Hamlet:Through Thematic Lenses
SummaryHamlet remains one of Shakespeares most popular plays; it has become a rich source for cultural references and motifs. This unit introduces students to Shakespearean language and focuses on developing understanding of thematic connections throughout the play. By searching for specific clusters of themes within each act -- whether death, decay, exile, or madness -- this unit allows students to narrow their focus and find a lens that resonates with them. Were built this unit based on the principles of reader-response: how each student responds to the play is to be valued and, by focusing on broad themes, we hoped to build in space for students to come to their own conclusions and to make their own connections.
We also connect Hamlet to The Lion King, which should help students who are having difficulty accessing the play and its central ideas build thematic in-roads. Specific lessons suggest adaptation and extensions but, as with all lessons, each needs to be tailored to the specific class and adjusted to each classrooms dynamics.
Importantly, throughout the unit, the teacher takes a backseat to the educational experience. Students should be in charge of constructing meaning; however, teachers need to be comfortable enough with the play and to have enough of a grasp on its characters, plot machinations, and themes to be able to jump in and assist students when they may be having difficulty grasping Hamlets central tenants. Most of the reading of the play will happen in class; additionally, time should be allotted (and has been in our outline) for in-class work on the portfolio.
OutcomesGCOs3: Interact with sensitivity and respect, considering the situation, audience, and purpose4: Select, read, and view with an understanding of a range of literature, media, and visual texts6: Respond personally to a range of texts7: Respond critically to texts, applying your understanding of language, form, and genre8: Use writing and other ways of representing to explore, clarify, and reflect on your thoughts,
feelings, experiences, and learning; and to use your imaginations9: Create texts collaboratively and independently, using a variety of forms for a range of
audiences and purposes
SCOs3.3: demonstrate an awareness of varieties and styles of language recognize the social contexts
of different speech events4.1: Read a wide variety of print texts4.3: Seek meaning in reading, using a variety of strategies4.4: Use fix-up strategies to clear up confusing parts of a text and adjust reading and viewing
rate according to purpose
6.1: Respond to texts regarding issues, themes, and situations, while citing appropriate evidence6.2: Respond to texts by questioning, connecting, evaluating, and extending6.3: Make thematic connections within print and media texts and public discourse6.4: Demonstrate a willingness to consider other interpretations of text7.1: Examine the different aspects of texts that contribute to meaning and effect7.2: Make inferences, draw conclusions, and support responses to content, form, and structure7.3: Explore the relationships of language, topic, genre, purpose, context, and audience7.6: Respond critically to various texts8.1: Use writing and other ways of representing to; extend ideas and experiences; reflect on
feelings8.2: Use note-making, illustrations, and other ways of representing to reconstruct knowledge8.3: Choose language that creates interesting and imaginative effectives. 9.2: Create an organizing structure appropriate to the purpose, audience, and context of texts;
use appropriate form, style, and content for specific audiences and purposes; use appropriate strategies to engage the reader/viewer
OutlineDeath & Hauntings (Introduction & Act I)! ! 5 classes! ! ! J. TibbettsMadness, Suspicion, & Drama (Acts II & III)! ! 3 classes! ! ! A. BakesTo Be or Not To Be (Act III)! ! ! ! 4 classes! ! ! A. BakesCorruption & Purity (Act IV)!! ! ! 3-4 classes! ! ! R. WheadonReturn of the Exiled Child (Act V & Mod, Interp.)! 7 classes! ! ! J. DavisonThe Rest is Silence (Wrap-Up)! ! ! 3-4 classes! ! ! R. Wheadon
! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! TOTAL:! 26-28 classes! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! (5 1/2 weeks)
Assessment1. Writing Prompts/Tasks -- Throughout, students will respond to writing prompts and/or task
prompts; these will not be formally assessed but will be collected and organized by students at the end of the unit for their reflective portfolios
2. Reflective Portfolio -- Students will produce a reflective portfolio at the end of the unit that will include work from throughout the unit as well as a culminating piece. See back pages for further description.
TextsAtkinson, Rowan. On Shakespeare. YouTube. --. Pink Tights and Plenty of Props. YouTube. Bradshaw, John. Homecoming: Reclaiming and Championing Your Inner Child. New York: Bantam,
1990. Print.Campbell, Joseph. The Hero with a Thousand Faces. Princeton, N.J: Princeton University Press,
1972. Print.Dakin, Mary and Colleen Myers. (2003) Emulating Shakespeare: To Snooze or Not to Snooze.
Folger Shakespeare Library. Web.
Gavin, Rosemarie. The Lion King and Hamlet: A Homecoming for the Exiled Child. The English Journal 85.3 (1996): 55-57.
Gillespie, Sheena, Terezinha Fonseca, and Carol A. Sanger, eds. Critical Approaches: A Case Study of Hamlet. Literature Across Cultures. 2nd ed. Boston: Allyn and Bacon, 1998. 968-984. Print.
Golden, John. Where to Be or Not to Be: The Question of Place in Hamlet. English Journal 99.1 (2009): 58-64. EBSCO. Web. 18 March 2013.
The Lion King. Dirs. Roger Allers and Rob Minkoff. Disney, 1994. Film.McWorter, Patti C. A Teachers Guide to the Signet Classic Edition of William Shakespeares
Hamlet. Signet Classic. Web.
MTV Hamlet Rap. MTV. YouTube. OBrien, Peggy, ed. Shakespeare Set Free: Teaching Hamlet and Henry IV, Part 1. New York:
Washington Square P, 1994. Print.Petrallia, Carol. (2010) To be or not to be Appreciating the Language and Interpreting the
Meaning of Hamlets Soliloquy. Folger Shakespeare Library. Web. Romulus and Remus, The Story of. Uploaded to YouTube by GrecoRomanWorld on 18 Nov.
2008. This is Hamlet in the Classroom: Lesson Plans and Resources for Teachers. Reinventing the
Wheel. 2011. Web.Shakespeare, William. No Fear Shakespeare: Hamlet. New York: Spark, 2003. Print.Shakespeares Globe. Virtual Tour. Web. Whelan, Debra Lau. Yo, Hamlet! School Library Journal 53.6 (2007): 48-50. EBSCO. Web. 18
Hamlet:Death and Hauntings (Introduction & Act I)
Summary Introduce students to Hamlet specifically and the language of Shakespeare generally.
Objectives To have students become familiar with navigating Shakespeare's use of the English language by giving them a concrete sense of character and plot
Outcomes Met GCOs3: Interact with sensitivity and respect, considering the situation,
audience, and purpose4: Select, read, and view with an understanding of a range of literature,
media, and visual texts7: Respond critically to texts, applying your understanding of language,
form, and genre
SCOs3.3: Demonstrate an awareness of varieties and styles of language recognize the social contexts of different speech events4.4: Use fix-up strategies to clear up confusing parts of a text and adjust reading and viewing rate according to purpose7.1: Examine the different aspects of texts that contribute to meaning and effect
Materials Construction paper; scissors; coloured pencils and/or markers
Pre-Work Have construction paper and scissors for the creation of the bookmarks
Warm-Up (2 class)
Run through Shakespeare powerpoint/lecture that introduces students to the play, via: a thumbnail sketch biography of Shakespeare; examples of the way his writing has effected our language (phrases he coined, fun insults, etc.); a virtual tour of the Globe theatre; a video of Lego Shakespeare's life; and a few funny videos that give a sense of what Shakespeare's all about (MTV Hamlet Rap & Rowan Atkinson).
Pay careful attention to the opening dialogue of Act I Sc. I. Have the students read it out and pull out vocabulary that they find new and confusing.
In Act I, the ghost of Hamlet's father is first alluded to, then spoken of to Hamlet in Scene II, and finally confronted by Hamlet. What reality does the ghost have? Is he a truly supernatural manifestation? Or is he the first sign of Hamlet's madness? Or is Hamlet truly pretending to be mad? Discuss these questions with the class, and the way that the death of the senior Hamlet hangs over the opening of the play.
Main Act (2 classes)
After finishing an in-class reading of the first Act, have the students create bookmarks with a character name of their choice up at the top. Try and spread the characters out evenly throughout the class. (Not everyone can be Hamlet.) Supply them with the materials (construction paper, scissors, etc.) necessary to make their bookmark. Have them write the character's name at the top of the bookmark where it sticks out of the book. Underneath, have them write three character traits or plot points that relate to that character at this point in the play. After each act, have them update the bookmark with one or more pieces of info about the character.
As the bookmark will carry out throughout the play, past the point of Act I, the conclusion will fully occur when the play has been finished. At this point, the bookmark will be filled with character info, and the students can compare their bookmarks with each othe