Sunday, October 31, 2010


V, i
1. In some editions of Hamlet the "gravediggers" are not  called gravediggers but clowns. Why at this point in the play does Shakespeare resort to comic relief  ?
2. What is the dispute they have, and what is the riddle and its answer?
3. Why do you think Shakespeare at this point for the first time lets us now know Hamlet's age?
4. How does Hamlet  react to being told, "This same skull, sir, was Yorick's skull, the King's jester"?
5. What dramatic irony extends over much of this scene? What affect does it have?
6. Why does Laertes quibble with the priest officiating at his sister's burial? Where and how has this been foreshadowed  in this scene and elsewhere in the play?
7. Why at this point in the play do Laertes and Hamlet have such radically different opinions of each other?
8. What do we learn from Gertrude's farewell to Ophelia? What do you think of what she says? What would Polonius have thought?
9. What does the priest's treatment of his sister cause Laertes to do? How is this counterpoint to the comic relief earlier in the scene?
10. Why does Hamlet so assertively announce himself, "This is I, Hamlet the Dane" ? Why is Hamlet so angry?
11. Explain why Hamlet jumps into the pit dug for Ophelia's coffin?
12. What  do you think were Hamlet's true feelings for Ophelia?
V, ii
1. How did Hamlet sidestep Claudius' plot to have him put to death in England? (He tells Horatio.)
2. Why do or don't you think killing now may be easier for Hamlet?
3. How does Hamlet react to the idea of the match? How does Hamlet expect to do and why does he go ahead with it? How does this reflect the "new" nature of Hamlet, revealed in V, i? 
4. What is the nature of Hamlet's speech to Laertes before they fence?
5  How do Hamlet and Laertes get wounded?
6. How does Hamlet get his final revenge?
7. How do the characters who entered this scene die?
8. What is Hamlet's final act as King of Denmark?
9. Why does Hamlet entreat Horatio to stay alive?
10. Why is Fortinbras' presence important at the end of the play?

I hope you enjoyed the play. 

Recall Hamlet's references throughout the play to the decay of the body, and Denmark. Scene one is a culmination of the concerns Hamlet has expressed about mortality and decay throughout the play. (Here we have an example of a literary term T.S. Eliot coined, known as the objective correlative.)  Please read this scene aloud at least twice. The gravediggers speak in colloquial  lower class Elizabethan English, so carefully read the liner notes relating to their dialogue to appreciate both their graveyard humor as well as Hamlet's.


  1. For question 1, I believe that Shakespeare provides a comic relief at this point of the play because he wants to release some tension prior to this act. He does this because something big is going to happen and he wants the audience to be caught off guard by this slightly humorous account set by the gravedigger's gruesome humor.

  2. Why would Shakespeare want to catch his audience off guard? Why is the comic banter so important to the scene as a whole?

  3. Just wanted to say, I very much enjoyed the play. More than I thought I would!

  4. Act 5 was the best part of the play in my opinion!