Announcement- Holiday Assignments

1. Read three articles of literary criticism on Hamlet from the anthology I created for the class. Read one on Hamlet, one on Gertrude and one on Ophelia.

2. Watch youtube or PBS video clips on the following scenes-

  • Ophelia and Hamlet ( Ophelia was sent to spy on Hamlet)
  • Hamlet in Gertrude’s chamber
  • Hamlet’s dueling with Laertes
  • Be sure to observe the details in each scene.

3. Complete the AP Exam and turn it in the complete exam( including the three essays) on Jan. 6, 2014.

4. We’ll study Hamlet’s final two soliloquy on Thursday. Be prepared.

Hamlet E-Text

Hamlet Audio 


Reading Quiz

Reading Quiz on Hamlet (Acts I & II)

1 Of whom does Hamlet say, “Frailty, thy name is woman”?

2 What does the Ghost of King Hamlet tell Hamlet during their conversation? (two answers)
That Polonius has killed him by pouring poison in his ear.
That Hamlet should avenge his death by attacking Gertrude’s part in it.
That Claudius has killed him by pouring poison in his ear.
That Hamlet should not direct his revenge toward his mother but instead “leave her to heaven.”
That Horatio is Hamlet’s most trusted friend.

3 What do Polonius and Laertes warn Ophelia about in Act I?
That Gertrude is jealous of her beauty and will try to have her removed from court.
That she should be careful to preserve her virtue in her dealings with Hamlet and should not believe all that he tells her.
That Claudius has had King Hamlet poisoned.
That she might see the Ghost if she walks upon the battlements at night.
That she is soon to be sent to Paris to marry Reynaldo.

4 What does Polonius want Reynaldo to do in Paris?
To put forth false rumors about Laertes so that he (Reynaldo) can determine what Laertes is actually doing there.
To put forth false rumors so as to find the killer of King Hamlet.
To prepare for his marriage to Ophelia.
To find the cause of Hamlet’s sudden madness.
To bring Rosencrantz and Guildenstern back to Claudius’s court.

5 Which statements about Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are true?
They have been summoned to court by Claudius and Gertrude so that they may spy on Hamlet and discover the cause of his madness.
Polonius has asked them to come to court so that they may protect Ophelia.
They bring the actors with them.
They try to lie to Hamlet about the purpose of their visit, insisting at first that they’ve simply come to see him.
Instructed by Polonius, they refuse to believe in Hamlet’s madness.

6 Who says of himself, “But I am pigeon livered, and lack gall /To make oppression bitter, or ere this/I should ha’ fatted all the region kites / With this slave’s offal”?
Claudius, speaking of his wish to kill Hamlet
Laertes, speaking of his desire to avenge his father’s death
Horatio, speaking of his failure to rescue Hamlet
Fortinbras, as reported by Valtemand
Hamlet, speaking of his failure to move against Claudius.

7 How does Ophelia come to believe that Hamlet is mad?
He enters her room as she is sewing; his clothes are dishevelled, and his look is piteous.
She knows that refusing to marry Hamlet will make him go insane.
Polonius reads a letter to Claudius and Gertrude, and Ophelia overhears it.
Horatio tells her.
Rosencrantz and Guildenstern tell her.

8 What is the nature of the players’ speeches in Act II?
They put on a dumb show of pouring poison in the King’s ear.
They tell of Priam’s queen, who, when Priam is struck down by Pyrrhus, cries out in agony at her loss.
The Player Queen protests her love for the Player King.
The players discuss at length their willingness to do Hamlet’s bidding.

9 What’s the meaning of Hamlet’s words “The play’s the thing/ Wherein I’ll catch the conscience of a king”?
He wants to find out whether Claudius is keeping him away from Ophelia.
He want to find out whether Claudius killed King Hamlet.
He wants to know whether Claudius seduced Gertrude before King Hamlet’s death.
None of the above.
All of the above.

10 What is “The Murder of Gonzago”?
The play that Hamlet asks the players to perform.
The rule book that Hamlet cites to make the players be less wordy and false in their acting.
The secret words that Hamlet tells Ophelia so that she will know his madness is feigned and not real.
The book that Rosencrantz and Guildenstern bring to Denmark to cheer Hamlet up in his madness.

Acts III, IV, and V

1 In Act III, to whom does Hamlet say, “Give me that man /That is not passion’s slave, and I will wear him / In my heart’s core” ?
To Rosencrantz and Guildenstern; he is chiding them for their false behavior.
To Laertes; he is asking Laertes to stand with him against Claudius.
To Horatio; he is about to ask Horatio to observe Claudius’s behavior.
To Claudius; he asks Claudius to recommend a servant.
To Polonius; he is echoing Polonius’s advice to Laertes.

2 Who says, “In second husband let me be accurst, / None wed the second, but who killed the first”?
Player Queen

3 Who is killed in Act III?
Rosencrantz and Guildenstern

4 To which characters does Hamlet reveal that he is but “mad in craft” and not truly mad? (Hint: Not all of them understand his message or pay attention to it.)
Rosencrantz and Guildenstern

The play-within-the-play for which Hamlet writes a few extra speeches
The book filled with “words” that Hamlet shows Polonius
The source for Hamlet
The First Player’s speech on the tale of Hecuba and Priam in Act II

6 What happens to Laertes in Act IV? (Multiple answers)
He sees Ophelia and thus learns of her madness
He learns of his father’s death
He confronts Hamlet and fights with him.
He decides to descend to trickery and poison to kill Hamlet during the fight.
He watches Ophelia drown.

7 Who is Osric?
The father of Rosencrantz and Guildenstern
A sycophantic courtier with elaborate speech who carries the terms of the contest with swords to Hamlet
The Prince of Norway whose progress toward Denmark becomes ever closer as the play continues
The courtier killed in the last few minutes of the play.

8 What happens at the very beginning of Act V?
The gravediggers (clowns) engage in a humorous discussion of the propriety of burying a suicide in consecrated ground
Hamlet picks up and contemplates the skull of Yorick, the king’s jester
Laertes and Hamlet struggle and fight in Ophelia’s grave.
Gertrude scatters flowers in Ophelia’s grave, saying “sweets to the sweet, farewell.”

9 How does Gertrude meet her death?
She is killed by Claudius, who suspects her of aiding Hamlet in bringing about his downfall
She tries to stop the fight between Laertes and Hamlet, and she is killed with Hamlet’s sword
She kills herself after Hamlet’s death.
She drinks from the poisoned cup of wine meant for Hamlet

10 Who has the last word in HAMLET?
Horatio: “Good night, sweet prince, And flights of angels sing thee to thy rest”
The Ambassador: “Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are dead.”
Hamlet: “O I die Horatio”
Fortinbras: “Go bid the soldiers shoot.”

Pre-Reading Lessons

Objectives: Students will answer the question: why do we still read Hamlet? How relevant is the character to our life?

Aim; Why is Hamlet still relevant?

Materials: the Video Clip from PBS Shakespeare uncovered

Assessment: Quick Write: How do we see ourselves in the character of Hamlet?


  1. Watch the video
  2. Students use their notes to share their perceptions on Hamlet
  3. Respond to the Quick Write

Learning Sequence

  1. Why Shakespeare’s Hamlet? Based on our reading about the play, why do you think are we still drawn to this tragedy? Do Think-Pair-Share activity.
  2. Watch the video clip and listen to David Tennant’s interviews and narration about why he is fascinated by the role. Take notes when necessary.
  3. Discuss our notes.

Quick Write: How do we see ourselves in the character of Hamlet?

Homework: Visit the site about Elizabethan England. Read about the Elizabethan time and have a true understanding of Shakespearean period’s audience. Be ready to share your notes in class for the next lesson.

Lesson 1-4 Based on Act I

Lesson 1 Act 1 Scene 1

Objectives:Students will identify the elements in the beginning scene of the play and discuss the effect of them.

Aim: What is the mood of the opening scene? What are the implications and complications set in motion by the ghost scene?


  1. Folger Edition Hamlet
  2. Hamlet with David Tennant
  3. Full Video of Hamlet by Shakespeare Royal Theater
  4. Death and Dying in Hamlet and Macbeth
  5. Timeline of Shakespeare’s Plays

Do now:

Which Shakespeare character are you? Take a survey.

Journal #1

What are some of the effects of setting a play in motion by having a ghost appear? How would an audience be affected today? How might Elizabethan audiences have been stirred? Why?

Visit the site about Elizabethan England. Read about the Elizabethan time and have a true understanding of Shakespearean period’s audience.


  1. Listen to Act I, Scene 1. See Folgers’ text of Hamlet
  2. How does Shakespeare set a mood, explain to the reader what has gone before, build suspense, and also foreshadow things to come?
  3. As the play opens, what is Bernardo’s state of mind when he asks ,”Who is there?” What are we told immediately about the time, place, and atmosphere of scene 1?
  4. Who is Horatio? How does the encounter with the Ghost help to characterize Horatio?
  5. Describe the appearance, identity, and actions of the Ghost.
  6. What background information do we learn from Horatio?
  7. Upon the Ghost’s second appearance, what three possibilities does Horatio suggest for the appearance of spirits? Why does the Ghost disappear? What do we learn here about the superstitious beliefs of the times?
  8. What future events in the play are foreshadowed at the end of the scene?

Homework Assignment #1

1.Answer questions 4-8 in the lesson. Provide textual evidence for your responses.

2.In the 1st scene of a play a playwright often tries to:

  • Set the mood of the play
  • Fill in the past for the reader or audience
  • Introduce the main themes
  • Create interest by building suspense.
  • Introduce the main characters
  • Foreshadow future events.

How well has Shakespeare fulfilled these tasks in the 1st scene of Hamlet? To what extent would you agree that the 1st scene is the “embryo” of the play’s later development?

Lesson 2 Act I Scene 2 See Folgers’ text of Hamlet

Objectives: Students will identify Hamlet’s character based on the his attitude toward his mother, Gertrude’s remarriage.

Aim: How does the event of Gertrude’s remarriage shed light on the character of Hamlet?

Do Now: Journal #2

What reactions would the American people have had if Jacqueline Kennedy had remarried soon after the death of President Kennedy in 1963? What is considered ” a decent period of mourning” in your culture? And in America today?


I. Review: From the opening scene, what predictions can we make about the future events ?

II. Listen to Act 1 scene 2. Did you come across any situation in scene1&2 that could cause problems for Prince Hamlet?

III. Discuss the following questions:

  1. How does Claudius’ initial speech reveal his character?
  • use of royal “we”
  • Antithesis-the balancing of two contrasting ideas, words, phrases, or sentences in parallel  grammatical form, i.e.”with mirth in funeral and with dirge in marriage”. What feelings do these juxtapositions evoke?
  • Choice of words : why does Claudius remember old Hamlet with “wisest sorrow” rather than “deep sorrow”?
  • Order of ideas he presents: Although Hamlet’s mourning is of major concern to Claudius., why does he justify his marriage to Gertrude, deal with Norway’s impending invasion, and respond to Laertes’ petition before he address Hamlet?

2.. Addressing the court, Claudius uses the expression, “With mirth in funeral, and with dirge in marriage”, what does this line of contrasts mean beyond his own situation?

3. Why was Claudius not Hamlet made king after the death of Old King Hamlet? Where had Hamlet been at the time of his father’s death?

4. What is meant by the word incest? How has the connotation of the word changed?

5. In his first formal address, how does Claudius justify his present situation? When he turns to affairs of state, how competent an executive does he prove himself to be?

6. Who is Laertes?

7. Explain the two puns made by Hamlet. What do they show about Hamlet’s state of mind.

  1. What is the double meaning in Hamlet’s response to his mother,”Ay, madam, it is common?” Why does Hamlet scornfully list all of the usual signs of mourning ? What comfort does Claudius offer Hamlet for the death of his father? Is it natural for men to be as objective as Claudius would have us act?
  2. What is Claudius’ answer to Hamlet’s request to return to Wittenburg? Why does Gertrude intercede? How is Hamlet’s rude reply accepted by Claudius? Why?
  3. When Hamlet is left alone after the departure of the rest of the court, how must he feel?
  4. Read Hamlet’s 1st soliloquy. What action is Hamlet contemplating? Why? What does this show about his character? What holds him back from acting out his desire? How does Hamlet explain Gertrude’s great ” sin and crime”? What does he mean by “Frailty, thy name is women”? Why must he hold his tongue?
  5. Find lines in the soliloquy that show feelings of despair, grief, bitterness, anger, and resignation; or any word that gives clues to Hamlet’s innermost thoughts.
  6. Why does Hamlet insist on knowing the details of the Ghost’s appearance and actions?
  7. Where does Hamlet show determination?
  8. Characterize the young Hamlet. How has his mood changed throughout his part of the scene? Could such a prince make a successful sovereign? Explain.

IV. Visualize the soliloquy. Discuss “what is really bothering Hamlet?”

Homework Assignment #2

1. Analyze Claudius ‘ speech by considering the following-

  • use of royal “we”
  • Antithesis-the balancing of two contrasting ideas, words, phrases, or sentences in parallel  grammatical form, i.e.”with mirth in funeral and with dirge in marriage”. What feelings do these juxtapositions evoke?
  • Choice of words : why does Claudius remember old Hamlet with “wisest sorrow” rather than “deep sorrow”?
  • Order of ideas he presents: Although Hamlet’s mourning is of major concern to Claudius., why does he justify his marriage to Gertrude, deal with Norway’s impending invasion, and respond to Laertes’ petition before he address Hamlet?

2. Write a micro essay on Hamlet’s 1st soliloquy. How does Shakespeare use diction, figures of speech and tone to reveal Hamlet’s state of mind.

Lesson 3 Act I Scene 3 See Folgers’ text of Hamlet

Objectives: Students will examine the child-parent relationship describes in this scene within Polonius’s family based on the textual evidence.

Aim: What is the child-parent relationship describes in this scene within Polonius’s family?

Do now: Journal #3

The complaint is often voiced today that the younger generation is out of control and that is the parents who are to blame. How true is the statement? Should love or obedience to parents’ wishes prevail when a conflict between the two develops? Comment on it.


  1. At the end of Scene 2, what do you expect to happen next in the play? Why does Shakespeare shift the attention to the development of minor characters?
  2. What are the feelings that exist between Hamlet and Ophelia?
  3. What advice does the departing Laertes give to his sister about Hamlet? What does this advice reveal about Hamlet, and Laertes himself? Why does he not trust Hamlet?
  4. How does Ophelia receive her brother’s advice?
  5. In your opinion, how worthy of serious consideration are the words of Polonius to his son? How do you interpret the three lines beginning, “This above all…”? What ideas are especially meaningful for our time? Which precept has great values for adolescents? Why?
  6. How do you react to the suggestion that these lines “are not at all idealistic but merely practical considerations for worldly success”?
  7. How do you react to the suggestion that these line are “empty, pompous words delivered by a bumbling old man”?
  8. How appropriate is Polonius’s supervision of his children? How might the apparent absence of a mother for his children alter his role?
  9. Paraphrase the language of Polonius’ advice in colloquial English and make up a paralle situation in which the words make sense.
  10. What can we infer about Polonius from his choice of words? What do Polonius’ words reveal about his belief, philosophy, and values?
  11. How does the suspicious nature of Polonius show itself soon after Laertes leaves?
  12. By modern standards, how wise is Polonius in his advice to his daughter?
  13. When Ophelia says to her father: “I shall obey.” Should we expect her to keep her word? What is your understanding of a dutiful child of current time?
  14. Characterize Ophelia from what you have observed in this scene.
  15. What is the relationship like in Polonius’ family? What does each of the family members want?

Homework Assignment #3

Write a micro essay on how Shakespeare uses diction and structure to reveal Polonious character as a father.

Lesson 4 The Time is Out of Joint (Act I, scene 4 & scene 5) See Folgers’ text of Hamlet

Objectives: Students will analyze Hamlet’s character through his initial reaction to the ghost’s tale.

Aim: What decision should Hamlet make in facing such a revelation by the ghost? What’s more added to Hamlet’s problem?

Do now: Journal Writing:

Who is or might be a tragic hero in this play based on your knowledge of a tragic hero. Do inner or outer forces work to make the tragedy? Can an intellectual-like Hamlet- be a tragic hero?


  1. Read scene 4 & 5
  2. Before you come to any conclusions about Hamlet’s reactions to the Ghost, read this document of “Ghosts and Spirits”. It is an extract from Of Ghosts and Spirits Walking by Night, translated into English in 1572. Note, though, that it presents a Protestant view of the subject, while Hamlet’s Denmark is Catholic.
  3. Discuss the following questions after finishing reading the two scenes.
  4. How does Shakespeare repeat his device for surprising the audience at the entrance of the Ghost?
  5. Some critics have seen Hamlet’s speech about drinking as a restatement of Aristotle’s idea of the importance of the hamartia, or tragic flaw, in drama. In which lines does Hamlet express the Aristotelian concept of tragic flaw?
  6. How does Hamlet’s first speech to the Ghost show the doubts that exist in his mind about the nature of his apparition?
  7. How does Hamlet respond to the attempts of Horatio to stop him from following the Ghost? How do these actions deny the idea that Hamlet is little more than a dreamer?
  8. The Ghost is evidently in purgatory. What does this mean?
  9. What does Hamlet say “O my prophetic soul”?
  10. What further shocking disclosure does he Ghost make to Hamlet?
  11. Why does Shakespeare have the Ghost go into such detail about the murder itself?
  12. What demand does the Ghost make upon Hamlet about Claudius? About Gertrude? What effect does the Ghost’s revelation have on Hamlet?
  13. Why does not Hamlet immediately tell all to Horatio? How can you explain Hamlet’s odd, almost farcical, behavior towards the end of the scene?
  14. Examine Hamlet’s language after he sees the Ghost and during his conversation with Horatio and Marcellus. What assumptions can we make about Hamlet’s state of mind from the words he uses and the way he speaks to his companions at this point of the play? Speculate on why Hamlet decides to put on an “antic disposition”.

Quick Write: What’s your first impression of Hamlet’s character through his initial reaction to the ghost’s tale?

Homework Assignment #4:

Hamlet concludes the scene with the rhyme tag: The time is out of the joint. O cursed spite/ That ever I was born to see it right. What feelings are expressed in these lines? Why is the task before Hamlet not an easy one? How well is Hamlet suited by his temperament and character to fulfilling the Ghost’s wish? What do you expect him to do next? Do you think Hamlet will take revenge? Before you make any decision, read Francis Bacon’s short essay that provides a marvelous insight into the attitudes of intellectuals during Shakespeare’s time towards revenge. The essay is slightly cut here. What is particularly interesting is the attitude it takes towards natural feelings, which strongly contrast the ghost’s.

Lesson 5  “What A Rogue, Peasant Slave am I” Soliloquy Act 2 Scene 2

Objectives: Students will examine Hamlet’s self-perception by analyzing the diction, figures of speech and syntax of the soliloquy.

Aim: How does Hamlet perceive himself?  How does Shakespeare use language to reveal it?

Materials:  a hard copy of the soliloquy; online dictionary access; an Analysis Tool; audio recording of Hamlet Act 2 Scene 2 (http://etc.usf.edu/lit2go/94/hamlet/1673/act-2-scene-2/)

Assessment:  Students will write a micro essay  to analyze Hamlet’s self-perception  through diction, imagery and syntax.

Do Now: Journal writing- From the first two acts we have read, what is your impression of Hamlet’s character? Write for about 4 minutes to describe Hamlet’s character.

Learning Sequence:

  1. We’ll use Think-Pair-Share activity to share our understanding of the speech-
    Read around in pairs line by line of the soliloquy. Read around by the period or exclamation marks, or question marks.
  2. Think to yourself after reading. Use the annotations you have made. What is Hamlet talking about? What words or phrase or lines stand out the most or show hamlet’s feelings or thoughts? Why?  Write freely in your notebook your initial understanding of the speech.
  3. Share with a partner your writing. Talk to each other about the speech using ideas from your free writing. Jot down new ideas you have gained from the pair –share.
  4. We’ll unpack the meaning by discussing the following Text-Based Questions-
  5. What examples of diction paint a vivid picture of Hamlet?
  6. Who is Priam? Hecuba? What book is Aeneid? What’s it about?
  7. How does Hamlet comment on the player’s acting of  the speech from Aeneid?
  8. How does the player express Hecuba’s feelings and reactions to her husband, Priam’s murder?
  9. How, according to Hamlet, will the player act like if the player knows Hamlet’s feelings towards his father’s murder?
  10. Make a list of names that he called himself in the soliloquy.
  11. Quick Write: How does Hamlet characterize himself at this point
  12. How accurate a description is it of his character (second section)? Find lines and phrases that explain why Hamlet thinks himself a coward. Do you think he is a coward, or is he acting by looking for external evidence to prove Claudius’ guilt?
  13. At what line does Hamlet’s self-castigation reach its peak?
  14. Why is “O vengeance!” a line by itself? How does this line deflate Hamlet’s pent-up emotions?
  15. What plan does Hamlet reveal to the audience at the end of this soliloquy.

Assessment: write a micro essay  to analyze Hamlet’s self-perception  through diction, imagery and syntax.

Homework Assignment:
Finish the micro essay to analyze Hamlet’s self-perception through diction, imagery and syntax.

Analysis Tool

Specific Examples/Diction, Syntax, Imagery or Figures of Speech  Analysis of the Example So What? How and what does the example say about Hamlet’s self-perception?

Lesson 6 Hamlet and Ophelia Act III, scene 1


  • To study and understand Hamlet’s desperate feelings as expressed in the “To be or not to be” soliloquy
  • To experience the heartbreak of renunciation scene in terms of Hamlet’s and Ophelia’s expression of their feelings and attitudes

Aim: How does Shakespeare use language to show Hamlet’s question about his existence?

Materials: copies of Soliloquy, master reading of “To Be or Not To Be” (http://etc.usf.edu/lit2go/94/hamlet/1674/act-3-scene-1/), analysis tool

Learning Sequence

  1. Listen to the recording (http://etc.usf.edu/lit2go/94/hamlet/1674/act-3-scene-1/). Annotate while listening.
  2. Hamlet on Hamlet: Introspective Action(To be or not to be soliloquy)
    Convert the Soliloquy to an argument: Select two students with contrasting voices and ask them to read the selected “to be or not to be script”.

Reader1: To be, or not to be: that is the question:
Reader 2: Whether ’tis nobler in the mind to suffer
The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune,
Read 1: Or to take arms against a sea of troubles,
And by opposing end them?
Reader 2: To die: to sleep;
No more; and by a sleep to say we end
The heart-ache and the thousand natural shocks
That flesh is heir to,
Reader 1: ’tis a consummation
Devoutly to be wish’d.
Reader 2: To die, to sleep;
To sleep: perchance to dream: ay, there’s the rub;
For in that sleep of death what dreams may come
When we have shuffled off this mortal coil,
Must give us pause:
Reader 1:there’s the respect
That makes calamity of so long life;
Reader 2: For who would bear the whips and scorns of time,
Reader 1:The oppressor’s wrong,
Reader2: the proud man’s contumely,
Reader 1: The pangs of despised love,
Reader 2: the law’s delay,
Reader 1:The insolence of office
Reader2: and the spurns
That patient merit of the unworthy takes,
When he himself might his quietus make
With a bare bodkin?
Reader 1: who would fardels bear,
To grunt and sweat under a weary life,
Reader 2: But that the dread of something after death,
Reader 1: The undiscover’d country from whose bourn
No traveller returns,
Reader 2: puzzles the will
And makes us rather bear those ills we have
Reader 1: Than fly to others that we know not of?
Reader 1 and 2: Thus conscience does make cowards of us all;
And thus the native hue of resolution
Is sicklied o’er with the pale cast of thought,
And enterprises of great pith and moment
With this regard their currents turn awry,
And lose the name of action.–Soft you now!
The fair Ophelia! Nymph, in thy orisons
Be all my sins remember’d.

  1. Had Hamlet revealed such desperate feelings that he thought of suicide? When? (refer to the1st soliloquy)
  2. How has Hamlet reason to be more despondent than he was earlier?
  3. Some critics view this speech as a general philosophical discussion. Can you justify this point of view?
  4. What view of death does Hamlet have in this speech? How does it compare with his view of life in the same speech?
  5. What are some of the things that he says make a long life calamity?
  6. How personal does he intend these slings and arrows to be? What would a modern life’s ills include?
  7. Why does Hamlet reject the idea of suicide at last?
  8. How reasonable is his implication that to live is cowardly, to die courageous? What unfinished business may play a part in Hamlet’s decision to live?
  9. When Ophelia appears, why does Hamlet say,” Nymph, in thy orisons be all my sins remembered’?

Part B: Hamlet and Ophelia

  1. How much Ophelia feel, knowing that she is performing for an audience and the King? How genuine are the emotions she expresses?
  2. What beautiful poetic lines can you find in Ophelia’s utterances?
  3. What’s the double meaning of Hamlet’s word honest? In what respects has Ophelia been honest with him?
  4. Why does Hamlet tell her to enter a nunnery? Is his self characterization in this speech a valid one? Discuss.
  5. Argue:  Hamlet knows from the very beginning of the scene that Polonius and Claudius are watching him ; Hamlet does not know until later in the scene that he is being watched; Hamlet is unaware that he is being watched throughout the nunnery scene.
  6.  For each interpretation, what is Hamlet’s objective? What specific gestures, inflections, movements, or pause could an actor use to show this objective? How does the objective affect the subtext?
  7. What is the “calumny” to which Hamlet refers? Explain Hamlet’s strange use of the word monstrous.
  8. When Hamlet castigates Ophelia for the falseness and deceitfulness of women, is he thinking of her, of his mother, or of women in general?
  9. In her final speech, what picture does Ophelia paint of the Hamlet that once was? How deep was her love for him? How much love still remains?

10. Assessment: Quick Write– In this scene, Hamlet’s actions are viewed from several angles. Is he acting from a grand plan? Yes? No? Why? What reasons must Hamlet have had in his renunciation of Ophelia ? How might he have been trying to protect her?

11. What are the full implications in Claudius’ closing line: “Madness in great ones must not unwatched go”? Does Claudius actually believe that Hamlet is mad?

Homework Assignment:
Use the Analysis Tool to help you read closely of “To Be or Not To Be” Soliloquy. Write a micro essay to discuss Hamlet’s state of mind through diction, figures of speech and syntax.

Lesson 7

The Queen’s Closet Act III Scene 4

1. Students will analyze how Shakespeare uses diction, tone and extended metaphor to reveal Hamlet’s relationship to his mother.
2. To explore a possible basis for understanding Hamlet’s action in this scene

Aim: How does Shakespeare uses diction, tone and extended metaphor to reveal Hamlet’s relationship to his mother? What’s  the possible  basis for Hamlet’s action?


  1. Introductory Lecture on Shakespeare’s Hamlet
  2. Ernest Jones’s Hamlet and Oedipus (http://www.shakespeare-navigators.com/jones/)
  3. Text (The Queen’s Closet Act III Scene 4)
  4. Norman Holland and Psychoanalysis 

Do Now : Journal Writing
Some critics interpret use the  “Oedipus complex” theory to interpret Hamlet’s actions throughout the play. “Oedipus complex” is a subconscious sexual attachment to his mother, remaining from his earlier childhood. Critics usually cite the words of Act III, scene 4 as evidence for this interpretation. What is your reaction to a psychoanalytical interpretation of a work of literature that was written hundreds of years before Freud outlined his theories of human behavior?

Part 1 Before the Killing of Polonius
1. Polonius has decided once more to resort to spying as a method of gaining information. When has he done so before?
2. How does Gertrude interpret Hamlet’s state of extreme agitation?
3. How important is Hamlet’s behavior toward his mother in the beginning of this scene?
4. When Hamlet hears Polonius call out from behind the arras, he immediately stabs through the arras and kills him. Why was this act so uncharacteristic of Hamlet? How do you explain his sudden rashness of spirit?
5. What lines show us that Hamlet thought that he was stabbing the king?
6. How do you explain Hamlet’s lack of remorse over the death of Polonius?

Part II After the Killing of Polonius
1. What accusations does Hamlet make against his mother? How does she react at first?
2. What evidence is there that Gertrude had no knowledge of the murder of King Hamlet?
3. How does Hamlet compare his father and his uncle?
4. How does he explain his mother’s actions in marrying Claudius?
5. What finally touches the conscience of the Queen? What word “enter like daggers” into her ears?
6. Where does Hamlet once again show that he considers Claudius a usurper?
7. Why does the Ghost appear at this point?How is his appearance different from his earlier appearance?
8. How do you explain that this time only Hamlet sees the Ghost when all who were present saw him on his other appearances?
9. How does Gertrude explain Hamlet’s conversation with the Ghost? To what extent does she seem to accept Hamlet’s denial of madness?
10. How do you explain Hamlet’s insistence that Gertrude “go not to my uncle’s bed”?
11. Hamlet says “Good night” to his mother four times before he finally leaves. Why does he linger each time?
12.What danger does Hamlet anticipate in England? What foreshadowing of his own plans does he provide us with?
13. The scene ends with a serious of puns after a coarse remark about “lugging the guts” out of the room. How can you explain this mixture of humor with the horror of the scene?
14. Both mother and son have ambivalent feelings about each other. Show how this is true for each. Hamlet said he is being cruel only to be kind. How much kindness is there in his treatment of his mother?

Homework Assignment:
1. Write a micro essay on how Shakespeare uses diction, tone and extended metaphor to reveal Hamlet’s relationship to his mother.

2. Read “Introductory Lecture on Shakespeare’s Hamlet” and find different interpretations of Hamlet’s problems. Keep a “Doubting and Believing ” journal to criticize the lecture.

3.Read excerpts from  Ernest Jones’s Hamlet and Oedipus (http://www.shakespeare-navigators.com/jones/)

4.  Read Norman Holland’s Shakespeare and Psychoanalysis ( page 59) http://ufdc.ufl.edu/UF00002277/00001/67j

Lesson 8


  1. To become aware of a changed Hamlet in decline, being acted upon rather than acting
  2. To analyze Hamlet as a personality in contrast to Fortinbras

Do now: Journal Writing-Sometimes we see a color more clearly when it is contrasted with another color.  Why can we often see our own situation more clearly when we compare it with some other person’s?  Can you illustrate this from you own experience?

New Concept-Fortinbras may be seen as a contrast to Hamlet.  In drama we often call such a person a “foil“(read about the origin of foil ).  Although his problems are some what similar, his manner of dealing with them is much different.  Notice how Hamlet himself sees the parallel between himself and Fortinbras


  1.  Fortinbras, until this point only talked about, finally appears on the scene in this act.  What kind of man is he?  What is the meaning of his name?
  2.    How does Fortinbras happen to be traveling through Denmark at this time? (Check out the map of Denmark)(Also check out the map of Norway).
  3.  What is the Captain’s attitude towards the battle he is about to engage in?  Does Shakespeare expect us to look upon the expedition of Fortinbras with admiration or with irony?  How might he have looked upon it had this incident occured early in Act I?
  4.  Before the reading of the soliloquy, ask:  What part of this speech presents the theme or underlying idea?  Which part points up the startling contrast between Hamlet and Fortinbras?
  5.  How is Hamlet’s soliloquy’s, beginning on line 34, similar to the soliloquy delivered after he heard the First Player recite the lines about Hecuba?  What triggered each train of thought?  How does Hamlet compare himself with another in each of these speeches?  How does each conclude?
  6.  Where does Hamlet once again hint that he is coward?  What is Hamlet’s attitude towards Fortinbras’s expedition?  What would a modern opinion be of such a war?  Under what conditions is “honor” worth the loss of life?

HW. Analyze Hamlet’s soliloquy in Act IV Scene 4( the turning point of Hamlet’s character”). How does Shakespeare use imagery, tone and diction to reveal the dramatic changes in Hamlet.

Lesson 9 Ophelia’s Madness Act IV, scenes 567.


  • To understand possible reasons for Ophelia’s madness and death
  • To compare the character of Laertes with that of Hamlet

Journal response-Formative Assessment

a. How would you define true madness? How does it differ from Hamlet’s feigned insanity?
b. What severe strains has Ophelia been subjected to that might explain her loss of reality? What kind of person might she be originally? What evidence can we find from the play to show that she might very well be susceptible to a mental breakdown?

Learning Activities:

Ophelia’s Madness

1. How do the two verses sung by Ophelia at first give an explanation of her breakdown? How do you explain Ophelia’s singing of a song like “Tommorrow is St. Valentine’s Day”?

2. How appropriate is Laertes’s epithet “Rose of May” to Ophelia?

3. When Ophelia distributes flowers to the King, Queen, and Laertes, each flower is meant to have symbolic meaning. What does each flower represent, and who should be given each flower?

Suggested Answer:

“Staging Ophelia’s flower distribution with imaginary flowers has become traditional in the modern theater, which generally interpret the flowers as symbolic rather than real. Ophelia gives fennel, symbol of flattery, to King Claudius. She also gives him columbine for ingratitude and infidelity. Rue, for sorrow, she gives to Gertrude; she also offers Gertrude daisy, for springtime and love, and says she lost her own violets, which represent sweetness, when her father died. To Laertes, she gives rosemary, for remembrance, and pansies, for thought, suggesting both their shared history and her lost faculties.” ( Excerpt from Cliffnotes

B. Laertes, Mad or Revenge

1. According to the King’s speech (lines 75-98), what have the people been whispering about the death of Polonius? What does this show about the kind of reputation Claudius must have had in and around Elsinore?

2.What is Laertes’s reason for bursting in on the King at the head of a mob? How does the King act in this dangerous situation? How is the situation of Laertes now similar to that of Fortinbras and that of Hamlet? Which of the two does Laertes most resemble in his actions? How does the King manage to calm Laertes’s rage?

3.What does the King seem to have in mind when he says to Laertes, ” Where the offense is let the great axe fall”?

4.In scene 7, what two reasons does Claudius give to Laertes for his relatively gentle treatment of Hamlet? How, at this point, might Laertes expect to have his revenge?

5.How does Claudius use flattery in preparing Laertes for his scheme against Hamlet? When Laertes shows a willingness to “cut his throat in the church,” how are we reminded of an earlier scene in the play? How does Laertes compare to Hamlet in this respect?

6.What plot does Claudius propose to Laertes? How does Laertes add some refinements of his own?

Quick Write: Why do you think Claudius responds as he does to Laretes?

Homework Assignment:

Were you surprised by the turn of events in this act( Claudius turned the table from being passive to plotting to kill Hamlet; Hamlet’s interactions with other characters) ?Describe your reactions.

Hamlet’s Return

a. What is the dramatic necessity of having the action-packed events of scene 6 described in a letter from Hamlet? How might a movie version of the play give added life to this scene?

b. Point out examples of disrespect and of threat in Hamlet’s brief letter to Claudius (scene 7).

Lesson 10 : Ophelia’s Death

The Queen’s description of the death of Ophelia is almost lyric. What is the effect of such a description? As it is described here, was the death of Ophelia accidental or was it a suicide?

Objectives: Students will be able to analyze the impact of Ophelia’s death and how it helps advance the plot and further reveals Hamlet’s character.

Aim: How does Ophelia’s death help advance the plot and further reveals Hamlet’s character?

Reading quiz- At her death, how does Ophelia appear to the audience? Are there any strength to compensate for her apparent weakness?

Activities/Lesson Development-

  1. When Ophelia dies, how villainous does the character of Laertes appear to be? Why?
  2. At Ophelia’s death, and Hamlet’s return, what state of mind is Claudius in? Why?
  3. Discuss Claudius’s lines in term of the three sons in Hamlet (Hamlet, Laertes, Fortinbras):

…what would you undertake

To show yourself your father’s son in deed

More than a words?


1. In this act, both Fortibras and Laertes are foils to Hamlet. What important aspects of Hamlet’s character are revealed by means of the contract between Hamlet and these two foil characters?Enrichment

2. Read J. Paris’s “Three Sons in Hamlet” in The Atlantic, June 1959, to compare the ways the three sons reacted to the burdens placed upon them as a result of their father’s deaths.

3. Read  Mack, Maynard. “The World of Hamlet.”

Lesson 10

The Graveyard Scene Act Vscene 1



To enjoy and understand comic relief in Act V as a device to heighten drama

To contrast the grief of Hamlet with that of Laertes and that of the Queen


All of us have burst into “nervous” laughter in very tragic moments. (Discuss a situation or two from students’ own lives.) What purpose does such comic action serve? When has Shakespeare used it successfully in another tragedy? Learning Activities

  1. Read aloud of the entire scene .
  2. What questions are the gravediggers debating at the beginning of the scene? ( You should not be misled by the designation clown, which is merely a Shakespearean convention.) What sense of class-consciousness do the gravediggers reveal? (It should be noted that these clowns are Elizabethan, not Danish, types.)
  3. What kind of humor did Elizabethans engage in? (Quibbling, puns, and riddle-asking.) Find examples in this scene.
  4. What is Hamlet’s immediate reaction to the singing of the gravediggers when he comes on the scene?Journal
    Write an entry to interpret Hamlet’s proverb: ” The hand of little employment hath the daintier sense.” What examples of satirical criticism can you find in Hamlet’s remarks to the gravedigger?
  5. Show how the gravedigger outwits Hamlet in their bantering conversation.Journal 
    How is the age of Hamlet fixed in this dialog? Must we believe that Hamlet is thirty years old (according to some critics) after reading this passage? Has Hamlet acted like a thirty-year-old man throughout the play? Why or why not? Discuss.

Medial Summary

What is the significance of Hamlet’s speech while he is holding the skull of Yorick? How have the Hamlet’s ideas about life and death changed? (Why not, at this point, have the class learn correctly the often misquoted line, “Alas, poor Yorick! I knew him, Horatio”?) Why does Shakespeare have the conversation take a serious, almost morbid, turn at this point?


Comic relief is to relieve audiences from the tragic tension. Do you agree? Explain.” What other examples in literature use such “comic relief”?(Read an example in Twelfth Night ) How does the Rainbow scene in Silas Marner or any other scene that heightens drama in a piece of literature? What does Shakespeare hope to accomplish by introducing two clown grave diggers in a graveyard? (To heighten the tragic grief of Hamlet, Laertes, and Gertrude.)

  • Explain the debate between Laertes and the Priest. What emotional tone should Laertes exhibit? The Priest? Why/ At what point does Hamlet realize that the funeral is for Ophelia? How must he feel upon learning this? How sincerely had he loved the fair Ophelia?
  • Is the wrestling match and ranting argument between Laertes and Hamlet in Ophelia’s grave too melodramatic, or can the audience accept it as realistic? Discuss. Why were such scenes included in Elizabethan plays? Which of the two really loves Ophelia more?


9.How does Gertrude feel about the death of Ophelia? Does Claudius show any grief at all?


1.Stage directors and film produces have had to face several major problems in presenting this scene. What are these problems? Hoe would you, as a director or producer, solve them?

2.How does this scene, so skillfully placed in the play at this point, help Claudius? Work against Hamlet? If you were a member of an Elizabethan audience, would you (or would you not) expect Hamlet to avenge his father’s death? Why? What most likely event would you expect to happen? Why?


What does Shakespeare hope to accomplish by introducing two clown grave diggers in a graveyard? (To heighten the tragic grief of Hamlet, Laertes, and Gertrude.)

Summative Assessment

Choose one of the questions below  to write an analytically essay on Hamlet.

2008. In a literary work, a minor character, often known as a foil, possesses traits that emphasize, by contrast or comparison, the distinctive characteristics and qualities of the main character. For example, the ideas or behavior of a minor character might be used to highlight the weaknesses or strengths of the main character. Choose a novel or play in which a minor character serves as a foil for the main character. Then write an essay in which you analyze how the relation between the minor character and the major character illuminates the meaning of the work.

2002, Form B. Often in literature, a character’s success in achieving goals depends on keeping a secret and divulging it only at the right moment, if at all. Choose a novel or play of literary merit that requires a character to keep a secret. In a well-organized essay, briefly explain the necessity for secrecy and how the character’s choice to reveal or keep the secret affects the plot and contributes to the meaning of the work as a whole.

2001. One definition of madness is “mental delusion or the eccentric behavior arising from it.” But Emily Dickinson wrote

Much madness is divinest Sense-
To a discerning Eye-

Novelists and playwrights have often seen madness with a “discerning Eye.” Select a novel or play in which a character’s apparent madness or irrational behavior plays an important role. Then write a well-organized essay in which you explain what this delusion or eccentric behavior consists of and how it might be judged reasonable. Explain the significance of the “madness” to the work as a whole. Do not merely summarize the plot.

1998. In his essay “Walking,” Henry David Thoreau offers the following assessment of literature:

In literature it is only the wild that attracts us. Dullness is but another name for tameness. It is the uncivilized free and wild thinking in Hamlet and The Iliad, in all scriptures and mythologies, not learned in schools, that delights us.

From the works that you have studied in school, choose a novel, play, or epic poem that you may initially have thought was conventional and tame but that you now value for its “uncivilized free and wild thinking.” Write an essay in which you explain what constitutes its “uncivilized free and wild thinking” and how that thinking is central to the value of the work as a whole. Support your ideas with specific references to the work you choose.


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