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Hamlet: Group Exercise on Myth and Meaning
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MAJOR ACTIVITY: MYTH AND MEANING
- Hamlet, like many of Shakespeare’s plays, contains numerous references to mythology. Shakespeare himself knew Ovid, the great Roman poet who wrote Metamorphoses, quite well [http://www.enotes.com/metamorphoses-ovid] and delighted in the stories of gods, goddesses, and mortals of the Greek myths as well.
- Hamlet, in taking on the task of avenging his father, often parallels his struggles with those of the “gods” in power. Other characters, too, evoke myths. For example, when Hamlet asks how he is, Rosencratz replies, “as the indifferent children of the earth.” In the myth of Titan, a race of giants is called “the children of the earth.” Often ill-behaved, these children were supposedly the personification of the forces of nature (wind, rain, fire). Rosencratz may be feeling that he is acting recklessly in betraying his friend, indifferent to what he is doing to Hamlet (even if this is not the case.)
Preparing for Small Group Presentations: Myths and Meanings
- Hamlet is filled with references to myths that Shakespearean audiences would have known very well. Acts II and III, in particular, are rich in mythical allusions. For most students, however, the meaning of the myths is lost (other than the information that may be provided in footnotes.)
- To fully appreciate the allusions in this scene and in others in the play, have your students research one or two of the following myths and explain why they believe Shakespeare chose to include it. They should create a presentation that will inform and engage the rest of the class. Some suggestions are creating a scene, a Photostory, or a game (maximum time, 10 mins). Puppet shows were a Renaissance pastime and might be a fun way to present the myth.
Suggested myths for research include:
HOMEWORK: Research Assigned Myths
- Students should visit the library, websites, or other resources and begin creating their portion of the group presentation. Group members can either decide for themselves which part of the presentation they will produce or you may assign them sections. For example, one student may wish to write the introduction to their presentation, one or may wish to create the activity, and another collect materials (DVDs, music, craft materials, etc.)
About this Document
A group exercise to help students understand the importance of myths and mythical allusions in Hamlet.