Hamlet - Lesson Plans and Activities

William Shakespeare

  • Hamlet Character Analysis Owl Eyes Lesson Plan

    Character Analysis: Gertrude and Ophelia as Shakespeare’s Innocents Destroyed This lesson plan focuses Gertrude’s and Ophelia’s roles as innocent, tragic victims in Hamlet who succumb to the demands of their society and the deadly forces in Claudius’s court. Students will contrast their positions in the court, describe their relationships with Hamlet, Claudius, and Polonius, and analyze examples of Gertrude’s and Ophelia’s actions that are determined by the gender roles society expects them to conform to in their relationships with men. In studying Gertrude’s and Ophelia’s characters, students will be better able to describe how gender roles affect these women, how political intrigue destroys them, and how their tragic lives underscore a major theme in the drama.

  • Hamlet Literary Devices Owl Eyes Lesson Plan

    Literary Devices: Theme Revealed Through Motif This lesson plan focuses on Shakespeare’s use of motif in developing an important theme in Hamlet. Students will examine deception as a major motif in the play and interpret what Shakespeare suggests about adopting deceptive behavior to resolve conflicts. Students will focus on Hamlet and Claudius in analyzing and describing examples of deception and will determine the ultimate consequences of their choosing to deceive others. In studying deception as a motif, students will be better able to identify and describe a major theme in the play.

  • Hamlet eNotes Response Journal

    What supernatural element is established immediately in the play? Why has Horatio been asked to stand watch with Barnardo and Marcellus? Describe Hamlet’s emotional state after the death of his father. What do Claudius and Gertrude want from Hamlet? Why can’t Hamlet comply with their wishes? Describe what Laertes thinks about Hamlet’s feelings for Ophelia. What does he believe might interfere with Hamlet and Ophelia’s relationship in the future? How does it relate to Hamlet’s position in Denmark? How is the theme of revenge introduced into the play through the Ghost? In Hamlet’s society, why would he be expected to avenge the Ghost? What does the Ghost tell Hamlet about seeking revenge for his death? When the troupe of traveling actors arrives at Elsinore, what dramatic speech does Hamlet ask one of the players to perform? Why would this particular piece of drama interest Hamlet? What does it suggest about his state of mind? One of the most famous soliloquies in Shakespeare’s dramas is found in Act III, Scene 1. It begins, “To be or not to be—that is the question ….” What is Hamlet trying to decide? Why is he unable to reach a decision? Explain the intense internal conflict Hamlet expresses in the soliloquy.

  • Hamlet eNotes Lesson Plan

    One of the best-known plays ever written and undoubtedly William Shakespeare’s most popular, Hamlet was first performed in 1601 or 1602. Although it appears Shakespeare took the basic premise from another play written decades earlier, his drama is a very significant literary departure from the original—and from revenge plays of the era: It is a psychological drama developed through the protagonist’s intense introspection. Furthermore, Hamlet is the first truly introspective character in English literature. By focusing on Hamlet’s inner conflict rather than plot action, Shakespeare created a character that has endured through the ages. Hamlet is an emotionally complex young prince, educated in philosophy and theology. Upon his father’s death, he returns home where he finds reason to believe his father, the King of Denmark, was murdered by his brother Claudius, who has assumed the throne. The responsibility of avenging his father’s death by killing his uncle falls to Hamlet; complicating his charge is that Hamlet’s mother has married Claudius. Although Hamlet vows to avenge his father’s murder, he delays. Much of the play centers on Hamlet’s prolonged inaction and, most importantly, on the psychological torment of his emotional quandary. He wants to act, but for reasons even he does not fully understand, he does not. Plagued by uncertainty, Hamlet grows increasingly volatile and troubled; he is ultimately killed, his death the result of a devious scheme orchestrated by the illegitimate king he was to have murdered in revenge. Although Hamlet eventually kills Claudius, his action proves to be irrelevant by the time it occurs. Hamlet dies as the result of his own inner turmoil, and there is no sense of redemption in the play’s conclusion.  Although modern readers may not relate to Hamlet’s life as a prince or to the precise dilemma he faces, his essential conflicts are universal: the challenge of doing the right thing, especially when the right thing is not clearly defined; the inner conflict between passion and reason; the emotional turmoil of family drama; the trauma of betrayal; and the complex issues of deception, trust, loyalty, and honor. Although few readers would opt to feign madness, as Hamlet does, adopting a certain persona or emotional disguise when faced with a difficult new situation is not unusual human behavior in any age. Hamlet has been adapted to the screen more than twenty-five times, proving that these themes still resonate with readers today.  Hamlet is rife with uncertainty. Shakespeare does not answer the questions raised by his characters and their actions; readers will have their own interpretations of what the playwright intended. There is much room for doubt about different characters’ motivations and Hamlet’s true emotional and mental state. Some readers will sympathize with Hamlet’s desire to do the right thing, while others will regard his increasingly volatile behavior with ambivalence, at best. Hamlet’s complexity and unpredictability are precisely what give Shakespeare’s play its depth and humanity. At times honorable, rash, deceptive, moralizing, cruel, mocking, insightful, and kind, Hamlet is endlessly fascinating. He may be a Danish prince from a distant century, but in his struggles to find his place in the world and behave honorably, Hamlet endures as an intriguing figure in world literature, as relevant to readers today as he was to Shakespeare’s audience.

  • Hamlet on Film Lesson Plan

    Through viewing Laurence Olivier’s, Franco Zeffirelli’s, and Kenneth Branagh’s film versions of Shakespeare's Hamlet, students will see how one director interprets the text of the play. Students will demonstrate the ability to criticize by developing and organizing their own reactions to convey information about the film. Students will also demonstrate the ability to write criticism effectively by expressing their personal ideas in a critical essay format.

  • Hamlet eNotes Curriculum Plan

    Many of William Shakespeare's works feature “stock” characters. Stock characters have commonly recognized traits. In Shakespeare’s theater company, the same actor often played the same stock character in different productions. A few examples of stock characters are the damsel in distress, the shrewish woman, the wise grandfather, and the fool. Polonius is the stock “fool” character in Hamlet. A fool character is one that behaves pretentiously, gives advice without setting an example, and is commonly cloying of authority figures. The fool usually thinks himself more important than he is; other characters are generally aware of his delusions of grandeur. Polonius frequently speaks in what he believes to be pithy gems of advice, yet his own actions betray his good intent.