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Hamlet and the Pirates

Teachers' Rating:
  1 rating

News from sea, of two notorious pyrats Ward the Englishman, and Danseker the Dutchman. London, 1609

January 2003
Kurt Broderson teaches 7th and 8th grade Language Arts at Mt. Abraham Union High School in Bristol, Vermont.

Plays/Scenes Covered
Hamlet 4.6 - 5.2
What's On for Today and Why

Students will get a glimpse of what Hamlet encountered in the off-stage pirate attack, using 17th century primary sources and 21st century internet resources to get some context for Hamlet's adventures.


This lesson will take one to two class periods.

What You Need
Folger edition of Hamlet
Available in Folger print edition and Folger Digital Texts


Computer lab with internet access.


Woodcut illustration of Ward's pirate ship from 1609.

What To Do

1. Begin by having students read Hamlet's letter to Horatio regarding the pirate attack, 4.6.13-31. This is the only textual evidence of Hamlet's experience.


2. Next, direct them to the handout of the woodcut from the title page of Newes from sea, a 1609 account of two pirates, Ward and Danseker. Have them notice the bodies hanging from the ship's rigging.


3. Direct students to the Marine Art Picture Gallery, www.marineart.com. Click on Picture Gallery, which is organized by nationality and artist. Have students find a painting of a ship which matches Hamlet's brief description in the letter. Students will find the Dutch and English paintings to be more useful.


4. Now direct students to National Geographic's site for more information. Here students can learn about the Whydah, the only known pirate shipwreck in North America: www.nationalgeographic.com/whydah/main.html. Younger students may prefer a visit to the High Seas Adventure site: www.nationalgeographic.com/pirates/maina.html. These sites involve pirates and ships from after Shakespeare's time, but students will be able to get a sense of the overall dramatic feel.


5. Using the information they find online, have students pretend to be Hamlet and write in their journals about his experiences aboard the ship. Was it as easy as the letter suggests?

How Did It Go?
Could students find reasonable facsimiles of the pirate ship that abducted Hamlet? Did they become interested in the story behind the Whydah or the interactive pirate adventures? Were they able to draw conclusions about Hamlet from doing these investigations? If not, mateys, make them walk the plank!

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.

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  Common Core State Standards

There are no standards associated with this Lesson Plan.
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Related Items

Study Guide: Hamlet

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