Hamlet, Act I notes
Characters and what we learn about them:
Bernardo and Marcellus: the two guards we see at the beginning of the play. They, representing everyone in the kingdom, want to know what is going on around them. Why are they suddenly required to stand guard constantly? Why are the shipwrights working to prepare for war? In general, what’s going on? They are shaken up by their sighting of the ghost, and they see it as a bad omen of things to come.
Claudius: Present king of Denmark, Hamlet’s uncle/step-father. What is Claudius like as a person? We have a great idea of his abilities in his opening soliloquy, found in (I, ii, 1) List some of his traits as revealed in this speech: ________________________ ________________________ ________________________ ________________________ We also see Claudius talking to Hamlet on a very personal level a few lines later (I, ii, 90). What qualities are revealed here? ________________________ ________________________ ________________________ ________________________
Hamlet: the Prince of Denmark who is named by Claudius as his successor to the throne. Hamlet stands by quietly while Claudius addresses his new subjects, but Hamlet is not without feeling. Instead, he reveals some of those in a couple of places. First, while talking to his mother, who asks him why he “seems” to be having such a difficult time with his father’s death, Hamlet is upset by her diction. The word “seems” sets him off on a tirade about what is real and what is not (one of the main themes of the play): see Act I, ii, 80. What traits of Hamlet are revealed here? ______________________________________________________________________.
In Hamlet’s first soliloquy (I, ii, 130), we get an inside look at how Hamlet feels. Specifically, what is revealed about Hamlet’s state of mind here? ______________________________________________________________________.
Gertrude: Queen of Denmark, Hamlet’s mother. Does it strike you as strange that the Queen has remarried so suddenly after her husband’s death—particularly to her former brother-in-law? How does Gertrude behave around her new husband? Who speaks to Hamlet (first) about his behavior, for example?
Horatio: Hamlet’s good friend and confidante, a “fellow student”; also known as the scholar and (at first), the skeptic.
Ophelia: Hamlet’s girlfriend. Her father is Polonius, the king’s advisor. Her brother is Laertes.
Polonius: He is the king’s advisor, though he is ill-equipped for the job. Instead, he is a busy-body who gets very involved in other people’s lives. Some of this is done in an effort to be “important” to the king.
Laertes: This is Polonius’s son, Ophelia’s brother. He offers her a lot of “big-brother” advice before he leaves for college again, particularly concerning Hamlet.
Reynaldo: Polonius sends Reynaldo over to France to “spy” on Laertes, who is away at college. Why? We don’t know, as there is no evidence that Laertes warrants this at all. Instead, it likely emphasizes the negative traits of Polonius, who believes he can/should orchestrate Laertes’s life. Most readers feel that the scene with Reynaldo seems too long in proportion to its importance in the play.
Fill in the blank:
Act I quotes:
1. List the topics of Claudius’s speech: (scene ii)
a. The death of the former king, Hamlet Sr.
2. Laertes to Claudius: “My dread lord, / Your leave and favor to return to ________.” (I, ii, 51)
3. Claudius to Hamlet: “But now, my cousin Hamlet and my son—“ Hamlet, in an aside, replies, “ A little more than ______ and less than ______.” (I, ii, 67)
4. Claudius to Hamlet about his grief: “But to persevere /In obstinate condolement is a course of _____________ stubbornness.” Define the word that you put into the blank. (I, ii, 96). Claudius continues, “Tis ____________grief, It shows a will most incorrect to _____________.”
5. There are two other places where Claudius claims that Hamlet’s grief is sacrilegious or a sin against heaven. See lines 99 and 105 of this same passage. Write the lines here:
6. Hamlet is bothered, it seems, by Claudius’s partying in the castle and the Danes’ drinking in general. He notes in I, iv, 15 that “though I am native here/ And to the manner born, it is a custom /More honored in the breach than the ______________.” This heavy-headed revel east and west/ Makes us traduced and _______ of other nations. They clepe us __________ ….” Paraphrase Hamlet’s words.
7. Hamlet says that his father has been “but _________ months dead—not so much, not _______.” (I, ii, 141), and then he says in line 151 “A little _________, or ere those shoes were old /With which she followed my poor father’s body.”
8. When the ghost appears and beckons Hamlet to go with him, his friends don’t want him to go. Marcellus says, “you shall not go, my lord” (I, iv, 90), while Horatio repeats, “Be ruled. You shall not go.” Hamlet asks, “why, what should be the fear?” In fact, he claims that “I do not set my life at a pin’s fee.” (I, iv, 72) What does Hamlet mean by this?
9. The ghost tells Hamlet to “Pity me not, but lend they ________ hearing/ To what I shall __________.” (I, v, 9). Hamlet replies that he is “bound to hear” and the ghost replies, “So art thou to ____________....” (I, 5, 12). In fact, just to make sure Hamlet gets the message, the ghost repeats, “__________ his _______ and most unnatural ____________.” (see line 31)
10. The ghost says that he is “Doomed for a certain term to ________ the night/ And for the day confined to ________ in ________.” (I, v, 15) Earlier in line 5 of this scene the ghost says, “My hour is almost come/ When I to sulf’rous and _________ flames must render up myself.” Where is the ghost? (I, v, 15)
11. In scene v, the ghost refers to Claudius as “That incestuous, that _______________ beast” who uses witch-like “gifts” to seduce. Then he refers to his former wife as “my __________________ queen”. (see lines 52)
12. The ghost insists on going because “methinks I scent the __________ ________.” (line 65) What does this tell you about ghosts in general?
13. Hamlet’s conversation with the ghost leads to Hamlet’s vow: “I’ll wipe away all ___________, fond records, All saws of books, all forms, all ____________ past, /That youth and observation ___________ there, And they ____________ all alone shall live / Within the book and ___________ of my __________.” Now, translate that into modern English: