Enter Players: Pre-Reading Hamlet

Author: Christina Porter, English Teacher/Literacy Coach, Revere HS, Revere, MA

Editor: Greta Brasgalla, Folger National Teacher Corps and Curriculum Specialist at El Dorado High School, El Paso, TX

Common Core Anchor Standards: R.1, R.3, L.4

Text: Hamlet character list

Alternate Text: Any character list from the plays

Lesson Overview

Students will create a visual character map examining connections between characters and developing inferences about character motivation.

Time: One 45-minute class period


What To Do

  1. Arrange students into small groups and give them the Enter Players Handout.
  2. Provide each group with large paper to construct their character maps on: 11.5 x 17 paper works well or you can use chart paper.
  3. Explain to the students that they will use the cast list of the play to create a character map that they can use to aid in their comprehension as they read the play.
  4. Begin as a class, reading aloud the first character and character description (if there is a description). On the Folger edition list, the first character is "The Ghost." On the board, draw a ghost and label it. Instruct students to do the same on their maps.
  5. The next character listed is "Hamlet, Prince of Denmark, son of the late King Hamlet and Queen Gertrude." Somewhere on the board, draw a stick person and label it, "Hamlet," write the character description below.
  6. The next character is "Queen Gertrude, widow of King Hamlet, now married to Claudius." Just as for Hamlet, draw a stick person for Gertrude, write her description, and draw a line to Hamlet to indicate she is his mother. Explain to students that whenever a connection is described between characters (son of ... wife of ... friend of ... etc.), they should draw some form of line to indicate that on their map.
  7. Now that students have the first few characters mapped, explain to them that they should continue to create their maps in their small groups based on the character descriptions and the connections described in the Enter Players Handout.
  8. Circulate around the room as students work, answering questions and checking their maps.
  9. When students have finished, ask for volunteers to share their maps with the class.
  10. Have students post their maps around the classroom.

Extension: Students can continue to add to the character map creating a mind map or one ager for the play. Students can add key quotes, pictures, character traits, tone words, etc. to fill out their map.


Students can use the developed character map/mind map to plan for their final essay.