Hamlet Classroom Activities

Instructor: Jason Lineberger

Jason has 20 years of education experience including 14 years of teaching college literature.

If you're using William Shakespeare's tragedy 'Hamlet' in your classroom, this lesson will provide you with some activities to use that will help students understand the plot, characters, and the big ideas of the play.

Hamlet Activities

While many students find the plot of Hamlet to be engaging, the language of the play is dense, poetic, and challenging. The activities in this lesson are designed to help students understand the play, from plot and character to deeper levels of meaning. Choose activities that best suit the ability levels and learning styles of your students.

Five Minute Hamlet

Use this activity when you have finished reading to review characters and plot as well as to help students with the play's language and central ideas. Divide the class into five groups. Each group is given one of the five acts of the play and the task of creating a one minute version of that scene, written as a play, with dialogue and stage directions. Students will need to review the text closely to choose the most meaningful scenes and reduce the dialogue to only the most crucial phrases. As the teams write their scripts, question their choices and make them justify the moments they've picked as well as ones they've chosen to omit. If time permits, let the groups stage a dramatic reading of their act. For a larger project, combine the scripts to create a five minute version of the play. Rehearse and perform it, or use it as the script for a filmed version.

The Great Hamlet Debates

Debate can be an effective approach to help students uncover meaning and nuance in the play, especially for your verbally-inclined students. Divide the class into two sides and establish rules for how they should propose ideas or rebut the points presented by the opposition. A set of rules is important to keep the debate from devolving into a heated argument. For a less formal option, use a light ball to toss around the room. When students catch it, they can make a point for one side or the other then choose someone to pass the ball to, who must in turn make a new point or offer a counterargument. The first option will take the debate into more depth, and the second option can quickly cover more debate topics.

Possible topics include:

  • Laertes is a better son to his father than Hamlet is to his.
  • Hamlet actually loses touch with his sanity.
  • Hamlet loves Ophelia.
  • Hamlet should trust The Ghost.
  • Fortinbras will make a good king.
  • Hamlet's main problem is he's indecisive.

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