Mary Ellen Dakin, Revere High School in Revere, Massachusetts.
Colleen Myers, student, Columbia University, New York City, NY. She created the model handout Emulation of Hamlet's Third Soliloquy as a sophomore at Revere High School in 2000-01.
This lesson will work with other Shakespearean soliloquies, especially those that explore a conflict or choice most students have faced.
What's On for Today and Why
Many artists study their craft by imitating the masters. In this lesson, students reproduce the pattern of one of Shakespeare's soliloquies, but use their own ideas and words to replace the character's. This "emulation" is not a paraphrase or parody, but a unique composition inspired by the form of the original.
This lesson will take one class period.
What You Need
Folger edition of Hamlet
Available in Folger print edition and Folger Digital Texts
Copies of the handout, Colleen Myers's emulation of Hamlet's third soliloquy, written as a Revere High School student in 2000–01.
A triple-spaced copy of the soliloquy students will be emulating.
For copies of Hamlet's third soliloquy, use this optional second handout.
Emulating Shakespeare Handout
What To Do
1. Before beginning this lesson, be sure that you have spent some time in class decoding and discussing the soliloquy or soliloquies you have chosen for the activity.
2. Distribute the handout, Colleen Myers's emulation of Hamlet's third soliloquy, where she asks, "To snooze or not to snooze?" Discuss the ways in which Myers has retained Shakespeare's structure while replacing it with her own meaning.
3. Distribute triple-spaced copies of the soliloquy you will be emulating. If your students will be emulating this "To be or not to be" soliloquy, distribute the second handout, a triple-spaced copy of Hamlet 3.1.64-96.
4. Instruct students to write their own emulation of the soliloquy. Encourage students to replace almost every word with a word of their own that serves the same grammatical purpose (nouns with nouns, etc.) Prepositions and helping verbs may be used as in the original. If using Hamlet's third soliloquy, be sure students describe an actual choice that they are facing or have faced. The goal is for them to retain Shakespeare's rhythm and structure, but create their own meaning.
5. When students have finished, have them share their work with their classmates. Conclude with a discussion: what did students learn about the speaker in this soliloquy? What did the speaker say, and how did he say it?
How Did It Go?
Were students engaged in posing their own choices in Shakespeare's style? To what extent were they able to emulate his style, translating or adapting his language to convey their own experience? Did they gain a greater appreciation or understanding of his work?
If you used this lesson, we would like to hear how it went and about any adaptations you made to suit the needs of YOUR students.