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Study questions for hamlet act 4

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Hamlet Discussion Questions - Washington State University

  • What is "rotten in the state of Denmark," as Marcellus tells us? What do we learn about the situation in Scene I? In Scene II?
  • In what ways is Scene II a contrast to Scene I? What do we learn about Gertrude, Claudius, and Hamlet in this scene?
  • What is the function of the Polonius-Ophelia-Laertes family in this play? What parallels exist between their situation and that of the ruling family?
  • What does Hamlet learn from the Ghost's speech?

Act II

  • Why does this act open with Polonius and Reynaldo? What does this tell us about Polonius's character, and what theme or motif does it introduce in the play?
  • How does the interaction between Hamlet and Rosencrantz and Guildenstern help to explain what's wrong with Hamlet? Why are Rosencrantz and Guildenstern in Denmark?
  • The First Player's speech is often cut in performances of the play. Explain why it is important and why it should not be cut.
  • Hamlet's "O what a rogue and peasant slave am I" is the first of his soliloquies.
Why is this significant?
  • Why is Ophelia mad? Does anything she say make sense? What happens to her at the end of Act IV? What does her madness and death symbolize about the kingdom?
  • Look at the scene with Laertes and Claudius (IV.vii). What plans do they have for Hamlet? How does this scene establish Laertes as a foil for Hamlet?
  • Why is Hamlet less present in this act than in the previous three?
  • Act V

    • Why does this scene begin with two clowns trading jokes? Do their jokes make any sense in the context of the play?
    • Where do Hamlet and Laertes fight in V.ii?
    • Who is Osric, and why is he included in the play?
    • Does Hamlet realize that he might not come out of this fight alive? See V.ii.225-238.
    • What is the outcome of the fight scene at the end?
    • When Gertrude drinks from the cup, Claudius asks her not to drink and she refuses. Has she ever disobeyed Claudius before?
    • Who is alive at the end of the play, and how do the others meet their ends?

     * The material on this site is created by StudyBlue users. StudyBlue is not affiliated with, sponsored by or endorsed by the academic institution or instructor.

    StudyBlue is not sponsored or endorsed by any college, university, or instructor.
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    Compare and contrast Hamlet with each of these characters. How are they alike? How are they different? How does each respond to the crises with which he is faced?

    Horatio’s steadfastness and loyalty contrasts with Hamlet’s variability and excitability, though both share a love of learning, reason, and thought. Claudius’s willingness to disregard all moral law and act decisively to fulfill his appetites and lust for power contrasts powerfully with Hamlet’s concern for morality and indecisive inability to act. Fortinbras’s willingness to go to great lengths to avenge his father’s death, even to the point of waging war, contrasts sharply with Hamlet’s inactivity, even though both of them are concerned with avenging their fathers.

    Hamlet’s father killed Fortinbras’s father, and Hamlet killed Laertes’ father, meaning that Hamlet occupies the same role for Laertes as Claudius does for Hamlet.

    2. Many critics take a deterministic view of Hamlet’s plot, arguing that the prince’s inability to act and tendency toward melancholy reflection is a “tragic flaw” that leads inevitably to his demise. Is this an accurate way of understanding the play? Why or why not? Given Hamlet’s character and situation, would another outcome of the play have been possible?

    The idea of the “tragic flaw” is a problematic one in Hamlet.

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