Characters in Hamlet and Study Hamlet

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Study Guide for Hamlet, Prince of Denmark

GENERAL QUESTIONS
1. Pay attention to Shakespeare’s poetry with its imagery and figures of speech. Hamlet is written in poetic meter called blank verse. Define blank verse. 2. Make character studies: Horatio, Hamlet, Claudius, Gertrude, Polonius, Ophelia, Laertes. Note character traits exhibited through a character’s own words, his action, others’ comments about him, etc. 3. Study Hamlet’s soliloquies carefully. Why does Shakespeare give Hamlet several soliloquies? 4. What are some major themes in Hamlet?

5. Compare Shakespeare’s written version of Hamlet with a film version like Zefferelli’s starring Mel Gibson. 6. As a young Christian, do you find anything appealing in Hamlet’s character and in the drama itself?

ACT ONE
7. What does Shakespeare accomplish through Act One, Scene One? 8. What are some early signs that “something is rotten in the state of Denmark”? 9. How well does Claudius perform his royal duties—domestic and foreign policy? 10. What counsel and commands do Polonius and Laertes give Ophelia? 11. Describe the meeting between Hamlet and the ghost. What does the ghost reveal?

ACT TWO
12. Why does Shakespeare choose to have Ophelia relate the dramatic scene between herself and Hamlet rather than enact it? 13. Why have Rosencrantz and Guildenstern been brought to the palace? 14. What explanation does Polonius give for Hamlet’s behavior? Consider the proof he uses. 15. Describe the action that provokes Hamlet’s soliloquy—“Oh, what a rogue. . . .” (II ii). Is Hamlet’s self-loathing warranted?

ACT THREE
16. What report do Rosencrantz and Guildenstern give the King and Queen on Hamlet? 17. Study Hamlet’s most famous soliloquy carefully--“To be, or not to be . . .” Note the figures of speech. What is Hamlet’s mood here? How is it more intense than before? 18. What does Hamlet mean when he says, “Thus conscience does make cowards of us...
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