Jeremy Ehrlich is Assistant Head of Education at the Folger Shakespeare Library. He has taught middle and high school English and drama in San Francisco.
Hamlet 1.4 and 1.5
What's On for Today and Why
Students will use the website "Hamlet on the Ramparts" to investigate different ways of producing the ghost scenes 1.4 and 1.5 of Hamlet. They will use this information to help them develop their own ideas on staging these important scenes.
What You Need
Folger edition of Hamlet
Available in Folger print edition and Folger Digital Texts
Multiple internet-linked computers
What To Do
1. Direct students to the "Hamlet on the Ramparts" site, at http://shea.mit.edu/ramparts. Walk the students through the site using a teaching station or by giving instructions to the class at their own workstations.
2. Bring students to the "Reading Room" by clicking on the appropriate link at the top of the page. Have students examine the different pieces of text available from 1.4 and 1.5 and have them select one piece of text to work on.
3. Take students through the sections "Adaptations and Promptbooks", "Art", and "Film". Then take them to another film clip: "Staging the Ghost" under "Tutorials and Guides". Be sure they get an understanding of the different resources available on the site.
4. Explain the concept of an "artistic choice" —a choice made by a director, designer or actor involving an element of a dramatic production not dictated by the script of the play. Have the students look through the different sites and list three different artistic choices that these productions have used.
5. Now that the students have some experience examining artistic choices, have them make their own decisions as to how they think their piece of text should be performed. Ask them to go through and identify set, costume, lighting and sound choices that they think would make their piece of text most effective.
6. Have the students share their choices with the class. Discuss how each piece of text contains multiple legitimate performance options.
7. Optional extension: in the Reading Room, have the students select their piece of text and then the same piece of text from the First Quarto, a publication of the play from 1603. Have them search for differences in the two texts. Which do they think is more effective?
How Did It Go?
Were students able to access the "Hamlet on the Ramparts" site and navigate it effectively? Were students able to identify specific artistic choices from the different works available to them? Were they able to apply that information by identifying their own artistic choices for the scene? Did the exercise generate good discussion around issues of performance choices?
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.