English Literature Lesson Plan: Discussion Questions for Hamlet

Purpose: The following questions can be used throughout reading Hamlet. They can be used to get discussion started or when discussion digresses. They can also be used as prompts for student journal writing. If used for journal writing, be sure to give students specific writing lengths. Approximately two to three paragraphs of writing for each question are sufficient. These questions will also be helpful when reviewing for the essay exam.

1. Have you ever experienced a transitional period in your life? Maybe it was with your family, with a friend, or at an after school job. How did you handle the situation? Did you have any friends or family who helped you?

2. Each of the following characters can be argued as the tragic hero of Hamlet: Hamlet, Gertrude, Ophelia, or Laertes. Who do you think is the tragic hero or heroine of Hamlet and why? In your argument, define tragic hero and give three reasons for your choice.

3. From whose point of view is Hamlet told? Why do you think Shakespeare chose this point of view? Pick a different character from the play. How would the story change if it were told from that character’s perspective?

4. Do you see Hamlet’s inaction to avenge his father’s murder as good or bad? Do you sympathize with or pity Hamlet? Do you dislike or fear his inaction? Explain why you feel this way. Find two passages from the play that support your opinion.

5. Recall the soliloquies in Hamlet, and choose one. Define soliloquy. Who is talking? What is he or she saying? How do soliloquies let the audience in on what the character is thinking or feeling? Which is your favorite soliloquy and why?

6. Compare Oedipus and Hamlet. Name three similarities and three differences of their characters. Which of the two characters do you like, dislike, or relate to and why?

7. Time and disguise are two key issues in Hamlet. Many of the passages describe the time as being “out of joint,” and the characters often spy on each other. How does this affect the tone of Hamlet? First define tone. Then, describe the tone of Hamlet in your own words, and use examples from the play to support your description.

8. Define irony. Choose three characters in Hamlet and explain why their actions in the play are ironic. What do these characters say to others, and how does this contrast their actions?

9. Pick any character in any scene from Hamlet. If you were an actor, how would you perform this character in this particular scene? What clues does Shakespeare give in the lines before or after the character’s lines to let the actors know what to do? How would you portray the scene as the actors would have done in Shakespeare’s time at the Globe?

10. Pick one sentence from the play that you think is the most important point or best explains the play. Explain why.

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