1) Describe Hamlet as a tragic hero. Pay particular attention to his tragic flaw. The critics are far from settled on this point.
2) How does Hamlet bring about his own destruction?
3) How is Hamlet's personal fate linked to the political fate of Denmark? (The Mel Gibson version eliminates most of the political intrigue which surrounds the inner play of Hamlet vs. Claudius. To answer thiks question, the Branaugh video is best.)
4) Give several good reasons for why Hamlet fakes madness.
5) Using several characters show how the play wonderfully illuminates the tragic paradox of Fate vs. Free Will.
6) Which characters exploit Ophelia and for what reasons? Is Hamlet one of them?
7) Provide a psychological portrait of Hamlet.
8) Provide a psychological portrait of Claudius.
9) Provide a psychological portrait of Gertrude.
10) Provide a psychological portrait of Polonius.
11) The character of the Ghost -- Hamlet's father -- is a tricky bit of stage business. How should he be presented on stage? No photos or drawings of a production of Hamlet in Shakespeare's time exist, so no one knows how the Ghost was potrayed on stage at the Globe theater. In the video you saw for this class, a decision was made about portaying the Ghost. Discuss the choice made and think of other posibilities. If you were directing the play, how might you choose to depict the Ghost on stage or on video?
12) Show how Claudius is a perfect politican -- a man well-suited to the corruption of the world. Why is Hamlet his polar opposite --- the one who wishes this "too too solid flesh would melt."?
13) Examine all the father/son relationships in the play.
14) Provide a detailed analysis of the "To Be or Not to Be " soliloquy.
15) How does Horatio differ philosophically from Hamlet?
16) Why does Hamlet love the Players so much and the theater in general? (The Players perform "The Murder of Gonzago" --- the play within the play.)
17) What is Hamlet's philosophical estimation of "human nature"?
18) Show how the family of Polonius, Laertes, and Ophelia represent compromised social values while Hamlet is the rebel unable to compromise with the corruption he sees around him (most obviously the murder of his father).
19) Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Hamlet's old buddies, but they agree to spy on him at the request of Claudius. They pay for this betrayal with their lives when Hamlet sends them to England with the death warrent that was originally issued for him. Despite their deceitfulness, defend Rosencratz and Guildenstern for thieir decision to deceive their friend Hamlet.
20) Besides the murder of Hamlet's father, what else is corrupt in the state of Denmark?
21) Why doesn't Hamlet take instant revenge? Is this delay admirable or contemptible?
22) In what ways is Claudius a typical villain? How does Shakespeare deepen his characterization?
23) What are Hamlet's most admirable qualities? What are his least admirable?
24) The Ghost, Horatio, Laertes: What theme do each of these secondary characters illustrate?
25) If Hamlet is in love with Ophelia, why does he mistreat her so?
26) Fair Ophelia --- where did she learn all those sexual songs in her mad-walking scene? How would present day psychology explain this phenomenon?
27) Although Polonius is a pompous windbag and a "tub of guts," he tries to be a good father. What advice does he give Laertes in his famous speech ..."neither a borrower nor lender be.." What is decent and honest about this advice? In what ways does the advice lack real substance?
28) Does Hamlet have Oedipal* feelings (the desire to be her lover) for Gertrude? Why/Why not?
29) The Grave-digger is on of the most famous minor characters in all of Shakespeare. Hamlet calls him "an absolute knave" (literal-minded). What is the basis of the philosophical debate between Hamlet and the grave-digger? What position does each take? Who wins?
30) Why does Hamlet agree to the duel with Laertes at the end? Why doesn't he suspect malice after all he's been betrayed by so many for so long?
* In the Greek tragedy Oedipus Rex by Sophocles, Oedipus unknowingly kills his father and marries his mother, thus fulfilling a prophecy decreed generations earlier by Apollo. Freud used the plot of Oedipus as an example of one of his theories -- that a male child rivals his father for the love of his mother. This theory seems to be true to the extent that sons do compete against the accomplishments and strength of their fathers, and some men do marry women who are very much like their mothers.