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Paparazzi Shakespeare: Ophelia’s Madness Revealed!

Teachers' Rating:
  3 ratings


August 2012
Kevin J. Costa teaches English and Drama at McDonogh School, Owings Mills, MD

Plays/Scenes Covered

Hamlet, Act 4, Scene 5


Common Core State Standards covered:

RL.6-12.1, 2, 3, 4, 7;

W.6-12.2, 3, 4, 6, 7, 8, 9;

            SL.6-12.1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6

What's On for Today and Why

This is a multi-part lesson that has students study Opehlia’s mad scene (Act 4, Scene 5) through a variety of lenses: performance, social media, and writing.


Your class will perform Act 4, Scene 5 to other students who are “paparazzi” and are viewing this royal meltdown in secret. They will be tweeting messages out to their networks where other reporters will be writing copy for a 30-second report (accompanied by pictures). This is huge scandal, so each network wants to provide the first, most accurate, and most thoroughly sensational story.


This lesson should take three 50-minute classes and requires access to popular technology.

What You Need
  1. Folger edition of Hamlet
    Available in Folger print edition and Folger Digital Texts
  2. Folger’s Video, “Ophelia and Madness” (below)
  3. Digital cameras, video cameras. or smart phones with these features;
  4. Twitter accounts
  5. Computers with Internet access
  6. Projector and screen or Smart Board
  7. Video-editing software (widely available)

Ophelia and Madness
What To Do


  1. "Ophelia and Madness" from Folger's Insider's Guide. This video will give your class a context for Act 4, Scene 5 without giving all of the details away.
  2. Have students put the following names in a hat, and have each student draw a name (this lesson is designed for 25 students, but you may adapt this to your numbers, doubling parts or multiplying roles as appropriate).
    1. Gertrude
    2. Gentleman
    3. Horatio
    4. Ophelia
    5. Claudius
    6. Messenger
    7. Laertes
    8. Laertes’s followers (3)
    9. Paparazzi Tweeters (3)
    10. Paparazzi Photographers (3)
    11. Lead writers (3)
    12. Television News Anchors (3)
    13. Camera people (3)
      1. Paprazzi Tweeters and photographers should review how to use their equipment (if people have cameras to use, that’s fine, but a camera feature on any smart phone will do)
  3. Once everyone has his or her role:
    1. Actors should begin work on staging their scene; to do this, they ought to read the scene, establish entrances and exits, come up with any set pieces or props. This can take place in your classroom, your school’s auditorium, or any place on campus. They do not have to memorize their scripts.
    2. The Paparazzi should set up a specific Twitter account for each of their networks; students will know how to do this.
    3. Lead writers, anchors, and camera people should invent a network based on what they know of TV news. They may imitate famous people or voices, and they should be encouraged to come up with their network “look” as time and resources allow.
  4. For homework before Day 2:
    1. Actors should read through the scene and their parts making sure that they understand their words and relationships as best they can;
    2. The rest of the class should NOT read the scene for homework (no, really!);
    3. Paparazzi photographers should establish with their networks a location to send photos (a private FaceBook page or other photo sharing platform).
    4. Video camera people should, if they have a video camera that they can use to film the news report the next day, familiarize themselves with it (but they may also use a video feature on any smart phone). Students should have access to Windows Movie Maker, Apple’s iMovie, or to any number of free, Web-based video-making programs so that they can use titles, music, and insert photographs into the final news broadcast.
    5. The non-acting students should also all watch at least one news program that evening to refresh their memories of what broadcast news stories look and sound like. Ask them to take notes of key features they notice.

DAY 2:  A Scandal at Elsinore!

  1. The class should begin right away:
    1. Actors should take their places.
    2. Paparazzi Tweeters and photographers should “hide” in the place where the scene will occur.
    3. Camera people and news anchors should be in another room with a computer, pad, pen -- whatever -- to take notes.
  2. The scene should begin, and, as it unfolds, the Paparazzi should be live-tweeting the information they’re getting from the scene -- as if they’re prying into the private lives of celebrities, and the paparazzi photographers should be sending in photos of the scene to their networks. When they can, the paparazzi should quote directly from the scene.
  3. As the live tweets and photographs come in, the writers and camera people (they should work together) should be sifting through words and pictures to figure out what story they wish to broadcast. What will their lead be? How should events be organized in the story?
  4. This kind of real-time chaos should continue until the scene is over (it should take approximately 12 - 13 minutes for the scene to be played out).
  5. Once the scene is done, each network  will now spend 25 - 30 minutes
    1. writing a 30-second spot (about 75 words max.)
    2. rehearsing it for taping
    3. taping the show
  6. Each broadcast should
    1. include at least 2 photographs in the spot
    2. include at least one direct quote from any character in the scene
  7. The class should work to complete this video in the time allowed -- pressure to produce is part of the fun and engagement
  8. Once the video is done, it should be saved to a flash drive or to YouTube or other video-sharing platform for view; this can be saved privately.


  1. On day three, each network should screen their videos. If you have a Smart Board or projector, that would be ideal.
  2. After all three have been screened, facilitate a discussion by considering the following questions:
    1. Which story was most accurate?
    2. What details were correct, and which were not?
    3. Did stories with different leads get something wrong, or are these differences simply a matter of judgment by the network regarding what seemed most important?
    4. Did each story have a photograph?
    5. Did each story quote at least once character?

How did the broadcast story seemed to the students who acted in the scene?

How Did It Go?
  • Were students engaged in the process of re-telling a story in real time?
  • Did they display heightened concentration given the pressurized circumstances of the play as a scene to be broadcast?
  • Did students take extra care with their writing of the news copy in order to have a "lead" story, a quote, and in order to fit the 30-second time-frame in a clear and meaningful way?
  • Was everyone involved in the process of meaning-making?

Transfer and Application


This exercise works well with any highly dramatic scene. The following might lend themselves to this kind of exercise well:


  • Malvolio’s "mad" scene in Twelfth Night (Act 3, Scene 4)
  • The scene following Duncan’s murder in Macbeth (Act 2, Scene 3)
  • Leontes’s jealous rage in The Winter’s Tale (Act 1, Scene 1)
  • Titus’s famous banquet scene in Titus Andronicus (Act 5, Scene 3)
  • Caesar’s assassination in Julius Caesar (Act 3, Scene 1)


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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