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Act V

Scene i

1. What is the significance of the various skulls the gravedigger digs up during this scene? How do they contribute to the evolution of Hamlet’s understanding of death?

2. How does the entrance of Ophelia’s funeral procession continue this evolution?

3. What does Laertes and Hamlet’s fight in Ophelia’s grave foreshadow?

4. Why is this scene in prose?

5. How do Hamlet and the gravedigger view the sociological implications of death differently?

Scene ii

1. What does Horatio learn about the real purpose for the trip to England?

2. What is ironic about Rosencrantz’s and Guildenstern’s approaching deaths?

3. How does Shakespeare establish that Hamlet is indeed a noble gentleman?

4. How does the impending duel with Laertes complete Hamlet’s concept of death that has been developing through the play?

5. Why does Hamlet apologize to Laertes?

6. Explain how each character dies in the end.

7. Why does the play end with such bloodshed and death?

8. What is significant about the fact that Fortinbras delivers the last lines of the play?

End of Act V Questions

1. What evidence does Hamlet give Horatio of the action of divine providence?

2. Do Rosencrantz and Guildenstern deserve their fates? Why or why not?

3. Does Hamlet believe that people are able to make things happen as they wish them to happen? Does Hamlet believe that people are capable of understanding life?

4. What role does mischance, or accident, play in these deaths, and in the deaths of Rosencrantz and Guildenstern?

5. Does justice triumph at the end of this play? Why or why not?

6. Fortinbras says of Hamlet that “he was likely, had he been put on, / To have proved most royal.” Do you agree with this assessment? Why or why not?

Understanding Literature

1. Resolution – The resolution is that part of a plot in which the central conflict is resolved. What is the resolution of Hamlet?

2. Foil – A foil is a character whose attributes, or characteristics, contrast with and therefore throw into relief the attributes of another character. Throughout this play, Fortinbras and Laertes are presented as foils for Hamlet. Hamlet himself jokingly refers to Laertes as his foil during the fencing match. In what ways, despite their differences in character, is Hamlet reconciled with Laertes and Fortinbras in the final scene?

3. Theme – A theme is a main idea in a literary work. Another theme that recurs throughout Hamlet is the relative value of thought and action. Ultimately, what do you think that the play is saying in regard to this question?

4. Tragedy – A tragedy is a drama that relates the fall of a person of high status. Tragedy tends to be serious. It celebrates the courage and dignity of a tragic hero in the face of doom. Sometimes that doom is made inevitable by a tragic flaw in the hero. In what ways does Hamlet, Prince of Denmark fit this definition of tragedy? What is Hamlet’s tragic flaw?