Response questions for Acts I & II



Act 1 


1.    What atmosphere is established by scene 1's constant references to the ghost and the impending war? 

2.    Why does the play begin with a question, “Who’s there”? What do Francisco, Marcellus, Barnardo tell Horatio and the audience about the ghost? 

3.    Why is Hamlet in black when he first appears on stage? What does he have “within” that “passes show”?  How does Hamlet describe his uncle in comparison with his father? How does he describe the relationship of Claudius and Gertrude? Is his view biased? 

4.    Why does the world look “weary, stale, flat, and unprofitable” to Hamlet?  Is his attitude youthful rebellion, or a deeper wisdom?



Act 2 


1.    Why does Polonius send Reynaldo after Laertes? Why do parents spy in this play?

2.    How does Polonius explain Hamlet’s madness?  Are Claudius and Gertrude persuaded?

3.    Why does Claudius send Rosencrantz and Guildenstern to Hamlet? What does Hamlet tell them about his apparent madness?  Can we believe him?

4.    Why is Hamlet so moved by Hecuba’s story given by a traveling player? How does Hamlet describe himself as a revenger in the soliloquy at the end of scene 2? 

5.    Why and how does Hamlet plan to “catch the conscience of the King”?