Hamlet IV and V questions abridged

Acts IV and V
Guided reading questions
Act IV
What Happens?
Scenes 1, 2, 3
1. Where has Hamlet hidden Polonius’s corpse?
2. What excuse does Claudius use for sending Hamlet to England? What has he
planned for Hamlet upon his arrival there?
Scene 4
1. What is Hamlet’s reaction to his encounter with Fortinbras’s army? Why is
Fortinbras’s army on the march? What is its destination?
2. To what physical ailment does Hamlet compare the faults of nations as he sees
them displayed in Fortinbras’s war with Poland?
Scene 5
1. What are the outward signs of Ophelia’s madness?
2. On whom does Laertes blame his father’s death? How does Laertes’s response to
his father’s murder compare with Hamlet’s movement toward revenge?
Scene 6
1. What are the contents of Hamlet’s letter to Horatio?
2. Compare Hamlet’s mood and attitude toward other characters as expressed in this
letter with what he displayed in Act III.
Scene 7
1. How does Claudius win Laertes’s confidence?
2. Claudius tells Laertes that Hamlet is very popular with the common people. How
does Hamlet’s letter to Horatio bear this out? What earlier scenes in the play
support this view of Hamlet?
3. Who is Lamord? How does Claudius use Lamond’s reputation for his own
4. Outline Claudius’s new plan for trapping Hamlet.
5. How does Ophelia’s condition lead to her death?
What Does It Mean?
1. Compare Laertes’s response to the news of his father’s murder to Hamlet’s first
response to the news of the murder of his father. Compare also the circumstances
in which each character finds himself at the time he learns of the murder, and the
relative definiteness and reliability of the reports he receives.
2. Ophelia has gone mad from grief, but other sources of remorse appear in her
songs and remarks. What else does she appear to be mourning besides her father’s
3. To whom does Gertrude appear to be most loyal in this act? Does she act as if she
knows what she wants? In what ways is she similar to Ophelia?
General Questions
“Frailty, thy name is woman.” With these words Hamlet early in the play gives his
appraisal of feminine nature. Would you say that the events of Acts III and IV support or
dispute Hamlet’s evaluation? Why?
Act V
What Happens?
Scene 1
1. What is the occupation of the clowns? What is their attitude toward their work?
How is this attitude expressed?
2. Who is Yorick?
3. What rites take place in the graveyard? Why are they “maimed”?
4. What act of Laertes prompts Hamlet to reveal his presence?
5. How does Hamlet’s move play directly into the King’s hand?
Scene 2
1. Give a brief synopsis of Hamlet’s escape from the trap Claudius has set for him.
2. What kind of man is Osric? How does his fashion of speaking differ from that of
those around him?
3. What does the Queen ask of Hamlet before his contest with Laertes?
4. What is the King’s bet?
5. When does the King offer Hamlet the poisoned wine?
6. How is Laertes poisoned? How is Gertrude poisoned? How is Hamlet poisoned?
How does the King die?
7. What is Hamlet’s charge to Horatio? To whom does he bequeath his political
8. What news do the ambassadors bring from England?
9. Who assumes power in Denmark at the end of the play?
What Does It Mean?
1. One function of the clowns and of Osric is to provide comic relief. Why are these
comic scenes more necessary here in Act V than in previous acts? How does the
philosophy expressed by the clowns contrast with Hamlet’s philosophy?
2. What final revelation about Hamlet’s character is hinted at in his graveyard
conference with Horatio and stated explicitly in Hamlet’s reply to Horatio’s
suggestion, in Scene 2, that he withdraw from the duel?
General Questions
1. Consider the final scenes of the play in terms of “physic to the illness of the
state.” How is the social disorder in the state resolved?
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