HAMLET


Act One, Scene 1
A ghost appears on the battlements











For two nights running, a ghost has been seen by the guards at Elsinore Castle.

1. Activity: “Who’s there?” is the famous opening line of Hamlet. This line can (and has) been performed in many ways. Think about three ways you could perform this scene. Write down your ideas.






The ghost looks like the dead King
The guards and Hamlet's best friend Horatio decide to tell Hamlet that a ghost, the image of his dead father, is haunting the castle battlements.

2. Activity: In this production of Hamlet, the Ghost and Claudius are played by the same actor; Patrick Stewart. Why would the director make this choice? What is the director saying about these two characters?






Act 1, Scene 2
The new King greets the court














Claudius announces his marriage to the old King's wife, Gertrude, and asks Prince Hamlet to remain at home rather than return to University.
Hamlet's anger


Hamlet is outraged by his mother's remarriage. His thoughts are disturbed by Horatio and the guards who come to tell him about the ghost.

**O that this too too solid flesh would melt** (Spoken by Hamlet, Act 1 Scene2)

3. Activity: Look at the ‘plain text’ version of this soliloquy at **http://www.nosweatshakespeare.com/quotes/soliloquies/hamlet-solid-flesh.htm**

Make your own notes on the meaning of this soliloquy.


Act 1, Scene 3
Laertes returns to university













While Hamlet has to stay behind in Elsinore, Polonius' son Laertes is given permission to go back to university in France. His father gives him advice on how to behave.

4. Activity: What kind of a man is Polonius? Why do you say this? What kind of relationship do Ophelia and Laertes have?



Ophelia is warned off Hamlet
Polonius' daughter Ophelia has been spending time with Hamlet. Polonius tells her to not speak to him again.

5. Activity: What does Ophelia’s obedience to her father tell you about the role of women and girls during Shakespeare’s time?



Act 1, Scene 4
Hamlet accompanies Horatio and Marcellus on the night-watch









The Ghost appears and beckons Hamlet away. Hamlet follows, ignoring the advice of Horatio and the guard.



Act 1, Scene 5
The Ghost wants revenge

The ghost of Hamlet's father tells him that he was murdered by his brother Claudius while sleeping. He wants Hamlet to avenge his death. Hamlet decides to feign madness until he has completed his mission.














6. Activity: Read the Ghost’s description of his torments and his murder carefully. What kind of language does Shakespeare use here?











Act 2, Scene 1
Polonius sets a spy on Laertes




















Some time has passed. Laertes is now in Paris. Polonius sends Reynaldo to France to keep an eye on his son's behaviour.

7. Activity: There’s LOTS of spying in this play. Make a list of who spies in whom and when and why. (N.B. Some critics have said that all of the spying was inspired by the fearsome spy networks of Queen Elizabeth 1)



Additionally, in the scene above, Ophelia is frightened by Hamlet

Hamlet has visited Ophelia in her room with his clothes in disarray. He grabbed her wrists and stared at her. Ophelia tells her father, who is convinced that he is lovesick for her. He arranges to meet the King.

Scene 2
Rosencrantz and Guildenstern















Gertrude asks Hamlet's schools friends, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, to cheer up her melancholy son. Claudius has commanded the two young men to come to court to spy on Hamlet, just as Reynaldo was sent to spy on Laertes.

Dismissing them, the king lessons to the report of the ambassadors of Norway.

Polonius (eventually), tells the King and Queen of his suspicion: that Hamlet is mad from love for Ophelia. The Queen is relieved, the King is skeptical.

Hamlet meets with his old friends, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern and he appears cheered. However, he soon establishes that they were ‘sent for’.


The actors arrive

Hamlet asks a travelling troupe of players to deliver one of his favourite speeches. Once they are finished he asks them to stage The Murder of Gonzago the following night.




Here Hamlet gives us his soliloquy **O, what a rogue and peasant slave am I** (Spoken by Hamlet, Act 2 Scene 2)



8. Activity: Look at the ‘plain text’ version of this soliloquy at **http://www.nosweatshakespeare.com/quotes/soliloquies/hamlet-solid-flesh.htm**
Make your own notes on the meaning of this soliloquy.


Plot: Act Three
Scene 1
The King interviews Rosencrantz and Guildenstern
Meanwhile, Ophelia is made to set up Hamlet to be spied on.
Enter Hamlet
**To be, or not to be** (Spoken by Hamlet, Act 3 Scene 1)



(The Tennant production switches around the scenes and has Hamlet doing "To be or not to be" at the BEGINNING of Act 2. Therefore - the clip you have here may begin in a confusing fashion and have a confusing label on it!)




9. Activity: Look at the ‘plain text’ version of this soliloquy at **http://www.nosweatshakespeare.com/quotes/soliloquies/hamlet-solid-flesh.htm**
Make your own notes on the meaning of this soliloquy.


Claudius and Polonius spy on Hamlet and Ophelia



The King and Ophelia's father hide and watch Hamet and Ophelia talk.







Hamlet rejects Ophelia



Ophelia tries to return gifts Hamlet has given to her. He tells her she should go to a nunnery. Does he know they are being watched?

10. Activity: Why doesn’t Ophelia disobey her father after this discussion? Why is Hamlet so violently angry with her? (Compare with this very similar treatment of his mother. Is Hamlet only capable of raging at women?)

Claudius loses patience




Hearing reports from Rosencrantz, Guildenstern and Polonius of Hamlet's behaviour, Claudius thinks he should send Hamlet away. Polonius convinces him to involve Gertrude to see if she can talk sense into her son.

Scene 2
Hamlet coaches the players
Hamlet instructs the players.


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The actors perform the old King's murder
Claudius stops the action just before the new king marries the old king's wife.



11. Activity: What do you think the meaning of the “play within a play” is? Why does Shakespeare make so many references to acting and plays?


Hamlet brags to Horatio that he has exposed Claudius as a murderer. Rosencrantz and Guildenstern come to tell him that his mother is looking for him. Hamlet threatens them and then mocks Polonius who comes with the same news.



Act 3, Scene 3

Claudius sets out plans for Hamlet’s journey to England

Rosencrantz and Guildenstern receive their orders. Polonius tells Claudius he will hide behind the ‘arras’ (the heavy tapestry) in the Queen’s room to overhear the conversation between the Queen and her son.


Claudius tries to pray for forgiveness



**Oh my offence is rank, it smells to heaven** (Spoken by Claudius, Act 3 Scene 3)
12. Activity: Look at the ‘plain text’ version of this soliloquy at **http://www.nosweatshakespeare.com/quotes/soliloquies/hamlet-solid-flesh.htm**
Make your own notes on the meaning of this soliloquy.

As Claudius kneels in prayer, Hamlet lifts his dagger to avenge his father. He is stopped by the thought that Claudius will go to heaven. Unknown to Hamlet, Claudius is finding it impossible to pray.
**Now might I do it pat** (Spoken by Hamlet, Act 3 Scene 3)
13. Activity: Look at the ‘plain text’ version of this soliloquy at **http://www.nosweatshakespeare.com/quotes/soliloquies/hamlet-solid-flesh.htm**
Make your own notes on the meaning of this soliloquy.



Act 3, Scene 4
Polonius spies on Hamlet and Gertrude

After a discussion with Gertrude, Polonius conceals himself in her room.

Hamlet tells his mother she has married a murderer. He hears a noise and kills the unseen intruder, Polonius. The ghost of his father appears to him again and tells him to comfort his mother, who now believes Hamlet to be completely mad.




AND





14. Activity: Do you think Gertrude believes Hamlet when he says that Claudius, “a murderer and a villain” killed the old King and stole his crown, the “precious diadem”?




Act Four, Scene 1
Claudius comforts Gertrude
Gertrude tells Claudius that Hamlet is mad and that he has killed Polonius. Claudius sends Rosencrantz and Guildenstern to find Hamlet and to recover the body of Polonius.





15. Activity: Why don’t Gertrude and Hamlet reveal more to each other in this scene? What have they each got to hide?


Act 4, Scene 2
Hamlet refuses to reveal location of Polonius' body
Hamlet tells Rosencrantz and Guildenstern that they too willingly follow the King's orders. He refuses to reveal the location of Polonius’s body.





16. Activity: Find a few examples of black humor in this scene. Why is Hamlet acting this way?



Act 4, Scene 3

Hamlet is sent to England
Hamlet reveals where Polonius' corpse is. Claudius tells Hamlet he is to be sent to England. Claudius secretly plans to have him killed on the journey.

However, Hamlet has already revealed to us that he will not trust the sealed letters or his former friends, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern.





Scene 4
Fortinbras (of Norway) and his army march on their way to war with Poland

Hamlet contrasts his own inaction with the purposeful Fortinbras.

**How all occasions do inform against me** (Spoken by Hamlet, Act 4 Scene 4)

17. Activity: Look at the ‘plain text’ version of this soliloquy at **http://www.nosweatshakespeare.com/quotes/soliloquies/hamlet-solid-flesh.htm**
Make your own notes on the meaning of this soliloquy.




Scene 5
Ophelia goes mad



AND





With her father's death and Hamlet's departure, Ophelia starts to go mad. As she is raving to the King and Queen, Laertes arrives, seeking revenge for the death of his father. Claudius begins to conspire with Laertes, fooling him into believing that Hamlet is the only one responsible for his father’s death and his sister’s insanity.

18. Activity: Make notes about how even as Ophelia sings and speaks wildly (she only ever speaks to the King and Queen when she is mad), Claudius continues to scheme. Claudius is now setting up Hamlet to take all of the blame, thinking that Hamlet will soon be dead.


Act 4, Scene 6
Horatio receives a letter from Hamlet
Hamlet tells of how he was captured by pirates and thus rescued from Rosencrantz and Guildenstern. Hamlet is now back in Denmark.


Scene 7
Claudius receives a letter from Hamlet AND
Claudius and Laertes plan to kill Hamlet



(NOTE: Here, again, this production differs a little from the version we are studying. Here. Hamlet's return, his letter to Horatio etc are compressed into one scene. Concentrate instead on Claudius manipulating Laertes and the news of Ophelia's death.

Claudius hatches a plan whereby Laertes will challenge Hamlet to a duel and fight with an unblunted sword with a poisoned tip. Claudius also plans to poison Hamlet's drink, just to make sure he dies.


AND Ophelia dies
Gertrude announces to Claudius and Laertes that Ophelia has taken her life and drowned.

19. Activity: Why do you think Shakespeare gives the announcement of Ophelia’s death to Gertrude? Are they alike in any ways? What do you think of the language of her speech?


Act Five, Scene 1
Ophelia's funeral
As Hamlet returns to Elsinore he sees two men digging a grave. As the funeral party approaches it becomes obvious it's Ophelia's grave.



20. “Alas poor Yorick, I knew him well…” is another famous Hamlet moment. What is Hamlet talking about during this exchange with Horatio and the Gravedigger?


Hamlet and Laertes fight
The two young men argue about who loved Ophelia most. Laertes is even more determined to carry out the plan to kill Hamlet.



21. Activity: Compare Laertes’ overblown, hyperbolic language and actions (he leaps into the grave) with Hamlet’s simple declaration “I lov’d Ophelia”. What does their behavior in this scene tell us about each character?



Act 5, Scene 2
Hamlet is invited to duel

Hamlet describes his adventures at sea to Horatio.







The fencing match begins and Hamlet wins the first two rounds. Claudius was not expecting Hamlet to fight so well and offers him the poisoned drink.



22. Activity: Do you think Hamlet knows he is facing his own death at this duel? What gives this away?

Gertrude drinks the poison


Hamlet refuses the drink. Instead, Gertrude drinks to Hamlet from the poisoned cup.

23. Activity: Do you think Gertrude knows the cup is poisoned? How would you direct this scene?
Hamlet and Laertes are wounded
Hamlet gets cut by Laertes sword and in anger cuts him back.


Queen Gertrude dies
The Queen's death encourages Laertes to reveal Claudius' plot.

24. Activity: Do you think Laertes regains his honor when he forgives Hamlet and reveals Claudius’ plot?


Hamlet turns on Claudius


Hamlet takes his revenge on Claudius. He stabs him with the poisoned sword and makes him drink the poison.

25. Activity: Does Claudius deserve his death? Why is he both stabbed with the poison sword AND made to drink the poison?


The rest is silence

Laertes, Hamlet and Claudius die, leaving Horatio to lament his loss.

26. Activity: Why does EVERYBODY die? Was this an avoidable tragedy?

27. Activity: Who will be the next King of Denmark? What does this tell us about Marcellus’ comment in Act 1, Scene 4, “Something is rotten in the state of Denmark”?