Hamlet: Act 1 Scene 2 - Summary

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Hamlet: Act 1 Scene 2 - Notes

Contextual info:

  • Hamlet Act 1 Scene 2 involves Claudius, Gertrude, Hamlet, Polonius, Laertes, Ophelia, Voltemand, Cornelius, Barnardo, Marcellus, and Horatio
  • Claudius is the late King Hamlet’s brother, and has married his ex-sister-in-law, Gertrude
  • Voltemand and Cornelius are messengers for the King
  • Polonius is a politician who the King more or less listens to, and he has two children: His son Laertes, who is studying in France but has come back to Denmark to see through Claudius’ inauguration, and a daughter, Ophelia
  • Hamlet is the late King Hamlet’s son, the main protagonist of the play

Plot Summary:

  • The scene opens with Claudius giving his first speech as King of Denmark
  • Since King Hamlet’s passed away, Claudius is now King of Denmark, and he’s even married his ex-sister-in-law, Gertrude (King Hamlet’s wife)
  • Claudius’s first order as King is to get two messengers, Voltemand and Cornelius, to send a letter to “Norway,” the current King of Norway
  • In the letter, he asks the current King of Norway to command his nephew, Fortinbras to stop sending Claudius letters demanding his late father’s lands back
  • Remember, the now-dead King of Denmark, King Hamlet, rightfully defeated the now-dead King of Norway, King Fortinbras, and took Norway’s lands as they had agreed. However, there are rumors - which are apparently true according to the information in this scene, that Fortinbras (King Fortinbras’ son) is indeed sending letters to Claudius demanding his father’s lands back
  • Laertes, Polonius’ son, asks Claudius for permission to return to France where he’s been studying
  • Hamlet is introduced into the play wearing black and acting moody due to his father’s recent death
  • Gertrude and Claudius basically tell him to get over the death of his father
  • Gertrude asks Hamlet to stay in Denmark (as opposed to going back to Wittenberg to return to his studies), and Hamlet agrees to his mother’s wishes
  • Everybody leaves the scene to go party and drink except for Hamlet
  • Horatio, Marcellus, and Barnardo enter to update Hamlet about the ghost that looks like his father
  • After asking many questions about the ghost, Hamlet says that he’ll go see this ghost and try to talk to it

Hamlet's mother and father's/uncle’s names are (respectively):

Voltemand and Ophelia
Cornelius and Ophelia
Claudius and Gertrude
Claudius and Ophelia
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Which option describes the state of Denmark as of Act1 Scene2?

The former King (King Hamlet) is dead and his brother, King Claudius has taken the throne and married Gertrude (King Hamlet's then wife). Claudius does not believe that Prince Hamlet should be overly sad about his father's death.
Claudius has taken over King Hamlet's throne and has married Gertrude. Claudius is very compassionate towards how Prince Hamlet feels and tells the prince to take as long as he needs to recover.
Claudius is not yet king and hates King Hamlet. Gertrude is Claudius' girlfriend and Claudius doesn't believe that Prince Hamlet is seriously grieving his father's death
Gertrude is the queen and she has already decided not to announce a new king. Thus, Denmark does not have a King at the moment and Prince Hamlet is going to become King.
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What does Hamlet think of doing because he is so upset?

Berate his mother, Gertrude
Commit suicide
Run away from Denmark
Fight Claudius
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In what ways are Prince Hamlet and Prince Fortinbras similar?

Both of their fathers have passed away and their uncles have taken over as kings
Both of them want the crown for themselves
Both of them attended Oxford
They both lost their best friends
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What does Prince Fortinbras want from King Claudius?

Prince Hamlet’s head on a platter
A united Denmark and Norway
The lands that once belonged to Norway
The removal of tariffs
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