Dear Class,

To understand the play Hamlet, you will need to read and understand some background information.

The first handout is from AC Bradley who wrote about Shakespearean tragedy.  Review the lecture notes and how tragedy, tragic hero, and tragic flaw are defined.

AC Bradley-Shakespearan-tragedy-i

AC Bradley-Shakespearan-tragedy-II

Then read the review of Act I.  If you do not read thoroughly Act I, you will not understand the rest of the play.

Hamlet, a summary of Act I

Hamlet Act I and II notes


Notes on Act III of Hamlet

  1. Theme of appearance vs. reality is reflected in the “To Be or Not To Be” speech
    1. Is all what it appears (to be) or is all nothing but appearance (Not to be)
    2. Is his mother innocent? Does Ophelia love me?  Is the ghost real?
  2. Scene i: The nunnery scene
    1. Double entendre of nunnery—whorehouse
    2. Nunnery mentioned 5xs in 25 lines
    3. Why is he abusive to Ophelia, a woman he professes to love?
    4. Is this related to this mother? “Frailty, thy name is woman”
  3. Scene ii: play within play
    1. Realizes that Claudius is guilty
    2. This means the ghost is real
  4. Scene iii: Claudius is in chapel praying
    1. Or is he?
    2. Dramatic irony—Hamlet thinks he is praying
    3. Soliloquy of Hamlet: “Now, might I do’t pat; now that he’s a praying?”
    4. Decides to wait for a better opportunity to Claudius
    5. Goes on to Mother’s chamber to confront her about Claudius
  5. Scene iv (the bedroom scene)
    1. Polonius decides to spy on Hamlet behind the curtains in Gertrude’s bedroom
    2. Hamlet comes in a “murderous rage”
    3. Mother screams for she fears him
    4. Polonius screams too; Hamlet thinks it is the king and stabs the person behind the curtain, realizing that it is Polonius.
    5. Hamlet then continues to berate his mother for marrying Claudius
    6. Ghost revisits to remind Hamlet about the revenge
    7. Gertrude thinks Hamlet is mad as she cannot she the ghost “This is the very coinage of his brain”
    8. Hamlet then takes the body of Polonius.
    9. Gertrude cries
  6. In Acts II and III, we have the results of excessive grief—Hamlet’s belief in the power of beauty and love diminishes. He has become obsessed with the finality and ugliness of death because he sees no goodness in the world.
  7. Major irony: That Claudius is also guilty—even more so than Hamlet —simply adds to the irony of a good man destroying himself for an evil one.

Hamlet Act IV  —notes

Now review the videos below as we continue our discussion.

In Act I, scene 2, the coronation of the king and the marriage of Claudius and Gertrude has occurred.  Hamlet, clothed in black, mourns his father’s death and the marriage of his mother to his uncle.  He shows excessive grief as is evident in his first soliloquy “O, that this too, too, solid flesh would melt”.  Make note of his disposition and view of the world and his mother. 

<a href=”http://“>




In Act III, scene I, Hamlet is now prepared to seek revenge against his uncle Claudius.  Prior to this scene, Hamlet sought out the help of actors/players to re-enact the murder of his father in front of Claudius to catch his reaction.   However, in this scene, we see Hamlet question the motives of everyone and questions death.  Is he ready to act?


<a href=”http://“>




After committing murder, it is clear that Hamlet can act; however, he has yet to fulfill his revenge against Claudius.  The king, sensing that Hamlet is pretending to be mad, sends him to England to be accompanied by Rosencrantz and Guilderstern.  Before boarding their ship, Hamlet sees the army of Young Fortinbras, the Norwegian prince who is also seeking revenge against his father’s murder by the deceased King Hamlet.   Hamlet now understands what he should have done all along to get revenge “Let my thoughts be bloody or be nothing worth.”     Do you believe him now?

<a href=”http://“>



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: