Folger Education offers lesson plans on Shakespeare's frequently taught plays, as well as lessons on introducing Shakespeare. Try the three plans below, or, for more lesson plans on Hamlet, visit the Lesson Plans Archive.
"Touching this vision: Imagery in Hamlet”
In this lesson plan, students identify the major symbols, images, and themes of the play.
"Enter Ophelia: Stage Directions, Promptbooks, and Film"
In this lesson plan, 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
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.
Shakespeare Set Free , a groundbreaking curriculum on performance-based teaching, includes a unit on teaching Hamlet.
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.
For many students today, reading Shakespeare's language can be a challenge. Things to pay attention to in Hamlet:
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.
- unfamiliar words or words whose meanings have changes
- unfamiliar word order
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.