Make your own free website on


Act IV

Scene i

1. What does Claudius realize about the killing of Polonius?

2. What is Claudius’s chief concern with regard to the murder?

Scene ii

1. In what sense, according to Hamlet, is Rosencrantz like a sponge?

2. What is the apparent purpose of this brief scene?

Scene iii

1. Why can’t Claudius simply deal with Hamlet swiftly and harshly as allowed by law?

2. What will eventually happen both to a “fat king” and to a “lean beggar”?

3. In what way does Hamlet disparage the kingship which Claudius committed murder to acquire?

4. Where has Hamlet hidden the body? Does he feel remorse for what he has done? How do you know?

5. What reason does Claudius give for sending Hamlet away?

6. What does Hamlet suggest that he knows?

7. How does this scene advance Hamlet’s developing awareness of death?

8. What message is in the letters that Claudius has sent to England with Hamlet? Do Rosencrantz and Guildenstern know the true purpose of their journey to England?

Scene iv

1. Why has Fortinbras arrived? What precious promise does he want Claudius to keep?

2. What do Fortinbras and Hamlet have in common?

3. What sort of person is, in Hamlet’s estimation, no more than a beast?

4. What gifts have people been given?

5. What has Hamlet had the “cause and will and strength and means” to do?

6. According to Hamlet, what will a great person do when his or her honor is at stake? What does he feel when he compares himself to Fortinbras? Why?

7. What does Hamlet say about his thoughts from this point on?

Scene v

1. Of whom are Gertrude and the gentleman speaking? How is this person behaving?

2. What reason does Horatio give for speaking with Ophelia?

3. What emotion is Gertrude feeling? What does this emotion cause her to think?

4. What two losses has Ophelia suffered? How are these two losses reflected in the two verses of this song?

5. What do they assume is the cause of Ophelia’s apparent madness?

6. Why do you suppose Ophelia’s madness takes on the form it does?

7. Why does Claudius order that Ophelia be watched?

8. Is Ophelia’s grief “All from her father’s death”? Explain.

9. According to Claudius, what are people without judgment, or the ability to reason?

10. Why is Claudius worried about what the people are saying to Laertes?

11. According to the messenger, what danger does Claudius face?

12. According to Claudius, what protects a king? Did the same force protect the previous king?

13. Describe Laertes’s response to his father’s death. How is he a foil to Hamlet?

14. According to Claudius, who is not guilty for Polonius’s death?

15. What two things have proved to be mortal?

16. What withered when Ophelia’s father died?

17. Claudius says that he would be willing to give up his kingdom to Laertes if Laertes found what to be true?

18. Where does Claudius say that the “great axe” should fall?

Scene vi

1. What news is revealed in Hamlet’s letter to Horatio? What does this show about Hamlet?

2. What will happen to Rosencrantz and Guildenstern?

3. How does this episode illustrate the role of coincidence in Shakespearean tragedy?

Scene vii

1. Why does Claudius tell Laertes he will not kill Hamlet himself?

2. What does Laertes say will come?

3. What did the sailors bring, in addition to a letter for Horatio?

4. What news does Hamlet have for Claudius?

5. What does Laertes look forward to doing?

6. What plan does Claudius have?

7. What does Laertes want?

8. How did Hamlet react to the report of Laertes’s skill with a sword?

9. What would Laertes be willing to do? In what way does he differ from Hamlet?

10. Is Hamlet indeed “free from all contriving”? Explain.

11. What is the plan for killing Hamlet, and what is Claudius’s back up plan?

12. In Gertrude’s description of Ophelia’s drowning, what suggests that Ophelia committed suicide?

13. In Gertrude’s description of Ophelia’s drowning, what suggests that Ophelia’s death was an accident?

14. What does Laertes try not to do? Is he successful?

15. What does Claudius tell Gertrude that he has been doing?

End of Act IV questions.

1. Why might Claudius want to win over Laertes?

2. What are the consequences of the killing of Polonius?

3. Is Hamlet responsible for the death of Ophelia? Why or why not?

Understanding Literature

1. Symbol – A symbol is something that stands both for itself and for something beyond itself. Of what are the following thins symbols in this play?

a. The rue that Ophelia offers both to Gertrude and to herself

b. The willow tree on which Ophelia hangs garlands

c. The brook on which Ophelia floats

2. Foil – A foil is a character whose attributes, or characteristics, contrast with, and therefore throw into relief, the attributes of another character. In this act, both Fortinbras and Laertes serve as foils for Hamlet. In what significant ways does Hamlet differ from these other two young men?

3. Character – A character is a figure in a literary work. The term character is also used to denote the personality of such a figure. How has Ophelia changed since her first appearance in the play? What do you think was the exact nature of her former relationship with Hamlet? What about Ophelia’s character leads you to this conclusion?

4. Theme – A theme is a main idea in a literary work. One of the recurring themes in Hamlet is the consequences of deception and dishonesty. What are the consequences of deception for Polonius? for Ophelia? for Gertrude? for Claudius? What sort of deception is being planned in the last scene of Act IV? Another theme of Hamlet is the relationship between thought and action. In the “To be, or not to be” soliloquy in Act III, how does Hamlet describe this relationship? How does he describe it in the “How all occasions do inform against me” soliloquy in Act IV?