These examples are taken from the Hamlet site on Scoilnet. Questions are reproduced with a minimum of editing. Answers are intended not to provide a simple response as much as to provoke further questioning and reflection.



You are dead how are you answering these questions?

Hamlet replies:

You have no trouble in accepting that my father walked the earth after his death, that is if you have read my play. Why then can you doubt that the spirit of young Hamlet lives, to tease the imagination of the enquiring student?

Is Hamlet in league with the pirates with whom he got a lift back to Denmark?

Hamlet replies:

Have you not read my letter to Horatio?

As we sailed to England we were caught by the pirates, our ship being too slow to escape. As they came alongside I boarded their ship, ready for whatever came next. As it happened the ships parted and I alone of our ship was left on board the pirate ship. I new that the pirates would be open to negotiation and so did a deal with them I was to do them a favour in return for my safe passage to Denmark.

So, in short, I was not in league with them but we did do a deal on the spot, in the heat of battle, so to speak.

Why does Hamlet switch ship coming home from England?

Hamlet replies

I was on my way to England, as I thought, for a bit of a break. I suspected that something was amiss, after all Claudius was not someone I could trust. I had just killed Polonius and I knew that Claudius would have been concerned about me as a threat.

I was proved right in my suspicions when I 'acquired' the letter which Claudius had given to Rosencrantz and Guildenstern to take to the King of England. Once I had altered the letter I no longer had any reason to go to England. No, I wanted to get back to Denmark to settle the score with Claudius. The arrival of the pirate ship provided the opportunity of returning home more quickly. The pirates were good businessmen and were happy to do a deal with me for my safe return. So that is why I switched ship and came home earlier than expected.

Could I get a brief run down on the importance of the character Horatio please?

Hamlet replies:

Horatio was my close friend and confidante. He is one of the few people whom I could trust in Denmark. He it was who told me about the ghost of me dead father. He it was whom I could trust with the true purpose of the play within the play. When I asked him to help me by observing Claudius' reaction to the play he was more than willing to help. I remember how he put it:

"Well my Lord, If he steal ought the whilst the play is playing, And scape detecting, I will pay the theft. "

Later I would confide in him about my lucky escape from Claudius' trap, that trip to England. I knew I could trust him to keep my secret and to work for me in Denmark in my absence.

Finally, Horatio was to survive me and to speak a blessing at my death. His words, "good night sweet prince, And flights of angels sing thee to thy rest" were a great consolation to my departing soul. He knew that I was a good man, a truly tragic hero. He undertook to speak the truth about my life to Fortinbras and the world after my death. What more could you ask for in a friend?

Who was your first love?

Hamlet replies:

Ophelia. When I met the fair Ophelia at prayer she wished to return the many remembrances I had given her and she recalled the sweet words that accompanied those gifts (and with them words of so sweet breath composed as made these things more rich).

Gertrude also had hoped that we would one day be wed and that the flowers she scattered on Ophelia's grave should have been strewn on our wedding day (I hoped thou shouldst have been my Hamlet's wife).

But the most obvious proof of my love is on that awful day when, in the company of Horatio and the gravediggers, we spoke about death only to be interrupted by the funeral of Ophelia. So enraged was I by her brother, Laertes', over-the-top mourning, that I spoke both honestly and passionately about Ophelia. Yes I loved her, more than countless numbers of brothers possibly could ever have loved her. (I loved Ophelia. Forty thousand brothers could not with all their quantity of love make up my sum.)

Why do keep turning away Ophelia in the play? The evidence points to you being in love with someone else.

Hamlet replies:

I did not reject Ophelia because of my love for another. I loved her deeply. See my answer to David's question above. Perhaps you could show me the evidence you speak of in your question.

In act 3 scene 3 were u wrong to not kill Claudius?

Hamlet replies:

I indeed had an opportunity to kill Claudius as he prayed. However, if I killed Claudius as he prayed he would have gone to heaven because he had been repenting his sins while at prayer. This was not the way I wanted it to happen.

"A villain kills my father, and for that
I, his sole son, do this same villain send
To heaven."

My father had been untimely killed without an opportunity to atone for his sins. Thereby he was left to walk the earth at night.

"Unhouseled, disappointed, unaneled,
No reck'ning made, but sent to my account
With all my imperfections on my head."

Was I to allow Claudius an opportunity to atone for his sins, allow him an opportunity denied my unprepared, murdered father?

Did Ophelia commit suicide?

Hamlet replies:

I do not believe that Ophelia committed suicide. Look at the facts. Ophelia died by drowning and seems to have been in a confused state of mind at the time. Gertrude reported that she simply fell into the river and was carried away as the water weighed down her clothes and dragged her under. She 'chanted snatches of old lauds' as she floated away which does suggest that she was not aware of the danger she was in.

I was at her funeral and saw that she was given a Christian burial in consecrated ground. The mourners sang 'virgin crants' and covered her grave with 'maiden strewments'. These were signs of respect which would not have been allowed had she been known to have committed suicide.

Ophelia died a victim of the tragedy which would later claim my own life too.

Is Ophelia a virgin?

Hamlet replies:

Ophelia was a young woman of virtue and honour. Gertrude felt that she would have been a worthy wife for me, had we married. She would not have been considered for this honour had there been any taint to her character.

When she died she was buried with the honours due to a virtuous lady, with 'virgin crants and maiden strewments'.

Speak no ill of the dead!

What sports did you play?

Hamlet replies:

I was a pretty good fencer as Laertes found out to his cost.

Mostly though I was more interested in mind games. I was quite pleased with the way I outwitted Claudius in the matter of the trip to England. Rosencrantz and Guildenstern never new what awaited them on their arrival in England.

Claudius was another matter. I thought that I could outwit him. In a manner of speaking I did but the cost was very high in the lives of others who died in the process.

Were you gay?

Hamlet replies:

Why would you think that I was? Have I given you any reason to believe that this would be true? Have I not lived an honourable life and been a credit to my parents?

What age were you when you died?

Hamlet replies

Thirty. The day I was born was the same day the gravedigger began his job as a gravedigger. "It was that very day that young Hamlet was born", "I have been sexton here, man and boy, thirty years."

Also, Yorick's skull had lain in the earth three and twenty years, according to the same gravedigger. I remember him fondly carrying me on his back. Those games were popular for boys up to the age of seven.

Was Gertrude in on the murder (of Old Hamlet)?

Hamlet replies:

My mother would, quite simply, not have been capable of that depth of evil or to be part of such an unnatural deed. "Frailty thy name is woman".

On that evening on the battlements of Elsinore, the ghost of my father left clear instructions that Gertrude was blameless and not to be held in any way accountable. "Against thy mother aught. Leave her to heaven". While later, in Gertrude's chambers, the ghost appeared again and informed me "Look, amazement on thy mother sits" as she genuinely knew nothing about the circumstances surrounding my father's death.

My mother dies very much the innocent victim as she unaware of Claudius' intentions during the duel. She innocently drank the wine to toast my success "I am poisoned."

Why did Hamlet say is it the king when he stabbed Polonius behind the tapestry, when he had just left him (Claudius the king) in the church?

Hamlet replies:

I hoped it was the king when I stabbed the unknown person through the arras. It could have been Claudius who might have sneaked in unnoticed and hidden himself away behind the curtain.

I was so angry anyway that anyone should intrude on the privacy of a meeting between mother and son that I lashed out. That wretched, rash intruding fool got his just desserts for interfering in my affairs.