Read a selection from Act 1.5 that includes Hamlet’s interaction with the Ghost and Hamlet’s subsequent soliloquy in which Hamlet commits to follow the Ghost’s advice and seek revenge against Claudius. Discuss the impact of Shakespeare’s word choices on the development of central ideas such as revenge and action versus inaction.
- host (n.)
- sinews (n.)
- baser (adj.)
- pernicious (adj.)
Listen to Act 1.5 lines 1–119 (from “Whither wilt thou lead me? Speak. I’ll go no / further” to “It is ‘adieu, adieu, remember me.’ I have sworn ’t”). Note what the Ghost reveals to Hamlet and how Hamlet reacts.
A. Read lines 99–104 (from “O all you host of heaven! O Earth!” to “whiles memory holds a seat / In this distracted globe”)
- What do the words “heaven,” “[e]arth,” and “hell” on lines 99–100 suggest about Hamlet’s understanding of the Ghost?
- How does Hamlet react to the Ghost in lines 101–102? What causes Hamlet to react this way?
- What is the “distracted globe” Hamlet refers to in line 104? What does Hamlet mean when he says “whiles memory holds a seat / In this distracted globe” (lines 103–104)?
B. Read lines 104–119 (from “Remember thee? / Yea from the table of my memory” to “It is ‘adieu, adieu, remember me.’ / I have sworn ’t”)
- How does Hamlet develop as a character when he decides to take revenge?
- What is the “commandment” Hamlet refers to when he says, “thy commandment all alone shall live / Within the book and volume of my brain” (lines 109–110)?
- What decision does Hamlet make in response to the Ghost’s visit? How does Hamlet’s decision develop a central idea of the play?
- How does Hamlet understand revenge in this excerpt?
- Who does Hamlet describe in lines 112 and 113 when he says, “O most pernicious woman! / O villain, villain, smiling, damnèd villain”? What do these descriptions suggest about Hamlet’s perception of these characters?
- What impact does Hamlet’s repetition of the Ghost’s words have on the tone of soliloquy?
- Refer to the explanatory note for line 117. How does Hamlet’s “word” develop some of the play’s central ideas?
Quick Write: 15-minute paragraph
Respond briefly in writing to the following prompt:
- How do specific word choices contribute to the development of two central ideas in Hamlet’s “O all you host of heaven!” soliloquy?
Use this lesson’s vocabulary wherever possible and use the Short Response Rubric and Checklist to guide your written responses.