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When it comes to life in East London's Tower Hamlets, Tracey Gordon longs for something more. But she's got a funny way of going after her dreams. Chewing Gum…

This serves only to remind Hamlet that he must do something, ..

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I would play this song during Act 5 Scene 1 Lines 262-310 when Hamlet realizes it is Ophelia’s funeral, he leaps onto her grave and declares his love for her, “I lov’d Ophelia: forty thousand brothers could not, with all their quantity of love, make up my sum.” (5.1 Lines 278-280) He also says that he would do anything for her; even be buried alive with her.

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The tragedy of Hamlet, like the Greek tragedy of Oedipus, concerns public events, particularly the cleansing of something rotten in the state.
After their conversation Hamlet starts to speak to himself about how he wishes he were dead and how angry he is about his mothers decision to marry his fathers brother.


A tragedy by William Shakespeare

I have been speaking and writing about misogyny in Tower Hamlets for a long time - now feels like the right time to put something more comprehensive on the record.
12. What were the instructions from the ghost to Hamlet? What does Hamlet do to follow them?

13. What seems to be "rotten in the state of Denmark"?

14. What good news does Voltimand bring from Norway? What presumed good news does Polonius bring about Hamlet?

15. Why does the king summon Rosencrantz and Guildenstern? How do they respond to the summons? What moral choices do they face?

16. Why does Hamlet become interested in having a play performed?

17. Is Hamlet insane during part of the play? Compare the interpretation in a film version of the play with your own reading of the text.

18. Hamlet has a good chance to kill the king but gives a theological reason for not doing so. What is his reason? Does Hamlet's reason agree with theology expressed in the king's prayer? (3.3.37-97)

19. How does Hamlet treat his mother? What unfortunate event follows the scene between Hamlet and his mother? 3.4

20. Why does the king send Rosencrantz and Guildenstern to England? (4.3)

21. Why does Laertes return to Denmark?

22. What events resolve the action in the play. Compare the resolution in the text with the resolution in any movie version that you have seen?


23. Evaluate Polonius's use of word play. Note especially his speeches to Ophelia and Laertes (1.3), to Reynaldo (2.1), and to the king and queen (2.2).

24. Consider the speeches of Laertes to his sister (1.3). Compare his language to that of his father.

25. Evaluate the way Hamlet's language changes when he speaks to different characters or reflects to himself. [E.g. 1.2. 64-86 (to the king and queen), 1.2.129-158 (to himself), 1.2.176-195 and 1.2.50-52 (to Horatio), 2.2 170-210 (to Polonius)].

26. Analyze the word play between Rosencrantz, Guildenstern, and Hamlet (2.2.215-296). Based on this analysis, trace the developing relationship between these two characters and Hamlet throughout the play.

27. What does Horatio mean when he says "So Guildenstern and Rosencrantz go to 't"? Hamlet replies to Horatio with an image from fencing. How does that image connect to major themes in the play? (5.2. 55-62)

28.. What does Laertes mean in his speech beginning "I am satisfied in nature..." (5. 2. 99-107). What is the impact of these lines?

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Queen Gertrude is the wife of old King Hamlet and the mother of Prince Hamlet. She married her brother-in-law soon after the death of her husband.
Ophelia, who loves Hamlet, follows her father's order to quit seeing Hamlet. She later agrees to meet with Hamlet so that her father and the king can spy on the two of them.

Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are two of the great minor characters in literature. As students, they had been friends of Hamlet, but they are courtiers hoping to make their fortune by the king's favor. The king sends for them for the purpose of having them spy on Hamlet. In a manner that is unfortunately often characteristic of people in positions of power, the king does not state his purpose directly but presents it as if part of a benevolent plan. He and the queen ask the two courtiers if they can use their friendship with Hamlet to gain the kind of confidence that will enable the king and queen to be of service to Hamlet. Rosencrantz notes that the king and queen have sovereign power to command rather than to request their service, but he and Guildenstern both voluntarily accept their assignment.
They greet Hamlet as old friends, and the three of them play amusing games with words in their initial meeting in act 2. 2. Note especially the puns on the bottom of p. 2439. After the initial exchange, the two of them offer to wait upon Hamlet. Hamlet, however, says he does not want them as servants but as friends, and he asks them what they are doing at Ellsinore. When they reply that they came to visit him without admitting that they had come at the king’s request, Hamlet recognizes their deceptive purpose. The word games continue elaborately, but the character of the game changes. Rosencrantz and Guildenstern use word play to beat around the subject of their service to the king, and Hamlet uses word play to avoid giving them information to pass to the king. Later Hamlet tells Guildenstern that Guildenstern is trying to play on him as if he were a pipe (3. 2. 319-337); similarly, he calls Rosencrantz a sponge who "soaks up the king's countenance, his rewards, his authorities," but can be easily squeezed dry (4. 2. 14-19). When the king sends Rosencrantz and Guildenstern with sealed letters calling for the death of Hamlet, Hamlet manages to switch the letters so that they result in the death of Rosencrantz and Guildenstern.

Horatio is Hamlet's trusted friend. Although he is deferential to the prince, he appears to be frank with him. (For example, in act 5, scene 2, 56, where he hears of the projected death of Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, Horatio appears to be critical of his friend.) Hamlet praises Horatio's integrity and contrasts him with those who court the king's favor, those who are simply "a pipe for fortune's finger / To sound what stop she pleases" (3: 2, 59).

It is more difficult to generalize about the character or the language of Hamlet. His language changes with those he is speaking to. He is ironical with the king. He expresses fury to his mother and bitterness to Ophelia. He teases Polonius, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, and other courtiers who use pretentious language. Generally he beats these people at their own methods of word play. Note for example his teasing responses to Polonius on pp. 2044-2045 and the games he plays with Rosencrantz and Guildenstern as noted above. On the other hand, he seems to trust Horatio and to speak openly to him.

Assessment of the character of Hamlet, however, is tied in with a general interpretation of the play: Was Hamlet someone who decisively faced a ghost and then carefully weighed the ghost's report against evidence? Was he someone who hesitated when he should have acted soon? Was he a manipulator who was as corrupt as his enemy Claudius? Was he, like Oedipus, a tragic figure whose death resulted in the cleansing of corruption in the state? On the other hand, was Hamlet, with his introspective brooding, an early expression of the modern consciousness, a consciousness in which people often find their private experience separated (or alienated) from the world of public affairs?



1. What is the significance of the complete title Hamlet, Prince of Denmark?

2.. Considering the general development of the plot, what does Hamlet mean when he tells Horatio that in the image of his own cause, he sees "the portraiture" of Laertes's cause? 5.2.75-76

3. Laurence Olivier introduces his film version of the play by saying it is the tragedy of someone who could not make up his mind. Do you agree with this interpretation?

4. What is the importance of Fortinbras in Shakespeare's play? In any movie version that you have seen?

5. What role do the courtiers perform in the play?

6. Compare and contrast the way the king and Hamlet treat the courtiers. From this comparison and contrast, draw conclusions about the characters of the king, Hamlet, and the courtiers.

7. Is Hamlet a good person or a more devious politician than his uncle?

8. Choose a character and show how s/he uses word play.

9. Comment on the role of women in the play. Consider both the role of females in the action and the language male characters use to describe female traits.


10. What are some elements of suspense in the ghost story?

11. Why does the king say Fortinbras is not a problem?