Hamlet – Lesson 3


Students read the end of Claudius’s monologue to Hamlet, in which he instructs Hamlet to “throw to earth” his grief and to remain at the court of Denmark rather than return to his studies in Wittenberg. Having previously focused on the development of Hamlet’s character, students now shift their focus to the development of Claudius in this monologue.  ExcerptHamlet


  1. beseech (v.) – to beg eagerly for; solicit
  2. unprevailing (adj.) – futile, useless
  3. most immediate (adj.) – next in line of succession
  4. retrograde (adj.) – opposite, contrary
  5. chiefest (adj.) – highest in rank or authority; most important; principal
  6. courtier (n.) – a person who is often in attendance at the court of a king or other royal personage


Listen to a reading of lines 110–132 (from “We pray you, throw to earth / This unprevailing woe” to “the heaven shall bruit again / Respeaking earthly thunder. Come away”). Instruct students to pay attention to how Shakespeare develops the character of Claudius.
Excerpt: Hamlet

Read and Answer Questions

  1. What does Claudius mean by the phrase “unprevailing woe” (line 111)?
  2. What does Claudius ask Hamlet to do in lines 110–111?

  3. What does “We pray you” (line 110) mean? What is the impact of “We pray you” upon Claudius’s speech?

  4. How does Claudius develop the central idea of mortality in line 111? Where does he make a similar argument in the beginning of his monologue?

  5. What does it mean for Hamlet to be “the most immediate to our throne” (line 113)?

  6. How does Claudius react to Hamlet’s intention to return to school? How does the word retrograde help you to understand his reaction (line 118)?
  7. What position does Claudius offer Hamlet in line 121 (“Our chiefest courtier, cousin and our son”)?

  8. Explain the meaning of chiefest courtier (line 121).
  9. What is the impact of ending the monologue with the word “son” (line 121)?

  10. How does Claudius’s use of language demonstrate his level of comfort with his new position as king?

  11. What kind of relationship does Claudius attempt to establish with Hamlet in lines 110–121?


  • How does Claudius’s monologue set up a conflict between the characters of Hamlet and Claudius? Cite textual evidence to support your response.

Quick Write (10-15 minute paragraph)

Respond briefly in writing to the following prompt:

  • How does Shakespeare develop the character of Claudius in lines 110–121?

Use this lesson’s vocabulary wherever possible and use the Short Response Rubric and Checklist to guide your written responses. Answer the prompt using evidence from the text.