For Your Hsc English Advanced: What Kind Of Questions Can One Expect For Hamlet?

HSC ENGLISH ADVANCED: What Kind of questions can one expect for...

Hamlet –Module B close Study of text

Hamlet questions in the past few years have been quite wide ranging; including questions on the nature of love, duty and responsibility, and questions relating to the very heart and nature of revenge tragedy.

Hamlet among other things is a play about ideas. The ideas are given weight when we consider Hamlet’s position in the world.

A princely figure shackled between the values of his church and the humanist values of the Renaissance.

Questions set on Hamlet will always require your exploration of ideas or themes but the question itself may focus on:

How the dramatic features of the play give rise to the ideas.

In writing on this you should consider Shakespeare’s use of characterization, the features of language, the use of contrasting characters, how conflict is dramatized, and the nature of the plot itself.

Thematic questions

There have been no HSC questions set on the role of disguise or madness.  These are significant themes in the play. When you are asked to write up on a theme or recurring motif, it useful to consider the breadth of the question.

For example in the case of disguise or madness you should think about how the themes relate to your understanding on the nature of Revenge Tragedy as well as Hamlet’s personal tragedy.

Consider how Shakespeare draws on the motif of disguise and madness to both reflect and advance the plot or perhaps, to offer commentary on the treachery and disguise of other characters in the play.

You may also wish to consider the multiple meanings associated with the notion of madness.

You need to consider whether Hamlet’s madness is feigned or real; and whether madness becomes Hamlet’s foil or is merely symptomatic of a diseased world.

Other thematic questions that may arise may include questions on:

Fate and freewill

The paralysis of the human will

The impact of profound disillusionment

The nature of life and death

Madness and insight

The quest for truth/ certainty


Soliloquy based questions

As the soliloquy offer us profound insight into Hamlet’s sense of morality, his fears and reflections on human identity it is quite likely that such a question could be asked.

For example, how does the soliloquy below reflect on the nature of your understanding of Hamlet and the nature of the tragedy?

How all occasions do inform against me

And spur my dull revenge “


Textual integrity and Universality

Many questions have been based around an understanding of these notions in past HSC questions.

For example, to what extent do you feel the tragedy of Hamlet resonates with the values of a contemporary audience?

You need of course in this case, to consider how the characterisation, the ideas and the struggle of Hamlet’s personal and public world are:

  1. Powerfully conveyed through the dramatic conventions of the play.
  2. Why the fears and preoccupation that face Hamlet find resonance with a contemporary audience.

Finally, to be able to answer any question successfully on Hamlet or indeed any other module in your English HSC advanced exam you need to always apply scrutinise the questions at hand by asking:

  1.  How and why the question relates to your understanding of tragedy and of course, the tragedy of Hamlet?
  2. What dramatic conventions are used that enable us to empathise and ponder the issues at the heart of the play?
  3. The context of Hamlet’s world and our own time frame.


Best of luck for your HSC English exam and if you need extra tips please read here