107 Exceptional Hamlet Essay Topics: Questions & Prompts
Every academic paper starts with a captivating idea, and Hamlet research paper or essay shouldn’t be an exception. In the list below, our team has collected unique and inspiring topics for you. You can use them in your writing or develop your own idea according to the format.
Here are some Hamlet essay topics for you:
- Elaborate on the weather in Denmark. How does it reflect the state of affairs and mood in the country? How does it change throughout the play? Start this Hamlet essay by describing the foggy weather in the first scene and gradually provide more examples as evidence.
- Think of irony in Hamlet . How and for what purposes did Shakespeare incorporate it in the play? Provide examples of the lines and situations that can be considered ironic.
- Reflect on Gertrude’s marriages. Why did she marry Claudius? Did they have an affair when King Hamlet was alive? Or did she agree on the new marriage to help the country?
- Compare and contrast Claudius and King Oedipus from Oedipus the King . What character traits do they share? Who is a better politician? Why?
- Explain whether you think Gertrude is on Hamlet’s or Claudius’ side. Did she switch the side by the end of the play? Analyze her conversation with Hamlet and how she later told Claudius that Hamlet was mad. Why did she drink the suspicious (poisoned) wine?
- Analyze the fact that dying Hamlet asked Horatio to spread his story. Will Horatio retell it without changes? Can he tell the truth about what happened at all?
- Examine an approach to violence in Hamlet . Are violence and aggression excessive in the play? How do characters react to it? Comment on how violence is mainly linked to vengeance.
- Consider the Ghost of Old Hamlet and all his appearances in Hamlet . Who saw him? Who do you think can see him? In your Hamlet essay, analyze every scene where he occurred and elaborate on why he did so.
- Talk about the relationship between Gertrude and Old Hamlet. Analyze what we know about their marriage and her reaction to her husband’s death. Did Gertrude see the Ghost in the scene with Hamlet? Could she have pretended that she didn’t?
- If Hamlet had survived, would he have been a good king? Analyze his strengths and weaknesses concerning the matter. Did he prove to be a good leader or politician in the play? Consider that Fortinbras explicitly stated that Hamlet could’ve become a good ruler.
- Elaborate on the way Hamlet killed Polonius in act 3, scene 4. Why did Hamlet act so quickly and calmly when he hesitates to kill his enemy, Claudius? Was this murder intentional? Did Hamlet regret it or freak out about it?
- Explore Hamlet’s mental state. How did grief affect him? His depression and suicidal tendencies are apparent. How do they change throughout the play?
- Compare Hamlet’s attitude towards the only women in the play, Ophelia and Gertrude. Why does he shame both of them for their sexual relationships? Examine his dialogues with his mother and his (ex)girlfriend, where he expresses cruelty. Elaborate on how his mother’s remarriage affected his relationships with the women.
- Examine the madness that Hamlet may or may not obtain. Thanks to his dialogue with Horatio, we know that he fakes his insanity. But could it have changed by the end of the play? What could’ve caused it? Analyze the evidence of his abnormal behavior and whether you can consider it natural, not acted.
- Analyze how Hamlet reflects on suicide. Provide examples from the soliloquies where Hamlet presumably tells the truth about his feelings. He considers suicide as an option, way out of the situation. Why doesn’t he commit it? Or was his death close to suicide?
- Consider whether the Ghost exists or not. A few people have seen him, but may it have been a case of mass hysteria? Hamlet may have gone mad over the death of his father and his mother’s remarriage. What if he imagined his dialogues with deceased King Hamlet? Provide evidence for that opinion or refute it.
- Elaborate on Hamlet’s trust issues. He suspects everyone from the start except for one person. Why does Hamlet trust Horatio? Analyze how the prince never lies during their conversations, even when the truth is a little insane. Why does Horatio believe everything he says?
- Examine friendship in Hamlet . Most of the relationships in the play are based on manipulation and benefit. Who can you see as friends in Hamlet ? Reflect on whether Hamlet values his friendship with Horatio. What can you say about Hamlet’s friends from childhood?
- Analyze the literary period during which Shakespeare came up with Hamlet . What features of the Elizabethan era does he illustrate in the play? Examplify various scenes and dialogues to prove your point.
- Consider prominent theatrical productions of Hamlet . How did they change over the centuries? What does modern theatre do that the Medieval one could not? Did theatrical performances evolve?
- Compare and contrast the original play and Lion King by Disney corporation. What are the key differences that were made in the cartoon? Why did Disney decide to come up with them? Analyze which version do you like more and why.
- Comment on the theme of death and mortality What events and objects made Hamlet obsessed with death? Elaborate on the role that religion plays in his considerations concerning the matter.
- Examine Claudius’ soliloquy . What’s its role in the play? What’s the crucial idea of his speech? Elaborate on the reasons why Claudius, the villain, has a soliloquy in Hamlet .
- Analyze all the symbols of death in the play What symbols from Hamlet refer to mortality? Speculate whether you can call fences, poison, unweeded gardens, flowers, and so on a symbol of death.
- Explore the conflicts of Hamlet . The play combines inner and outer conflicts, which are addressed mainly through Hamlet’s monologues. List the fundamental oppositions and lines that exemplify them.
- Reflect on Hamlet’s relationship with Gertrude Why is he upset with her? How does it affect his actions and opinion about all the women? Does Gertrude love her son?
- Analyze the setting of the play. Does the fact that Hamlet takes place in Denmark play any crucial role? Speculate why Shakespeare may have decided upon this country and support your opinion with evidence.
- Elaborate on Hamlet’s relationship with Ophelia. Does the prince consider her significant? Does he care about her? Compare how he treated Ophelia before and after her death.
- Comment on Hamlet’s religious beliefs Does religion have an impact on the prince’s decisions? Why is Hamlet considered a protestant? Prove your point by providing evidence from the play.
- Reflect on the theme of revenge Why does everyone value revenge in the play? Why do people passionately seek it in the society presented in Hamlet ? Elaborate on what impact it has on the characters’ motivations and decisions.
- Consider the language of Hamlet . Explain that Shakespeare’s play is well-known for its rich language and broad vocabulary. He composed a few characters who pay close attention to the words they say and hear. Why is language crucial for Hamlet?
- Examine Fortinbras. Who is he? Why is he a character foil for Hamlet? Analyze why he succeeded in everything he did and even became the king of Denmark.
- Analyze imagery and descriptions in the play. How does Shakespeare enhance each scene by alternating descriptions of the weather and nature? Provide examples of prominent images presented in the play and elaborate on their purpose.
- Compare Hamlet to Oedipus Rex . What do the characters of the famous plays have in common? Do they have a similar goal? Elaborate on how their character traits affect the endings of the respective plays.
- Explore the deception in Hamlet . What things and events are built on lies? Why and how do characters try to manipulate each other throughout the whole play?
- Elaborate on the imagery of rot and diseases How do unweeded gardens reflect the state of affairs? Explain how ill atmosphere foreshadows and represents problems caused by the actions of the royal court’s members.
- Comment on the role of Rosencrantz and Guildenstern in the play. Speculate whether they are simply comic relief characters or they have another purpose in Hamlet . Why did Shakespeare decide that he needed such characters in the play?
- Analyze Gertrude’s attitude towards Ophelia. Elaborate on the scenes where Gertrude communicates with Ophelia and mentions her. What does the queen think of her and her relationships with Hamlet? How does Gertrude comments on Ophelia’s death?
- Compare Hamlet’s and Horatio’s character traits. In what ways are they different and similar? What Horatio’s qualities Hamlet explicitly admires and lacks?
- Speculate on Shakespeare’s opinion about theatre. Examine a few references to the English stage of the Elizabethan era that the author put in the play in Act 2. How does he comment on the theatre of his own time through Hamlet’s lines of dialogue?
- Explore the relationships between Hamlet and Claudius. Why does Hamlet suspect his uncle from the start? Does Claudius think of Hamlet as dangerous? When does he become highly aware of his nephew’s capabilities?
- Consider the death of Rosencrantz and Guildenstern. When and how did they die? Why does a reader find out about it after the deaths of the royal family members? Speculate on the reasons why it was structured to be so anticlimactic. Why did W. S. Gilbert write a short comic play about them?
- Analyze the reception and comprehension of Hamlet . Why is it one of the most popular Shakespeare’s plays even today? Is it still relevant? Explain why nowadays our understanding of the play differs from the one from the writer’s era.
- Comment on the appearance vs. reality in Hamlet . Why do so many characters pretend to have another personality or obtain character traits that they don’t have? Why does Hamlet see through the pretense?
- Elaborate on Ophelia’s death . Was it a suicide, how gravediggers presumed, or an accident, as Gertrude claimed? Explain in your Hamlet essay the reasons for Ophelia to commit suicide. Did she have a choice?
- Reflect on political corruption. What characters represent corrupted politicians in the play? How do they manipulate public opinion?
- Analyze one movie adaptation of Hamlet . Write about the changes that were made in the film version. What differences from the play did you like? What changes were you surprised to see?
- Examine the political situation in the play. What war did Fortinbras lead? Why? How does it affect Denmark during the play and after it’s the last scene?
- Explore the role of women in Hamlet . The play presents the social norms that were relevant for people of this period. What parts of women’s lives did men explicitly control? Provide examples from the play.
- Compare Laertes and Hamlet . Laertes is known as Hamlet’s character foil. Examine similarities and differences in their character traits.
- Consider the doubt and indecisiveness of Hamlet . Why are such traits uncommon for the genre? What do they say about the prince as a character? Explain how these qualities affect the plot and Hamlet’s thought process.
- Elaborate on the symbolism in the play. Finding symbolism can be challenging as the interpretations differ. Some individuals consider particular objects as symbols, while others don’t. What do you view as examples of symbolism in the play? Why? What role do they play in understanding the story?
- Reflect on the Oedipus complex. Comment on whether Hamlet has it or not. Provide evidence from the play, especially from the scene with Gertrude, to prove your point. How can this idea be approached on the stage? Find examples of theatrical productions where Hamlet and Gertrude had a conversation in her closet.
- Compare and contrast Claudius and Polonius. What character traits do they have in common? Explain how they are not who they are trying to appear. Who is better at lying and manipulating others? Why?
- Examine how revenge affected characters in Hamlet . Three characters wish to avenge their fathers: Laertes, Hamlet, and Fortinbras. How does revenge affect their lives? Who succeeded in getting their revenge?
- Consider the family theme. What role does family play for various characters? Elaborate on how blood ties motivate multiple characters.
- Reflect on Yorick’s role in the play. Who was Yorick? What impact did he have on Hamlet during the prince’s childhood and present time? Elaborate on how Yorick led Hamlet to his last soliloquy.
- Analyze the religious conflict of the play. How did events from Shakespeare’s time affect the theme of religion? Explain how Hamlet presents the conflict between Protestantism and Catholicism through the prince and King Hamlet.
- Comment on the theme of madness. Who went mad in the play? Compare Hamlet’s and Laerte’s insanity to Ophelia’s one. How was her madness different from the other examples?
- Explore Polonius’ character. What was Polonius’ motivation throughout the play? Whom did he manipulate, and why? Explain why he tried to appear a good person and a parent.
- Elaborate on the reasons why Hamlet is the protagonist of the story. What makes him a tragic hero? Why is he considered a good person after every crime he committed and every cruel thing he said to his mother and Ophelia?
- Think of the conflict of good and evil. What imagery is associated with each of them in the play? Does evil spread like a disease?
- Explain how Hamlet differs from other plays of Shakespeare’s time . What new features and connections within the story did the writer present? How did Shakespeare make characters contribute to the plot?
- Analyze the “To be or not to be” speech. It’s one of the most famous lines in history, but what meaning is behind it? Elaborate on the circumstances around the monologue and whether Hamlet is partially lying.
- Reflect on performances of Hamlet. Choose a couple of performances on the stage or in a movie and compare them. Whose version of the character you prefer and why?
- Elaborate on the movie Ophelia (2018). What’s intriguing about a story told from Ophelia’s point of view? Exemplify the differences from the original play and how the change of perspective affected the story.
- Explore Hamlet’s obsession with inaction and action . What stops Hamlet from acting decisively? Exemplify situations from the play when characters act quickly, without any doubt compared to Hamlet’s almost constant hesitance.
- Compare Hamlet and King Lear. What similar character traits have an impact on the respective plays? Can we call the prince and the king victims of the social norms?
- Think of how the play’s themes are relevant nowadays . Which of them remained timeless, relevant for any period? Are any themes become obsolete and useless in today’s world? Elaborate on each theme separately with examples from the play.
- Reflect on Hamlet’s mood swings . Provide examples of how the prince’s mood affects his actions and speech. What can and did influence his mood?
- Examine Polonius’ death. Why was he hiding behind the tapestry during the scene? Was it his idea? How did he die? Elaborate on irony in the way he was murdered. How did it affect the plot?
- Analyze Hamlet as an actor. Is he good at playing a character? Elaborate on his dialogue with the First Player and his opinion about acting.
- Consider the motif of betrayal. Who betrays Hamlet? Explain how the attitude towards this act varies from character to character. How does Hamlet’s betrayal affect Ophelia?
- Explore the connection between honor and revenge . Explain why it’s the principal motivation for such characters as Hamlet, Laertes, and Fortinbras. Comment on scenes where it reveals itself through actions and conversations.
- Elaborate on Hamlet’s death. Was it the only logical conclusion for Hamlet’s psychological and emotional development? Was he satisfied?
- Comment on the genre of the play . Can we call it revenge tragedy without any reservation? How did Shakespeare ruin the genre by Hamlet ?
- Compare Hamlet and the Ghost. What can you say about the language that the characters use? List the lines that state that Hamlet and the Ghost look similar.
- Think of the father-son relationships in the play . Analyze the relationships between Hamlet and King Hamlet and compare them to those of Laertes and Polonius. Which features are common for both of them?
- Elaborate on the name Hamlet . What does it mean? What’s its country of origin? Add a sentence or two about Amleth.
- Consider allusions to historical figures in the play. Why does Hamlet mention Alexander the Great and Julius Caesar in act 5? Why did Shakespeare include allusions at all?
- Examine soliloquies in Hamlet . What’s their role in the play? Provide lines from soliloquies that let us dive into the thoughts and intentions of a character. Does anyone lie during such a speech?
- Compare the two film adaptations of the play. Elaborate on different film techniques and alterations of the plot. Concentrate on one scene in particular and explain what changes were made.
- Explore Hamlet’s nihilism. When does Hamlet start to display features that are inherent to this school of thought? Explain how the prince came to nihilism, what pushed him to this.
- List the most painful moments of Hamlet’s life and elaborate on them. Include events that happened before the first act and within the play. Prove your point with evidence from the prince’s lines.
- Think of what poison represents. What does it refer to? Who dies from poison in the play?
- Consider the play from the public’s perspective. How does Claudius manipulate the public’s opinion? What do people think of the new king and Hamlet?
- Compare and contrast Gertrude and Ophelia. What traits do they have in common? Explain differences and similarities in their affection towards Hamlet. Who controls these women?
- Elaborate on the villain of the story. Who can be considered an antagonist of the play? Why do some people regard Hamlet as a villain?
- Imagine how Hamlet could’ve reacted to modern society. What aspects of the future would he appreciate? What social norms would shock him? Would he be more comfortable in our period?
- Evaluate all the relationships in Hamlet’s life. What’s the most significant one? Why? What relationships changed throughout the play?
- Comment on contradictions in the play. What contradictions does Hamlet face? Is he himself a contradictory character? Provide examples of Hamlet’s contradictions
- Explore the fencing in the last scene of Hamlet . What does it contribute to the story? Does it affect the end of the duel?
- Elaborate on the gravediggers. How did their job affect their attitude towards death? Comment on their humor and whether it’s a coping mechanism. Does it illustrate their perception of life?
- Compare Claudius and King Hamlet. What qualities differentiate them? What do they have in common? Speculate on who was a more talented politician and a better leader.
- Think of comic relief in Hamlet . Comment on how Polonius, Osric, gravediggers, and Hamlet’s dialogues with them enlighten the mood. Was the humor appropriate for revenge tragedies before Shakespeare?
- Consider foreshadowing in the play. What events are foreshadowed early on in Hamlet ? Present lines and features from act 1 that indicate the tragic end.
- Elaborate on justice and truth . How does Shakespeare show attitude towards justice common for this time? Does Hamlet approach fairness differently from the others? Elaborate on how Hamlet both pursue the truth and ignores it.
- Examine the “Get thee to a nunnery, go.” sentence. Why did Hamlet say so to Ophelia? What made the prince think that she was vicious?
- Comment on Hamlet’s cruelty. When does Hamlet become cruel towards other characters? Is he cruel towards himself? Analyze situations where Hamlet talks viciously and whether it’s intentional or not.
- Explore Hamlet’s character . Why is the prince such an unusual figure for revenge tragedies? Explain how Shakespeare created the hero who struggles to act with firmness and constantly reflects on his actions and decisions. Is he easy to understand and relate to?
- Analyze the play within the play. What’s its role in plot development? Why did Hamlet let the play take place? Explain what scene he added and why. Elaborate on the title The Mousetrap .
- Examine the consequences of revenge . What conclusion does Shakespeare provide for the theme of revenge? Explain how does it influence the deaths of Hamlet and Laertes, the absolute victory of Fortinbras.
- Reflect on Hamlet’s hesitance to kill Claudius . Why does he consider murdering his uncle in act 1? What stops him? Illustrate all the occasions when Hamlet could’ve killed Claudius but didn’t, and one time he did. What pushed him in the end?
- Compare Claudius to Laertes. Are there any similarities? How do these characters form an alliance by the end of the play?
- Comment on Gertrude’s guiltiness . Hamlet considers his mother guilty of too many crimes, but was she guilty of anything? Speculate whether she participated in King Hamlet’s murder or had an affair with Claudius before her husband’s death. Was she loyal to Hamlet?
- Elaborate on the “Something is rotten in the state of Denmark …“ line. Who says it? Explain the context of the line, its meaning, and what it foreshadows.
- Examine Polonius’ advice to Laertes. Provide its meaning and reflect on Polonius’ intentions. Why is this speech ironic?
Thanks for checking our list! You can consider some free Hamlet samples or other articles about the play, following the links below.
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Hamlet Essay Topics & Samples
It can be argued that William Shakespeare’s Hamlet is the most significant play ever written and performed. It is much more than just a play about revenge as it deals with universal philosophical questions. Life and death, love and betrayal, friends, and woes are all explored through the mind of the protagonist, Hamlet. In this article, you will see a plethora of Hamlet essay prompts to focus on. Besides, you will find some good Hamlet essay ideas with examples to inspire your writing.
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Hamlet Essay Topics
- A theme of suicide in the play . This Hamlet essay aims to examine a suicide theme from a moral, religious, and existential perspective. Does Hamlet contemplate an idea of suicide? What stops Hamlet from committing it? Students should pay close attention to “to be or not to be” soliloquy.
- Elaborate on the relationship between Gertrude and King Hamlet. In this Hamlet essay, you can analyze what the reader knows about their marriage. What was Gertrude’s reaction to her husband’s death? Did she see the Ghost in the scene with Hamlet? Could she have pretended that she didn’t? Discuss how we can explore the status of women in Elizabethan times through Gertrude’s behavior.
- The question of genre in Hamlet. In his timeless Hamlet , Shakespeare does not follow the rules of a tragic play or a revenge tragedy. So, it makes it quite hard to say what genre is Hamlet. However, in your essay, you can focus on explaining how Hamlet is a tragic hero. Explain what makes Hamlet a unique tragedy.
- A theme of madness in Hamlet. This theme is by far the most prevalent in the entire play. Moreover, it overlaps with other topics in Hamlet , such as death, deception , love, and betrayal. Students can analyze both the nature of Hamlet’s forced insanity and Ophelia’s madness.
- An analysis of Shakespeare’s writing style in Hamlet. In this Hamlet essay, students can analyze the language and literary devices that Shakespeare used. What does Hamlet’s way of speaking tell about him? Why are some lines written in prose, while others in verse? Analyzing these topics can help you to get started.
- A motif of incest in Hamlet. Throughout the play, there are plenty of sexual references and allusions in Hamlet . Critics found an incestuous desire between Claudius and Gertrude, Gertrude and Hamlet. Even Laertes ’ attitude towards Ophelia and her love life can be interpreted this way. What does this motif contribute to Hamlet? Discuss Hamlet’s obsession with Gertrude’s sexual relationships from the Freudian perspective.
- Hamlet’s attitude towards women. The only women in the entire play are Hamlet’s mother, Gertrude, and love interest, Ophelia . Both of them are very close to Hamlet, even though he regularly verbally abuses them. However, the protagonist does not merely attack their qualities—the whole Hamlet’s tone is misogynistic. What makes him hate women? Discuss it in your Hamlet essay.
- A theme of revenge in Hamlet. This theme is one of the most fruitful Hamlet essay topics. It unites three characters: Hamlet, Laertes, and Fortinbras. Why is Hamlet the only character who hesitates to act? Elaborate on his internal conflict concerning vengeance and how other mentioned characters serve as his foils. What makes Hamlet a unique revenge tragedy?
- An existentialist reading of Hamlet. To elaborate on a more challenging Hamlet research paper topic, choose this one. Is Hamlet an existentialist? Why Hamlet’s inability to act can be seen as a form of action? How can existentialist philosophy provide a fresh view of the play?
- Compare and contrast Hamlet and Laertes. Hamlet and Laertes have very different personalities yet share a lot of traits. Discuss their attitude towards women, their parents, and each other. How does Shakespeare portray the similarities between the characters? Why does Laertes serve as Hamlet’s character foil?
Hamlet Essay Samples
In this section, you will see several essay samples on writings of William Shakespeare to get inspired from. You can also find the description of each essay below.
- Literature Analysis: Hamlet’s Appearance Vs. Reality Shakespeare’s Hamlet depicts the tensions between appearance and reality. Characters’ emotions and actions often appear to be real, when in fact, they are not. The topic is analyzed via Hamlet, Claudius, Polonius, Rosencrantz, and Guildenstern. In the play, Shakespeare highlights the deceitfulness of these characters.
- Revenge in the Play “Hamlet, Prince of Denmark” The main character of the play, Hamlet, is used to depict the theme of revenge. The essay demonstrates that he was avenging his father with the motivations for revenge, the process of revenge, and the actual revenge. These stages are described by examples from the play and literary analyses.
- Literature Analysis of Hamlet’s Soliloquies The paper analyses Hamlet’s qualities based on his monologues. His character is well portrayed through his soliloquies. The essay takes on his religiosity, the fear of damnation, the want of justified revenge, the talent of critical thinking, and his flaws.
- Women Role in Shakespeare’s Othello and Hamlet These Shakespearens plays portrayed women as one of the significant causes of conflict. The essay examines their roles in both pieces and compares their actions, age, and depiction.
- Hamlet’s Costume Design Scenic design is a vital part of any play. It communicates the mood through illustrations of climate conditions, people’s statuses, and political instability. Thus, the paper examines the importance of colors and clothes design and how they reveal the characters’ emotions.
- Modern Film Version of “Hamlet” by Shakespeare The essay describes the modern film version of Hamlet and why it is worth seeing. The author mentions the excellent acting, modern-dress production, and single-camera setup.
- Ophelia in “Hamlet” by William Shakespeare Ophelia’s unhealthy love for Hamlet and consequent tragedy are stressed in the present paper. She is the embodiment of tragedy in the play. The author discusses her actions by using lack of maternal guidance, lack of exposure, and naivety.
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HAMLET is one of those mentioned in “Fifty Books the World Can Do Without”. Discuss.🤭
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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
Essay Topics for Hamlet: Fresh Ideas for Students
Shakespeare’s Hamlet is probably the most popular tragedy that has ever been written. Its tense political conflicts, unexpected plot twists, and the story of fatal love have been fueling the imagination of readers for centuries. Interestingly, each generation finds something attractive in this literary work. The philosophical component is indeed very strong and attracts the attention of people of all ages – the play is filled with original reflections on life and death. Due to its popularity, Hamlet becomes the subject of discussion in all educational institutions, so students feel the need to come up with fresh essay topics for Hamlet. If you have to write a paper on this work of Shakespeare, you are welcome to draw some inspiration from the list below.
Topics for Expository Essay Writing
- Focus on the role of the minor characters in Hamlet. Explore the role they play in revealing the main topic and the contribution they make to the development of major characters.
- Can we say that Hamlet is indecisive? Why was he not ready to take revenge? What was his motivation to take his own life?
- Do you agree with the statement that the struggle between the good and evil is the central theme of this play? Support your position with the analysis of the opposing characters.
- Hamlet explores the conflict between the reality and the appearance. Evaluate the following statement: unwillingness to accept the reality is the main theme in the play.
- Was Ophelia’s decision to end life wise? What other options did she have? If you could give her advice, what would it be?
- Describe the relationship between the protagonist and Polonius’s daughter. Was the feeling of love reciprocal?
- What role did Rosencrantz and Guildenstern play in the story?
- Explore Shakespeare’s descriptive technique.
- Analyze the comedy in Hamlet. Which techniques does Shakespeare use to produce humor?
- Analyze the theme of suicide in the play.
Analytical Essay Topics
- Compare the character of Polonius with the ‘good courtier’ described by Castiglione. Does Polonius have the attribute of such a courtier? Support your claims with evidence from the play and Castiglione’s text.
- What is the nature of Hamlet’s psychological distress? Was his illness true or did he imitate it? If this was an imitation, what was the motivation behind it? Did his actions ever get out of hand? Justify your claims with quotations from the text.
- Was the protagonist misogynistic? What was his attitude towards women? How did he treat them? Does his treatment of women help clarify the themes of the play? Discuss the manner in which Hamlet speaks of sexuality.
- Analyze the 1996 film and try to answer these questions asked by Goethe: What was the artist’s intention? How well did they cope with it? Was it worth the efforts?
- Define justice and analyze it based on Hamlet. To what extent does family influence one’s understanding of justice? Can we justify Hamlet’s revenge?
- Analyze the outer and inner conflict of Hamlet. How well does he handle them?
- Would you say that Hamlet is a better illustration of Oedipus complex than Oedipus himself? Refer to prophecies, omens, and superstitious signs found in Hamlet and Oedipus Rex.
- How does Shakespeare construct imagery in the third act of Hamlet? What influence does this have on the rest of the play?
- Was Hamlet’s famous monologue nihilistic? What compelled him to become active as opposed to passive?
- Hamlet, Polonius, and Laertius have one thing in common – they are all looking for truth. How does each of them understand this concept? How do manage to realize the truth?
- Analyze the evolution of Hamlet as a character. Does he change by the end of the play? Does he become wiser?
- Discuss the role of setting in the play. How does it help convey the author’s message?
- The true nature of Hamlet is concealed under several layers. What are they? What functions does each of them perform?
- Hamlet’s ideas of sin and salvation change throughout the play. Analyze this change and say how it is shaped by the changes in the protagonist’s character.
- What do you think are the reasons behind Hamlet’s indecisiveness? Is he aware of his indecisiveness?
- Compare Shakespeare’s Hamlet to the Hamlets played by Mel Gibson and Kenneth Branagh in the film adaptations.
- Explore Hamlet’s attitude to women by analyzing his relationships either with Ophelia or Gertrude. How do these relationships influence the character, the conflict, and the outcome of the play? Do these women help the prince change?
- How does the prince perceive death? Is he afraid of it? Support your position with the evidence form the text.
- Compare Hamlet and King Lear. To some extent, both characters were victims of the circumstances and they were dangerous. Why do you think Shakespeare’s plays have such a tendency?
- Throughout the play, Hamlet has serious mood swings. What makes his moos change so often?
- Is protagonist a hero or a villain?
- Describe the relationships between Hamlet and Claudius. Do you think the latter knows what the former is capable of? Does Hamlet know the true motivation behind Claudius’ actions? Refer to specific moments in the play that signify their awareness. Support your claims with quotes. How does this knowledge (or the lack of thereof) make them perceive the events in a certain fashion?
- Choose one theme in the play and analyze how Shakespeare develops it. Explain why you chose this theme. Find a place where this theme is mentioned for the first time and analyze it. What literary techniques does the author use to develop it? Your own choice of the theme will make your topic stand out from the rest of the essay topics for Hamlet.
- Analyze the work “Dante’s Explanation of Hell”. How is it related to Hamlet, particularly, in the way it describes revenge?
- How does Hamlet’s character evolve? Base your analysis upon the monologues of this character. You can pick one specific trait of the character and see how it changes throughout the play or even within a monologue.
- How does the play describe the motif of revenge, friendship or love? Perform a close reading of the play and base your analysis on it.
- How does introspection in the play shape the actions of Hamlet? Choose one speech for analysis and support your claims with evidence form it.
- Focus on the characters of Hamlet, Claudius, Fortinbras, or King Hamlet to analyze the themes of honor and corruption in the play. Choose a prominent personality in the modern-day society that has the same features as the character you have described and compare them.
- Analyze the second scene in Act 5. How does this scene reveal the emotional and psychological development of Hamlet? Which lines define the ending as inevitable?
- Can Hamlet be treated as a play, in which nothing can be taken at face value? How does the author deceive its reader? What techniques are used to preserve the secret? Why does this deception mean something in Hamlet?
Critical Essay Topics for Hamlet
- Hamlet has an opportunity to take revenge at his uncle. Why does not he do this? Would it be right for the prince to avenge his father?
- Choose one act in the play and explore its most prominent themes.
- Is Ophelia a significant person in Hamlet’s life? Was his love for her sincere? Does he stop loving her after she died? Substantiate your position with evidence from the play.
- Read Aristotle’s definition of tragedy. Does Hamlet fit this definition? Does Hamlet’s suicide make the play a tragedy? Evaluate the character of Hamlet against the criteria described by Aristotle.
- Tell what Hamlet is about in three sentences. Is this play important to you? What is your attitude towards this literary work?
- Can we say that Hamlet is a play about grieving? Is Hamlet depressed? How does he try to overcome the depression and get rid of suicidal thoughts? As a result of what circumstances has he ended up in such a state? What is Hamlet’s attitude towards humanity?
- Does Hamlet suffer from some psychological disorder? If yes, which one? Which symptoms does he have? Incorporate evidence from the text to support each ‘diagnosis.’
Topics for Expository Essay Writing PDF
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