Response about the appearance of King Hamlet’s ghost

1. In a primary post of 250 words or more, respond to the following questions about the appearance of King Hamlet’s ghost: Hamlet initially approaches the ghost of his father in an effort to determine whether he is “a spirit of health or goblin damned.” However, old King Claudius answers the question himself by stating that he is “doomed for a certain term to walk the night/ And for the day confined to fast in fires, / Till the foul crimes done in days of nature / Are burnt and purged away” (1.5.11-14). In doing such, the ghost implies that he inhabits the realm of purgatory. Although vigorously attacked in the Protestant Reformation beginning with Luther, the Catholic doctrine of purgatory stipulated that those individuals who had not purged their sins in life were confined indefinitely to a place of punishment until they had accounted for their transgressions. Thus, Old King Claudius is a “goblin damned,” a fact that makes his advice immediately suspect. Quoting Shakespeare’s text at least three times, address whether the ghost is asking Hamlet for “remembrance” or “revenge.” Does Hamlet decide to believe the ghost and carry out his wishes? What are at least three reasons why he decides to do so?

2. Again, this activity depends on your reading Acts I and II with great care. In particular, you should pay attention to where advice is given. Most notably, advice is given in the following passages:

  • King Claudius to his step-son, Hamlet: Act I, Scene ii, lines 87 – 117
  • Laertes to his sister, Ophelia: Act I, Scene iii, lines 1 – 51
  • Polonius to his son, Laetres: Act I, Scene iii, lines 55 – 81
  • Polonius to his daughter, Ophelia: Act I, Scene iii, lines 115 – 135
  • Selecting ONE of these passages, summarize the advice given using modern English. If you need a refresher on summary, please see the brief article in the Purdue Online Writing Center (OWL) on summary (Links to an external site.)Links to an external site..
  • After selecting and summarizing the text, reflect on the nature of the advice. If the speaker in your selected passage was speaking to you, how would you respond? Would you be offended? Would you take this advice – why or why not?

3.This activity assesses your ability to rephrase and explain one of the main themes of Shakespeare’s Hamlet: political decay.

“Something is rotten in the state of Denmark”

This quote is probably one of the most famous in all of Hamlet; however, it is useful to remember that Marcellus says it rather than Hamlet himself. The quote doesn’t come from a member of the nobility, it comes from a rather ordinary guardsman, commenting on the suspicious behavior of his Prince, a man first in line to the throne of his country:

Horatio: He waxes desperate with imagination.
Marcellus: Let’s follow. ‘Tis not fit thus to obey him.
Horatio: Have after. To what issue will this come?
Marcellus: Something is rotten in the state of Denmark.
Horatio: Heaven will direct it.
Marcellus: Nay, let’s follow him. [Exeunt.]
Hamlet Act 1, scene 4, 87–91

Taking the ordinary citizen of Hamlet’s Denmark as your audience, craft an in-depth news analysis on the country’s current political state. This assignment is based on your close reading of the play’s first two acts and your practice of summary in the discussion board. Similar to the longer investigative pieces found in news magazines such as Time or Newsweek, you should examine the question of whether something really is “rotten” in the state of Denmark and, if so, what? While remaining objective, your goal is to inform your readers of the “who”, “what”, “when”, “where”, and “why” of the current government and military situation of Denmark. Assume that your readers are relatively informed, but ordinary citizens of Hamlet’sDenmark.

Draw upon the political situation as presented in the play for your evidence: the recent victory over Old Fortinbras, the threat posed by his son, and the uneasy state of the monarchy. You can also use the characters in the play as your sources, quoting the words of King Claudius, Hamlet, and the Queen (for example) as further evidence for your interpretation.

This short assignment should be between 500 – 700 words in length.

Compose your work in a .doc or .docx file type using a word processor (such as Microsoft Word,

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