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Hamlet: Middle and High School Discussion

Hamlet: Middle and High School Discussion

Compare and Contrast

1. Study the character of Horatio. It is possible that his name comes from the Latin word for orator or speaker. What evidence in the text supports this idea?

2. Hamlet was written sometime between 1599 and 1601, in 1606 he wrote Macbeth, another play that deals with murder and mortality. How do they relate to each other? How has Shakespeare changed as a writer in those 5ish years?

3. Watch the movie The Lion King, 1994. Compare and contrast the two stories. What is the same? What is different? How do changes in the character’s relationships (i.e. Timon and Pumbaa acting as loyal best friends instead of Rosencrantz and Guildenstern only pretending to be loyal) affect the meaning and feel­ing of the story?



1. At what point in the story did things begin to go wrong? Whose fault was this? Discuss how the choices of the following characters affected the outcome of the play: Hamlet, Laertes, Claudius, Gertrude, Polonius, the Ghost etc.

2. Was Hamlet really crazy? Consider the beginning of the play when he tells his friends he’s going to pretend to be while he plotted against Claudius, but was he by the end? Can people really change themselves by acting a certain way?

3. The cause of Ophelia’s death is debated in the play. Gertrude says she fell into the water, others think she jumped and drowned. Do you think she intentionally drowned herself, or was it accidental? How do you think Shakespeare intended it to be perceived? Why do you think he left room for doubt?



1. Read Claudius’ speech in Act 3 Scene 3. Do you believe he is really feeling guilty? Or does he only want to feel that way? What evidence in the text supports your claim?

2. Read the scenes where Hamlet and Ophelia’s relationship is mentioned. (1.3, 2.1, 3.1, 3.2, and 5.1) Does he really love her? Did he ever? Cite act, scene, and line number to support you theory.

3. In Act 1, Scene 5 The Ghost tells Hamlet of Claudius’s treachery. As he commands Hamlet to take revenge he orders him “But howsoever thou pursuest this act, taint not thy mind, nor let thy soul contrive against thy mother aught.” Why does he ask Hamlet to leave his mother alone? Does Hamlet follow those orders?


Shakespeare’s World

1. In 1596 at the age of eleven, Shakespeare’s only son, Hamnet, died. Assuming Shakespeare had per­sonal experience with grief and the relationship between a father and his son, what does this play say about his later attitude about 3-5 years later when he wrote the play?

2. It is well known that the role of Hamlet was written for Richard Burbage, a well-known dramatic actor in Shakespeare’s troupe, the Lord Chamberlain’s Men. What does this tell us about Shakespeare’s writing process? How would writing for specific actors affect the types of characters he wrote?

3. How to you think the actors (all male) would have overcome the challenges of perform­ing this very dramatic script to a widely diverse audience (some very rich and some very poor), in the middle of the day, with no special effects? What would they have to do to keep their attention? How does Shakespeare’s arrangement of the action help?