Act II, i Questions:
1. How does Polonius instruct Reynaldo to go about spying on Laertes in Paris?
2. Why does Reynaldo say, "My lord, that would dishonor him."?
3. How do you interpret Ophelia's description of Hamlets behavior in lines 99-112?
4. Why do you think Hamlet "raised a sigh so piteous and profound/That it did seem to shatter all his bulk/And end his being."?
5. How do you think Ophelia is being affected by Hamlet's behavior and her father's prohibitions?
6. What do you make of Polonius' interpretation of Ophelia's description of Hamlet's behavior?
7. Why does Polonius think he may be responsible for Hamlet's madness?
Act II, scene ii is demanding, so be sure to read it aloud more than once and be sure to consult the explanatory notes to the left of the text. I expect there will be many lines you will not comprehend, please just soar over them and finish the scene. It has a beauty and an intensity that is quite extraordinary. Now reread it. Now read the soliloquy which ends this act aloud once again.
This is one of the longest and most challenging scenes in Hamlet. It consists of six sections:
1. the arrival and reception of Rosencrantz and Guildenstern
2. the ambassabors return from Norway
3. Polonius' interpretation of Hamlet's "antic" behavior to Claudius and Gertrude
4. Hamlet's meeting and questioning of his school fellows
5. the arrival of the players and their performances for Hamlet
6. Hamlet's soliloquy
Act II, ii Questions:
1. Why should or shouldn't Claudius be pleased with how the King of Norway restrained Fortinbras?2. Why have Rosencrantz and Guildenstern been brought to Ellsinore?
3. What does Gertrude reveal in lines 59-60?
3. By Act II how badly has Hamlet deteriorated? Has his "antic" disposition fooled those around him?
5. How does Hamlet's disposition vary in this scene? On what does this variation depend? How much of it is real how much of it is pretense?
6. At the end of Act II, scene ii, write about Polonius from several perspectives: his importance to King Claudius, Gertrude's attitude toward him, his role as Ophelia's father, his role as Laerte's father, and his role as self-appointed interpreter of Hamlet's "lunacy." How do you feel about this character?
7. Why does Shakespeare move between pathos and bathos (tragedy and humor)? Where do you observe them being mixed together? How does this affect the play?
8. Notice when and how in Act II Shakespeare leaves verse (poetic form) and writes in prose. Why do you think Shakespeare chose to do this?
9. Comment on Hamlet's lines to Rosencrantz and Guildenstern (II:ii,268-270) ". . .'tis none to you for there is nothing either good or bad but thinking makes it so" and then (II:ii, 273-275) "O God, I could be bounded in a nutshell and count myself a king of infinite space, were it not that I have bad dreams."
* Read and then reread Hamlets lines II:ii, 317-334 (I will tell you why: so shall my anticipation prevent your discovery . . .) aloud.10. How do you think Hamlet manages the conversation with his old school friends Rosencrantz and Guildenstern? Be explicit.
** Immediately before and after the players arrive Shakespeare makes allusions to problems actors were having in contemporary England, the Bible, and Ancient Greek Literature. This reading is difficult going, so carefully read the notes given to you in the text! If you don't understand some of this, do not worry, it will be covered in class.11. Why is Hamlet's attitude toward the players (actors) so different from Polonius'? Go to lines 549-552 and thereabouts.
12. Comment on Hamlet's soliloquy that ends Act II.
We will discuss II, i and then proceed to act out II, ii in class. If any of you want to volunteer to play a role, please let me know by email. I expect reader/performers to very carefully read and rehearse their parts beforehand.
Remember to prepare for the sonnet test on Tuesday.