HAMLET STUDY QUESTIONS Act I Scene 1 1. The curtain opens on what setting (time and place)? 2. Why is Francisco happy to see Bernardo? 3. Why has Marcellus begged Horatio to join the watch? 4. What does the ghost look like? Do? Say? 5. What was the outcome of the fight between King Hamlet and Fortinbras? 6. Why is there a need for a nightly watch on the palace? Scene 2 1. How are Claudius, the dead King Hamlet, and Queen Gertrude related? 2. What is in the letter Claudius is sending to the ailing King of Norway? 3. Who is Laertes? Why does he want to leave Denmark? 4. Why is young Hamlet grieving? How do Claudius and Gertrude treat his grief? 5. Why is the King planning a celebration? 6. Who is Horatio? What does he reveal to Hamlet? Scene 3 1. What advice does Laertes give Ophelia? 2. What advice does Polonius give Laertes? 3. What advice does Polonius give Ophelia? Scene 4 1. How does Hamlet feel about the drunken revelry? 2. What mixed feelings does Hamlet have after seeing the ghost? 3. Why doesn’t Horatio want Hamlet to follow the Ghost? Scene 5 1. What does the Ghost tell Hamlet? 2. How does the Ghost want Hamlet to treat Claudius? Gertrude? 3. What does Hamlet make Horatio and Marcellus swear? Why? Act II Scene 1 1. Why does Polonius send Reynaldo to Paris? 2. Why is Ophelia frightened by Hamlet? 3. How does Polonius explain Hamlet’s behavior? Is he right? Scene 2 1. Who are Rosencrantz and Guildenstern? Why have they come to Elsinore? 2. What do Rosencrantz and Guildenstern agree to do? Are they betraying their friend Hamlet? 3. What is the bedridden King of Norway’s response to Claudius’ request? 4. Who wrote the love letter that Polonius reads to Claudius and Gertrude? Why does he read it? 5. What is Polonius’ plan for proving that Hamlet’s odd behavior is the result of love madness? 6. How does Hamlet feel about seeing his old friends, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern? What do they tell him? 7. What does Hamlet request the traveling players to perform? Why? Act III Scene 1 1. What do Rosencrantz and Guildenstern report about Hamlet to the king and queen? 2. Why does Polonius tell Ophelia to pretend to be reading a book of devotions? 3. What bitter advice does Hamlet give Ophelia? Why? 4. After secretly observing Hamlet and Ophelia, does the King agree with Polonius--that Hamlet suffers from love madness? 5. Why does Claudius decide to send Hamlet to England? 6. What final plan does Polonius devise in order to reveal the source of Hamlet’s strange behavior? Scene 2 1. What instructions does Hamlet give to Horatio prior to the staging of the play? 2. What do the players pantomime? How is this different from the play that follows? 3. What is the play-within-a-play’s title? How does the King react to the play? 4. What message do Rosencrantz and Guildenstern deliver to Hamlet from the Queen? What is his response? 5. What do Rosencrantz and Guildenstern think is the explanation for Hamlet’s odd behavior? Scene 3 1. What orders does the King give to Rosencrantz and Guildenstern? Why do they agree to carry out these orders? 2. Why does Claudius identify himself with Cain? Does Claudius have a conscience? 3. Hamlet finds Claudius alone, trying to pray, and draws his sword. Why doesn’t he kill Claudius? Scene 4 1. Why does Polonius hide behind the Queen’s curtain? Does she know that he is there? 2. When Hamlet enters Gertrude’s chamber, she starts to scold her son. Why does she soon cry out for help? 3. Why does Hamlet kill Polonius? How does Hamlet react when he sees Polonius’ body? 4. Whose portraits does Hamlet show Gertrude? Why? 5. When the Ghost appears in Gertrude’s room, how does she react? What does the Ghost tell Hamlet? 6. What does Hamlet tell his mother about his upcoming trip to England? Act IV Scene 1 1. How does Claudius find out that Hamlet has killed Polonius? 2. What is the King’s main concern when he finds out that Polonius has been killed? Why does he decide to turn to his "wisest friends"? 3. Who is instructed to bring Polonius’ body to the chapel? Scene 2 1. What does Hamlet tell Rosencrantz and Guildenstern about the location of Polonius’ body? Why? 2. Hamlet agrees to go with Rosencrantz and Guidenstern--to see whom? Scene 3 1. Why does Claudius tell his courtiers that Hamlet--mad as he is--must not be confined? 2. How does Hamlet act when the king asks him about the location of Polonius’ body? 3. What does Claudius want the English ruler to do with Hamlet? Do Rosencrantz and Guildenstern know that? Scene 4 1. For what purpose does Fortinbras send his captain to greet Claudius? 2. What does Hamlet learn about the Norwegian soldiers when he questions the captain? 3. What contrast does Hamlet not between Fortinbras and himself? Scene 5 1. Why does Claudius state that she won’t see Ophelia? Why does she soon change her mind? 2. What is Claudius’ theory about why Ophelia is acting so oddly? Is he right? 3. Why does Laertes return from France? 4. Why does Claudius figure he has to placate Laertes? What do Laertes’ followers want for Laertes? 5. How does Claudius calm down Laertes? What does he promise? Scene 6 1. What happens to the ship Hamlet is on? 2. How does Hamlet get back to Denmark? 3. How does Horatio find Hamlet? Scene 7 1. What two reasons does Claudius give Laertes for failing to apprehend Hamlet and punish him for Polonius’ death? 2. How does Claudius learn that Hamlet is back in Denmark? 3. What is the King’s original plan for killing Hamlet? 4. Laertes and the King come up with backup" plans in case the sharpened foil alone does not kill Hamlet. How do they intend to make "triply" sure that Hamlet dies? 5. How does Ophelia die? Act V Scene 1 1. Whose grave are the men digging? 2. Where does the first gravedigger go? 3. How long has the second gravedigger been in the business? 4. Whose skull does Hamlet hold up? What does Hamlet tell Horatio about that person? 5. Why does Laertes complain to the priest? 6. What happens when Hamlet steps out from the place where he and Horatio have been watching the funeral? Scene 2 1. How had Hamlet discovered Claudius’ orders to have Hamlet beheaded? 2. How did Hamlet see to it that Rosencrantz and Guildenstern would be put to death instead of himself? Did he feel guilty about that? 3. What message does Osric bring to Hamlet from the King? 4. On whom is the King wagering in the duel? Why? 5. Why does the King place a pearl in the cup? 6. How does Gertrude die? 7. Only Laertes’ foil was sharp and poison-tipped, so how does Laertes get mortally wounded? What does he say before he dies? 8. How does Claudius die? 9. How does Hamlet know that he is dying? What are his dying wishes? 10. Who will be the next king of Denmark?
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