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Teaching Hamlet



Resources from Folger Education


This page contains resources for teaching Hamlet, a favorite play among readers, actors, and theater audiences, as well as one of Shakespeare's most puzzling. Below you'll find links to resources from Folger Education that include Hamlet teaching modules, related tools, a student-produced graphic novel inspired by the play, and more.



Teaching Modules


Folger Education offers teaching modules on Shakespeare's frequently taught plays, as well as modules on introducing Shakespeare. Try the modules below, or, for more modules for Hamlet, visit the Teaching Modules Archive.

"Touching this vision: Imagery in Hamlet”

In this module, students identify the major symbols, images, and themes of the play.

"Enter Ophelia: Stage Directions, Promptbooks, and Film"
In this module, you'll cover NCTE standards 1, 2, 3, 6, and 8. Using a historic actor's promptbook as well as film adaptions of Ophelia's mad scenes, students explore connections between movement, staging, and interpretation.

 

Pantomime Pre-Reading for Hamlet

Designed with ESL/ELL students in mind, but adaptable for any classroom, this pre-reading activity for Hamlet familiarizes students with the action in the first act of the play. The lesson also encourages reading aloud and pantomime performance of the action to deepen understanding of the text.


Audio and Video Resources

With the Folger's video Insider's Guide, you get discussion topics, points of interest, and a deeper understanding of Shakespeare's most famous play.

Hamlet: Insider's Guide

 

The Folger exhibition Now Thrive the Armorers: Arms and Armor in Shakespeare focused on how real-world military changes influenced many of Shakespeare’s plays, including Hamlet.

Arms and Armor Podcast


Teaching Tools

The Folger edition of Hamlet includes facing-page notes and illustrations throughout the play, fascinating essays on the play, Shakespeare's life, theater, and times, and notes on unfamiliar language, or words that meant something different in Shakespeare's day. Request a desk copy of this edition from Simon & Schuster

 

Curriculum Guides lay out everything you need to teach this play for the first time: an introduction to the play, character connections, synopsis, teaching modules, suggested scenes for performance, fun facts, and familiar quotes.

Shakespeare Set Free , a groundbreaking curriculum on performance-based teaching, includes a unit on teaching Hamlet.

 

Other Resources

Seeing Shakespeare performed, or performing Shakespeare, can help students feel confident reading and understanding Shakespeare's language. To see performance-based education strategies for your classroom, check out our clips on YouTube here.

 

Colorful Character Connections offer an at-a-glance map of character relationships, an introduction to the plot, and important quotes to look and listen for.

 

Archived study guides from past Folger Theatre performances provide activities and discussion questions for students to consider before seeing a performance or as they rehearse scenes from this play.


Language

For many students today, reading Shakespeare's language can be a challenge. Things to pay attention to in Hamlet:

  • unfamiliar words or words whose meanings have changes
  • unfamiliar word order
  • wordplay
In Hamlet Shakespeare occasionally uses unfamiliar words or words that have changed in their meaning since the play was written. These are explained in notes in the Folger Edition of the text. Shakespeare also uses language to create a past history in the opening scenes of the play through references to "the Dane," "buried Denmark," Elsinore, and other "local" worlds and references.

Shakespeare often uses sentence structures that separate words that normally appear together. This is often done to create a particular speech rhythm, or emphasize a certain word. For example, Horatio separates subject and verb when he says “When he the ambitious Norway combated" (1.1.72).

Puns and metaphors are used throughout Hamlet; Hamlet himself uses puns to express complex ideas, or when he is beyond normal expression. In addition, in the exchange between Polonius and Ophelia in scene 3, much of the dialogue is based on puns.

Seeing Shakespeare performed, or performing Shakespeare, can help alleviate these difficulties. To see performance-based education strategies for your classroom, check out our clips on YouTube here.

About the Play

Hamlet was printed in three different versions in first quarter of the 17th century. The first was published in 1603 in a quarto edition, and was called the Tragicall Historie of Hamlet Prince of Denmark by William Shake-speare. The second quarto, or "good quarto" appeared in 1604, although some copies are dated 1605. The third version is in the First Folio of Shakespeare’s plays, printed in 1623.

To learn more, explore our Discover Shakespeare online resource, including the sections highlighted at right.
 
Hamlet



Hamlet



Artists

The Tragedy of Hamlet, adapted by Charlotte Bush


How To

Performance-based
teaching in action



Is That Your Sandwich?



Living Iambic Pentameter



In The Shop


Kill Shakespeare
Graphic Comic


Folger Editions
Trade Paperback



Hamlet
The Manga Edition



Shakespeare Set Free Series



Learn More

Discover Shakespeare

Shakespeare's Life

Shakespeare's Theater

Shakespeare's Works


Read the Play

Folger Digital Texts:
Hamlet



Related Items

Study Guide

Curriculum Guide


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Hamlet Works
Resources for Scholars, Teachers, Students, Artists & Fans



Watch

Hamlet: Insider's Guide



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