Hamlet's Soliloquy Essay Questions

Instructor: Clio Stearns

Clio has taught education courses at the college level and has a Ph.D. in curriculum and instruction.

If your students are reading 'Hamlet', you'll probably devote some serious instructional time to analyzing Hamlet's major soliloquy. This lesson offers some essay questions that will help students deepen their personal analyses of the speech.

The Importance of Hamlet's Soliloquy

Are you engaged in a reading of Shakespeare's Hamlet with your students? If so, you know that there are many different pedagogical tacks you can take. The play is full of important themes like loneliness, intergenerational connections, and the polarity between thought and action. Shakespeare's language provides so many opportunities for poetic instruction, and the characters of Hamlet and Ophelia have complicated traits and motivations.

One thing many teachers choose to do is spend some time dwelling on Hamlet's 'to be or not to be' soliloquy. There are many different reasons to focus intently on this speech. For instance:

  • The soliloquy provides insight into Hamlet's character and everything that follows in the play.
  • The soliloquy is alluded to frequently throughout literature and criticism, and students will be more culturally literate if they know it well.
  • The soliloquy is a prime example of Shakespeare's ingenious use of language.

One way you can get your students to focus deeply on the soliloquy is to have them write essays about it. Essays give students the opportunity to delve deeply into the text, form strong opinions, and justify literary arguments with textual evidence. The essay questions in this lesson will get students thinking carefully and critically about Hamlet's soliloquy.

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