a)       How does Polonius proceed to prove his theory about the cause of Hamlet’s madness?

b)       What plan does he suggest in order to reveal it?



a)       How does Hamlet react to the arrival of the Players?

b)       What does his attitude towards them reveal?

c)       What use does he propose to make of them?



a)       What references are made in this scene to Hamlet’s madness?

b)       On what occasions is it illustrated?

c)       What is its dramatic purpose?



How is suspense created in this scene?



ACT III is divided into five episodes:


1.       the Nunnery Scene (III, I, 90-151)

2.       the Play Scene (III, ii, 94-291)

3.       the Prayer Scene (III, iii, 36-98)

4.       the Closet Scene (III, iv, 1-33)

5.       the Portrait Scene (III, iv, 34-217)





How/why is this soliloquy important?  Why is it so famous?



a)       Why is it almost essential to assume that Hamlet had overheard Polonius’ plans, or that he became aware of the presence of both men?  Is there any proof in the text to indicate this?

b)       Why is Ophelia treated so badly by Hamlet?  Does she deserve this?



a)       What does Claudius plan next?  Why?

b)       b) What does Polonius plan next?  Why?




1.       Outline the qualities in Horatio that Hamlet admires, explaining why.

2.       What is the dramatic importance of the play within a play and to what extent does it fulfill Hamlet’s purpose?

3.     Why does Hamlet have a dumb-show precede the performance?

4.     Why are Hamlet’s comments to Ophelia so rude and coarse?

5.     What is added to the play by the recorder episode?

6.     Hamlet says: “I lack advancement.”  Is this in any sense true?

7.     Why may the establishment of Claudius’ guilt be considered the crisis of Hamlet’s revenge plot?




1.       How is Claudius different from Hamlet regarding making decisions?

2.       How is Polonius’ scheme an example of dramatic irony?

3.       Explain Hamlet’s failure to kill the King.  What does this illustrate about his character?

4.       How is sympathy created for Claudius?

5.       Explain the irony of Hamlet’s soliloquy “How might I do it pat” as revealed in Claudius’ couplet ending the scene.




1.       Explain the dramatic purpose of the murder of Polonius.  What does this murder reveal about Hamlet’s character?

2.       What is the dramatic purpose of the interview between Hamlet and Gertrude?

3.       Why does the Ghost reappear in this scene?

4.       Explain how the murder of Polonius could be considered the turning point in the play.

5.       What similarities and differences are there between Hamlet’s treatment of Ophelia in the Nunnery Scene and his treatment of his mother in the Portrait Scene?

6.       Of the three possible crises in Act III, which do you consider the turning point of the play?  Why?




1.       How does Claudius get Gertrude’s approval for his decision to “ship [Hamlet] hence?”

2.       What potential problems could Claudius encounter in carrying out his plan?

3.       How will his skill as a diplomat help him?


4.2 & 4.3


1.       What are the dramatic purposes of these two scenes?

2.       How many times have Claudius and Hamlet confronted each other in the play so far?  When?  Why this time?




1.       Explain why this scene could be titled “Coincidence.”

2.       What is Hamlet’s point of view of the current war, and honour?




1.       Why do you think Shakespeare has Ophelia go mad?

2.       What causes her madness?

3.       How does Laertes’ return complicate the plot?

4.       Account for the irony in Claudius’ closing couplet.


4.6 & 4.7


1.       Outline the sequence of events which brings Hamlet back to Denmark.  Is this sequence credible?  Why/not?

2.       Detail how Claudius defuses Laertes’ challenge to his power.

3.       Compare Laertes’ revenge-seeking to that of Hamlet.

4.       “No place indeed should murder sanctuaries/Revenge should have no bounds” (Claudius, 4.7.127-8).  Comment on these lines.

5.       Outline Laertes’ plan to kill Hamlet.  What help will Claudius give?

6.       Evaluate the effect of Gertrude’s announcement of Ophelia’s death at this point in the play.




1.       What effect does the humour of the gravediggers have on Hamlet?

2.       How does Shakespeare prepare the audience for the revelation that the funeral is Ophelia’s?  Why must the audience know before Hamlet does?

3.       What is the priest’s announcement?  Is the audience meant to sympathise with it?

4.       Why does Hamlet leap into the grave?




1.       “There’s a divinity that shapes our ends/Rough-hew them how we will.”  How do Hamlet’s words refer to Hamlet himself?

2.       How did Hamlet thwart Claudius’ plan to have him killed?

3.       How does Hamlet rationalise the deaths of Rosencrantz and Guildenstern?  Are you sympathetic?  Why/not?

4.       What character does Osric ‘replace’ in the play?

5.       Is Hamlet’s apology to Laertes sincere?  Is Laertes’ reply sincere?

6.       Explain how ‘the engineer is hoist with his own petar” in this scene.

7.       Explain the reason for Laertes’ repentance and naming of Claudius as worthy of blame.

8.       Explain the significance of the manner of Claudius’ death.

9.       What is Horatio’s duty to be?

10.    Account for Fortinbras’ appearance at this point in the play.