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William Shakespeare

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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

Ace your assignments with our guide to Hamlet ! 

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30 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;

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:

Hamlet Essay Questions Examples

Here are some Hamlet essay questions for you to consider:

Hamlet Argumentative Essay Topics: The Most Advantageous Ideas

Exquisite Hamlet Essay Ideas from Master Writers

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107 Exceptional Hamlet Essay Topics: Questions & Prompts

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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:

Thanks for checking our list! You can consider some free Hamlet samples or other articles about the play, following the links below.

Study Guide Menu

IvyPanda. (2022, September 16). Essay Topics.

IvyPanda. (2022, September 16). Essay Topics. Retrieved from

"Essay Topics." IvyPanda , 16 Sept. 2022,

1. IvyPanda . "Essay Topics." September 16, 2022.


IvyPanda . "Essay Topics." September 16, 2022.

IvyPanda . 2022. "Essay Topics." September 16, 2022.

IvyPanda . (2022) 'Essay Topics'. 16 September.

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.

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Hamlet Questions and Answers

The Question and Answer section for Hamlet is a great resource to ask questions, find answers, and discuss the novel.

Explain Claudius's purpose in his speech to Hamlet. Does he feel he accomplishes this purpose?

Which act does your question pertain to?

Now look at the Ghost’s reply: “I find thee apt,/ And duller shouldst thou be than the fat weed/ That roots itself in ease on Lethe wharf/ Wouldst thou not stir in this” (I, v, 36-39). Paraphrase this. What does the Ghost seem to imply about Hamlet?

The Ghost is warning Hamlet not to be lazy or sloppy in his revenge. He uses the metaphor of a fat weed on a riverbank near a river of forgetfulness.

In Act I, how do King Claudius and Queen Gertrude try to reason with Hamlet? What does Hamlet’s soliloquy suggest about his response to their reasoning?

Both want Hamlet to stop mourning for his father. They point out that everybody eventually loses their father and that Hamlets obstinate sorrow is not what God wants. Hamlet muses about how they are not really sad like him. He thinks the king and...

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.

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.

Lesson Plan for Hamlet

E-Text of Hamlet

The Hamlet e-text contains the full text of the play Hamlet by William Shakespeare.

Wikipedia Entries for Hamlet

hamlet exam essay questions

hamlet exam essay questions

William Shakespeare

Study Help Essay Questions

1. What kind of a King is Claudius? What evidence shows the kind of monarch he is and the kind of man he is? Is this his appearance, or is it his true character?

2. What is Hamlet's conflict over the Ghost's existence? Why does he continue to doubt the "honesty" of the Ghost even after Claudius confesses his guilt?

3. Name the various foils Shakespeare has created for Hamlet. Why is each important to the play?

4. Explain the function of the Gravediggers at the beginning of Act V.

5. Find examples of Hamlet's voices as he speaks as

The avenger

The philosopher, unemotional reasoner

The actor, self-critical and self-directed

The ironic observer

The disgusted observer, bemoaning the hopelessness of the human condition

The indecisive man desperate to be decisive

6. Look through the text and find five questions that drive the theme, characters, or plot of the play. Explain why the questions are important and why Shakespeare poses them as questions and not as answers.

7. Explain the effect Hamlet's ideas of sin and salvation have on the development of his character and the movement of the plot.

8. Identify the three revenge plots in Hamlet, and explain why each is important to the development of the play.

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