Hamlet Study Questions

Comprehension and AnalysisHamlet Act 1, Scene 1:1. What is the atmosphere of the first scene? Give evidence. The atmosphere of the first scene is frightening and mysterious because there’s a ghost haunting the watchmen who looks “so like the king” and the king recently died (line 110-111).
2. How many times have the guards seen the ghost before? They have seen the ghost twice.
3. What pact did Old Hamlet and Old Fortinbras have between them? They had agreed that the winner of the battle would claim the other king’s lands.
4. What reason is rumored for the strong military buildup seen recently? Young Fortinbras had hired warriors to recover the lands his father lost from Hamlet’s kingdom.
5. How does Horatio compare the ghost’s presence to the omens of Julius Caesar’s assassination? Cite examples from the text. The watchmen are seeing ghosts, and Horatio points out that right before Caesar was killed “the graves stood tenantless, and the sheeted dead did squeak and gibber in the Roman streets” (lines 114-116).
6. What lines from the scene one contribute to the tone and eventual motif of suspicion and distrust? Francisco and Bernardo demand to know each other’s identity when they enter the scene “who’s there? Nay, answer me. Stand and unfold yourself” (lines 1-2).
7. What do the men decide to do about what they have seen? They decide to tell Hamlet in the morning, because the ghost might decide to speak to him.
Comprehension and AnalysisHamlet Act 1, Scene 2:1. How does the king plan to stop Young Fortinbras? The king decides to send his messengers Cornelius and Voltimand with a letter to the elderly uncle of Fortinbras, so that he will make his nephew stop.
2. What does Laertes want? Laertes wants to go back to France.
3. Hamlet mutters, “A little more than kin and less than kind” before speaking to the King Claudius. Kin is “family” and in this case, the word kind means “natural” or “normal.” Interpret what Hamlet means by this statement. and doesn’t want Claudius to be his stepfather. Claudius has become more family after his marriage with Hamlet’s mother, and “less than kind” could mean that Hamlet is unhappy and disgusted with this new situation.
4. What does the queen want Hamlet to do? The queen wants Hamlet to stay at the court instead of going back to school in Wittenberg.
5. How does Claudius attempt to “comfort” Hamlet in his grief? How does he end up insulting Hamlet? How does Claudius just seemingly dismiss the fact that Hamlet’s father is dead? Claudius tells Hamlet that it’s time to stop grieving and accept his new father, and he insults Hamlet by saying that his grief is “unmanly” (line 95) and shows a heart unfortified, a mind impatient, and understanding simple and unschooled” (lines 96-98). Claudius dismisses Hamlet’s father’s death by saying that all fathers die eventually, so there’s no reason to be upset.
6. Why is Hamlet furious with his mother? Hamlet is furious with his mother because she has remarried his uncle only two months after his father’s death.
7. What does Horatio tell Hamlet about? Horatio tells Hamlet about the ghost that could be his father.
8. Find three examples from the text that reveal Hamlet’s feelings of depression during this scene. He still wears “customary suits of solid black” (line 78) in mourning, he says that the world is “weary, stale, flat and unprofitable” (line 133), and that life is an “unweeded garden”(line 135).
9. Find two examples from the text that reveal Hamlet’s suspicions surrounding his father’s death. Write a paragraph that explains the reasons for his suspicions. Two examples of Hamlet’s suspicions are “it is not nor cannot come to any good” (line 158) and “my father’s spirit all is not well; I doubt some foulplay”(lines 254-255).While Claudius claims to be grieving his dead brother, he has married his wife two months later and tells Hamlet that his continued grieving is foolish and unreasonable. Horatio says that a spirit that looks like his father has appeared with a message for him so Hamlet has reason to believe that there’s something about his father’s death that the king doesn’t want him to know.
Hamlet Act 1, Scene 3:1. For what reasons does Laertes say Ophelia should not be with Hamlet? Laertes says Ophelia shouldn’t be with Hamlet because Hamlet is a prince and won’t have a choice in who he marries later on, so she might have her heart broken.
2. How does Ophelia deal with Laertes warnings?. Ophelia says that she will listen to Laertes advice but tells him that he needs to be responsible himself.
3. What fatherly advice does Polonius give Laertes before he leaves? Polonius tells Laertes to choose his friends wisely, to listen to others opinions, to be careful how he spends his money, and to be true to himself.
4. How does Polonius treat Ophelia? What advice does he give her? How does Ophelia defend Hamlet? Polonius treats Ophelia like her feelings don’t matter, saying “Affection! Pooh, you speak like a green girl”(line 101) and “”think yourself a baby that you have taken those tenders for true pay”(lines 105-106).Polonius tells Ophelia to stop spending time with Hamlet and to forget about him, because his love for her isn’t real. Ophelia says that he’s always been honorable around her, but she agrees to obey her father.
5. How do you think Ophelia feels having both her father and brother tell her how to live? How does this exemplify how women are treated during this time? How might a modern girl react to the same advice? Ophelia is probably frustrated and angry, but she feels like she has no choice but to do what they say. This exemplifies how women were treated during this time because Polonius and Laertes are making Ophelias decision without her opinion. A modern girl might stand up to her father and brother and make her own decision.
6. How is Polonius characterized? Give examples to support your response. Polonius is characterized as close to his children and slightly arrogant and controlling as he gives both Laertes and Ophelia long speeches about what they should and shouldn’t do in scene three.
Comprehension and AnalysisHamlet Act 1, Scene 4:1. How does Hamlet feel about Claudius drinking and partying? Why? Hamlet thinks his uncle’s behavior is inappropriate because the custom he’s following is outdated and it’s giving Denmark a bad reputation.
2. How does Hamlet’s speech contribute to the mood of suspicion and theme of corruption? Cite examples in your response. Hamlet says that Claudius’ drinking and partying is evidence of serious flaw, and that “the dram of evil doth all the noble substance often doubt to his own scandal,” meaning that it only takes a bit of evil to corrupt everything. He is also suspicious of the ghost and wonders if it is “a spirit of health or goblin damn’d”(line 40).
3. Quote and explain the line where Hamlet says what he will do if anyone tries to stop him from following the ghost to hear what he has to say. He says “I’ll make a ghost of him that lets me” (line 85), which means he’ willing to kill anyone who tries to stop him.
4. Marcellus has one of the most famous lines from Shakespeare: “Something is rotten in the state of Denmark.” What does this literally mean? What could this figuratively mean? He literally means that there is something wrong in Denmark, and it could figuratively mean that Denmark’s leaders may be corrupt and/or hiding something, and the entire country’s decaying and becoming “rotten” because of this injustice.
Comprehension and AnalysisHamlet Act 1, Scene 5:1. To where does the Ghost tell Hamlet that he must return soon? The Ghost tells Hamlet that he must return to purgatory.
2. What were people told about how Old Hamlet died? What is the truth? People were told that Old Hamlet died when a snake bit him, but he was really poisoned by Claudius.
3. Why is the Ghost so upset with the swiftness of his death? There was not time to perform the religious rituals that would have erased his sins, so now his soul cannot rest in peace.
4. Why does the Ghost ask Hamlet to do? The Ghost asks Hamlet to avenge his death by killing his uncle.