by William Shakespeare
Hamlet essay questions.
Hamlet is widely hailed as the first modern play in the English language. Which characteristics of its central character might account for this label?
Hamlet is considered the first modern play partly because of the psychological depth of its main character -- Hamlet suffers from melancholy, self-doubt, and even delusions. The audience never quite knows what Hamlet is thinking, or what is real. In fact, Hamlet himself declares again and again that he doesn't understand his doubts either ("I have of late, but wherefore I know not , lost all my mirth.")
Death is a constant presence in this play. Does Hamlet's speech to Yorick's skull represent a philosophy of death? How does his attitude toward death differ from that of the gravediggers?
Death was a much more ordinary presence in Elizabethan England than it is in the modern world. Infant mortality was high and plagues swept whole nations. In this sense, the gravediggers exhibit a much more realistic approach to death than most people. Hamlet uses the occasion for a more general examination of mortality. His attitude toward death is not necessarily inconsistent with that of the gravediggers, but it is different in his emphasis on metaphysical rather than physical implications of death.
Does the text hold up to a Freudian reading of Hamlet's relationship with his mother? How does Hamlet's relationship with Ophelia support, complicate or work against an Oedipal interpretation of the play?
Certainly Hamlet does visit his mother's bedchamber, and is immensely interested in her sexual relationships with other men, both of which are classic elements of an Oedipal complex. Freud's reading of the play may have influenced his sexual theories—but it is important to remember the order of events, especially because scholars tend to label Hamlet "Freudian." Better stated, Freud is Shakespearean, not the other way around.
"To be or not to be" is the famous question that Hamlet poses in Act Three, Scene One. Explore this speech. What does he mean by this famous question? What events of the play prompt this speech?
Hamlet is musing about death, but whose death, or what kind of death, is frustratingly difficult to pin down. He is perhaps contemplating suicide, perhaps thinking about the risks he must run in order to fulfill the task of revenge. He has an audience of Ophelia, Polonius and Claudius, who are eavesdropping on him; but he most likely does not realize that they are present.
The play within a play, the long soliloquies wherein Hamlet faces the audience and speaks to them directly, the vivid discussions of whether or not Hamlet is "acting" mad -- there are many elements of Hamlet that call attention to its status as a play, rather than reality. By showing the trappings of theater and non-reality, does Shakespeare make Hamlet's suffering seem more acute or more distant? How?
"Life's but a stage," another Shakespearean character proclaims, and the playwright recognized quite well the dramatic trappings of life and the life-like elements of staged productions. Soliloquies are modern in that they break what is much later termed the "fourth wall" separating audience from stage; the character speaks directly to the audience. Although the whole atmosphere seems patently false and theatrical, this serves to draw Hamlet somehow closer. Somehow, the effect of such "metatheatrical" gestures is to show not how different acting is from life, but how similar life is to acting.
In terms of the usual categorizations, Shakespeare's tragedies end in death, his comedies in marriage. By this measure, Hamlet is a tragedy. But Shakespeare's best plays are a tragicomic mix. Choose and discuss two comical or farcical elements in Hamlet.
The scene with gravediggers is a good example of tragedy mixed with comedy. The work is morbid, but the workers joke and sing as they go about their business. They seem totally unaware of the majestic tragedy unfolding itself in the castle nearby. On a smaller level, Yorick's skull embodies the tragicomic dichotomy; it is a gruesome, deathly object that once belonged to a joker. There are several other comic scenes, including much of Hamlet's dialogue with Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, and most of Polonius' scenes before his death. This gruesome mixture of pathos and humor is the essence of Shakespearean theater.
Define revenge. Is Hamlet a traditional revenge play? What other forces are at work in Hamlet's psyche?
Revenge is traditionally the cold-blooded pursuit to make up for one hurt with a strike against its perpetrator. Revenge is usually violent. Hamlet is hardly a traditional play of revenge, because the main character is so uncertain and ambivalent about both the original strike and what he should do about it. Melancholy and uncertainty play just as large a role in Hamlet's character as the desire for revenge.
Discuss the setting of Hamlet. What effect does setting the psycho-drama in a bleak northern castle -- similar to that in Macbeth -- have on the characters and audience?
From the script, the audience gathers that Elsinore Castle is a remote place in northern Europe. Not much else is known: there were no sets in Shakespeare's time. But the setting certainly matches Hamlet's melancholy mood, and the isolation of the place helps make the violence and implied incest believable.
The play begins with the fantastical appearance of a ghost. Are we meant to believe that this is really Hamlet's father, or is he a figment of Hamlet's imagination? If he is imagined, is the rest of the play imagined as well?
Hamlet struggles with the question of whether the ghost is his father and decides that he must be who he says he is. The audience remains in doubt, however, because of the ghost's claim that he comes from Purgatory (blasphemous in Elizabethan England), and the fact that Gertrude is unable to see it when it appears to Hamlet in her chamber. One of the moral questions of the play is resolved, however, when it becomes clear that Claudius is a murderer. Whether the ghost is Old Hamlet or a demon, he has told the truth about Claudius' guilt.
Can a healthy state be presided over by a corrupt ruler? Shakespeare draws frequent comparisons between the moral legitimacy of a leader and the health of a state. Is Denmark's monarchy responsible for the demise of the state in this play?
At the end of the tragedy, it is not only Hamlet and most of the characters who die. The entire state of Denmark fails after Norway invades, and the health of the nation seems very much wrapped up with the moral state of the leader. This accords with the medieval idea of the "body politic" with the leader making up the head, literally, and the people the body of a personified state.
Hamlet Questions and Answers
The Question and Answer section for Hamlet is a great resource to ask questions, find answers, and discuss the novel.
Hamlet’s obsession with the partying going on inside the castle while he stands watch with Horatio mainly suggests that he .
D. feels that King Claudius wants to hide his evil with merriment
discuss the creation of tension through dramatic techniques
There is a lot of deception and corruption that Shakespeare uses well. He brings about the supernatural juxtaposing with soliloquies, morality, and mortality dilemmas. These techniques bring this world to life for the audience and help the...
Hamlet's obsession with the partying going on inside the castle while he stands watch with Horatio mainly suggest that he is?
Hamlet's obsession with the partying going on inside the castle while he stands watch with Horatio mainly suggest that he is disgusted by the party in light of his father's recent death. Hamlet is also upset by his mother's hasty marriage.
Study Guide for Hamlet
Hamlet study guide contains a biography of William Shakespeare, literature essays, a complete e-text, quiz questions, major themes, characters, and a full summary and analysis.
- About Hamlet
- Hamlet Summary
- Hamlet Video
- Character List
Essays for Hamlet
Hamlet essays are academic essays for citation. These papers were written primarily by students and provide critical analysis of Hamlet by William Shakespeare.
- Through Rose Colored Glasses: How the Victorian Age Shifted the Focus of Hamlet
- Q to F7: Mate; Hamlet's Emotions, Actions, and Importance in the Nunnery Scene
- Before the Storm
- Haunted: Hamlet's Relationship With His Dead Father
- Heliocentric Hamlet: The Astronomy of Hamlet
Lesson Plan for Hamlet
- About the Author
- Study Objectives
- Common Core Standards
- Introduction to Hamlet
- Relationship to Other Books
- Bringing in Technology
- Notes to the Teacher
- Related Links
- Hamlet Bibliography
E-Text of Hamlet
The Hamlet e-text contains the full text of the play Hamlet by William Shakespeare.
- List of Characters
Wikipedia Entries for Hamlet
100+ Hamlet Essay Topics
Table of Contents
“The tragedy of Hamlet, Prince of Denmark,” which is most commonly known as “Hamlet,” is one of Shakespeare’s most well-known plays all over the world. The words “to be or not to be’ are so famous that it is very hard to find a person who has never heard them or quoted them in one way or the other. This play, a story of a philosophical sense of death centered on revenge, is a masterpiece from a legendary writer that leaves everyone in deep thought after reading it. This is one reason why it has become one of the most popular literature that students are commonly given essays to write on.
Do Not Know How to Select the Best Hamlet Essay Topics? Let Pros Assist You
As we have seen above, Hamlet is a masterpiece of literature. That being said, it means that the play has multiple aspects that are worth studying. This then means that there are many possible topics for a student to choose to base their essay on in the play. It can sometimes be hard for students to choose the most appropriate topic for their essays. Every student wants to get the highest mark possible; therefore, they all strive to select the best topic when it comes to drafting Hamlet essays. Here are some pointers on how to go about selecting a good topic for your essay;
- Ensure that the topic you choose can be connected to the present time. This should not be a tough thing to do since the play has many themes that can be connected to our modern times.
- Shakespeare did such a good job in that he could hide several philosophical questions hidden behind tragedies in the play. Always make sure that you choose a philosophy that you can be able to explain fully. This makes for the ideal topic as it gives you a lot of input material for your essay.
- It is always a good idea to base your essay on the character that you find to be your most favorite in the play.
- Identify some of the most dominant social norms in the said era and use them as your essay topics. However, make sure that you can satisfactorily describe these traditions and show their importance and influence of certain phenomenon in the play.
See A List of Hamlet Essay Topics to Start With
Here are some hamlet essay topics to help you out when you are looking to start on a Hamlet essay assignment given by your teacher:
- Since revenge and tragedy are some of the story’s outstanding aspects, do you think the play is a tragedy of revenge?
- Discuss the conflicts presented by the characters of Hamlet.
- Show how imagery implemented by the author affects the mood of the play.
- How does Hamlet’s revenge mission affect his relationship with Ophelia?
- Why do you think Prince Hamlet is so pessimistic when it comes to the concept of love?
- It is uncertain if Hamlet’s love for Ophelia is genuine. Do you think this has something to do with his obsession with revenge?
- What do you think is Hamlet’s stand on his relationship with Ophelia?
- Hamlet`s delays on exacting revenge, what do you think this says to his personality?
- Explain the relationship between Hamlet and his mother.
- Discuss the differences and similarities between Hamlet and Laertes.
- How does the marriage between Gertrude and Claudius contribute to Hamlet’s revenge plan?
- Discuss the differences and similarities between Claudius and Laertes based on their common hatred for Hamlet.
- Do you think that Hamlet was mad, or was it a ploy to exact his revenge?
- Describe the negative and positive roles played by women in the play.
- What age is Hamlet at the age of the play? Do his actions change his character in the end?
- Discuss the attitude that Hamlet has towards women, especially Ophelia.
- Is Hamlet a hero or a villain in the play? Explain.
- Discuss the various mood swings depicted by Hamlet in the play and show what causes them.
- Can Hamlet’s revenge ploy in the pay be justified? Discuss
- Please list the names of the various Hamlets’ protagonists and show their significance in the play.
- Identify and describe the main reasons why Hamlet is such an indecisive character.
- What do you think is Hamlet’s perception of death? Support your answer.
- Pick one theme in the play and show how the author has developed it throughout the play.
- Analyze the concept of love, friendship, and betrayal that is depicted in the play.
- Analyze the play’s deceptive nature and show why nothing in the play can be taken at face value.
- Is there a truth in this statement? “His madness is Hamlet’s true enemy.”
- Since Hamlet and Laertes are both looking for the truth, what are the fundamental differences between each character’s understanding of the truth? Explain.
- Explain how Hamlet’s speech influences his decision to become a passive character rather than stay an active one.
- How does the author develop Hamlet’s character concerning his idea of salvation and sin in the play?
- In this modern time, do you think it would be chauvinistic to consider women deceptive or not?
Hamlet Essay Questions Examples
Here are some Hamlet essay questions for you to consider:
- Describe how the author displays the idea of madness in the play “Hamlet.”
- Describe the reasons behind the introduction of comedy in the tragic world of Hamlet .
- What do you think is the author’s stand on the idea of revenge according to the play?
- Is Polonius the “intruding fool” as described by Hamlet? Explain
- What do you think is the importance of Fortinbras in the play?
- What do you think are Shakespeare’s suggestions about kingship according to the play? Support your answers.
- How important do you think the concept of ceremonies is, and how does it influence life in Elsinore’s court?
- Describe Horatio’s role in the play.
- Do you think Shakespeare depicts Claudius as a sympathetic figure?
- What is the significance of placing the play in the Christian universe?
Hamlet Argumentative Essay Topics: The Most Advantageous Ideas
- How would you classify the play? As a tragedy, drama, or revenge? Why?
- How did the author use imagery to change the tone and mood of the play?
- What morals can one learn from the play?
- Analyze the relationship between Hamlet and Ophelia.
- What role does the mother of Hamlet play? Is she a central character?
- How are women portrayed in the play?
- How do the characters treat women?
- Hamlet is painted as indecisive. Why?
- How is death portrayed in the play? How does it shape the outcome?
- Who, if anyone, is the hero? Is there a villain?
20 Good Topics for a Hamlet Essay
- The role of revenge in Hamlet
- The role of power and politics in Hamlet
- The role of women in Hamlet
- The symbolism of the ghost in Hamlet
- The theme of betrayal in Hamlet
- The significance of the play within a play in Hamlet
- The role of religion in Hamlet
- The theme of appearance vs. reality in Hamlet
- The concept of free will vs. fate in Hamlet
- The theme of mortality and death in Hamlet
- The significance of the soliloquies in Hamlet
- The theme of loyalty in Hamlet
- The role of the minor characters in Hamlet
- The theme of corruption in Hamlet
- The importance of language and rhetoric in Hamlet
- The role of the supernatural in Hamlet
- The theme of love in Hamlet
- The significance of the setting in Hamlet
- The theme of family in Hamlet
- The theme of madness in Hamlet
More Interesting Hamlet Essay Topics
- The concept of existentialism in Hamlet
- The impact of Hamlet’s procrastination on the plot and characters
- The portrayal of the father-son relationship in Hamlet
- The theme of revenge and its impact on Hamlet’s character
- The role of women in subverting patriarchal norms in Hamlet
- The significance of the graveyard scene in Hamlet
- The use of metaphors and symbolism in Hamlet
- The theme of corruption and decay in Hamlet
- The psychological exploration of Hamlet’s character
- The impact of religion on Hamlet’s character and the plot
- The role of friendship in Hamlet
- The impact of the play’s structure and narrative style on the plot and characters
- The theme of justice and its absence in Hamlet
- The theme of appearance versus reality and how it affects the plot
- The role of irony in Hamlet
- The theme of identity and self-discovery in Hamlet
- The portrayal of the monarchy and its flaws in Hamlet
- The theme of betrayal and its impact on the plot and characters
- The role of humor in Hamlet
- The use of foreshadowing and suspense in Hamlet
Hamlet Essay Ideas in Modern Society
- The relevance of Hamlet’s theme of mental health in modern society
- The impact of technology on the themes and motifs of Hamlet
- The role of social media in shaping modern interpretations of Hamlet
- The portrayal of gender and sexuality in modern adaptations of Hamlet
- The relevance of Hamlet’s themes of political corruption and power struggles in modern society
- The portrayal of multiculturalism and diversity in modern interpretations of Hamlet
- The portrayal of modern family dynamics in adaptations of Hamlet
- The role of social class and privilege in modern society as explored in Hamlet
- The portrayal of modern relationships in adaptations of Hamlet
- The role of education and knowledge in modern society as explored in Hamlet
- The relevance of Hamlet’s themes of justice and morality in modern society
- The portrayal of modern workplace dynamics in adaptations of Hamlet
- The portrayal of modern media and journalism in adaptations of Hamlet
- The role of mental health stigma and its impact on society as explored in Hamlet
- The portrayal of modern environmental issues and activism in adaptations of Hamlet
- The portrayal of modern police brutality and racism in adaptations of Hamlet
- The impact of globalization on the themes and motifs of Hamlet
- The relevance of Hamlet’s themes of love, relationships, and sexuality in modern society
- The portrayal of modern healthcare and medical practices in adaptations of Hamlet
- The role of mental health services and support in modern society as explored in Hamlet
Exquisite Hamlet Essay Ideas from Master Writers
Here are some examples of Hamlet essay ideas that you could incorporate in your paper:
- Love- does Hamlet love Ophelia .
- Revenge- what kind of role does revenge play in Hamlet?
- Imagery- describes the role of imagery in the play.
- Tragedy- in your opinion, does Shakespeare make the play tragic? Explain.
- Comedy- identify and describe some of the comic scenes in the play.
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Suggested Essay Topics
1. Think about Hamlet’s relationship with Ophelia. Does he love her? Does he stop loving her? Did he ever love her? What evidence can you find in the play to support your opinion?
2. Consider Rosencrantz and Guildenstern’s role in the play. Why might Shakespeare have created characters like this? Are they there for comic relief, or do they serve a more serious purpose? Why does the news of their deaths come only after the deaths of the royal family in Act V, as if this news were not anticlimactic? Is it acceptable for Hamlet to treat them as he does? Why or why not?
3. Analyze the use of descriptions and images in Hamlet . How does Shakespeare use descriptive language to enhance the visual possibilities of a stage production? How does he use imagery to create a mood of tension, suspense, fear, and despair?
4. Analyze the use of comedy in Hamlet , paying particular attention to the gravediggers, Osric, and Polonius. Does comedy serve merely to relieve the tension of the tragedy, or do the comic scenes serve a more serious thematic purpose as well?
5. Suicide is an important theme in Hamlet . Discuss how the play treats the idea of suicide morally, religiously, and aesthetically, with particular attention to Hamlet’s two important statements about suicide: the “O, that this too too solid flesh would melt” soliloquy (I.ii.129–158) and the “To be, or not to be” soliloquy (III.i.56–88). Why does Hamlet believe that, although capable of suicide, most human beings choose to live, despite the cruelty, pain, and injustice of the world?
Hamlet SparkNotes Literature Guide
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