Response questions for acts IV and V
1. Why does Claudius dispatch Hamlet to England, instead of “putting the strong law on him” for the murder of Polonius? What does that decision tell about the prince’s relationship to the Danish people as well as about Claudius as a scheming villain?
2. Why is Young Fortinbras presented as a foil (contrasting twin) for Hamlet in scene 4?
3. Why and how might Ophelia’s transformation--her madness and subsequent death——be relevant to Hamlet’s own role or to his view of Denmark?
4. Why does Ophelia’s madness lead her to sing bawdy songs? Do they tell us anything about how she has experienced the events in Elsinore?
5. How does Laertes, as another revenger, become another foil for Hamlet? How is he similar to, and/or different from, Hamlet?
1. Why does this act start with a grave scene? What attitude toward death does Hamlet reveal ask he speaks of Yorick’s skull and of Alexander as a plug of earth “to stop a beer barrel”?
2. How does Hamlet react when he learns of Ophelia’s death? What does he claim for the first time?
3. Hamlet mentions a “special providence in the fall of a sparrow.” “Providence” is God’s guidance over earthly events. How would a belief in providence affect Hamlet’s seeking of revenge?
4. Talking to
Horatio, Hamlet refers to “th’election.” What difference does it make that the crown
of Denmark passes by election, not heredity?
5. What do Laertes and Claudius do to manipulate the outcome of the duel?
6. Why does Gertrude drink from the cup?
7. What is Hamlet’s last word? Why does it matter who tells
his story after he dies?
8. Why should Hamlet give his “dying voice” to Young Fortinbras, who is an invading foreign enemy? How are the stories of Hamlet, Fortinbras, and Laertes similar? Has the Danish monarchy been saved, and if so, from what?