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Characters in Hamlet and Claudius

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1. Is Hamlet surprised when the Ghost asks him to revenge his father's murder? Is he surprised when he learns who the murderer is?
2. Do father and son have the same opinion of Claudius? (Compare 1.2.139-40, 152-53 and 1.5.47-52.) Would others in the court, not knowing about Claudius' crime, see Claudius as this much below his dead brother?
3. How did Claudius murder Old Hamlet?
4. What does the Ghost tell Hamlet to do about his mother?
5. Read Hamlet's second soliloquy carefully (1.5.92-113). What does Hamlet say he has learned? In other words, what general piece of wisdom does he want to save from this encounter (1.5.109). Is this shockingly new information to us? Or is Hamlet just becoming "grown up"? (When did you first learn that you couldn't always trust people?) Notice how quickly Hamlet moves from the specific (Claudius) to the general ("one"). Compare the same movement he makes from the specific person Gertrude to "frailty, thy name is woman" (1.2.146). Given this soliloquy, how soon would you expect Hamlet to go for his revenge?
6. What happens when the others find Hamlet. What does he ask them to swear? What does his mention of an "antic disposition" (1.5.173) suggest about his future plans? How might you expect Hamlet to be acting when next we see him?
ACT 2
2.1
1. How much time has passed between Act 1 and Act 2? How do you know? (Keep watching for evidence.)
2. What is Polonius telling Reynaldo to do? What does this tell up about Polonius and his way of thinking and acting?
3. Why is Ophelia so upset when she enters at 2.1.74.1? What has happened to her? Does Hamlet's appearance (in her telling) as a madman (a distracted lover) come as a surprise after what we last heard him say? Why would he appear in this sort of madness to her? Is there any possibility he really is a distracted lover responding to Ophelia's apparent rejection of him? How well has she obeyed her father's orders in 1.3?
4. What is Polonius' response to what Ophelia tells him? Where are they going?
2.2
1. Why have Rosencrantz and Guildenstern come to court? What is their relation to Hamlet? What use does Claudius have for them? Does this remind you of Polonius' use for Reynaldo? Are there any significant differences?
2. We've now had several different explanations of Hamlet's madness: love (2.1.86, 103), his father's death (2.2.8), and that plus "our o'erhasty marriage" (2.2.57note Gertrude's awareness of impropriety). Are people content with these explanations? Are you?
3. What results have come from Cornelius' and Voltemand's trip to Norway? Has Claudius' use of diplomacy rather than war been justified? What will Fortinbras be doing next? Can we expect to see him in Denmark after all? Why?
4. How effective is Polonius as a bearer of news? How convinced are Claudius and Gertrude that Polonius has found the answer? How do they plan to test this answer? Does Polonius' plan sound like his normal way of operating (2.2.163-68)?
5. Immediately following the discussion of the plan, Hamlet appears. Wouldn't this be a good time to try out the plan? Do they?
6. How does Hamlet behave when he enters? Does Polonius think he is mad? Is this the way we would expect Hamlet to act after Ophelia's description in 2.1? Why does he call Polonius a fishmonger? (It may help to know that fishmongers' wives, and daughters, apparently because of the fish, were assumed to be extremely fertile and thus able to conceive easilyand thus the connection in 2.2.185-86.)
7. How does Hamlet behave initially with Rosencrantz and Guildenstern (through 2.2.216-66)? Is it different from the way he just acted with Polonius? How does Hamlet change when he realizes that the two were sent for by Claudius and Gertrude?
8. How seriously should we take Hamlet's view of the world and of "man" (2.2.287-98). How do Rosencrantz and Guildenstern react to Hamlet's use of "generic" man (2.2.298-300)?
9. Why are the players traveling? What has been going on in the city? (Much of 2.2.317-46 refers to contemporary events in London around 1599-1601.)
10. What is the significance of Hamlet's referring to Polonius as Jephthah (2.2.385). Jephthah's story is interesting in this contextsee Judges 11:30-40.
11. What is unusual about the speech Hamlet begins to recite (2.2.430-44) and the First Player continues (2.2.448-498). How is its style different from that of the surrounding lines of Hamlet? Why is its subject matter appropriate? (See Note 2 to line 430.) Do lines 461-62 echo anything from or about the play Hamlet? Why can't the First Player finish the speech?

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