Possible essay questions

  1. What does Shakespeare suggest about the role of women in Hamlet?
  2. How does Shakespeare present the idea of madness in Hamlet?
  3. ‘Seems, Madam? I know not seems.' How important is acting and pretence in Hamlet?
  4. ‘These words like daggers enter in mine ears.' What does Shakespeare suggest about the importance of words, including lying and slander, in Hamlet?
  5. How and why does Shakespeare introduce comedy within the tragic world of Hamlet?
  6. There are several soliloquies within the play, most of them by Hamlet. What do you consider to be the function and nature of Hamlet's soliloquies
  7. Shakespeare was himself a man of the theatre. Why, and with what effects, do you think he introduces players and the play-within-a play in Hamlet
  8. What does Shakespeare suggest to us in Hamlet about the nature of kingship, and by what means?
  9. What does Shakespeare suggest to us in Hamlet about the nature of revenge?
  10. Examine the way that Shakespeare presents Polonius. Is he anything more than the ‘wretched, rash, intruding fool' that Hamlet describes?
  11. Consider the dramatic importance of Shakespeare's presentation of the relationship between Hamlet and Ophelia, and Hamlet and Laertes.
  12. To what extent does Shakespeare make Ophelia and Polonius engage our sympathies, and by what means?
  13. What in your opinion is the significance of Fortinbras in Hamlet?
  14. Consider the way in which Shakespeare depicts Claudius; is he a sympathetic figure?
  15. ‘There are only two females in the play, and they are both flawed.' Would you agree with this verdict of Shakespeare's presentation of Gertrude and Ophelia?
  16. Of what significance is Horatio's role in Hamlet?
  17. ‘What ceremony else?' How significant are ceremonies and customs in the life of the court at Elsinore?
  18. ‘Springes to catch woodcocks.' What use does Shakespeare make of traps and spying in Hamlet?
  19. Does Shakespeare suggest that Hamlet is a pure character who sees through the corruption of the court in Denmark, or is he himself equally corrupt?
  20. How significant is Shakespeare's decision to place the action of Hamlet in a Christian universe?
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