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Philological Examination Questions on Hamlet

1. What is the meaning of, "I'll make a ghost of him that lets me"?

2. What is the meaning of unhousel'd, disappointed, unaneled?

3. What is the meaning of windlasses and assays of bias?

4. Is Shakespeare's use of the word closet the same as ours?

5. What is the meaning of, "The clown shall make those laugh, whose lungs are tickle o' the sere"?

6. Explain: "I am but mad north-north-west. When the wind is southerly, I know a hawk from a handsaw."

7. What is the meaning of extravagant? I. i. 154.

8. What is the meaning of, "No fairy takes"? I. i. 163.

9. Is Shakespeare's accent of Hyperion (I. ii. 140) correct?

10. Explain the meaning of "dearest foe." I. ii. 182.

11. What is the derivation of "nickname"? III. i. 144.

12. Was a "jig" anything more than a dance in Shakespeare's day?

13. Explain "black and grained spots." III. iv. 90.

14. What is the meaning of "curb and woo"? III. iv. 152.

15. Explain the allusion in "the owl was a baker's daughter."

16. What was Shakspere's opinion of politicians, as inferred from his use of the word?

17. What is the meaning of, "Woo't drink up eisel"?

18. Explain: "I would have such a fellow whipped for o'erdoing Termagant. It out-herods Herod."

19. Explain: "Would not this, sir, and a forest of feathers - if the rest of my fortunes turn Turk with me - with two provincial roses on my razed shoes, get me a fellowship in a cry of players, sir?"

20. Explain: "The king doth wake to-night and takes his rouse, keeps wassail, and the swaggering up-spring reels."

21. What does Bernardo mean by calling Horatio and Marcellus "the rivals of my watch"?

22. Explain: "Methought I lay worse than the mutines in the bilboes."

23. What is Shakespeare's use of "ecstasy"?

24. What is the meaning of eager, in "like eager droppings into milk," and in "a nipping and an eager air"?

25. Explain: "They can well on horseback."


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John Philip Kemble as Hamlet. From Shakespeare on the Stage by William Winter.