Progeny Press Hamlet Study Guide
Progeny Press Study Guide
The Plays of William Shakespeare
Something is rotten in the state of Denmark. Two night watchmen at the castle at Elsinore have seen a ghost they believe to be the former king of Denmark, the father of Prince Hamlet. The soldiers entreat Horatio, Hamlet's confidant, to wait with them for the ghost's appearance during the night watch. Horatio is horrified by its resemblance to the dead king. The men ask Hamlet to join the watch, and when the ghost appears, it reveals to Hamlet that it is, indeed, the spirit of his father. The ghost informs Hamlet that his father was murdered by Claudius, the current king of Denmark. Claudius, Hamlet's uncle and brother of the former king, has not only usurped the throne of Denmark, but has also taken Gertrude, Hamlet's mother, as his wife. Hamlet vows to avenge the death of his father and says he will put on an "antic disposition" to distract others from his genuine purpose.
Meanwhile, Claudius and Gertrude try desperately to help cure Hamlet's melancholy. Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, Hamlet's classmates from Wittenberg, are invited to the palace by the king and queen to see if they can discover why Hamlet is depressed. Lord Chamberlain Polonius suggests the cause of Hamlet's increasingly bizarre behavior is Hamlet's love for Ophelia, his daughter.
Traveling actors arrive at the castle and Hamlet employs them to perform an Italian play that he adapts to depict the murder of his own father. During the performance of the play, Hamlet and Horatio watch Claudius's response to the play to judge if he is truly guilty or not. As the scene of the murder is played out the king runs from the room, and Hamlet believes the ghost's words are confirmed.
The queen calls Hamlet to her chambers. As Hamlet goes, he happens upon Claudius in confession. Hamlet considers killing Claudius at that moment, but he hesitates to kill the king while he is in confession because then, he reasons, Claudius would go to heaven. Hamlet confronts his mother for her weak-willed behavior and hasty marriage to Claudius. Polonius, who is hiding behind an arras in the queen's chamber, stirs and Hamlet, perhaps thinking it is Claudius, runs his sword through the screen and kills Polonius.
The king, wanting to be rid of Hamlet, sends him to England accompanied by his disloyal classmates Rosencrantz and Guildenstern. They carry orders from the king that Hamlet is to be killed upon arrival. Hamlet discovers the treachery and changes the orders so that it is his classmates who are killed. He returns to Denmark aboard a pirate ship.
Meanwhile, Polonius's son Laertes returns from his studies in France and, hearing rumors about his father's death, confronts the king. The king informs Laertes that it was Hamlet who killed Polonius. Claudius then encourages Laertes to face Hamlet in a duel. To make sure Hamlet dies, they plan to put poison on Laertes' sword and have a poisoned drink nearby should Hamlet become thirsty.
Ophelia, who has become completely unhinged since the death of her father, has fallen in a stream and drowned. As Hamlet returns to Elsinore, he passes a churchyard where he encounters Ophelia's funeral procession. Hamlet, swearing love for Ophelia, jumps in her grave, challenging Laertes.
The duel between Laertes and Hamlet is attended by the king and queen. During the swordplay, Gertrude drinks to Hamlet from the poisoned cup and dies. Hamlet is wounded by Laertes' poisoned foil, and then, in a scuffle, Hamlet wounds Laertes with the poisoned foil. As he dies, Laertes confesses to Hamlet the plot he devised with Claudius. Hamlet wounds Claudius and forces him to drink the poison. Dying, Hamlet asks Horatio to tell the whole story to clear his name and says that the throne of Denmark shall pass to Fortinbras of Norway.
Progeny Press Study Guide: 70 pages
# of Lessons: 5 Chapter Lessons + Overview
Subjects: Revenge, prayer, indecision, sin, suicide, death
Grade Level: 9-12