April 13

ELA B30 Studying Hamlet – the most popular of Shakespeare’s plays

Studying any Shakespeare text is a challenging task. The texts were written 400 years ago in a different time, different culture, with different gender roles and a different context. For us, it isn’t that we try and are able to read the original or modern translation of the text on a first try; for us, it’s more important that we understand the storyline and the different connections we can make between the play and our own world and lives.

For that reason, you’re going to “get to know” Shakespeare and the play of Hamlet before we read it. Understanding the basics of plot and expectations of Shakespeare plays in advance will make reading through the play go much easier and our conversations can be of a deeper topic, like motivations of characters, development of conflicts, and more.


With a partner or on you own, do some online research and learn about each of the following elements of the writing/author listed below. You’re expected to write out by hand what information you find and collect from online, since handwriting leads to longer-lasting memories and understanding.

  1. Shakespeare:
    1. Why is he still so popular in modern times and today? How is he represented by our mass media?
    2. Why is he still taught in schools, when there are so many other great authors and texts that have been developed in the last 400 years?
    3. Are William’s stories original or copies of other people’s existing stories?
    4. Most significant/unique features of his writing?
    5. What is the format of a Shakespeare drama – a five act play?
    6. Was Shakespeare a single person? What evidence is there that he was multiple people?
    7. Even in the tragedy plays, like Hamlet, there is always a comedy element. What is the purpose for this?
    8. What was believed at the time, 400 years ago, of ghosts and their use in plays? What did they represent?
  2. The play Hamlet
    1. What interesting facts or trivia can you find of this play?
    2. What types of modern retellings of the play are there? For example, are there movies that are based on this plot/story but altered a bit? What are they? Ex: The Lion King
    3. This play is a classic Elizabethan Tragedy Play – what are the characteristics of this?
  3. Characters of the Play – (you can make a concept map or chart for these responses)
    1. What two family groups are there in the play?
    2. What characters are neutral – loyal to both sides of the family feud?
    3. Who are the main characters? Secondary characters?
    4. Are there any archetype or stock characters in this film? Identify a few.
    5. What makes a tragic hero?
    6. How are women typically represented in Shakespeare’s plays? How do they typically die and what does that say of how they were considered at the time?
    7. What was the purpose or role of “madness” used in Shakespeare’s plays?
  4. What themes exist in the play?
  5. What is the plot of the play? How do things develop, become more complicated, and then are resolved? (Note – you might decide to avoid learning the final outcome of the play, to naturally enjoy it as we read/perform it.)
  6. Develop five questions you are left with now that you hope to have answered by the time we’ve performed and read the play.

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Posted April 13, 2017 by Waldner in category ELA B30

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