499)
What is the point of the play? To tell a relatable story about the tragic life of a young man, and to ponder large philosophical questions about life and death.
soliloquy A dramatic speech, revealing inner thoughts and feelings, spoken aloud by one character while alone on the stage.
dramatic irony (theater) irony that occurs when the meaning of the situation is understood by the audience but not by the characters in the play
comedic relief A humorous scene or incident that alleviates tension in an otherwise serious work. In many instances these moments enhance the matic significance of the story in addition to providing laughter.
What does each Act/Scene illustrate? Act I, scene iAct I, scene iiAct I, scenes iii-ivAct I, scene v-Act II, scene iAct II, scene iiAct III, scene iAct III, scene iiAct III, scene iiiAct III, scene ivAct IV, scenes i-iiAct IV, scenes iii-ivAct IV, scenes v-viAct IV, scene viiAct V, scene iAct V, scene ii
Why are Rosencrantz and Guildenstern in Denmark? to try and figure out the true meaning for young hamlet’s madness, as ordered by the king and queen
Where does Hamlet say Ophelia should go? A nunnery
Where does the ghost say he wanders? Purgatory
How does the play end? In a tragedy in which everyone on stage dies except Horatio.
What country does Fortinbras decide to invade instead of Denmark? Poland
What is the point of the gravedigger scene? The first purpose of this scene is what we call “comic relief”. Many of the events leading up to this scene have been filled with drama and sadness. We have just learned Ophelia killed herself, Laertes and Claudius are planning to poison Hamlet, Hamlet has returned to Denmark and the audience is trying to adjust to all of this. In order to lighten the mood and give the audience a chance to absorb everything that is happening, Shakespeare inserts the comical grave digger’s scene. This offers relief from all the sad events that have been occurring Yet it also offers some serious thoughts on life, its brevity and final outcome. This helps prepare the audience for the final scenes of the play.Also describes the unique circumstances of OPhelia’s burial.
How does Claudius get rid of Hamlet? He sends him off to England with Rosencrantz and Guildenstern. Supposedly, Hamlet is being sent to England to collect some tribute that is owed to Denmark.
What happens to Hamlet’s ship en route to England? Their ship is attacked by pirates and Hamlet gets on the pirate ship to lift a ride back to Denmark.
Why are the soldiers keeping watch in the first place? They are guarding the outside of the Danish castle.
Why doesn’t Hamlet kill Claudius? Because Claudius was praying, and he did not want Claudius to go to heaven.
How do the characters respond to deaths in the play? Hamlet: Tries to avenge his father’s deathLooks down on his mother for remarryingThrows himself into Ophelia’s graveLaertes:Plans to murder Hamlet bc hamlet murdered PoloniusGertrude:remarriesOphelia: commits suicideGravediggers:Lightheartedly
What is Hamlet’s plan to get revenge? How does it take shape? To prove that Claudius killed his father and then murder him by sword.
What is Laertes plan to get revenge? How does it take shape? Laertes also proposes to poison his sword, so that even a scratch from it will kill Hamlet. The king concocts a backup plan as well, proposing that if Hamlet succeeds in the duel, Claudius will offer him a poisoned cup of wine to drink from in celebration.
What is Shakespeare’s commentary about Madness? Hamlet’s madness made him seem harmless to ClaudiusMadness is caused by extreme emotional distress
What is Shakespeare’s commentary about Fate vs. Free Will? The nature of the play was a combination significant events resulting from both fate and free will.
What is Shakespeare’s commentary about Spying? Spying makes people nervous, untrusting, suspicious, and on edge
What is Shakespeare’s commentary about Revenge? Revenge is a two ended sword, and will often end in tragedy.
What is purgatory? a place or state of suffering inhabited by the souls of sinners who are expiating their sins before going to heaven.
Who is spying on whom? Polonius, Claudius, Gertrude, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are spying on Hamlet
Feminist Critical School Feminist criticism is concerned with “…the ways in which literature (and other cultural productions) reinforce or undermine the economic, political, social, and psychological oppression of women” (Tyson). This school of theory looks at how aspects of our culture are inherently patriarchal (male dominated) and “…this critique strives to expose the explicit and implicit misogyny in male writing about women”
Psychoanalytical/Freudian Critical School Psychoanalytic criticism builds on Freudian theories of psychology.The Unconscious, the Desires, and the DefensesIceberg modelFreud maintained that our desires and our unconscious conflicts give rise to three areas of the mind that wrestle for dominance as we grow from infancy, to childhood, to adulthood:id – “…the location of the drives” or libidoego – “…one of the major defenses against the power of the drives…” and home of the defenses listed abovesuperego – the area of the unconscious that houses Judgment (of self and others) and “…which begins to form during childhood as a result of the Oedipus complex” (Richter 1015-1016)Oedipus ComplexFreud believed that the Oedipus complex was “…one of the most powerfully determinative elements in the growth of the child” (Richter 1016). Essentially, the Oedipus complex involves children’s need for their parents and the conflict that arises as children mature and realize they are not the absolute focus of their mother’s attention: “the Oedipus complex begins in a late phase of infantile sexuality, between the child’s third and sixth year, and it takes a different form in males than it does in females”
Archetypal Critical School Archetypal literary criticism is a type of critical theory that interprets a text by focusing on recurring myths and archetypes (from the Greek archē, “beginning,” and typos, “imprint”) in the narrative, symbols, images, and character types in literary work.
Marxist Critical School The Marxist school follows a process of thinking called the material dialectic. This belief system maintains that “…what drives historical change are the material realities of the economic base of society, rather than the ideological superstructure of politics, law, philosophy, religion, and art that is built upon that economic base” (Richter 1088).Marx asserts that “…stable societies develop sites of resistance: contradictions build into the social system that ultimately lead to social revolution and the development of a new society upon the old” (1088). This cycle of contradiction, tension, and revolution must continue: there will always be conflict between the upper, middle, and lower (working) classes and this conflict will be reflected in literature and other forms of expression – art, music, movies, etc.Based on the theories of Karl Marx (and so influenced by philosopher Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel), this school concerns itself with class differences, economic and otherwise, as well as the implications and complications of the capitalist system: “Marxism attempts to reveal the ways in which our socioeconomic system is the ultimate source of our experience” (Tyson 277).
1.2 Claudius’ speech in lines 1-39 Though yet of Hamlet our dear brother’s death To bear our hearts in grief and our whole kingdom To be contracted in one brow of woe,
1.2 Hamlet’s soliloquy in (“O, that this too, too sullied flesh would melt…”) lines 133-164
1.3 Polonius to Laertes Act 1.3 60-87
1.3 Polonius to Ophelia Act 1.3 95-145
2.1 Ophelia lines 87-112 ( describing Hamlet’s appearance in her closet)
2.2 Hamlet lines 576-635 (the “rogue” soliloquy)
3.1 Hamlet lines 63-98 (the “to be or not to be” soliloquy
3.1 Hamlet to Ophelia “Get thee to a nunnery” exchange lines 99-175
3.3 Claudius praying, Hamlet’s response lines 40-103
3.4 Hamlet in Gertrude’s closet 63-99, 225-240
4.4 Hamlet’s soliloquy reacting to Fortinbras 33-69
5.1 Grave digger scene 1-223
Maynard Mack’s triple play theory (ghost story, detective story, revenge story)