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University of London

Explorations II
HAMLET NOTES

ACT I
Scene i

"Horatio comments that the presence of the ghost forebodes some 'strange eruption to our
state'. It is believed that it has to do with Fortinbras threats to invade Danmark. [69]

Scene ii

" Claudius uses elaborate figures of speech to cover up his guilt. [p. 13]
" Mourning is an inner feeling for Hamlet. This points to his later inner conflict about the
course of action he should take. [83-6]
" Hamlet's first soliloquy is directed to his mother: 'frailty, thy name is woman', 'O, most
wicked speed, to post with such dexterity to incestuous sheets!'. [p. 19]
" When he learns about the ghost he says that 'Foul deeds will rise.' [255]

Scene iii

Polonius famous advice to his son may well point to the real problem of the play so far:
what is ones true self? Appearance and reality are confused, and the reality of thine
own self remains doubtful.
Laertess warning speech to Ophelia. [p. 27-8]

Scene iv
Hamlets comment that one defect might outweigh all the good qualities of a person.
This might refer to himself and in his wavering between action and pondering. [p. 35]
Marcelluss comment that Something is rotten in the state of Denmark. [90]

Scene v
His fathers ghost tells him that he cannot have rest until the crimes he has suffered
have been revenged. [p. 41]
Hamlets second soliloquy: passionate; thinking about taking revenge. [p. 45]
His comment to Horatio that There are more things in heaven and earth than are
dreamt of in your philosophy. [166]
After contemplating about revenge in his passionate reaction to the ghosts revelation,
he exclaims O cursed spite, that ever I was born to set it right! [189]

ACT II
Scene ii
Hamlet puzzles even himself with his change of attitude, alternating between
melancholy and elation.
He realises that if vengeance is to be taken it will not come as a result of reasoning. Its
source will be passion and it is in the context of passion that the the passionate speech
of the First Player takes its proper place. For Hamlet it holds the mirror up to nature,
the desired result is achieved by the commingling of passion and judgement.
Hamlets comment that to be honest is to be one man picked out of ten thousand
applies even to himself, who has to pretend to get what he wants.
In his conversation with Rosencrantz and Guildestern he says that the world is neither
good nor bad but it depends on what you take it to be. For him the world is a prison
and he wishes he could be bounded in a nustshell, and count [him]self a king of infinite
space, were it not that [he] had bad dreams.
His third soliloquy, where he accuses himself of being a rogue and peasant slave for
not taking immediate action. [p. 91]
He thinks about his ploy, which will prove whether the ghost is evil or not. [p. 93]

ACT III
Scene I
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Explorations II
HAMLET NOTES
Hamlet extends his doubts about the Ghost to the whole superanatural world expressing
his fears of the life after death. By the end of his most famous speech he has come to
terms with his dilemma; action has disappeared in speculation.
Claudius hints at his terrible deed reacting in Poloniuss speech about putting up sweet
appearances to hide evil things. [p. 97]
Hamlets fourth soliloquy. [p. 97]
His conversation with Ophelia reveals misogynist views. [p. 102-3]

Scene ii
The nature of the struggle between Hamlet and the King is clarified by Hamlets
intellectual endeavour to balance passion and thought (blood and judgemet). This
endeavour is for him to attain an objectively correct view of nature.
The player-kings speech is significant in at least two ways:
First, its ordered movement of rhyming couplets, presenting wise generalisations on
the nature of man and his actions, contrasts vividly with the language of the rest of
the play.
Second, like Hamlets advice to the player at the beginning of the scene, it stands
for a temperate view of action and life, unlike the player-queens extravagant
protestations of devotion.
The player-kings comment that What to ourselves in passion we propose, the passion
ending, doth the purpose lose could apply to Hamlet himself. [182]
His fifth soliloquy, where he tries to make rouse himself from his contemplations and
become passionate. [p. 127]

Scene iii
He does not kill Claudius because his judgement prevails over his passion.
His sixth soliloquy, which is a revelation of his character in that he can act impetuously,
on the spur of an impulse, but he cannot act when there is time to take thought.

Scene iv
In his invective against his mother he becomes really cruel when he tells her that she
should not have sexual impulses in her age. [p. 139]
Gertrude feels remorse.
Hamlet feels that he must the Gods scourge and minister. [176]

ACT IV

Scene I
Claudius feels threatened. [p. 149]

Scene ii
Claudius thinks of taking measures. [p. 153]

Scene iv
Hamlet compares the urgent and full-scale action of Fortinbras action over a trivial
point of honour, with his own inaction in the face of the gravest offence.

Scene v
Ophelias genuine distraction is to be seen against his own developed presence of mind
and judgement.
Laertes passionate accusations and threats show him to be at this stage, like Hamlet, a
menace to Claudius.
Ophelias comment that we know what we are but know not what we may be. [42]

Scene vii
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Explorations II
HAMLET NOTES
The structural contrasts of passion and reason are emphasized yet again: Laertes is now
firm in his passion for revenge while Hamlets widely respected reputation as a wise
prince is asserted.
ACT V

Scene I
As the play moves nearer to the impending death struggle, the gravediggers provide
some humourous relief and their activities lead Hamlet the theme of wills and fates.
Hamlets comment that things will take their natural course whatever people do to
influence them. [p. 203]

Scene ii
The account of the death of Rosecrantz and Guildenstern is postponed until this stage,
perhaps because it shows her most effectively how Hamlet has changed since he left for
England; this is a quick, deliberate action of his own contriving.
Hamlets comment about rashness. [p. 205]
Again he finds reasons for putting off action. [p. 209]
He feels resigned to fate defying augury. [215]
He is interested in his posthumous reputation. [p. 223]