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enrichment guide
Proud Cornerstone member of:
preparing for the play
Synopsis . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 3
About the Playwright. . . . . . . . . . . . . 4
About Shakespeare's
Globe Theatre . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 5–6
Pre-Show Questions. . . . . . . . . . . . . 6
Recommended Reading. . . . . . . . . . 7
Dear Educators,
Hamlet's journey of grief, sorrow and impeding revenge allows us to feel and question his
actions. Through his impulses are all very human, does he handle them appropriately to honor
his father's memory? Are all of his actions justified?
Curriculum connections
before or after the play
Grief and Mourning Practices . . . . . . 8
The History of Blood Revenge. . . . . . 9
Did Elizabethan’s
believe in Ghosts?. . . . . . . . . . . . . . 10
Studying Shakespeare unites us all in the human experience – our joys, our sorrows and the
challenges and successes in life. Watching these stories on stage holds up that mirror that
reflects the emotions we feel in everyday life.
Enclosed in this Enrichment Guide is a range of materials and activities intended to help you
discover connections within the play through the curricula. It is our hope that you will use
the experience of attending the theater and seeing HAMLET with your students as a teaching tool. As educators, you know best the needs and abilities of your students. Use this
guide to best serve your students – pick and choose, or adapt any of these suggestions for
discussions or activities.
Comparing Soliloquy
with Monologues. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 11
Enjoy the show!
Rhyming Couplets. . . . . . . . . . . . . . 12
Design a Monument . . . . . . . . . . . . 13
Julia Magnasco
Education Director
(414) 267-2971
[email protected]
Post-Show Questions . . . . . . . . . . . 13
Who Said It? . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 14
Who Said it? (ANSWERS) . . . . . . . . 15
• The use of recording equipment and cameras are not permitted during
the performance.
• Food, drink, candy and gum are not permitted during the performance.
• Electronic devices are not permitted in the theater space.
• Should a student become ill, suffer an injury or have another problem, please
escort him or her out of the theater space.
• In the unlikely event of a general emergency, the theater lights will go on
and the stage manager will come on stage to inform the audience of the problem.
Remain in your seats, visually locate the nearest exit and wait for the stage manager to guide your group from the theater.
Seating for people with special needs: If you have special seating needs for any
student(s) and did not indicate your need when you ordered your tickets, please call
our Assistant Patron Services Manager at (414) 267-2962. Our knowledge of your
needs will enable us to serve you better upon your arrival to the theater.
Shakespeare's great tragedy, set in Denmark, was probably
completed in 1601.
Hamlet escapes, returns to Denmark and finally achieves his
Young Hamlet returns home from university to discover that, not
only is his father (Old Hamlet) newly dead, but that his mother,
Gertrude, has married Old Hamlet's brother, Claudius, and that
Claudius is now king. The resultant instability in the state of
Denmark has also led to threats of invasion by the Norwegian
prince, Fortinbras.
The psychological effects of these upheavals on Hamlet lead to
some of the greatest soliloquies in the English language and take
the audience deep into the mind of Shakespeare's most famous
Late one night, the ghost of Hamlet's father appears to him on
the cold battlements of Elsinore castle, accusing Claudius of his
murder and urging Hamlet to take revenge. This sets in motion a
train of events that destroys both family and state.
Ophelia, having been violently rejected by Hamlet, hears that her
father has been murdered. She loses her mind and eventually
drowns herself. Her brother, Laertes, returns to court at the head of
an angry mob, determined to find out the truth. Claudius convinces
him that Hamlet is the only guilty party and agrees to help Laertes
gain revenge.
Stop reading now if you don't want to know how it ends...
No longer able to trust his own senses, the loyalty of his old
friends, Rosencrantz and Guildernstern, or even the affections
of his young love, Ophelia, Hamlet fakes madness in an attempt
to provide himself with proof that the ghost is telling the truth. Aided only by his most loyal companion, Horatio, he persuades
a travelling band of actors to re-enact the story of his father's
murder in front of Claudius and Gertrude, hoping that Claudius will
be so stirred by remorse that he will confess his crime.
On learning of Hamlet's escape and return to Denmark, Claudius
convinces Laertes to challenge Hamlet to a fencing match and
advises Laertes on how to kill Hamlet during the duel without
arousing suspicion. As a back-up plan, Claudius also poisons
a glass of wine which he intends to offer to Hamlet. Gertrude,
however, drinks from the glass first and dies.
During an intense meeting with his mother, Hamlet hears a
noise and realizes that they are being spied
upon. In rage, he stabs the hidden
eavesdropper, believing it to be
Claudius. Instead he discovers
it is the King's adviser, Polonius,
father to both Ophelia and her
brother, Laertes.
During the duel, Hamlet is slightly wounded by Laertes, who has
tipped his sword with a deadly poison. In the ensuing tussle, the
swords get switched and Hamlet wounds Laertes with the poisoned
one. Realizing that he is about to die, and that Claudius has
manipulated the situation; Laertes confesses everything, forgives
Hamlet and dies.
As the poison takes hold and he realizes that he too is about to die,
Hamlet finally carries through his dead father's wish for revenge. He
forces Claudius to drink the remaining poisoned wine, which quickly
takes effect.
Afraid of what Hamlet might
do next, Claudius has him
arrested and dispatched to
England under guard, where
he has arranged to have
murdered. With his dying breath, Hamlet asks Horatio to ensure that his story
is told accurately.
Young Fortinbras of Norway arrives at the head of his army, ready
to assume control of a Denmark whose royal family has been
destroyed by betrayal, murder and revenge.
ABOUT THE PLAYWRIGHT: William Shakespeare
Taken Directly from:
William Shakespeare was born six years into the reign of
England’s illustrious Queen Elizabeth I. The child of John
Shakespeare, a glover (glovemaker) and a sometime-holder
of public office in the city of Stratford-upon-Avon, and
his wife Mary Arden Shakespeare, William was baptized
on April 26, 1564 at Holy Trinity Church. (Scholars assign
his birthdate as April 23 given the tradition at the time of
baptizing a child a few days after birth.) As the son of an
elected city official, William was able to attend grammar
school and might have been a student at King Edward VI’s
New School. He might have been able to attend university
after this early education but for his father’s business, which
began to suffer financially and prevented William’s continued
study. William married Anne Hathaway in 1582, and the
couple welcomed a daughter, Susanna, six months later.
Twins Judith and Hamnet arrived in 1585. Shortly thereafter,
Shakespeare departed for London to earn a living through
the stage. Sometime before 1592, he began writing plays
and working as a player (actor). Making a lawful living as
a player, not to mention working in an outdoor playhouse
(theatre) instead of having to travel to town inn yards and
guildhalls, was still a relatively new phenomenon in England,
so Shakespeare was essentially a rifter: a talent in the
right place at the right time, just when the extent of his
talents were ripe to be employed. Between 1592-1594, he
turned out over 150 sonnets and longer poems while the
playhouses were closed due to plague. When playhouses
reopened in 1594, Shakespeare’s prolific playwriting career
accelerated. As a sharer or partner with the company of the Lord Chamberlain’s Men, Shakespeare wrote, acted,
and shared in the company’s expenses and profits. He averaged writing about two plays a year during his London
career. His and his fellows’ business thrived. The company was soon profitable enough that Shakespeare was able
to purchase New Place, Stratford’s second-largest house, by 1597, and to apply for a coat of arms. He earned
the admiration of Queen Elizabeth and the jealousy of university-educated poets. When James VI of Scotland,
Elizabeth’s cousin, became King James I of England upon her death in 1603, he decided to assume the patronage
of the Lord Chamberlain’s Men and renamed the company the King’s Men. Shakespeare retired to Stratford-uponAvon in 1611 though there is evidence that he traveled back to London for business. He died on April 23, 1616, and
was buried in the chancel of Holy Trinity Church, where he had been baptized. He was 52 years old.
Taken Directly from: ; picture credit:
The Swan Theatre. While there, de Witt made a drawing of the theatre's
interior. A friend, Arend van Buchell, copied this drawing—van Buchell's
copy is the sketch rendered here—and in doing so contributed greatly
to posterity. The sketch is the only surviving contemporary rendering of
the interior of an Elizabethan-era public theatre. As such, it's the closest
thing historians have to an original picture of what the Globe may have
looked like in its heyday.
Shakespeare's company erected the storied Globe Theatre circa 1599
in London's Bankside district. It was one of four major theatres in
the area, along with the Swan, the Rose, and the Hope. The openair, polygonal amphitheater rose three stories high with a diameter
of approximately 100 feet, holding a seating capacity of up to 3,000
spectators. The rectangular stage platform on which the plays were
performed was nearly 43 feet wide and 28 feet deep. This staging
area probably housed trap doors in its flooring and primitive rigging
overhead for various stage effects.
The story of the original Globe's construction might be worthy of a
Shakespearean play of its own. The Lord Chamberlain's Men had been
performing in the Theatre, built by James Burbage (the father of Richard
Burbage) in 1576. In 1597, although the company technically owned the
Theatre, their lease on the land on which it stood expired. Their landlord,
Giles Allen, desired to tear the Theatre down. This led the company to purchase property at Blackfriars in Upper
Frater Hall, which they bought for £600 and set about converting for theatrical use.
Unfortunately, their aristocratic neighbors
complained to the Privy Council about the
plans for Blackfriars. Cuthbert Burbage tried
to renegotiate the Theatre lease with Giles
Allen in autumn of 1598; Allen vowed to
put the wood and timber of the building "to
better use." Richard and Cuthbert learned
of his plans and set in motion a plot of their
own. It seems that the company's lease
had contained a provision allowing them to
dismantle the building themselves.
In late December of 1598, Allen left London
for the countryside. The Burbage brothers,
their chief carpenter, and a party of workmen
assembled at the Theatre on the night of
December 28. The men stripped the Theatre
down to its foundation, moved the materials
across the Thames to Bankside, and proceeded
to use them in constructing the Globe.
Taken Directly from:
The endeavor was not without
controversy. A furious Giles Allen
later sued Peter Street, the Burbage's
carpenter, for £800 in damages. The
courts found in favor of the Lord
Chamberlain's Men and ordered
Allen to desist from any further legal
wrangling. The Globe would play host
to some of Shakespeare's greatest
works over the next decade. In an
ironic epilogue, the troupe won the
right in 1609 to produce plays at
Blackfriars, and subsequently split
time between there and the Globe.
In 1613, the original Globe Theatre
burned to the ground when a cannon
shot during a performance of Henry
VIII ignited the thatched roof of the
gallery. The company completed a
new Globe on the foundations of its
predecessor before Shakespeare's It continued operating until lecture-on-merry-wives-of-windsor/
1642, when the Puritans closed it
down (and all the other theatres, as
well as any place, for that matter, where people might be entertained). Puritans razed the building two years later in
1644 to build tenements upon the premises. The Globe would remain a ghost for the next 352 years.
The foundations of the Globe were rediscovered in 1989, rekindling interest in a fitful attempt to erect a modern
version of the amphitheater. Led by the vision of the late Sam Wanamaker, workers began construction in 1993 on
the new theatre near the site of the original. The latest Globe Theatre was completed in 1996; Queen Elizabeth II
officially opened the theatre on June 12, 1997 with a production of Henry V. The Globe is as faithful a reproduction
as possible to the Elizabethan model, seating 1,500 people between the galleries and the "groundlings." In its initial
1997 season, the theatre attracted 210,000 patrons.
1. HAMLET is the most famous revenge tragedy. What events, emotions, or characteristics you would expect to
find in the plot or characters themselves?
2. In HAMLET there are characters that go mad, insane. Can you think of some stereotypical signs of madness in
real life?
3. How does our culture treat and look at those that are mad?
Cohen, Robert. Acting In Shakespeare. Mayfield
Publishing Company, Mountain View, California, 1991.
Frye, Northrop. Northrop Frye on Shakespeare.
New Haven, 1986.
Garber, Marjorie. Shakespeare After All. New York:
Pantheon Books, 2004.
Colaianni, Louis. Shakespeare’s Names: A New
Pronouncing Dictionary. New York: Drama Publishers,
an imprint of Quite Specific Media Group Ltd., 1999.
Gibson, Rex, ed. Cambridge School Shakespeare.
(Available in the United States through Cambridge
University Press, 40 W. 10th St., New York, NY 10011.
Telephone: 212-924-3900.)
Crystal, David and Crystal, Ben. Shakespeare’s
Words: A Glossary & Language Companion. New
York: Penguin Group, 2002.
Goddard, Harold C. The Meaning of Shakespeare.
Chicago, 1951.
Edelstein, Barry. Thinking Shakespeare. New York:
Spark Publishing, 2007.
Greenblatt, Stephen. Will in the World: How
Shakespeare Became Shakespeare. New York, 2004.
Partridge, Eric. Shakespeare’s Bawdy. London:
Routledge, 2000.
O’Brien, Peggy, Shakespeare Set Free. New York,
1993. (Play-specific aids have been published.)
Schmidt, Alexander. Shakespeare Lexicon
and Quotation Dictionary. New York: Dover
Publications, Inc., 1971.
Robinson, Randal. Unlocking Shakespeare’s
Language: Help for the Teacher and Student. Urbana,
IL: NCTE and ERIC Clearinghouse on Reading and
Communication Skills, 1989.
Tillyard, E.M.W. The Elizabethan World Picture. New York.
The Complete Works of William Shakespeare
Teaching Shakespeare (from information to lesson plans submitted by educators)
The Folger Shakespeare Library
Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre (site of the newly reconstructed Globe in London)
Taken directly from:
Inititate a discussion about mourning in Hamlet. Claudius complains that Hamlet grieves for too long,
and Hamlet complains that Laertes grieves too loudly. In this project, students will give oral reports on
mourning practices in different cultures.
1. Have the class brainstorm a list of questions about mourning, such as, What rituals do family
members perform? How are people supposed to express sorrow? How are the dead memorialized?
Then ask students to name cultures whose mourning practices they would like to learn more about.
2. Divide the class into small groups, assign each group a different culture, and then have students
in each group research the mourning practices of that culture. Research might include interviewing
family members, classmates, or friends. Encourage students to find artistic expressions of mourning
to share with the class, such as songs, music, poems, and artwork.
3. .Students should decide among themselves how they will share in the presentation of information.
After they finish their research, have each group give an oral report to the class.
Taken directly from:
Discuss the concept of blood revenge with students:
Blood revenge—personal injury inflicted by an individual in revenge for an injury to that
individual or a family member—is most commonly practiced in communities or societies where
no formal legal system exists.
Ask students to research the history of this primitive form of justice and write a research paper about it.
Taken directly from:
Kind of, yeah! To some extent they did. While maybe not every Elizabethan believed ghosts to be real, we do know that
the existence of ghosts was a well-known idea that was believed by many and upheld by society and religious doctrine.
In general, Shakespeare’s England was much more superstitious than it is today. Folklore and astrology were discussed
commonly and earnestly.
Elizabethan England underwent significant religious change between 1509 and 1558 (Henry VIII’s reign –- Elizabeth’s reign).
To briefly summarize, Henry VIII’s move away from the Catholic Church paved the way for Protestantism and Edward VI
(reign: 1547-1553) worked hard to establish Protestantism in England. Next, Mary Tudor shifted the country back toward
Catholicism and then Protestant Elizabeth took the throne. This switching between Catholicism and Protestantism created
a tense and ambiguous religious atmosphere in 16th century England. Stephen Greenblatt tells us, “Officially, England
had decisively broken away from Rome. But in matters of religious belief, families in early sixteenth century England
were characteristically fractured, and many individuals were similarly fractured inwardly.” (Will of the World, 92) Society’s
relationship to the belief in ghosts was greatly affected by this religious climate. Most significantly, the two different ways
the religions viewed the notion of Purgatory influenced how people thought of ghosts.
Catholics believed that after death, souls were sent to Heaven, Hell, or Purgatory. If souls were sent to Purgatory they were
to work off their sins until they were allowed in Heaven. To Catholics, ghostly apparitions would be the souls of the dead
now wandering earth until they had access to Heaven.
Protestants did not believe in the existence of Purgatory, but they did concede that ghosts existed. However, they believed
that these ghostly apparitions were demons, sent from Hell to seduce people into performing crimes or unholy acts.
Protestant Thomas Browne writes in Religio Medici in 1643:
"I believe…that these apparitions and ghosts of departed persons are not the wandering souls
of men, but the unquiet walks of devils, prompting and suggesting us unto mischief, blood, and
villainy; instilling and stealing into our hearts that the blessed spirits are not at rest in their graves,
but wander, solicitous of the affairs of the world…and those phantasms appear often."
Just as Hamlet genuinely questions the trustworthiness of the ghost, so would Shakespeare’s audience. Some truly
believed there were actual ghosts walking on earth, tempting souls to do evil. In a country that had bounced back and forth
between Catholicism and Protestantism, however, there were many who viewed ghosts as unthreatening.
Additionally, ghosts served a function: the enforcement of prevalent social norms. Ghosts could haunt sinners and threaten
retribution. Their existence encouraged good behavior, charity, and church attendance. They also served to uphold a
conservative society’s belief that the wishes of ancestors should be honored. As we see in Hamlet, the presence of a ghost
is powerful. A medium somewhere between life and death and between heaven and hell is something to be reckoned with
and taken seriously. Elizabethans would have recognized the gravity of Hamlet’s conundrum. The ghost in Hamlet signified
more than an interesting theatrical device to them, it was the presence of a danger that perhaps some Elizabethans feared
they would have to grapple with.
Teaching Point/Aim: What is a soliloquy?
1. Recite Hamlet’s “To Be, or Not to Be” soliloquy to students.
2. Ask students to react to recitation of the soliloquy. Explain the purpose of the soliloquy as a dramatic
device. Review more examples of soliloquies and collaborate to create a definition based on
observations. Explain the use of literary device to demonstrate internal conflict or character insight.
3. To test the student’s knowledge of the soliloquy as the following questions:
a. To whom is the character speaking?
b. What does this character want?
c. What do you learn as an audience member from what the character is saying?
1. Have students write a short soliloquy choosing one of the following characters: Ophelia, Claudius, the
Ghost of King Hamlet, Gertrude, etc.
2. Allow students to update the story of HAMLET by making the characters more contemporary, this
would include language as well. Also permit students the option to use the original text and keep the
language true to the original Shakespearean language.
English Language Arts Classroom Activity
As with modern spoken word poets, page poets, and hip hop artists, Shakespeare used the device of
rhyme to achieve something very particular for his audience’s ears. Lines of verse in Shakespeare may
rhyme for any number of reasons, from pure style to indicating the end of a scene. In some cases,
characters whose verse lines rhyme with another’s immediately before are either in great sympathy, “on
the same page,” with the other or are trying to win a game of wits.
With partners in class, practice Shakespeare’s verse line formula by making up one line as follows. Called
iambic pentameter, a verse pattern of five sets of unstressed syllables followed by stressed syllables, this
meter closely imitates the human heartbeat and is in addition very similar to the natural rhythms of English
speakers. (It’s actually quite helpful for actors trying to memorize lines!)
Here is an example: “We went to see a tragedy today.”
When speaking this line, we naturally stress every other syllable:
U /
U / U / U / U /
We WENT | to SEE | a TRA | geDY | toDAY.
Now that you’ve made up one line, you can make up another! Choose a topic—any school subject, any
school event, the field trip to ROMEO AND JULIET, another film, etc. One partner should make up the
first line. It can be a question or a statement about the topic and it should use Shakespeare’s meter—the
unit of the iamb (an unstressed syllable followed by a stressed) multiplied five times to create a verse line
like the one above. The second partner should listen to the statement and try to respond with not only a
second line that makes sense and follows the meter, but one whose last word also rhymes with the last
word of the first line. Voila! Partners have created a rhyming couplet.
Take the conversation farther. Can this series of verse lines be extended into a whole conversation?
Create some stichomythia by alternating several lines—with a series of one-liners, partners can really show
off their verbal wit!
Social Studies Classroom Activity
Imagine that the class is all residents of the city of Elsinore, Denmark.
Just recently, King Hamlet has died. Why? Because a child of each of
their households died. The artists of the city wish to build a memorial
structure to King Hamlet to honor their memory and to remind them
what an honorable man he was. They are asking for artists to submit
their designs, and they will choose one to build together.
In teams or as individuals, create a design for the King Hamlet
•Is it a building? A sculpture? A fountain? A playground? Some other
kind of structure?
•Is it purely artistic, or is it functional as well (able to be used for some
kind of purpose)?
•What does it look like? Of what is it made?
•How does it honor the memory of King Hamlet? How does it
represent service and honor?
1. What is "rotten in the state of Denmark," as Marcellus tells us?
2. What does Hamlet learn from the Ghost's speech?
3. What is the subject of Hamlet's second soliloquy, the famous "To be or not to be" speech?
4. Why is Ophelia mad? Does anything she say make sense?
1. ‘Tis in my memory lock’d, and you yourself shall keep the key of it.
2. Revenge his foul and most unnatural murder.
3. My excellent good friends! How dost thou, Guildenstern?
Ah, Rosencrantz! Good lads, how do you both? What news?
4. The lady doth protest too much methinks.
5. There is something rotten in Denmark.
6. To be, or not to be, that is the question.
7. Rich gifts wax poor when givers prove unkind…
8. This above all else: to thine own self be true.
9. And I a maid at your window to be your Valentine.
10.Alas, poor Yorick! I knew him, Horatio.
1. ‘Tis in my memory lock’d, and you yourself shall keep the key of it.. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . OPHELIA
2. Revenge his foul and most unnatural murder. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . GHOST
3. My excellent good friends! How dost thou, Guildenstern?
Ah, Rosencrantz! Good lads, how do you both? What news?. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . HAMLET
4. The lady doth protest too much methinks. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . GERTRUDE
5. There is something rotten in Denmark…. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . MARCELLUS
6. To be, or not to be, that is the question. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . HAMLET
7. Rich gifts wax poor when givers prove unkind… . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . OPHELIA
8. This above all else: to thine own self be true.. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . POLONIUS
9. And I a maid at your window to be your Valentine. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . OPHELIA
10.Alas, poor Yorick! I knew him, Horatio. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . HAMLET