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Home  ›  Departments & Staff  ›  Departments  ›  Language Arts  ›  Teacher Web Sites  ›  Stuart Whiteside  ›  Senior English  ›  Hamlet

Hamlet

 

Hamlet Unit Plan
(Also see Study Guide on file in Language Arts Office)

Subject: English

Course: English IV

Grade:12

Level: 1

Stratford Public Schools

Concept:
Hamlet

Projected Dates of Unit:
Marking Period, 4 Week 1-6

District and Content Standards
ENGLISH / LANGUAGE ARTS / READING

1. Students read, write, speak, listen, and view to construct meaning of written, visual, and oral text.
2. Students choose and apply appropriate strategies that facilitate the development of fluent and proficient use of the language arts including the use of technology.
3. Students use language in visual, oral, written, and performance-based forums.
4. Students write in the four modes of discourse (description, narration, exposition, and persuasion) for various purposes and audiences.
5. Students examine, understand, and respond to a variety of literature from diverse cultures and historical periods.
6. Students employ processes that encourage them in becoming independent, life-long learners in English Language Arts.

Refer to the Language Arts Study Guide and the Unit Plan on the website: http://www.stratford.k12.ct.us/our_schools/stratford_high

 

Hamlet Essential Understanding: Shakespeare has an uncanny ability to provide a window into the human soul, the human condition, and the human experience.

 

Topics (What topics does he look at?)

Essential Questions (What does he question about the human condition?)

Ambition

Can wanting something too much lead us to do things against our nature?

Appearances

Why are people motivated to create an appearance that is different from reality?

Disillusionment

What happens when people or our lives themselves do not meet our expectations?

Duality of man

How do humans deal with the conflicting elements within their personalities? (ie. good vs. evil)

Family loyalty

How powerful is family loyalty in inspiring people to action?

Fatal Flaw

Does the main character deserve what he gets?

Fate

Is our future beyond our control?

Historical Accuracy

What is the effect of the way Shakespeare dramatically altered historical characters to enhance certain themes?

Justice

Is justice an unattainable ideal in the real world?

Love

Can love produce unexplainable behaviors?

Minor characters

How do minor characters contribute to the play's action and themes?

Power

Can a lust for power lead to loss of humanity?

Reality and illusion

Can being too close to a situation cloud the difference between reality and illusion?

Respect

Is respect a learned response or a commanded response?

Responsibility

Is Lady Hamlet more responsible and a more evil character than her husband?

Retribution

Do revenge and vengeance provide satisfaction?

Royalty

What contribution do the concepts of feudalism make to the play?

Sanity

What are the causes of Hamletís mental deterioration throughout the play?

Self-awareness

Can self-knowledge provide the key to satisfaction?

Supernatural

To what extent does the supernatural motivate Hamletís actions?

Tragic Hero

Does Hamlet cause his own downfall?

 

 

Additional Essential Questions: See Chapter Questions, and Journal Entries.

          disease

          decay

          Questionable Shapes
The ghost comes in 'questionable shape'. What references to the idea that it may not be what it seems can you find in the play?

          Image
What references to characters not being what they seem can you find in the play?

          Memory The prince must decide whether and how to act according to his dead father's wishes. Find THREE references to remembering or forgetting.

          Fate Are our lives controlled by a divine power, Fate or Providence?

          Love
Can love produce unexplainable behaviors?

          "Method in their madness?"
Is Hamlet really sane throughout, or does he teeter on the edge of madness? What must Gertrude think when he sees the ghost for the second time? Note also Ophelia's behavior in the mad scene immediately before her drowning. Does she know what she is doing? Is her drowning a tragic accident or a deliberate choice?

          Repressed sexuality.
What are Hamlet's feelings for Gertrude? How do you explain his intense interest in her sexuality? Does Hamlet truly love Ophelia? Why is he cruel to her?

          Tragedy
To what extent does Hamlet correspond to classical or medieval notions of tragedy? What (if anything) is Hamlet's fatal flaw? Why does he hesitate to act after promising his father's ghost that he will avenge his murder?

          Family
Note the various familial relationships in Hamlet. Compare and contrast the family unit of Polonius / Laertes / Ophelia with Hamlet's relationships to the Ghost of Hamlet Sr., to Gertrude and to Claudius. Like Hamlet, Laertes and Fortinbras are sons confronted with a father's death. To what extent do they function as foils to Hamlet? What do they have in common? How do they differ?

          Inaction
Why does Hamlet wait so long to kill Claudius? What are the reasons for his hesitation? How valid are they? How many times does he have the opportunity to attack Claudius? What are his reasons for not doing so?

          Deception
Hamlet is a play in which nothing can be taken at face value: appearances are frequently deceptive, and many characters engage in play-acting, spying and pretense. What deliberate attempts are made at deception? Are the intended audiences deceived? While some deceptions are perpetrated in order to conceal secrets, others aim to uncover hidden truths. Which are which? To what extent are they successful? Note references to appearances, disguises, pretense, seeming, masks, acting, etc.

          Love and Lust
Pay attention to the treatment of the women characters Gertrude and Ophelia. Is there any basis for the Freudian interpretation of an Oedipal attraction between Hamlet and his mother? Hamlet does seem obsessed with his mother's sexuality. How old is Hamlet? How old do you think Gertrude is? Is Hamlet's disgust at Gertrude's sexuality justified? To what extent is Gertrude guilty? Was she "in on" her husband's murder? Has Claudius confided in her since the murder? How does Hamlet's perception of his mother affect his behavior or attitude toward Ophelia? Why does he tell Ophelia to go to a nunnery? Does Hamlet really love Ophelia? If so, why is he cruel to her?

          Madness
Hamlet claims that his madness is feigned, an "antic disposition" which he puts on for his own purposes (I.v.172). Why would Hamlet want to feign madness? How can an appearance of insanity help him achieve his ends? (Compare the role of Touchstone, the "fool" in AYLI.) Is he really sane throughout the play, or does he ever cross the line into madness? What about Ophelia's mad scene? Is it real or feigned? Is there "method in her madness" as well, or is she entirely irrational? Why has she gone mad? (What two reasons do her songs suggest?)

          Unnatural
Hamlet famously declares that "something is rotten in the state of Denmark." What other natural imagery is used to describe the corruption of the Danish court? What "unnatural" events or behaviors preceded the events recounted in the play? What "unnatural" events or behaviors occur during the play?

          Moral ambiguity?
Hamlet and Macbeth recount similar stories (the usurping of a throne) from differing perspectives -- those of perpetrator and avenger. Just as Macbeth was not ALL bad, Hamlet is not ALL good. What are some of his faults or short-comings? Do these constitute a "fatal flaw" (to use the concept and terminology of Aristotle or Bradley)? Why might Shakespeare have chosen to remain in the "grey area" rather than a more "black and white" depiction of Good and Evil?

Topics: Reality And Illusion, Disillusionment, Duality Of Man, Self-Awareness, Respect, Retribution, Justice, Family Loyalty, Disease , Decay , Questionable Shapes, Fate, Love, "Method In Their Madness", Repressed Sexuality, Tragedy, Family, Inaction, Deception, Love And Lust, Madness, Unnatural, Moral Ambiguity, Elements of literature, Literary devices, Reading strategies.

Process: Reading, writing, speaking, listening, viewing, responding, interpreting, analyzing, discussion.

Skills: Critical reading, critical thinking, using textual suport, cooperative learning, vocabulary, note taking, journals, short answer, essay writing, creative writing, response.

Assessment (including homework): See Assignments and Activities, Chapter Questions, Reader responses, Journals, Projects, Quizzes and tests.

Learning Activities: See Chapter Questions, Journal Entries, Projects, Literature circles, Group work, Presentations, Assignments and Activities

I.E.P. Lesson Modifications: Preferential seating. Extended time. Computer access. Prior notice of tests and assignments. Alternate setting. Organizational help. Cue expected behavior. Positive reinforcement. Check for understanding. Check work. Provide models. Repeat instructions. Encourage participation. Graphic organizers. Use of agenda. Repeat instructions. Multiple modalities. Communication with resource and home. See individual IEPs.

 

 

Historical Perspective LESSON PLAN

Essential Questions (see unit)

How is an individual influenced by the past?

Learning Objectives (see unit)

2.4 Students recognize that readers and authors are influenced by individual, social, cultural and historical contexts.

.

Major Activity

Historical Perspective

Purpose

Historical Perspective of novel

Parameters

30 minutes adjusted as needed

 

Resources

Web site, data projector, United Streaming video

 


 

 

Enduring Understandings LESSON PLAN

Essential Questions (see unit)

Shakespeare has an uncanny ability to provide a window into the human soul.

Learning Objectives (see unit)

Students will read and copy enduring understandings and essential questions

Major Activity

Copy Enduring Understandings

Purpose

Exposure to Enduring Understandings

Parameters

30 minutes adjusted as needed

 

Resources

Web site, data projector

 


 

 

Reading Plan LESSON PLAN

Essential Questions:

Can wanting something too much lead us to do things against our nature?

Why are people motivated to create an appearance that is different from reality?

What happens when people or our lives themselves do not meet our expectations?

How do humans deal with the conflicting elements within their personalities? (ie. good vs. evil)

How powerful is family loyalty in inspiring people to action?

Does the main character deserve what he gets?

Is our future beyond our control?

What is the effect of the way Shakespeare dramatically altered historical characters to enhance certain themes?

Is justice an unattainable ideal in the real world?

Can love produce unexplainable behaviors?

How do minor characters contribute to the play's action and themes?

Can a lust for power lead to loss of humanity?

Can being too close to a situation cloud the difference between reality and illusion?

Is respect a learned response or a commanded response?

Is Lady Hamlet more responsible and a more evil character than her husband?

Do revenge and vengeance provide satisfaction?

What contribution do the concepts of feudalism make to the play?

What are the causes of Hamletís mental deterioration throughout the play?

Can self-knowledge provide the key to satisfaction?

To what extent does the supernatural motivate Hamletís actions?

Does Hamlet cause his own downfall?

Learning Objectives (see unit)

Enduring Understanding:

Shakespeare has an uncanny ability to provide a window into the human soul.

Major Activity

Reading Plan

Purpose

Understanding and comprehension of character plot, conflict, resolution, motivation and themes.

Parameters

5 minute discussion and notes repeated after each scene and adjusted as needed

 

Resources

Web site, data projector, text, class discussion, collaborative groups

 

 

 

Hamlet, William Shakespeare

 

Reading Plan

          Read a scene.

          Form a group of 4 students.

          Each student will complete one task for the scene.

          Label a piece of paper with your name, the act and scene, and your task.

 

Summary

Write a short summary of the important aspects of the scene in bulleted form. Include a bullet point for each important aspect of the scene (approximately 4 bullets).

Questions

Write questions that would guide a student towards an understanding of each of the important aspects of the scene (approximately 4 bullets).

Quotes

Choose, copy, and explain quotes that represent each of the important aspects of the scene (approximately 4 bullets).

Character Analysis

Write down the charactersí names, who they are, and what their role is in the scene. Be sure to cover all the important aspects of the scene (approximately 4 bullets).

 

Go on to the NEXT TASK! in line for the next scene.

 

 

 

Act I, scene 1

Summary

          Soldiers are guarding the castle because Fortinbras wants his land back.

          They have seen the ghost of the dead King Hamlet and think there must be something weird going on.

          Horatio also sees the ghost and tries to find out why it has appeared.

          They plan to tell young Prince Hamlet that they have seen the ghost of his father.

Act I, scene 2

Summary

          King Claudius talks about how he married King Hamletís widow.

          Prince Hamlet is wearing black and acting sad.

          Hamlet tells his mother that he will stay and not go back to college.

          Horatio and the soldiers tell Prince Hamlet that they have seen a ghost of old King Hamlet.

          Hamlet makes a plan to talk to the ghost.

 

 

 

 

 


 

 

Vocabulary LESSON PLAN

Essential Questions:

Can wanting something too much lead us to do things against our nature?

Why are people motivated to create an appearance that is different from reality?

What happens when people or our lives themselves do not meet our expectations?

How do humans deal with the conflicting elements within their personalities? (ie. good vs. evil)

How powerful is family loyalty in inspiring people to action?

Does the main character deserve what he gets?

Is our future beyond our control?

What is the effect of the way Shakespeare dramatically altered historical characters to enhance certain themes?

Is justice an unattainable ideal in the real world?

Can love produce unexplainable behaviors?

How do minor characters contribute to the play's action and themes?

Can a lust for power lead to loss of humanity?

Can being too close to a situation cloud the difference between reality and illusion?

Is respect a learned response or a commanded response?

Is Lady Hamlet more responsible and a more evil character than her husband?

Do revenge and vengeance provide satisfaction?

What contribution do the concepts of feudalism make to the play?

What are the causes of Hamletís mental deterioration throughout the play?

Can self-knowledge provide the key to satisfaction?

To what extent does the supernatural motivate Hamletís actions?

Does Hamlet cause his own downfall?

Learning Objectives (see unit)

Enduring Understanding:

Shakespeare has an uncanny ability to provide a window into the human soul.

Major Activity

Vocabulary

Purpose

Activate prior knowledge and create new vocabulary of drama and Shakespeare

Parameters

10 minute discussion and notes adjusted as needed

 

Resources

Web site, data projector, class


 

 

Vocabulary

Word

Definition

Tragedy

a drama where someone important experiences a downfall (usually death)

Comedy

drama that is light and funny, usually happy ending

foil

contrasting character (Macbeth and MacDuff or Banquo)

chorus

narrator

prologue

introduction

soliloquy

character speaking alone on stage, revealing innermost thoughts

monologue

one character speaking with other characters on stage, often revealing innermost thoughts

aside

characters speak to the audience, another character, or themselves without the other characters hearing

tragic hero

important person who experiences a downfall (usually self-caused)

 

 


 

Hamlet Act and Scene Questions

 

Act 1

1. What is the atmosphere in the first scene and how this atmosphere is created?

2. How is the ghost made impressive and awe-inspiring?

3. What qualities of Hamletís character are brought out by his first words in the play, by his soliloquy, and in his conversation with Horatio and the sentries?

4. What sources of humor are to be found in scene three?

5. What reasons would Hamlet have for feigning madness?

6. The first scene could be (and has been) cut without damaging the plot. For what reasons would you wish to include it in a performance?

7. What similarities are there in the thoughts contained in each of the soliloquies in this act? (In I.ii. after Claudius and the court leave and in I.v. after the ghost leaves)

8. In what ways is the language spoken by the apparition different to the normal language of the play?

9. How does Shakespeare create tension in the first scene? How does he surprise us? How does he mislead us? How does Shakespeare create tension in the second scene?

10. How does Shakespeare invite us to compare and contrast Hamlet with Laertes and Fortinbras?

 

Act 2

1. How does Polonius plans to "spy" on his son and what is his revealed about his character in the first scene?

2. How would you describe the effect of Polonius's rambling speech to Reynaldo in lines 50-67 and what is humorously ironic about Polonius saying, "Brevity is the soul of wit"?

3. How could you describe and account for Hamletís behavior to Ophelia as she reports it to Polonius in scene one and what is Polonius's conclusion about Hamlet?

4. Explain the reason for the arrival of Rosencrantz and Guildenstern at the Danish court. What is Hamletís attitude towards them?

5. How does Hamlet react to the arrival of the Players? What use does he purpose to make of them?

6. How does Hamletís soliloquy at the end of scene two contribute to the plot, characterization, and atmosphere of the play?

7. What causes Hamlet to exclaim, "O, what a rogue and peasant slave am I!"?

 

Act 3

1. With regard to Hamletís soliloquy "To be or not to be", state the theme and summarize the content.

2. What is the dramatic importance of the play within the play? To what extent does it fulfill Hamletís purpose?

3. Should Hamlet have killed the King at prayer at the end of scene three and why?

4. Why does the Ghost reappear in scene four?

5. What are the reasons for considering that the murder of Polonius is the turning point of the play?

 

Act 4

1. How does Gertrude seek to shield Hamlet in this scene and why?

2. What are the details of the Kingís plan in scene three, why canít he make a simpler plan and why is he confident that it will be carried out?

3. Of what importance is the first appearance of Frotinbras? What points of comparison and contrast are suggested between him and Hamlet?

4. What dramatic purpose is served by the madness of Ophelia? What are the causes of Opheliaís madness?

5. What reasons are given by Claudius for not bringing Hamlet to a public trial? What is the plan between Claudius and Laertes in scene seven?

6. Could Gertrude's lines in Act IV scene v, 17-20 be read as an acknowledgement of her complicity in the murder of Old King Hamlet and why?

7. How do we perceive Claudius as man and king when he instructs his soldiers to let Laertes do what he will in Act IV scene v (lines 120-127.)

 

Act 5

1. How does Ophelia dominate scene one.

2. What fate has Hamlet contrived for Rosencrantz and Guildenstern? To what extent is his action justified?

3. Show that death dominates the last act.

4. Compare the humor of the grave Ė diggersí scene with that of the Osric episode. What purpose does each serve in this act?

5. How does the moral order triumph as the play ends?

 

 

 


 

 

Hamlet Video Journal

1.                    Characters

Answer the following for each of the main characters: Hamlet, Polonius, Claudius, Gertrude, Ophelia, Laertes, Horatio. What actor would you cast as the character and why? What about the actor is right for the role? What about the actor is potentially not right? How would you instruct the actors to play the parts and why? What important aspects, themes, and motifs of the play would you make sure they cover and how?

2.                    Themes

What is the central issue in this play? (What is it really about?) Upon what speeches/textual passages is this understanding of this issue and its central importance based?

3.                    Elements

What details should be used in the video to get the message across? Consider the contributions of director, actors, set and lighting designers, costumers, choreographers, musicians, cinematographers, etc. How did the written play begin? How should the video begin? How would you like for the director to start the story? What would be the best way to actually show the play? What should the director be trying to do?

4.                    Scenes

What do you think of the beginning coffin scene? What do you think of Hamlet listening to Polonius and Ophelia? What do you think about the missing ghost scene that began the written play? Does Horatio's telling Hamlet about the ghost in the video have the same effect on the audience as the missing ghost scene would have?

 

5.                    Ghost scenes

The ghost scenes are condensed in the video. How well do the ghost scenes portray what happened in the play? How well do these scenes help to set up the problems of the play? If you had met a ghost like this, what would your reaction have been? How does Hamlet's soliloquy after seeing the ghost show that he is reacting? How does this scene help to highlight Hamlet's inaction?

 

 

6.                    Lovesick Hamlet

What did you think of the Hamlet in Ophelia's closet scene? It was spoken of in the play, but we get to see it, and so does Polonius. How does it work?

 

Hamletís Madness

What has happened in the video to make the king and queen think he is mad?

 

7.                    Kissing and sexuality

How do you feel about all the kissing? Why does the producer do this? Is this loyal to the play? How true to the play is the scene where Hamlet scolds his mother? Why did the director do this? What is the effect?

 

8.                    Textual Faithfulness

One of the complaints of the Gibson version is that it is not particularly faithful to the play. How is the video unfaithful and how is it faithful?

 

9.                    Perspectives

What does the scene where Gibson is looking down on the party help to reinforce from the play? During the Hamlet acting crazy with Ophelia scene, Polonius is watching in the video. What is the effect? Does it help the video establish the theme or hurt?

 

10.                 Audience reactions

How do you react to the Hamlet/Polonius crazy scene in the library? How do you react to the Ophelia/Hamlet angry scene with the King and Polonius listening? How do you react to the Hamlet "To be, or not to be" soliloquy? What do you think of the scene where Hamlet comes upon Claudius praying?

 

11.                 Play within a play

Why does Hamlet require the play to "catch the conscience of the king?" Would you have needed the play to help you act? What is the problem that Hamlet has? Why is it a very real problem? What example from modern day could you give that would cause the same dilemma?

 

12.                 Final Journal Entry

How does this unit support the SHS Mission?

 

 

 

 

 

 


 

 

Hamlet Video Notes

 

Write notes as the video plays and during class discussion. Note where the written play and the video agree and disagree. Pay particular attention to changes and differences that affect the messages and themes. Note character, plot, scene, and textual differences and the effect on the audience, tone and themes.

Act I.1

Horatio and other guards witness the ghost.

The beginning of the movie started with the funeral. This did not happen in the play, maybe the director put this in to catch our interest and reduce the dialogue about it. The costumes and props were interesting.

Act I. 2

King Claudius announces his marriage.

Laertes asks to leave.

Claudius chides Hamlet for being sad.

Horatio reports the viewing to Hamlet.

We did see this scene and we saw a lot of kissing which kind of grossed me out.

Act I. 3

Laertes cautions Ophelia about Hamlets love.

Polonius tells her to stop talking to Hamlet.

 

 

Act I. 4

Hamlet follows the ghost when beckoned.

 

Act I.5

The ghost reveals the murder of the king.

Hamlet makes the soldiers swear not to tell and is convinced to attempt revenge.

 

Act II.1

Polonius is an advisor to the new king and gets someone to spy on his son at college.

Ophelia reports that Hamlet came to her room acting crazy.

 

Act II.2

The king summons Rosencrantz and Guildenstern to spy on Hamlet.

Polonius tells of Hamlets love for Ophelia.

Polonius and Hamlet have a crazy conversation.

Rosencrantz and Gildenstern talk to Hamlet.

The players come in and Hamlet is mad at himself for not acting.

 

Act III , 1

Rosencrantz and Guildenstern report to the king.

Hamlet meets Ophelia and scolds her.

 

Act III , 2

Hamlet has the actors insert some lines he has written into the play.

The play, ďThe Mousetrap,Ē is acted out in front of the king who storms out of the room.

Hamlet is now sure and says he is ready.

 

Act III, 3

The queen agrees to talk to Hamlet about his feelings while Polonius hides in the room.

Claudius realizes that he can not pray for forgiveness.

Hamlet decides to wait to kill Claudius because the king is praying.

 

Act III, 4

He discovers the eavesdropper, and, thinking it is the king, murders Polonius.

Hamlet tries to convince his mother that the current king is bad and has to be reminded by the ghost.

The queen promises to not reveal that Hamlet is crafty, not crazy.

 

Act IV, 1

Gertrude does not reveal Hamletís secret.

The king will send Hamlet to England.

 

Act IV, 2

Rosencrantz and Guildenstern ask about the body.

 

Act IV, 3

Hamlet gives up the body.

Claudius plans to send him to his death in England.

 

Act IV, 4

Hamlet sees Fortinbrasí army and feels like a coward.

 

Act IV, 5

The king and queen realize that Ophelia has gone mad.

Laertes bursts in demanding revenge.

 

Act IV, 6

Horatio receives a letter explaining how Hamlet escaped pirates and is returning.

 

Act IV, 7

The king and Laertes plot to kill Hamlet in a duel.

Laertes finds out Ophelia is dead.

 

Act V, 1

A gravedigger unearths bones while digging Opheliaís grave.

Laertes and Hamlet have a fight in the uncovered grave of Ophelia.

 

Act V, 2

Hamlet tells Horatio he discovered the letter, wrote one that would put his escorts to death, and escaped.

Hamlet accepts the duel.

Hamlet asks Laertes forgiveness. They fight and Hamlet wins the first two.

Claudius offers Hamlet poisoned wine, but he refuses.

Gertrude dies when she makes a toast using the poisoned cup.

Laertes stabs Hamlet with a poisoned tip sword.

They scuffle and Hamlet stabs Laertes with the same sword, so Laretes confesses.

Hamlet then wounds the king with the sword and forces him to finish the poisoned drink.

Hamlet tells Horatio to tell everyone that Fortinbras should be the next king of Denmark.

Hamlet dies.

 

Other

 

 

 


 

Name: _________________________

 

Themes in Hamlet

 

Shakespeare has been said to possess an uncanny ability to provide a window into the human soul.

          What topics does he look at?

          What does he say about the human condition? 

          Complete the chart below.


 

 

Topic

Observation or question

Ambition

Ambition can cause people to do outrageous things.

Appearances

 

Disillusionment

 

Duality of man

 

Family loyalty

 

Fatal Flaw

 

Fate

 

Justice

 

Love

 

Power

 

Reality and illusion

 

Respect

 

Responsibility

 

Retribution

 

Royalty

 

Sanity

 

Self-awareness

 

Supernatural

 

Tragic Hero

 

Historical Accuracy

 

Minor characters

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


 

 

Key Hamlet Soliloquies and Scenes 

 

Soliloquy 1:  I.ii.129-59 "O that this too too sullied flesh. . ."

Soliloquy 2:  I.v.92-112  "O all you host of heaven!. . ."

Soliloquy 4:  III.i.56-88  "To be, or not to be. . ."

Soliloquy 5:  III.ii.396-407 "'Tis now the very witching time..."

Soliloquy 6:  III.iii.73-96 "Now might I do it pat. . ."

Soliloquy 7:  IV.iv.32-66 "How all occasions do inform against me. . ."

 Council scene:  I.ii.1-128

Fishmonger scene: II.ii.171-224

Schoolfellow scene: II.ii.225-388

Nunnery scene:  III.i.88-164

The Mousetrap play scene:  III.ii.94-276

Prayer scene:  III.iii.36-98

Closet scene/Portrait scene:  III.iv.1-53; III.iv.54-218

Ophelia's madness scenes:  IV.v.21-73; IV.v.154-198

Graveyard scene:  V.i.1-294

 

 

 


 

 

Hamlet Essay Questions

"Method in their madness?"

 

Is Hamlet really sane throughout, or does he teeter on the edge of madness? What must Gertrude think when he sees the ghost for the second time?  Note also Ophelia's behavior in the mad scene immediately before her drowning.  Does she know what she is doing?  Is her drowning a tragic accident or a deliberate choice? 

Repressed sexuality

What are Hamlet's feelings for Gertrude? How do you explain his intense interest in her sexuality?  Does Hamlet truly love Ophelia?  Why is he cruel to her?

Tragedy

To what extent does Hamlet correspond to classical or medieval notions of tragedy?  What (if anything) is Hamlet's fatal flaw?  Why does he hesitate to act after promising his father's ghost that he will avenge his murder?

Family

Note the various familial relationships in Hamlet.  Compare and contrast the family unit of Polonius / Laertes / Ophelia with Hamlet's relationships to the Ghost of Hamlet Sr., to Gertrude and to Claudius.  Like Hamlet, Laertes and Fortinbras are sons confronted with a father's death.  To what extent do they function as foils to Hamlet?  What do they have in common?  How do they differ? 

Inaction

Why does Hamlet wait so long to kill Claudius?  What are the reasons for his hesitation?  How valid are they?  How many times does he have the opportunity to attack Claudius?  What are his reasons for not doing so? 

Deception

Hamlet is a play in which nothing can be taken at face value:  appearances are frequently deceptive, and many characters engage in play-acting, spying and pretense.  What deliberate attempts are made at deception?  Are the intended audiences deceived?  While some deceptions are perpetrated in order to conceal secrets, others aim to uncover hidden truths.  Which are which?  To what extent are they successful?  Note references to appearances, disguises, pretense, seeming, masks, acting, etc. 

Love and Lust

Pay attention to the treatment of the women characters Gertrude and Ophelia.  Is there any basis for the Freudian interpretation of an Oedipal attraction between Hamlet and his mother?  Hamlet does seem obsessed with his mother's sexuality.  How old is Hamlet?  How old do you think Gertrude is?  Is Hamlet's disgust at Gertrude's sexuality justified?  To what extent is Gertrude guilty?  Was she "in on" her husband's murder?  Has Claudius confided in her since the murder?  How does Hamlet's perception of his mother affect his behavior or attitude toward Ophelia?  Why does he tell Ophelia to go to a nunnery?  Does Hamlet really love Ophelia?  If so, why is he cruel to her? 

Madness

Hamlet claims that his madness is feigned, an "antic disposition" which he puts on for his own purposes (I.v.172).  Why would Hamlet want to feign madness?  How can an appearance of insanity help him achieve his ends?  (Compare the role of Touchstone, the "fool" in AYLI.)  Is he really sane throughout the play, or does he ever cross the line into madness?  What about Ophelia's mad scene?  Is it real or feigned?  Is there "method in her madness" as well, or is she entirely irrational?  Why has she gone mad?  (What two reasons do her songs suggest?) 

Unnatural

Hamlet famously declares that "something is rotten in the state of Denmark."  What other natural imagery is used to describe the corruption of the Danish court?  What "unnatural" events or behaviors preceded the events recounted in the play?  What "unnatural" events or behaviors occur during the play?

Moral ambiguity

Hamlet and Macbeth recount similar stories (the usurping of a throne) from differing perspectives -- those of perpetrator and avenger.  Just as Macbeth was not ALL bad, Hamlet is not ALL good.  What are some of his faults or short-comings?  Do these constitute a "fatal flaw" (to use the concept and terminology of Aristotle or Bradley)? Why might Shakespeare have chosen to remain in the "grey area" rather than a more "black and white" depiction of Good and Evil?

 


 

Hamlet Essay

 

Overview:

The twelfth grade curriculum includes several works that demonstrate the central concepts for the senior year. 

          Inhumanity and Alienation: What causes societies to become unjust and how do individuals respond to injustice?

          Lifeís Journey: What does the individual learn from success and failure?

          Will to Power: Is power, by its nature, corruptive?

          Indomitable Human Spirit: How do individuals respond to adversity and how does their response affect the greater society?

 

Task:

Choose one of the central concepts and write a critical essay in which you discuss Hamlet and how it deals with the central concept.  Using specific references to the text, explain the following for the work:

                                                                                                                                                                    

          How the work illustrates the central concept

          How the characters deal with the central concept

          How the author comes to terms with the concept

          What conclusions can be drawn about the concept

 

Guidelines:

Be sure toÖ

 

          Choose characters from Hamlet.

          Include a clearly defined thesis statement in your introduction. 

o         Your entire paper must work to support this thesis statement.

          Avoid plot summary.  Instead use specific references to the characters and text to develop your analysis.

          Organize your ideas in a unified and coherent manner.

          Incorporate the title and author of the literature.

          Demonstrate an awareness of your audience (this is a formal essay).