Act One, Scenes Four and Five
For these scenes, you will:
Read the scene summaries on pages 27 and 31
Read the supplementary information provided here
Study Hamlet’s character traits as revealed in his soliloquy
Further investigate the theme of appearance vs. reality
1. Turn to page 27 and 31. Read the scene summaries in the margins.
2. Read the setting and characters involved in each scene.
Hamlet, Horatio, and Marcellus meet to see if the ghost will come
Hamlet shows more disgust for the new king this time because of his
love for drinking. He says, “ . . . it is a custom/ More honoured in the
breach than the observance” (page 27, lines 17-18) meaning he
believes it is best not to drink to excess, as it will give Denmark a bad
The ghost enters and speaks to Hamlet alone.
The ghost reveals to Hamlet that King Hamlet was murdered while
sleeping in his orchard. It was Claudius who killed him by pouring
poison in his ear.
The ghost wants Hamlet to take revenge for this “murder most foul”
(page 32, line 31).
Hamlet makes a very ironic statement when he pledges that “with
wings as swift/ As meditation or the thoughts of love,/ May sweep to
my revenge” (page 32, lines 33-35). Indeed, as you can see, the play
is very long, and it takes Hamlet to the bitter end to exact his revenge.
This is hardly swift!
After the ghost exits, it is foreshadowed that Hamlet will not get fast
revenge when he stays to talk to himself in a soliloquy rather than
running off to take action by killing Claudius, which would be the
revenge which would be expected.
Horatio and Marcellus enter. Hamlet does not tell them what the
ghost revealed, but makes them promise not to tell anyone else
anything about the ghost. The ghost’s voice comes back to encourage
them to swear not to tell.
Hamlet says that, no matter how strange he acts, the men may never
let on anything. This furthers the theme of appearance vs. reality –
it is foreshadowed that Hamlet may start acting strange in order to
appear a certain way.
The two swear not to say anything, no matter what.
Reading Hamlet’s Soliloquy - Before:
Look back at the Assertion Chart you filled in from Act One, Scene Two.
Here you proved that Hamlet does not approve of his mother’s hasty
marriage to Claudius.
3. As we have discussed before, our actions reflect our beliefs, and our
beliefs reflect our values. We can infer what Hamlet values, based on
what he says and what he does. Complete the following sentence
stem: The value(s) which are reflected by Hamlet’s actions of
outwardly disapproving of the marriage is/are . . . because . . .
Prior Knowledge: A soliloquy is a speech a character makes when by
himself on stage. He is speaking his true thoughts as there are no other
characters present to influence what might be said. It serves to inform the
audience of the character’s inner thoughts and feelings.
4. As you read the soliloquy on page 33, consider the contrast between
what Hamlet says, and what he proceeds to do (or not do, in this
case!) Hamlet has two values in conflict. What are they? How do
you know this?
5. The motif of appearance vs. reality is once again reinforced near the
end of Hamlet’s soliloquy. Quote the line which reveals this.
Act one ends with a very telling phrase by Hamlet: “The time is out of joint.
O cursed spite,/ That ever I was born to set it right.” (lines 206-207)
Hamlet seems to know himself well enough to know that he isn’t built for
the task of revenge. Consider again the values which have come into
conflict for Hamlet. Keep these in mind as we proceed through the play.
Email the answers to 3, 4, and 5
to your teacher.
Continue on to the
Credo Revisited assignment.