Contrast the attitudes towards the death of the old King as expressed Claudius and Hamlet. What
does Shakespeare suggest about the nature of nobility and grief? Which stance is more moving?
Which is more pragmatic?
Compare the advice given to Ophelia by Laertes and that given by Polonius. How does
Shakespeare characterize each relationship?
Given the Renaissance stance toward spectres and the supernatural, how should we respond to the
Ghost? Is he a wronged soul crying for justice, or a demonic presence out to ensnare Hamlet's soul?
Develop a character profile of Polonius from his interactions with Reynaldo (Scene 1), Ophelia
(Scene 1), Gertrude and Claudius (Scene 2), Hamlet (Scene 2) and the Players (Scene 2). How does
he represent the "rotten" authority of Denmark?
Consider the thematic connection between Horatio's scene with Ophelia where he speaks of
honesty, his speech to the Players on acting, and his speech to Horatio on flattery.
Compare Claudius's thoughts on his own guilt as he tries to pray to Gertrude's recognition of her guilt
when confronted by Hamlet.
Discuss the grouping of characters from scene to scene in Act III, beginning with a crowded stage in
Scene 1 and ending with Gertrude alone in Scene 4. What does Shakespeare achieve with the
rapidly changing cast on stage as the action in this act unfolds?
Trace the way Claudius tries to manipulate the following characters in this act in order to achieve his
own ends; Gertrude, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, Hamlet, and Laertes.
Discuss the significance of Ophelia's song lyrics and flowers. What do they suggest about her
insights into those around her, her relationship with Hamlet, and her grief for her father? How does
this scene probe the linkage between sanity and madness?
Compare Claudius's use of the "arranged" fencing match between Laertes and Hamlet to Hamlet's
use of "The Mousetrap" and his re-writing of the letters carried by Rosencrantz and Guildenstern.
Discuss the professions of love and grief expressed at Ophelia's funeral by Laertes and Hamlet, as
compared to similar scenes featuring Claudius, in terms of their implications for the play's outcome:
who is honest, deserving, and just, among the protagonists?
Play as a whole:
Aristotle said that consistency and probability are the two most important elements in the drama.
Does Shakespeare, in creating the characters in Hamlet, follow or ignore this idea? You may
consider both major and minor characters.
Consider the function of the soliloquies in Hamlet.
Discuss the function of a particular motif, such as Shakespeare's use of the military or theatrical.
Discuss Shakespeare's use of figures from nature (weeds, worms, et al.) or of sickness, rot and
Examine how Shakespeare makes use of classical allusions.
Discuss Hamlet's "antic disposition." Is his madness feigned or real?
Conflict is essential to drama. Show that Hamlet presents both an outward and inward conflict.
Compare Laertes with Hamlet: both react to their fathers' killing/murder. Is the reaction of either right
Compare and contrast the characters of Hamlet and Horatio. How alike or dislike are they and why?
Hamlet remarks, "His madness is poor Hamlet's enemy." Explain Hamlet's motivation behind this
comment and examine how true his remark is.
How important is the Ghost in the triangular relationship of Hamlet, Gertrude, and Claudius?
Although Hamlet ultimately rejects it at the end of the play, suicide is an ever-present solution to the
problems in the drama. Discuss the play's suggestion of suicide and imagery of death, with particular
attention to Hamlet's two important statements about suicide: the "O that this too, too solid flesh would
melt" soliloquy and the "To be, or not to be" soliloquy.
Why did Ophelia commit a suicide? What was the reason of this deed?
Select one of Hamlet soliloquies and by a detailed attention to the poetry discuss the nature of
Hamlet's feelings as they reveal themselves in this speech. What insights might this speech provide
into the prince's elusive character?
Select a particular scene in and discuss its importance in the play. How does this particular part of the
action contribute significantly to our response to what is going on? What might be missing if a director
decided to cut this scene (e.g., Claudius at prayer, the scene between Polonius and Reynaldo, the
Discuss Hamlet's treatment of and ideas about women. How might these help to clarify some of the
interpretative issues of the play? You might want to consider carefully the way he talks about
Discuss the importance of appearance and reality in Hamlet.
Reveal the philosophy of Hamlet by his affectionate love to theater.
Is something rotten in the state of Denmark? If so, what precisely is it? Is anyone in particular
responsible or is the rottenness simply a condition of life?
Consider Rosencrantz and Guildenstern's role in the play. Why might Shakespeare have created
characters like this? Are they there for comic relief, or do they serve a more serious purpose? Why
does the news of their deaths come only after the deaths of the royal family in Act V, as if this news
were not anticlimactic? Is it acceptable for Hamlet to treat them as he does? Why or why not?
Analyze the use of descriptions and images in Hamlet. How does Shakespeare use descriptive
language to enhance the visual possibilities of a stage production? How does he use imagery to
create a mood of tension, suspense, fear, and despair?
Analyze the use of comedy in Hamlet, paying particular attention to the gravediggers, Osric, and
Polonius. Does comedy serve merely to relieve the tension of the tragedy, or do the comic scenes
serve a more serious thematic purpose as well?