Students read and analyze lines 149–164 from Act 1.2, the second half of Hamlet’s first soliloquy in which Hamlet laments his mother’s quick remarriage following his father’s death. Students engage in a discussion about the meaning of these lines and about how Shakespeare develops the Queen through this soliloquy.
- frailty (n.)
- dexterity (n.)
- chastity (n.)
- or ere (prep.)
- incestuous (adj.)
- post (v.)
Listen / Read Along
Listen to a reading of Hamlet’s first soliloquy in its entirety on lines 133–164 (from “O that this too, too sullied flesh would melt” to “But break, my heart, for I must hold my tongue”). Focus on “fresh, engaging, or beautiful” language.
How does Shakespeare develop the relationship between Hamlet and his mother?
Read lines 149–157 (from “And yet, within a month / (Let me not think on ’t” to “married with my uncle, / My father’s brother”)
- Which words does Hamlet use to describe the length of time between his father’s death and his mother’s marriage?
- What do these words suggest about Hamlet’s attitude towards the timing of his mother’s remarriage?
- What is the meaning of the phrase “frailty, thy name is woman!” (line 150)?
- To whom is Hamlet referring in this line?
- Describe Hamlet’s tone toward his mother in line 150. Cite specific evidence to support your response.
- According to the explanatory notes, who is Niobe? What does Hamlet mean when he says, “She followed my poor father’s body, / Like Niobe” (lines 152–153)?
- Explain the comparison Hamlet makes in lines 154–155 when he says, “O God, a beast that wants the discourse of reason / Would have mourned longer!” What is the impact of this comparison on Hamlet’s tone?
- What do the two comparisons in lines 153–155 suggest about Hamlet?
Read lines 157–164 (from “My father’s brother but no more like my father” to “But break, my heart, for I must hold my tongue”)
- Summarize Hamlet’s description of Claudius in lines 157–158 (“My father’s brother but no more like my father, / Than I to Hercules”). What is the impact of using Hercules in this description?
- Why does Hamlet call the Queen’s tears “unrighteous” (line 159)?
- What is the meaning of the phrase “to post / With such dexterity to incestuous sheets” (lines 161–162)? How does this phrase contribute to the development of the Queen’s character?
Respond briefly in writing to the following prompt:
- How do specific word choices in Hamlet’s first soliloquy impact the development of the Queen’s character?
Use this lesson’s vocabulary wherever possible in their written responses. Remind students to use the Short Response Rubric and Checklist to guide their written responses.
- Respond briefly in writing to the following prompt:
- Identify an example of “particularly fresh, engaging, or beautiful” language from the soliloquy and write about the meaning and impact of the language.
- Conduct a brief search for information about the meaning and role of chastity in Elizabethan England.