Hamlet Lessons - Ms Kazi`s English Blogs

January 9, 2018 | Author: Anonymous | Category: Arts & Humanities, Performing Arts, Drama
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Hamlet https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AS6maTSY uPI

Predictions… Characters •

What do you think the story is about? What do you think happens?

Use the characters and captions to help you devise some sort of storyline.


Hamlet – Shakespeare A Revenge Tragedy

Compare with The Revenger’s Tragedy

I hour 15 mins paper Closed Text

What are the side effects of revenge? What happens to someone as a result of revenge? What about the people around them? Is it self destructive? Why? Who gets hurt?


The Characters Stick each character onto a separate sheet. We will be adding key quotes and characteristics as we go along. Alternatively, on the blog is a link to a document containing all the pics. You can use this too if you prefer.

The Opening Scene – Act 1 Scene 1 What is the mood and atmosphere? What language techniques have been used to create this atmosphere? What is the purpose of this scene and what has it been used to establish?

Look at the purpose of the ghost here. Does the ghost foreshadow anything? What is the ghost’s attire?

Also, explore what Horatio brings to the scene?

Act 1 Scene 2 –

Claudius Addresses the Court

Objective: Understand the difference in the atmosphere between the first two scenes of the play Success Criteria: - Have compared the first two scenes - Completed a comparative analysis

How has Shakespeare shown a contrast in the atmosphere between Act 1 scene 1 and Act 1 scene 2?

This is what we should be able to effectively answer by the end of the lesson.

Act 1 Scene 2 Scene 2 is set in the Great Castle of Elsinore. It is bright, colourful and loud. -

What are the key points of this scene?

‘By our late dear brother’s death/Our state to be disjoint’ The first scene hints at the widespread concerns that exist in Denmark, but this scene reveals exactly how ‘rotten’ the state is. Claudius’ corruption is a sign that Elsinore is vulnerable.

Claudius – First impressions Add key characteristics to your Claudius page. Include key quotes -Gertrude -Hamlet - Denmark

‘O that this too too sullied flesh would melt’ Shakespeare reveals Hamlet’s thoughtful personality through his analysis of grief and his struggle with the morality of suicide. Hamlet's loss of faith and the question of whether suicide can be justified are major themes throughout the rest of the play.

Hamlet – the solitary thinker How has Shakespeare presented Hamlet? - Appearance - Attitude - What other’s say to him

How has Shakespeare shown a contrast in the atmosphere between Act 1 scene 1 and Act 1 scene 2?

Who are the characters and how are they linked?

What’s really happening in Claudius’ speech?

Act 1 Scenes 3 and 4 – Ophelia’s relationship with Hamlet is a major subplot Objective: Explore the character of Ophelia and her position in the play. Success Criteria: - Have started the character map for Polonius, Laertes and Ophelia - Have written a comparison between the inside and outside of the castle

Compare the two families: Claudius






Look at how the members of the family react and respond to the respective heads of the family, Claudius and Polonius. Can you sense any genuine love or concern in either family?

Polonius, Laertes and Ophelia Start the character pages for the above three characters. - Polonius's language and wordplay - Laertes language when speaking to Ophelia - Ophelia’s submissiveness

Homework: - Scene 4 - the Danish custom of drinking - Why Hamlet is not afraid to go with the Ghost - Scene 5

How the Ghost compares himself to Gertrude and Claudius What does he say about his murder What does he say about how quickly he was killed

The ghost in Hamlet no doubt performs an important dramatic function. Whatever may have been Shakespeare's belief about ghosts he utilizes the popular conception to highlight what is in the minds of his characters. The ghosts or witches that appeared to Macbeth spoke out only what was in his mind, and revealed his inner thoughts to the audience better than any words of his could do. In the same way, the ghost in Hamlet discloses to us the suspicions already in the minds of Hamlet and his friends. When Hamlet sees the ghost and hears its revelations, he voices this thought by saying, "Oh my prophetic soul!" (I. V. 40.) And the fact that it first appears to the friends of Hamlet suggests that they shared his suspicions and perhaps even anticipated them, though no word had been spoken. The inquiry of Marcellus about the cause of the warlike activity and his later remark about the rotten condition of Denmark seem to imply a suspicion that he is endeavoring to verify or to disprove.

The scepticism that all at first show concerning the ghost seems to indicate their unwillingness to put faith in their suspicions. They do not willingly think evil of the king, and they all want some undoubted proof, not only of the fact of the ghost's appearance, but of the truth of his words. Horatio hesitates to take ths word of Bernardo and Francisco, and is convinced only by the actual sight of the ghost. Hamlet, apparently the least suspicious of all, for he is the last to see the ghost, seems reluctant to believe that Horatio and the others have seen it. To convince him, Horatio assures him with an oath of the truth of his report, saying, "As I do live, my honor'd lord, 'tis true." (I. ii. 221.) His doubts are not finally removed until the fourth scene when he sees the ghost for himself. At last, the evidence overcomes his moral reluctance to believe such foul suspicions, and Hamlet is convinced of the guilt of the king

Madness Revenge Memory Complete the three sections looking closely at Act 1 Sc 5.

Watch up to the end of Act 1

Add to the Ophelia character page, this time including quotes from the men who seem to be demanding her to act or do certain things. Write the name of the character after the quote.

Ophelia and the status of women Unlike some of Shakespeare’s other female characters (Juliet), Ophelia is not a developed character. She gives into the demands from the men in her life.

The Ghost appears to Hamlet This mirrors the first scene. There is a contrast between the carefree nature inside the castle and the looming threat outside.

How does Shakespeare show a contrast in this scene between the carefree nature of the court inside and the danger that is looming outside of the castle?’


Suspense before the ghost arrives


The sound of the trumpets


The feeling of both the old king and new king


What is further revealed about the state of Denmark

Hamlet – ‘I do not set

my life at a pin’s fee’

For homework, add to your HAMLET character map. This time focus on how Hamlet is in a desperate state – he does not care about his life. Also look at his references to fate and destiny.

Act2 Scene1 1. 2.

Polonius sends someone to spy on his son, Laertes Ophelia reports Hamlet’s strange appearance

Shakespeare lightens the tone by making Polonius appear ludicrous. Full of his own importance and intoxicated words , he has the

tendency to lose the thread of “what was I about to say?/by the mass I was about to say something.”

Hamlet begins to appear mad

What do we learn from Ophelia about Hamlet’s appearance? (83-90)

Key Info Hamlet knows Ophelia will tell her father what she has seen . Feminist critics comment that Ophelia seems to have no scope for following her own wishes. Others, contrasting her with Juliet, accuse her of a complete lack of spirit.

Act 2 Scene 2

Deception is widespread

Real Madness Vs Fake Madness

Humour in Hamlet’s Madness

Players have an important role

Hamlet curses his lack of action

Using Act 2 Scene 2 as a starting point, analyse the importance of deception in Hamlet

‘to be or not to be’ Hamlet’s most unique soliloquy

The dramatic purpose of this episode is to establish Hamlet as a characteristically detached, reflective, analytic, thinking and moral. Abstract reflection.

Act 3 Scene 1 – ‘to be

or not to be’

Read through the scene and work through the following steps: What are the key messages of this soliloquy? 2. Why is there no mention of the ghost/Claudius/Gertrude? 3. What do you notice about the tone and tempo? 4. What does this show you about Hamlet’s state of mind? 1.

in direct contrast to the passionate exchange which follows…

‘Get thee to a nunnery’

Reversal of Roles - Gertrude’s allegiance -Ophelia’s betrayal

EXPLORE Hamlet’s reaction to Ophelia before she speaks. - How he refers to her - Language used

Hamlet’s rage once Ophelia starts talking. - How does he refer to her now? - Language he uses

Play within a Play What are the key moments of the scene?

Claudius’ reaction to the play… What does Hamlet think? Horatio…….the voice of reason?

Hamlet’s relationships are developed… Horatio



Rosencrantz And Guildenstern

‘Ophelia should be viewed as a completely innocent victim’ Argue for AND against this statement



Act 3 Scene 3 What does this scene reveal about Claudius’ character?

Claudius is not genuinely repentant How do we know this?

Tragi c Flaw

Plot Device


Potential Explanations for Hamlet’s delay…. Fairness

The Closet Scene What is the purpose behind Hamlet’s confrontation?

Confirms Claudius’ Guilt

Make Gertrude repent

Repair their relationship

Explore Gertrude’s language whilst she is talking to Hamlet

Explore Hamlet’s control over the conversation.

How does he do this?

What do we make of Hamlet’s spontaneous reaction?

‘Act 3 Scene 4 proves that Gertrude is just an innocent victim’. To what extent do you agree with the statement?

Act 4 is a series of fast moving events. This is typical of revenge tragedies but seems odd in a play full of delays…

Read Act4 Sc1 and 2

Gertrude and Claudius How do Gertrude and Claudius display the following traits in this scene? Self Centered


Act 4 Scene 2 Hamlet refuses to tell Rosencrantz and Guildenstern anything and criticises their selfish behaviour. How does this short scene continue to deal with the consequences of Polonius’ murder?

Hamlet is not sensitive or reflective… Hamlet’s angry reaction to Rosencrantz and Guildenstern – is it necessary?

He answers their questions in riddles

Gurjeevan and Shinead

Gagan and Rchie

Ali, Sanya and Aisha

Independent Tasks Act 4 Scenes 3-7

Gurjeevan and Shinead

1.Claudius plans to kill Hamlet

2.Hamlet compares himself with Fortinbras

Gagan and Rchie

1.Ophelia and Laertes both go mad – sort of! 2.Ophelia goes insane 3.Laertes is angry

Ali, Sanya and Aisha

1.Hamlet’s back but Claudius keeps plotting to kill him 2.Ophelia drowns but it is suspicious

A gravedigger whilst digging a grave, brings some wisdom and dark humour to the play

Hamlet and Laertes Ophelia Drowns Death Objective: Understand the key ideas in Act 5 scene 1 Success Criteria: Have completed a set of activities for each key moment

How is Act 5 Scene 1 important for the development of Hamlet’s character? Use the following key words to help you in your response… Symbolic

Own funeral

Own death


Chain of events


Hamlet and Laertes finally meet…

1. How does Hamlet show mixed feelings for Laertes 2. How does Hamlet praise Laertes. How does he

reflect this onto himself? 3. Analyse the language Laertes uses to make his grief seem more impressive. How does it actually seem? 4. Hamlet and Laertes are like love rivals. How could you support this statement?

The Gravedigger has two important roles…



commoners globe

Provide Comedy Morbid tone death

Re-evaluate ideas about death

Challenge Hamlet’s Views

Darkly humorous Rank and material possessions Disrespect of social class

How does Hamlet begin to think about death differently? Look at the following FOUR areas:

Physical images of death

Importance of his dead father

Yorick’s skull


Act 5 Scene 1 is the most important scene for the development of Hamlet’s character. To what extent do you agree with this statement?

Hamlet’s Changed View Abuse of Language Justice Objective: Understand the key themes of Act 5 Scene 2

What does the duel symbolise? Battle between goodness and corruption

Dramatic Concerns

That he will stop hesitating…

Hamlet has a changed view of the world. He decides to take control of his own actions. He decides…

To give into fate… That he’ll be damned if he does not kill Claudius… To take ownership of his quest for honour and revenge To start considering others…

B A A*

Sheep Grade Analysis Abusive Language – Hamlet still dislikes characters that abuse language – he mocks Polonius’ ramblings and Laertes’ use of



not surprising therefore that Osric, who’s fond of pompous and complicated speech is an easy target for Hamlet. Hamlet

parodies him by giving long winded answers – ‘his

definement suffers no perdition in you, though I know to divide him inverntorailly would dizzy th’arithmetic of memory’. By making unlikeable characters abuse language, Shakespeare shows that words can be misleading and dangerous.

Justice Gertrude

The themes of justice and revenge come together when Hamlet kills Claudius. By the end of the play, Claudius is isolated. He’s the single villain and all his potential co conspirators (Polonius, R+G, Laertes and Gertrude) are dead. Its clear that Claudius deserves his fate, but its more ambiguous whether

gets what they deserve.

everyone else

R+G Laertes Hamlet


‘All the deaths in Hamlet are the direct result of each character’s individual flaws – they all cause their own downfall.’ To what extent do you agree with this statement.

This is what we need to feel confident in answering by the end of the lesson.

‘Claudius was a bad brother but a good king’

Look at the model examples below. These are also on my blog.

Your target areas for improvement as a whole: 1. Flair in writing a) vocabulary b) sentence construction 2. Using short embedded quotes

Look at the examples of target 1 . Using the assessment grid, what band would you put this response in? 7 minutes

Look at the model examples below. These are also on my blog.

Your target areas for improvement as a whole: 1. Using short embedded quotes 2. Flair in writing a) vocabulary b) sentence construction

Look at the examples of target 2.

Using the assessment grid, what band would you put this response in?

7 minutes

Thursday 6th November 2014

Claudius (King) Objective: Be able to use these example paragraphs as a model for our own analysis Success Criteria: 1. Have written a short analysis 2. Have reflected on our targets in the analysis

Shinead and Gurjeevan

Claudius is the main antagonist (Bad Brother)


Claudius is a clever and talented leader (Good King)


His selfishness defines him (Good King)


Claudius manipulate s people with language (Good King)


Claudius is an immoral character (Bad Brother)


Claudius’ cunningness and deviousness are his own downfall (Bad Brother)

You have each been given a specific area to focus on for Claudius. Your section shows either that he is a good King or a bad brother.

Steps to Success:

1.Read through this section and condense it into one point about Claudius’ character. Provide a supporting quote. 2. Share your point with your table, making sure to add it to the mind map on the table.

3. You will need to take a picture of this mind map once you have the three ideas on it. (these will

form the basis of your homework)

8 minutes

This is what we need to feel confident in answering by the end of the lesson.

‘Claudius was a bad brother but a good king’ Help Yourself:

Write a paragraph answering this question. Remember this paragraph will show only one point – was he a bad brother or a good king. You know what side you were looking at.

1. Use the model examples and the checklist on the pink card.

Remember, you are focusing on the two targets from the start of the lesson. 1. Flair in writing 2. Short, embedded quotes

2. There is also a SHEEP GRADE vocabulary sheet that will help you with target 1.

Also, don’t forget your own personal targets from the SHEEP TARGET.

You have 12 minutes

DIRT – Pink Pen

You have 8minutes

Pair Up, Pair Up! Using the pink highlighter, highlight where your partner has used the two target areas for improvement. Give books back! Now, highlight an example of where you have used the target from your SHEEP GRADE target card.

Self Reflection – Once you have your work back, look at A01 and A02 on the assessment grid. What band would you place yourself in. How many marks would you give for each section?

Homework: Complete the six paragraphs. The three points for the opposite side of view will be published on the blog after the lesson. I will take a picture of it. You can do this on Evernote.

Take two handfuls of bitter acrimony and stir in a good helping of blood. Allow to simmer, adding a pinch of the supernatural to taste. Fold into a casing of false identity or madness and allow to set. Revenge is a dish best served cold.

Do you think Hamlet ‘passes the deadline’ in his plot to take revenge? Can I attempt this answer with more confidence by the end of the lesson?

Revenge Objective: Analyse how the theme of revenge is used in the play Success Criteria: Have explored the Revenge in Hamlet

five key areas of

Revenge was seen as an old and unlawful kind of justice In Shakespeare’s time, the church taught that revenge was a sin – it was wrong for a man to settle dispute himself. The Bible says that revenge is God’s responsibility. (Vengeance is mine – Romans 12:19)

Linking this to Hamlet – -This is why Hamlet questions if the ghost of his father is the ‘devil’ in a ‘pleasing shape’. Because it tempts him to commit the sin of revenge.

-The ghost’s appearance wuld have contradicted the Protestant Church’s teachings. Hamlet has to decide whether to follow his beliefs or the Ghost’s orders.

Revenge tragedy was a Popular Dramatic Genre Elizabethan playwrights were influenced by Seneca’s dramas from the 1st Century.


Thomas Kyd’s The Spanish Tragedy

Search this and the structure of these plays. Link this back to Hamlet.

Hamlet’s not a Typical Revenger Hamlet could be seen as humanist revenger. Look at the revenger in The Spanish Tragedy and compare him to Hamlet.


Research Renaissance Humanism and link this to Hamlet’s revenge.

The relationship between fate and free will

Hamlet’s language repeatedly suggests that it is his fate to become a revenger

Hamlet thinks that it is his fate to take revenge

Hamlet, however, tests his role as revenger and resists his given role

‘To act or not to act – that is the problem’ Hamlet is defined by its lack of action. The play is considered to take the structure of other revenge tragedies but Shakespeare shifts the focus from the revenger’s obsessive planning to Hamlet’s indecisiveness. Hamlet, however, tries to encourage himself by using more violent and determined language….

Provide two instances from the play where this is the case!

Revenge Plots..

There are a few revenge plots in the play. What are they?

Do you think Hamlet ‘passes the deadline’ in his plot to take revenge? Can I attempt this answer with more confidence by the end of the lesson?



Do you think Hamlet ‘passes the deadline’ in his plot to take revenge? Can I attempt this answer with more confidence by the end of the lesson? Form and Structure. Use this accompanying resource and ensure that you use the ideas in your response to the question.


‘Frailty, thy name is woman’ To what extent do you think Gertrude conforms to this stereotype?

Gertrude Objective: Analyse her role and depiction in the play.

Gertrude is an ambiguous character Use the following prompts to complete an analysis showing how Gertrude is an ambiguous character. - There is a lot Shakespeare does not tell us about Gertrude. She does not have any soliloquies to… - She comes across as graceful and charming, however, you could argue that… - As Queen, she holds a position of power and authority, but at times she comes across as… 1. 2. 3.

Certain aspects of Gertrude are left ambiguous: Her marriage Whether she believes Hamlet’s madness Hints that she committed adultery before King Hamlet’s death

As a group, you have the following TWO topics: Discuss these and make ‘photcopiable’ notes to pass to the rest of the group.

Gertude cares about appearance

Gertrude relies on men to maintain her position

Ali, Shinead, Sanya and Gagan

Rchie, Gurjeevan, Aisha,

Gertude and Hamlet have a complicated relationship

She could be a caring, maternal victim or an adulteress murderer

‘Frailty, thy name is woman’ To what extent do you think Gertrude conforms to this stereotype? AO1




‘I am but mad north north west. When the wind is southerly, I know a hawk from a handsaw’. Analyse this quotation in the context of Hamlet’s use of madness and a revenge tactic.

Revenger’s sometimes pretend to be mad In revenge tragedies, the revenger often fakes madness to help him carry out his plan without arousing suspicion. Titus Andronicus and The Spanish Tragedy

Hamlet’s Madness might be an Act… -

Hamlet planning his madness Appearance Calculated language

…or depression and stress may have made him mad -

His first soliloquy Questioning of his faith Audience never see Hamlet before his father’s death so its hard to know what he’s normally like Act 5 Scene 1 Hamlet warns Laertes The final scene, Hamlet declares he really was mad.

Ophelia Polonius’ death disturbs Ophelia – the King calls her madenss ‘the poison of deep grief’. Its made worse by the fact that Polonius was killed by the man she loved and that his burial was done quickly and secretly while her brother is away and unable to defend the family’s honour. Ophelia falls into a different kind of madness from Hamlet: 1. Ophelia’s speech 2. She has lost self consciousness 3. Her death is troubling; a) her death took place offstage b) distressed by grief so she didn’t care that she was drowning c) it seem strange that Ophelia death was witnesses but wasn’t prevented.

Ophelia’s madness seems genuine Ophelia’s insanity may be a good contrast to hnalet’s madness as they’re both grieving for murdered fathers. By comparing the two characters, the audience realises that Ophelia is genuinly mad while Hamlet’s sanity is more ambiguous.

Form and Structure Sanya, Ali, Shinead and Gurjeevan

Performing Hamlet Gagan, Rchie, Aisha

You will need to have the following by the end of the lesson: - A handout to give to the other group - A short presentation to feedback to the class - A clear understanding of both the boxes above.

‘Polonius has no redeeming

features – he deserved to be killed.’ To what extent do you agree with this analysis?

Objective: Explore Shakespeare’s depiction of Polonius

Polonius in an incompetent schemer…

Contemporary Context – A04 It was also suggested that Polonius was based on Lorrd Burghley, a spymaster in Elizabeth’s court, who had spied on his son in Paris. Polonius’ critical, interfering and self righteous nature is also said to be a parody of the Puritans – the Puritans hated the theatre, which may explain why Shakespeare made him such a laughable character.

Polonius and Laertes

Polonius and Ophelia Low opinion

Spy Deception Scandal ‘Reckless libertine’ – Ophelia (1.3.49)

Corruptible ‘baby’ – Polonius (1.3.111,105) Obeys Hypocritical demands

The Purpose of Polonius… He ruins Hamlet and Ophelia’s relationship

He provides some comic relief

Polonius’ scheming and foolishness are his own downfall

‘Polonius has no redeeming

features – he deserved to be killed.’ To what extent do you agree with this analysis?

Read Laertes and Polonius’ advice to Ophelia in Act 1, Sc 3. How do these two characters present male sexuality to Ophelia and the audience?

Gender and Sexuality Objective: Explore how the Elizabethan context of gender and sexuality is evident in Hamlet.

Gender played an important role in Elizabethan Society

Gender restricts the way the characters live…

…and determines the way they die According to classic tragedy, men should die by the sword or in combat. In Elizabethan England, women’s bodies were thought to be made of more watery substances.

Go through the characters in Hamlet and note the way they have died. Are there any characters that do not conform to the Elizabethan stereotype? How does this contribute to the overall meaning?

The Men in Hamlet try to restrict the women’ s sexuality.. Explore the following; 1. Hamlet and Gertrude 2. The Men in Ophelia’s life 3. The men using abusive and accusatory language

Finally, The play has an underlying concern with incest. Elizabethan law Christian beliefs

Use the following key words to write up a response to the above…

Marries Accusation Mother’s sexuality sSister’s virginity Sexual closet scene

Read Laertes and Polonius’ advice to Ophelia in Act 1, Sc 3. How do these two characters present male sexuality to Ophelia and the audience?

Niccolo Machiavelli wrote that ‘men are driven by two principal impulses, either by love or by fear’. Explore this idea in an analysis of the major characters in Hamlet.

Cultural Context Objective: Explore the major characters in the play and their depiction Success criteria: Have planned for an essay response

Cultural Context Read through/ make notes from the sheets given. Use the ideas from this sheet to help you plan a response for the question.

Use your Assessment Criteria to ensure that you have evidence for every AO.

Objective: Explore Laertes’ purpose in the play

Laertes is a FOIL to Hamlet Shakespeare uses various

foils to develop Hamlet’s character. The main

foil is Laertes, a young man also seeking revenge for his father’s murder. As foils for one another, Hamlet and Laertes have

common: 1.

Hamlet and Laertes both of love, loyalty and

2. 3.

several things in

love Ophelia and have a strong sense

respect for their fathers.


Both are studying abroad, well known for their swordsmanship. They both but seek revenge through devious means – Laertes uses a poisoned blade and Hamlet feigns madness.

claim to be honorable,

Foils also show contrasts between characters. When Hamlet says ‘I’ll be your foil Laertes’ (5.2.252) he’s modestly saying that the difference in their fencing ability will make Laertes’ skills seem even better.

Comparing Laertes and Hamlet

Look at the following scenes to help you use the key words for Laertes’ language…

Act 1 Sc 3 Act 5 Sc 1

Insincere (5.1) Pompous tone (1.3) Abuses words (1.3

Laertes’ language echoes his fathers… Exaggeration (5.1)

Hollow and unfeeling (5.1)

Content and style (1.3)

Fortinbras is a mix of Laertes and Hamlet… Use the following FOUR points below to explore how Fortinbras is a foil of Hamlet and Laertes.


Fortinbras is a foil to Hamlet and Laertes


Fortinbras is actively seeking revenge


Hamlet has a major turning point when he compares himself to Fortinbras


The play’s resolution highlights Fortinbras’ positive traits

Laertes pretty much exists to act as a foil to Hamlet. Horatio’s the cling film, sticking with Hamlet, Ophelia’s the baking paper – she might have a bun in the oven, and Fortinbras is the kitchen roll, he comes and clears up the mess in the end.

Appearance and Reality Objective: Explore the idea of how the audience is constantly ‘watching’.

In Hamlet, appearances can be deceptive… 1.

Hamlet values truth and spend most of the play searching for it. In his search he is constantly frustrated by the inconsistencies between appearance and reality.


To try and understand their uncertain reality, many of the characters in Hamlet want visual proof of things. i.e Horatio.


The preoccupation with seeing makes a lack more disconcerting.

of sight even

The Audience are reminded that they are watching a play… References to the stage highlight the blurred line between drama and life and appearance and reality. Sometimes the audience are separate observers and sometimes they are addressed directly as if the characters know that they are there. Hamlet uses metaphorical language to describe the heavens and the earth as a theatre. He even refers to the Globe theatre itself. 2.2.300 and 1.5. 96

‘Memory holds a seat/ in this distracted globe’. This has three possible meanings. 1. The globe as the earth 2. The audience at the globe 3. The globe as Hamlet’s own head full of distracted thoughts.

The audience is watching Hamlet watch the King watch a play.. Hamlet is full of scenes where characters are watching or spying on each other. The fact that the audience are watching this from afar adds another level of observation. This complicates the way the audience watches the play because they are caught up in a network of people looking at each other. Shakespeare’s audience in the Globe would have been physically close to the stage so the separation of the audience and the actors was less obvious.

Sight is also described as a way to control or ‘catch’ someone.

Hamlet is worried that everyone is keeping up fake appearances

Hamlet doesn’t know who to trust

Explore the idea of ‘watching’ in Hamlet.

Dramatic Language Explore Shakespeare’s use of prose and verse

Shakespeare uses blank verse to imitate the rhythm of natural speech Iambic- this is the rhythm of English speech which stresses every other syllable. A string of

five iambs makes ten syllables of

alternating stress – this is called

iambic pentameter.

1 2 3 4 5 6 7

8 9 10

For in that sleep of death what dreams may come (3.1.66) In the 16th C poets started to write in unrhymed iambic pentameter – this is

blank verse. Shakespeare uses the ten syllable framework or blank verse to imitate formal speech – lines that are written in blank verse are usually spoken by high status characters or form part of a speech or soliloquy.

Some crucial moments in Hamlet’s speeches are marked by changing the pattern of iambic pentameter – Hamlet’s soliloquy in Act 3 Sc1 is interrupted by a caesura which breaks the rhythm of the iambic metre. There is also an extra syllable in the line which suggests that Hamlet is thinking on his feet. 1 2

3 4




8 9



To be or not to be – that is the question

Sometimes the verse breaks down into prose… Prose is writing that’s not verse- it does not rhyme, its got no metre and there are no line breaks. When characters talk to each other informally or address a character of a lower status, they use prose.

So, for instance, The lack of ceremony displayed in Act 5 Scene 1 by the gravedigger, Hamlet and Horatio when they joke about about death is reflected in their use of prose. This informality is juxtaposed with the return to blank verse when Ophelia’s funeral procession arrives. The

transition from prose to verse is marked by a rare example of rhyming iambic pentameter.

At other times, the characters’ control over their language slips which

reflects their state of mind. Prose can be used to show that a character can’t organise their thoughts in eloquent iambic pentameter. When Ophelia goes mad, she speaks to the court in prose which reflects her rambling

and incoherent thoughts.

Hamlet’s many soliloquies… Hamlet has five soliloquies throughout the play…let’s explore these!

How do Hamlet’s soliloquies affect the audience’s understanding of his character?

Objective: Explore the roles of Horatio and Rosencrantz and Guildenstern

Loyal Trustworthy Die alongside Conversations with Hamlet


Horatio is Hamlet’s only ally What do we learn about Horatio?

Hamlet admires Horatio’s Self Control… 1.

Hamlet admires Horatio for having the qualities that he lacks. He praises Horatio for his virtue, self control and stoic attitude and wishes that he could have a similar state of mind.

‘Give me that man/That is not passion’s slave, and I will wear him/In my heart’s core’ (3.2.) Here, Hamlet seems almost envious of Horatio’s freedom from emotion, however Horatio is not completely unfeeling. He does have a strong love for Hamlet but he does not let it control him. 2. Even when Horatio offers to commit suicide for Hamlet, he’s level headed and calm, motivated by a sense of honour and duty. He calls himself ‘more an antique Roman than a Dane’. (5.2) This links his character to the values of the classical world where suicide was considered heroic in some circumstances.

3. Horatio is calm, thoughtful and speaks only when necessary. In comparison, Hamlet’s speeches are frequent and meandering and his emotions delay his vengeance. 4. Hamlet wants to learn from Horatio’s stoic attitude – he wishes that he could be more rational and indifferent to fortune. Byt the end of the play, Hamlet has accepted his fate. ‘There’s a divinity that shapes our ends’ (5.2).

Horatio’s Dramatic Function:

Rosencrantz and Guildenstern What do you know about Rosencrantz and Guildenstern?

They’re interchangeable characters…

Tom Stoppard wrote a play based on R+G where even the two characters can’t tell each other apart.


R+G only ever appear together and seen incapable of functioning independently. They talk in a similar way and finish each other’s sentences Gertrude’s repetition of Claudius’ line ‘Thanks Rosencrantz and gentle Guildenstern’ (2.2) with the names reversed implies that it is difficult to tell them apart.


Their names are also similar - both have three syllable.


They can be seen as deception personified – their two faced nature shows that friendship is not for life and that loyalty can be bought.

They’re dishonest, but not very bright… Their names have christian symbolism which is ironic because they are not very moral characters. Rosencrantz means ‘crown of roses’ (or thorns) and Guildenstern means ‘golden star’. They ignore the Christian values of love and friendship and instead betray Hamlet for profit. However, they’re not very good at deception. Hamlet quickly realises that they’re working for Claudius. This provides humour as it makes them appear fools and they serve as comic foils to Hamlet’s wit.

They seem out of depth and have no control over their own destiny or events of the play itself. Their deaths are a result of a plot they don’t understand.

R+G are dead, but nobody cares… Their deaths reveal the complicated nature of Hamlet’s character. He’s incapable of taking revenge on Claudius, yet he’s able to send his old friends to their deaths without a second thought.

‘They are not near my conscience’. (5.2)

The pair might not have been loyal but their deaths seem unjustified. They may have been following Claudius out of fear. Hamlet had warned the pair ‘ you

cannot play upon me’ (3.2).

Perhaps Hamlet felt that they deserved their fate because they show such greed and stupidity and don’t listen to his warnings.

Plan for ONE of the two questions… ‘The characters of Rosencrantz and Guildenstern add nothing to the play. Hamlet could easily have done without them.’ To what extent do you agree with this statement?

What do you think is more important – Horatio’s function as the play’s chorus or his role as Hamlet’s only true friend?

‘Death was everywhere in Elizabethan England – life expectancy was 40 years and infant mortality was high and disease was widespread.’ (AO4)

Objective: Explore Hamlet’s preoccupation with life after death ‘Let me not burst in ignorance. But tell/Why thy canonized bones, hearsed in death/Have burst their cerements’ (1.4)

How does Shakespeare present Hamlet’s anxiety about the afterlife?

Hamlet’ unsure about what happens after death… The Reformation bought new ideas about the afterlife to the newly formed Church of England. However, many people still held onto Catholic ideas of the time about spirits, demons and


In Hamlet, Shakespeare uses different characters to introduce the conflict between Catholic, Protestant and humanist ideas. The play reflects the current

debates of Shakespeare’s time.

Yorrick’s skull is a reminder of man’s mortality In Elizabethan times, death was considered to be much a part of life as birth. Horatio refers to the ‘womb of earth’ (1.1) which suggests that burial is a return to the fertile soil that supports life on earth.

Momento Mori – Elizabethan art often used images of skulls as a reminder of death and man’s inescapable mortality. This type of object is called a momento mori, which roughly translates as ‘Remember you will die’.

Hans Holbien – The Ambassadors Public clocks, statues and paintings like the one above would be decorated with skulls. The painting has a stretched image of the skull across the bottom. This hidden skull reminds the viewer that even when you cant see it, death is near.

Hamlet uses Yorrick’s skull as a theatrical momento mori in Act 5 Scene 1. Directors often decide to have Hamlet holding the skull up to his face, as if he’s having a conversation with it. This represents Hamlet facing death out of fascination rather than fear or bravery. This is reflected in his language.

Find examples of this language that Hamlet uses.

Suicide was a sin that barred the soul’s entrance to heaven… Suicide was condemned by Christian teaching and people who committed suicide were buried in unconsecrated (unblessed) ground.

What does the Priest at Ophelia’s funeral say that suggests she does not deserve a Christian burial?

Death continued… Hamlet is troubled by the spiritual problems of suicide even when he’s joking.

Ophelia’s final words on stage suggest that she senses she is going to die

Act 1 and 2 – his body/flesh

Act 4 Sc 5 - Her final song

Act 2 sc 2 - ‘except my life’

Ophelia says her goodbyes

How does death restore order in Elsinore…

How does death restore order in Elsinore… The play shows how easily revenge can spiral out of control – Hamlet avenges King Hamlet’s death, Laertes avenges Polonius’ death, and Fortinbras recovers his Father’s lost lands. Hamlet and Laertes’ deaths restore order and close the cycle neatly because there is nobody left to be avenged.

Horatio warns Hamlet that ‘The very place puts toys of desperation,/Without more motive, into every brain/ That looks so many fathoms to the sea/And hears it roar beneath.’ (1.4) What is the effect of his use fo imagery here? Refer to specific literary techniques in your answer.

Objective: Explore Shakespeare’s use of imagery through close reading of a passage.

Horatio warns Hamlet that ‘the very place puts toys

of desperation,/Without more motive , into every brain/That looks so many fathoms to the sea/ And hears it roar beneath.’ (1.4) What is the effect of his use of imagery here. Refer to specific literary techniques in your answer.

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