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Hamlet Pre-Reading Activities

Instructor: Angela Janovsky

Angela has taught middle and high school English, Business English and Speech for nine years. She has a bachelor's degree in psychology and has earned her teaching license.

If you're designing a unit on 'Hamlet, Prince of Denmark,' then you've come to the right place. This lesson discusses some pre-reading activities to prepare your students for reading this play.

Shakespeare's Hamlet

A self-doubting prince allows his uncle to take the throne after his father's death. Then, he learns the uncle actually murdered the king. What does the prince do? Can he get over his insecurities and defeat his uncle?

No, this isn't the next superhero blockbuster... this is Shakespeare! The plot of Hamlet, Prince of Denmark, to be exact. Written and published in the early 1600s, this story of an insecure prince struggling with his own existence speaks to the self-doubt in all of us. But, how do you get your students to appreciate it?

The difficult language and style of Shakespeare is often a huge barrier in the classroom. If your students can't understand it, they'll never learn to appreciate the story. However, using various activities to prepare your students for what they're about to read can help overcome those obstacles and push your students to get engaged in the play. This lesson outlines some pre-reading activities you can use in the classroom to promote student interest.

Preparing for the Style

Anyone who has read Shakespeare, and especially those who have taught it, knows how difficult it can be to read. That alone deters many students. With this in mind, let's discuss some activities you can do with your students to prepare them for the difficult style of Shakespeare.

First, expose your students to other similar works. You can do this by using the many sonnets he wrote, since these are all short pieces that can be analyzed fairly quickly. In addition, the poetical traits, like meter, are very similar to his plays. For the activity, have students work independently or in pairs to break down one sonnet. Since he wrote over 150 sonnets, each student or pair can have a different poem. Then, students can switch poems with their peers and see if they agree on the meaning.

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