Thursday, October 21, 2010


"The play's the thing /Wherein I'll catch the conscience of the King." (last lines Act II)

III, i :
1. What does Claudius learn from Rosencrantz and Guildenstern?
2. Why is Claudius' aside in this scene of such importance?
3. Why is Hamlet's soliloquy placed where it is in this scene?
4. How can or can't you tell if Hamlet knows he is being spied upon during the "Nunnery Scene?"
Why do Hamlet's use of the word "remember" and Ophelia's use of the word "remembrances" resonate
so painfully. Who is the "one" referred to in the line "all but one?"  Why is this stated? Why do you think Hamlet  treats Ophelia the way he does? Do you think he no longer loves her? Explain. (Remember lines earlier in the play: "Frailty, thy name is woman."?)
5. Why does Polonius think it is necessary for him to spy on Hamlet and Gertrude for Claudius?
III, ii
1. How does the beginning of this scene offset the tension generated by the preceding one, and what does it reveal about Hamlet?
2. In what way does Hamlet praise Horatio. Why does he do so?
3. Why is writing the "mousetrap" the only thing Hamlet has done to exact revenge on Claudius?
4. How do Hamlet and Ophelia interact before the performance? Why does he lie his head where he does?
5. How is the play different from what you expected?
6. How does the play within the play deviate from what the ghost of Hamlet's father recounted in Act I ?
7. What have Claudius and Hamlet learned about each other as a consequence of the play?
III, iii
1. What has Claudius decided to do with Hamlet?
2. What do we learn about Claudius in his "prayer" soliloquy? Why can't he ask for forgiveness?
3. When Hamlet enters, why doesn't Hamlet kill Claudius? What is ironic about Hamlet's decision?
III, iv
1. How successful is the conversation between Gertrude and Hamlet? What goes wrong even before
Polonius' death. Why does Gertrude call for help?
2. Explain why you think Gertrude knew or did not know Claudius had killed King Hamlet?
3. What do you think of how Hamlet speaks to his mother
4. Why does the ghost appear, who sees him, and what is his message?
5. Should we see King Hamlet's ghost in this scene. Why, why not?
6. What are Hamlet's final instructions to his mother?

To understand the movement of Act III, you may want to chart the entrances and exits of characters. Make note of how Shakespeare transforms and juxtaposes movement within and between the scenes. This will enable you to appreciate Shakespeare's stage craftmanship.  Remember dramatic irony in Hamlet relies both
on the use of space and the utterance of words.

Please note that your text varies considerably from the Oxford University text of Hamlet in regard to what we touched upon in class today. Immediately before the "To be or not to be" soliloquy the stage directions in the Oxford text read: "Claudius and Polonius [hide behind the arras]. Enter Hamlet."  Your text has Polonius and Claudius move to the rear of the stage, but not necessarily in a conscious effort to spy on Hamlet. There is a big difference, since their spying during this speech, adds tension and pregnancy to Hamlet's words, colors Claudius' lines which end the first scene, and foreshadows what happens later in the play. You may want to go onto Youtube, type in Hamlet, and view the third video down from the top -Act III, i.  or Sir Lawrence Olivier's performance of this soliloquy. 


  1. What I thought of the actor's performance portraying as Hamlet was that he did a good job at it to be honest. In the beginning I was kind of bored but as the actor proceded with his act, it sucked me more and more into it. Especially in 1:37 when he took out the knife. With the knife, it got me interested into wanting to see more of that play/film. But overall, it was really a great scene and I enjoyed his tone of voice as he spoke. It gave me more of a better image of when I read Hamlet or when we do as a class of what exactly is going on.

  2. Sergi, I felt the same way. It took a while before I felt convinced that what he was saying really mattered. But after a little time I was hooked.

  3. Well Hamlet did tell the players of the play on how to act which I think, made it better. It was kind of confusing at first when the king died of poisoning but the prisoner decided to take over the queen. I feel like this act is mostly about the saying "to be or not to be". In scene four, there are a lot about sexuality and it's kind of weird to say that to your own mother dont you think? I kind of think Hamlet is cruel, and it shows in the way he treats his mother

  4. The actors performance had a lot of intensity. I actually thought that he would be shouting these words out loud rather then whispering. But the reason I believe he is whispering is because he might be aware of Polonius and Claudius listening to him. The most interesting part of this actors performance was when he took out his dagger, signifying that he is dangerous, and that he might do something drastic. It's clear in this scene that Polonius and Claudius are listening to him say these things. What I also liked about the actors performance is that he talks to himself through the mirror, almost like his conscience is speaking outward. I also think in this act that Hamlet has gotten crueler towards everyone, especially Ophelia.

  5. I actually disliked this actor's performance. I agree with Brittany, I don't think he should've whispered it. The fact that he was looking in the mirror was an unexpected interpretation of stage craft. And the dagger added a bit of emphasis to the whole point of his soliloqiy, whether he should commit suicide or not.
    In the book, Ophelia's use of the word "remembrances" triggers Hamlet's diatribe, because she uses the word to refer to the letters he wrote. His bitterness throughout this act is a bit startling.

  6. Some great performances are best left to the imagination, but Susan, go to youtube and view
    Sir Lawrence Olivier's performance of this soliloquy. Do you like it any better?

  7. I finished watching Sir Lawrence Olivier's performance. I enjoyed this one very much. His performance seemed more relaxed, compared to the other video. Although both use the dagger, Sir Lawrence's usage of the dagger as a prop is better than the former. Also, his interpretation of the soliloquy seemed to me as though how Hamlet would've said it. Loud, but not forced, and still maintaining a flow of intelligent thought.

  8. Sir these questions are to hard. I need another day to hand them in. Sorry

  9. Hamlet has now grasped my attention. The performances in class help make the Play seem more interesting. I'm looking forward into finishing up Hamlet.

  10. I believe the performances in class makes "Hamlet" more interesting and less difficult to comprehend. I really enjoy our class performances. I also, find them so hilarious at times!