‘To be or not to be?’ You will scarcely meet a person who has never heard these words or even quoted them. Shakespeare’s play ‘Hamlet’ is still well-known all over the world. This story of revenge and a philosophical sense of death can frighten a person and make one think, but leaves no one indifferent. You can talk about this literature masterpiece for ages. So if you have a task to write essays on it, it’s better to define essay topics for high school. We prepared thought-provoking essay topics for ‘Hamlet’ so you can choose the most appropriate one.
Our topic list consists of two parts according to the type of essay. Below, you’ll find expository and persuasive essay topics.
Expository Essay Topics
- Explore the role of the minor characters in the play. Think about their significance in revealing the main subject and the major figures.
- Should we suppose Hamlet is an indecisive person? Why did he refuse to take revenge? Comment on his intentions to commit suicide.
- The main theme of ‘Hamlet’ is the struggle between good and evil. Do you agree with this statement? Analyze opposing characters.
- Shakespeare explores the conflict between appearance and reality in ‘Hamlet’. The essential theme of the play is Hamlet’s unwillingness to put up with reality. Give your evaluation.
- Do you think Ophelia’s decision to commit suicide was unwise? Did she have another choice? What would you recommend her to do instead?
If you choose from the expository essay topics for ‘Hamlet’, you’ll need to give:
- Personal analysis
In an expository essay, you can share your thoughts and personal views without strong evidence supporting every word.
Analytical Essay Topics “Hamlet”
- Analyze Polonius as a character. Can he be treated as a good courtier? Does he have the attributes of a good courtier described in “The Book of the Courtier” by Castiglione? State your arguments and support it with examples and direct quotes in both texts.
- Analyze the nature of Hamlet’s madness. Has Hamlet imitated this illness? Or has he become a victim of his madness? Was he motivated for these actions? Has he managed to control his actions? State your arguments and provide citations that support your point of view.
Discuss Hamlet’s treatment and attitude toward women. How might these help to clarify some of the thematic issues of the play? In what way does Hamlet talk about sex and sexuality?
Analyze the film version of “Hamlet” by answering three simple questions posed by Goethe: What was the artist trying to do? How well has the artist done it? Was it worth doing?
Analyze the definition of justice by analyzing the play “Hamlet.” Can a family influence one’s understanding of justice? Can Hamlet’s revenge be justified?
- How does Hamlet go through both an outer and inner conflict?
- Analyze how Hamlet is actually a better example of the Oedipus Complex than Oedipus himself. What omens, prophecies, and superstitions are used in “Hamlet” and “Oedipus Rex”?
- How does Shakespeare uses imagery in act three of “Hamlet”? How does it influence the rest of the story?
- Analyze Hamlet’s speech from the perspective of nihilism and his decision to move from active to passive.
- Hamlet, Polonius, and Laertius are looking for the truth. How does each character understand the truth? What is their way (method) to arrive at the truth?
- What happens to Hamlet by the end of the play? Does Hamlet’s character change? What age is Hamlet by the end of the play? What role does the setting play in “Hamlet”?
- List the names of Hamlet’s various foils. What role do they play? What importance do they play?
- Analyze how Hamlet’s character and the plot of the play develop along with his ideas of sin and salvation.
- Analyze the inner reasons why Hamlet is an indecisive man. Is Hamlet for or against being indecisive? As a support you can analyze the versions of the “Hamlet” movie by Mel Gibson (1990) and Kenneth Branagh (1996).
- Analyze Hamlet’s attitude toward women. You can pick either Ophelia or Gertrude and describe what impact the character has on Hamlet, the conflict, and the outcome of the play. Does the character change over the course of the play?
- Analyze how Hamlet perceives death. Support your analysis with at least three quotes from any sources.
- Analyze how Hamlet relates to King Lear. You can choose the perspective that the main characters of both plays were victims of society and were dangerous.
- Analyze how Hamlet’s mood swings throughout the play. What influences his mood directly and indirectly?
- Analyze the character of Hamlet in the perspective of a hero and a villain.
- Analyze the relationships of Hamlet and Claudius. Does Hamlet see through other moves made by Claudius? Do you think Claudius knows what Hamlet is capable of? What moments of the play reveal their awareness? Can you find quotes that support this thought? How has this knowledge (or its absence) made them behave in a certain way?
- Analyze a particular theme and how Shakespeare develops it throughout the play. Tell why the chosen theme is significant and worth analyzing. Find the place where the theme appears first. How does the theme develop throughout the play? Does the theme have variations? Use citations to support your point of view.
- Explain how the articles “Darkness Visible: Dante’s Clarification of Hell” and “Dante’s Justice? A Reappraisal of the Contrapasso” relate to Shakespeare’s “Hamlet” and the theme of revenge.
- Analyze the progression of Hamlet’s character. Use monologues as a basis of your analysis. You can focus on a specific character trait or belief that changes throughout his monologues or analyze his character entirely.
- Analyze the motif of betrayal/friendship/love in “Hamlet.” What does the play reveal about this motif? Base the essay on a close exploration of one or more of the motifs.
- Analyze the power of introspection and its ability to inform life-changing actions in Hamlet’s speech. Support your ideas with citations.
- Analyze honor and corruption from the examples of Claudius, Fortinbras, Hamlet, Laertes, and the dead King Hamlet. Are there any modern personalities that can be treated as corrupt and honorable individuals?
Analyze Act 5, Scene 2 and explain how this passage demonstrates Hamlet’s final step in emotional and psychological development. Why is it this scene that defines the ending of the play as inevitable?
Analyze the play “Hamlet” as a work where nothing can be taken at face value. How is the intended audience deceived? What kinds of deceptions are aimed to keep the secret? What is the importance of deception in the play?
Compare and Contrast Topics for “Hamlet”
Compare and contrast relationships of couples: Hamlet and Ophelia vs. Romeo and Juliet.
- Compare “Hamlet” and “The Alchemist” (play by Ben Jonson).
- Compare and contrast “Hamlet” and “Alice in Wonderland” in the context of insanity.
- Compare the text of “Hamlet” and one of its film versions. Discuss how the screenwriter has changed the text and whether it has influenced the overall idea. What are the main issues of such interpretation?
- Compare Hamlet to Claudius. Analyze the actions, intelligence, behavior, and emotions of the characters. Which character is better developed? Why? Use citations to prove your point of view.
- Compare and contrast “Hamlet” and “Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead” in the context of fate and free will.
- Titus Andronicus vs Hamlet. Compare the real madness of Titus and feigned madness of Hamlet.
- Compare and contrast the main themes for “Hamlet” and “The Great Gatsby.”
- Compare the friendships of Hamlet, Rosencranz, Guildenstern, and Horatio.
- Compare “Amleth, Prince of Denmark” by Saxo Grammaticus and “Hamlet” by Shakespeare.
- Compare and contrast “Hamlet” and “The Stone Angel.” Compare love and anger of the main characters. Which emotions are dominating for the main characters? Do they hide their true feelings or not?
- Compare the two film adaptations by Kenneth Branagh (1996) and Franco Zeffireli (1990). Analyze the following elements: sound, plot, setting, and cinematography and their effects on the main story. Emphasize two scenes of Hamlet’s monologue (Act III, Scene I) and the scene of Gertrude and Hamlet (Act III, Scene IV).
- Compare and contrast Hamlet with Eleanor from “Lion in the Winter” by James Goldman.
- Compare and contrast Hamlet and Othello. Why are they not considered as evil characters, even when they do terrible things?
- Compare the main themes that can be found both in “Crime and Punishment” and “Hamlet.”
- Compare “Life of Pi” and “Hamlet.” What life lessons do the main characters learn? Are they similar? What are the main themes in both works?
- Compare the influence and roles of Gertrude on Hamlet’s life and Lady Macbeth on Macbeth’s life.
- Compare “Child of God” and “Hamlet” in regard to one same aspect.
- Compare and contrast the characters of Fortinbras/Candide and Hamlet. Is Fortinbras an important character? Or was his character created to highlight certain personality traits of Hamlet?
- Compare and Contrast “Hamlet” and “Antigone” by Sophocles.
- Compare the characters from “Hamlet” and “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” by Ken Kesey. For example, you can discuss the origins of madness of McMurphy and Hamlet.
- Compare “Hamlet” and “Wuthering Heights” in the context of archetype apocalypse.
- Compare and contrast “Hamlet” and “Doctor Faustus.” What are the peculiarities of view on the supernatural, spirits, and the afterlife?
- Compare one of the films of “Hamlet” and “Rumble Fish.”
- Compare and contrast characters: Hamlet and Laertes. What is the main difference? What role does madness play in their relationship? Examine their relationships throughout the entire play and analyze Hamlet’s actions.
- Compare “Hamlet” and “Fifth Business” in the context of child-parent relationships, the theme of guilt, personal ambitions, or attitudes toward women.
- Compare “Hamlet” and “Cinderella.” Compare themes, settings, and conflicts. What life lessons do main characters learn?
- Compare and contrast “Hamlet” and the animated movie “Lion King.”
- Compare and contrast two characters from “Hamlet” that have different views on revenge and justice. Whose view is more moral than the other?
- It is believed that immoral decisions will come back and haunt the people who make them. Discuss how this idea applies to three characters in Hamlet, how it influences their decisions, and whether those decisions came back to them.
- Compare and contrast Hamlet with Gatsby from “The Great Gatsby” by F. Scott Fitzgerald. What are the cultural changes in the times of “The Great Gatsby” and “Hamlet”?
- Compare Shakespeare’s “Hamlet” and “Measure for Measure.” How has Shakespeare offered the study of sovereignty through theatrical performance?
Compare “Hamlet” and “The Censors.” Analyze the characters of Juan and Hamlet. Both of them try to take the power and lose due to decisions they make.
Critical Essay Topics on “Hamlet”
- Why does Hamlet not take revenge on Claudius when the opportunity is given? Should Hamlet avenge his father’s death? What are the most important ideas in each play’s act?
- What is the significance of Ophelia in Hamlet’s life? Was he truly in love with her? Does the love cease after her death? Can we state that Hamlet had ever loved her? Find evidence from the play to support your position.
- Can Shakespeare’s “Hamlet” be treated as a tragedy according to Aristotle’s definition? Explain how the play treats the idea of suicide. Evaluate Hamlet’s character according to Aristotle’s criteria.
- What is “Hamlet” about? Why is this play significant to you? Describe your personal attitude to the play and share only the information that will be interesting to your audience.
- Is “Hamlet” a play about grief? Does Hamlet suffer from depression? How does Hamlet try to live with depression and suicidal thoughts? What circumstances have led to such state? What does Hamlet feel about humanity and his personal view?
- Does Hamlet have a psychological disorder? Write about three disorders (major depressive disorder, schizophrenia, and borderline personality disorder) that can be found in Hamlet’s character. Analyze his actions in the play and connect with symptoms of each disorder.
- “Hamlet” through the critical lens of Marxist theory. What key elements of Marxism can you find in the play? Which classes does the author try to represent? How does Hamlet tie together the entire class?
- Explain how Saddam Hussein is related to the characters of Hamlet and Macbeth.
What is the right way to understand “Hamlet”? Analyze several articles from reliable sources with critics about the play. What are that main reasons that lead Hamlet to his own demise?
Argumentative “Hamlet” Essay Topics
- Is Hamlet crazy? Hamlet experiences uncontrolled psychological issues due to vigorous and emotional experiences. Support your stance with specific examples from throughout the text.
- Can “Hamlet” be considered a feminist play? Does Hamlet have a negative view on women? What has he thought about Ophelia and Gertrude? In what way does Hamlet talk about sexuality?
- What are the five most painful moments Hamlet faced in life?
- Is it an individual’s responsibility to act according to the basis of ethical and moral rules? Use the thematic elements of Hamlet’s speech to support your point of view.
- Does Polonius deserve to be murdered? Characterize Polonius and describe the reasons.
- Is chaos a result of a character’s struggles? Relate the theme of revenge to explain how characters try to reorder his or her world.
- What is the main source of evil? Can Hamlet be considered as an evil avenger? Does evil spread throughout the play like a disease?
- Can Hamlet be considered a tragic hero? How can Hamlet be relevant today? What aspects of today’s world would Hamlet appreciate? What aspects of today’s world would trouble Hamlet?
- Why is “Hamlet” considered a traditional revenge play? What do other forces play in Hamlet’s psyche?
- What is the most important relationship in Hamlet’s life?
- Are Hamlet’s actions more about theatricality than revenge? What does Hamlet want at the end of the play? Is Hamlet capable of instigating change?
- Is Hamlet a romantic hero? How does the reader’s attitude to Hamlet change throughout the play? How does the description of Hamlet’s character contribute to the play overall? Does Hamlet change between Act 1 and Act 2? Or does Hamlet remain the same as he was portrayed at the beginning of the play?
- What contradictions does Hamlet face throughout the play? Is Hamlet a contradictory character? Write from the perspective of the audience from the time the play was written and the writer’s biography. Consider the attitude of modern society toward the play.
- What is the meaning of the talk about “special providence”? How does religion refer to the play?
- Why do you think the fencing duel concludes the play? What does it contribute to the whole story?
Persuasive Essay Topics
- Shakespeare displays the fixed idea of death in ‘Hamlet’. Prove or disapprove this statement. What are the differences between Hamlet’s perception of death and the gravediggers?
- Describe Claudius as a ruler. Give the proofs of your claims. Who would be the better king in your opinion? Who is responsible for the demise of the state in ‘Hamlet’?
- Should we assume ‘Hamlet’ as a pure tragedy? Find examples of comic elements in the play. Pay attention to Osric and Polonius. How do you suppose the comedy is to defuse the situation or it plays the ironical part?
- The first scene introduces us to the Ghost. Find the evidence in the text that supports the idea of his real existence. If you think that he indicates Hamlet’s mental disturbance, prove it.
- Talk about Hamlet’s attitude towards Ophelia. Do you think he ever loved her truly? What were the discrepancies between his words and actions? Find arguments in the text to support your point of view.
If you choose persuasive essay topics, remember that your aim is to persuade your audience that your opinion is right. So, check for:
- Strong stance for your thesis statement
- Powerful arguments
- Examples from the text
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