Larry Reiff teaches English at Roslyn High School and The Roslyn Hilltop Academy in Roslyn Heights, NY
What's On for Today and Why
Students will examine how tone and inflection help to shape the character of Hamlet. They will take a close look at Hamlet's reaction to the news that Horatio, Marcellus and Barnardo deliver.
What You Need
Folger edition of Hamlet
Available in Folger print edition and Folger Digital Texts
Access to Hamlet (1996) directed by Kenneth Branagh
Access to Hamlet (1990) directed by Franco Zeffirelli
What To Do
1. Have students summarize what they already know of Hamlet from the first half of 1.2.
2. Have students imagine how Hamlet will react to the news that Horatio has seen a ghost that bears a striking resemblance to Hamlet's dead father. Will he be shocked? Scared? Curious? Incredulous? Skeptical?
3. Have students do a read around of lines 133-281.(Have each student read until they reach a question mark, period or exclamation point). Discuss any difficult vocabulary.
4. On the board, write the phrase, " I didn't say he beat his dog". Have different students read the line, each one stressing a different word in the sentence. Discuss the effect changes in stress have on the meaning.
5. Divide the students into groups of 4-5 and have them focus on lines 1.2.199-200, re-reading it with different stress points as in step 4.
6. Have students discuss how the different stress patterns affect the meaning and our understanding of Hamlet's character? Have students play the line to reflect a variety of emotions.
7. Show the students the same lines from the Kenneth Branagh and Franco Zeffirelli versions of the movie.Have students discuss how the lines are delivered. How does each delivery affect our interpretation of Hamlet's character?
8. Encourage students to continue to seek out delivery options of key lines as they read the rest of the play.
How Did It Go?
What insights were the students able to gain into Hamlet's character through this activity? Were they able to explain how tone and inflection impact the meaning of a particular line? Were they able to suggest an interpretation of Hamlet's character so far that could be justified in the text?
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.