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Teaching Shakespeare

Hamlet Remix: A Teaching Idea, with Student Work Samples

Last week, my classes were right in the middle of two tragedies–Othello and Hamlet. My Senior English class had just finished Hamlet’s “to be or not to be” speech and my Junior Dual Enrollment class had just read the temptation scene in Othello (3.3). I wanted to do an activity that had some novelty in it and would give them a bit of a respite from the usual routines. I decided to use the Folger’s Shakespeare Remix lesson, originally by Chris Shamburg. This lesson has students take song lyrics and combine them with a soliloquy or monologue. Usually, the teacher provides the lyrics for the remix. Here is how I “remixed” the Remix assignment:

For Hamlet

  1. After some discussion of what the ideas were in Hamlet’s soliloquy,  I  had students pick a song that mirrored one of the ideas–the meaning of life, staying in a situation, choosing between two opposites. Use your discretion on lyrics. I  told my students if they had to ask if a song was acceptable, it probably wasn’t.
  2. Students took the “to be or not to be” soliloquy and remixed it with the song they chose. I  asked for a mix of about 50/50 and about 25 or so lines.
  3. Since I teach in a border city with a large bilingual population, I offered the Spanish translation of the speech to my students if they wanted to mix it with a Spanish song.
  4. We shared our creations and I gave a prize for the Grand Master Remixer of the class. Students who wrote their remix in Spanish shared out and the class came to the conclusion that the Spanish version sounds more emotional.

Some samples:

From Yaraida (mixed with Culpable Tu by Alta Consigna):

Y quizás sientas que te derrites por dentro pues [la conciencia, así, hace a todos cobardes]
[Se desvanece en… sombras del pensamiento]
[Y así empresas de importancia, y de gran valía, llegan a torcer su rumbo]
[…Para nunca volver a merecer el nombre de la acción]
Culpable tu

From Miriam:

¿Qué es mejor para el alma?
Sufrir insultos de fortuna, golpes, dardos0
Si pudiera regresar el tiempo
Esta vez no esconderÍa lo que siento
O levantarse an armas contra el océano del mar
No espero amor ni odio
Ya tengo bastante con mi dolor

From Joshua (mixed with Should I Stay or Should I Go by The Clash):

This indecision’s buggin me
I’m about to be set free
When we have shuffled out of this mortal coil
Shall my plan be truly foiled?
The heartache an the thousand shocks
Claudius is a man I really want to box
This plot has a priceless fee
To be or not to be?

Remixing an Entire Scene: Othello’s Temptation Scene

  1. I  had students use the entire scene of Othello’s temptation for their remix. This allowed them to pick out some really poignant lines (and some funny ones too).
  2. They easily picked songs about jealousy to mix with the scene.

Try out this remixed lesson in your classroom, and let us know how it goes!