Hamlet Questions ACT I
Act I, scene i
1. The beginning of Hamlet immediately catches the reader’s attention. How is this accomplished? Be specific
2. Bernardo & Marcellus report how many earlier sightings of the ghost?
3. How is the ghost dressed? (scene i)
4 In line 135 (scene i), Horatio refers to “harbingers preceding still the fates /And prologue to the omen coming on”. What does this mean? How does Horatio feel about what the ghost might “mean” by appearing?
5. At the end of the scene, Horatio gives us details about the time of day & what it looks like. Why are these lines included in the play? What are Horatio’s plans?
Act I, scene ii
1. What do you think Claudius is trying to do in his speech at the beginning of this scene?
2. Why, acc to Claudius, has young Fortinbras proceeded to attack Denmark at this particular time? (see lines 18)
3. Claudius intends this speech as a type of “state of the union” speech. ie., he is dealing with several issues here. What are they? Where does he send Cornelius and Voltemand and why?
4. In Hamlet’s first words of the play, we see him muttering under his breath to Claudius (“a little more than kin, and less than kind!”) He is commenting ironically the he and his uncle are more than kin (twice related: uncle/nephew and stepfather/stepson) but they are not kindred spirits (and possibly that he doesn’t feel “kindly” toward Claudius). What all do Hamlet’s first words tell the audience about him? Hamlet’s second line, where he claims that he is “too much in the sun” can also be interpreted two ways. What are they?
5. The queen wants to know why Hamlet seems so sad when death is a natural part of life. Actually, this is the introduction of one of the play’s themes--that nothing/nobody is what it/he/she “seems”. At this point in the play, what or who does that theme apply to? Notice how many times Hamlet uses the word “seems” in his speech here.
6. How does Claudius attempt to talk Hamlet out of his grief? i.e, what “arguments” does he use? be specific (there are several listed)
7. Hamlet’s wish that his “too too solid flesh would melt” is a very revealing soliloquy. What is his general mood? How long (Hamlet tells us) has his father been dead at this point? How soon after Hamlet senior’s death did Gertrude marry? (we’re told specifically). Why does Hamlet see his mother as a hypocrite? be specific
8. When Hamlet comes across his friend Horatio, Horatio reports that he is there to see the old king’s funeral. Hamlet retorts in a sarcastic tone that they used the same food for both the funeral as well as his mother’s wedding. What do Hamlet’s comments reveal about his feelings?
9. Horatio reports to Hamlet the appearance of the ghost. How does he describe the ghosts’ “countenance”? (see ii, 249). What is a countenance?
10. Hamlet swears that he will speak to the ghost, no matter what. He also concludes something specific about the ghost’s appearance. What? (see line 279)
Act I, scene iii
1. Laertes urges his sister to be careful about dating Hamlet. Why? give specific lines from his speech at the beginning of the scene..
2. Polonius gives advice to Laertes in lines 62 of this scene. Be specific and list what he tells his son. How much of this is good advice?
4. What do you think the word “vulgar” means? (l. 65). How did you think we come to use the term “vulgar joke”?
5. In line 105 Polonius calls Ophelia a “green girl”. What do you think he means? Polonius also refers to the “tenders” that Ophelia has mentioned. Then Polonius plays on the word “tender” by using it in another context. What are the different meanings of this word, and how is it used in each context?
6. Give specific examples from Ophelia’s words in this scene that demonstrate that she believes Hamlet’s declarations of love.
Act I, scene iv
1. Line 10 of this scene indicates what Claudius is doing while Hamlet is waiting for the ghost. What is Claudius doing? Hamlet’s speech (beginning in line 1) expresses his opinion of this activity. What is it?
2. In line 45, Hamlet speculates about the ghost’s origins. What are his guesses? 3. In line 76, Horatio offers several things that might happen if Hamlet DOES go w/ the ghost. What are those things??
Act I, scene v:
1. The ghost reveals where he is spending his time. Where? why?
2. The ghost gives Hamlet most specific orders. What are they?
3. In line 51, the ghost comments on his brother’s “gifts”--what do they include?
4. In line 82, the ghost summarizes what all he lost to Claudius. What were those things?
5. In line 105, Hamlet puts forth his “plan”. What is it?
6. Hamlet tells Horatio that the ghost is “honest”. Why has he concluded this?
7. In line 190, Hamlet explains his plan to Horatio. What is the plan? 8. Famous quote: “The time is out of joint. O cursed spite/ That ever I was born to set it right!” What do you think this means?