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Hamlet | Discussion Questions 31 - 40

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What is the ghost of King Hamlet wearing in Hamlet, Act 1, Scene 1 that triggers Horatio's story of Norway versus Denmark/Fortinbras versus Hamlet?

The ghost of King Hamlet is wearing armor that Horatio says is just like the armor he wore when he went to battle with old Fortinbras, deceased king of Norway (Act 1, Scene 1, Lines 72–73).

In Hamlet, Act 1, Scene 2 during the gathering in the court of Elsinore, what do the king and queen criticize Hamlet for doing?

As Hamlet, King Claudius, and Queen Gertrude appear together for the first time, Claudius and Gertrude both chide him—Claudius more bitingly than Gertrude—for continuing to mourn his father. They note that he is still cloaked in mourning—both inside and out—and Claudius goes so far as to say of his nephew's grief: "But to persever/In obstinate condolement is a course/Of impious stubbornness" (Act 1, Scene 2, Lines 98–100).

Midway into Act 1, Scene 2 of Hamlet, Hamlet makes several comments or asides that allow the audience to understand what?

In Act 1, Scene 2, Lines 68–69, Hamlet's aside of "A little more than kin, and less than/kind" makes it all too clear that something is not right between uncle and nephew. They may be relatives, but Hamlet doesn't consider Claudius a good person. Another exchange he has with his uncle includes a pointed pun on "sun" versus "son," noting that he is unhappily now both nephew and stepson to his uncle; other comments directed to his mother seem to completely ignore his uncle. Together, all of this shows Hamlet's disapproval.

In Hamlet, Act 1, Scene 2, Claudius states that Fortinbras is preparing to attack Denmark and reclaim land lost by his father. What does Claudius say is prompting an attack?

Claudius says that Fortinbras may think that this is the appropriate time to attack Elsinore, as the change in leadership could be perceived as a transitional period during which the country is less able to repel an attack.

In Act 1, Scene 2 of Hamlet, Claudius's report about Fortinbras adds to earlier information from Horatio. What new details does the audience learn from Claudius?

From what Claudius tells the members of his court, we learn that young Fortinbras's uncle—and not Fortinbras—has taken the throne in Norway. We further learn that that the king is very sick and bedridden, and has not heard of his nephew's activities. These pieces of information give the audience a better understanding of the Fortinbras subplot and invite the contrast between Fortinbras and Hamlet.

What two pieces of advice does Polonius give to Laertes as his son leaves for France in Act 1, Scene 3 of Hamlet?

In a long and winding speech of advice to Laertes, Polonius talks about such considerations as friends, clothes, and habits. For instance, he tells Laertes to pay attention to the way he dresses because "apparel oft proclaims the man" (Act 1, Scene 3, Line 76), and he also tells him, "Neither a borrower nor a lender be" (Act 1, Scene 3, Line 79). Much of what Polonius says to his son in this speech is advice about the superficial aspects of life.

In Act 1, Scene 3 of Hamlet, what do Laertes and Polonius instruct Ophelia to do?

Before leaving for France, Laertes questions his sister about her relationship with Hamlet. He cautions her not to take the prince's affections too seriously and, above all else, to guard her reputation around matters of the heart. Polonius follows up on Laertes's speech and forbids his daughter to have contact with Hamlet.

In Hamlet, Act 1, Scene 4, Hamlet, Horatio, and Marcellus are somewhere on the castle wall, watching for the ghost. Where is Claudius?

King Claudius is within the castle, engaged in wild revelry hosted in honor of Hamlet's agreement to stay at Elsinore and forego returning to school at Wittenberg. Hamlet, Horatio, and Marcellus hear trumpets and cannon shots, marking the boisterous feast, and Hamlet tells the others that this recent wild behavior is damaging to Denmark's reputation.

In Hamlet, Act 1, Scene 4, the ghost relates that while everyone thinks he died from a snakebite, the "serpent" was his brother Claudius. How did Claudius kill King Hamlet?

According to the ghost, Claudius killed King Hamlet by pouring poison in his ear while he slept in his garden.

In Hamlet, Act 2, Scene 1, Ophelia relates that Hamlet has come to her chamber, acting and looking like a madman. What examples of his behavior does she give Polonius?

In Act 2, Scene 1, Ophelia relates to Polonius the details of her visit from Hamlet. She paints a picture of Hamlet as having a pale, shaken demeanor, speaking wildly and using exaggerated gestures. In dress, he is unkempt and dirty; his clothing is half undone and falling down. In short, he is far from the Hamlet seen at the play's outset and far from the man the audience sees in the final act.

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