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Tragedy of Hamlet Lesson Plans

One of the most quoted lines of Shakespeare comes from Hamlet: "To be or not to be, that is the question!" Inspire and engage your students with captivating storyboards as you teach The Tragedy of Hamlet, Prince of Denmark, a dark tale of a prince consumed by revenge. Bring the vivid imagery to life with these activities that incorporate all four strands of the ELA Common Core State Standards.

Student Activities for Hamlet

Essential Questions For The Tragedy of Hamlet

  1. What decisions will I make today that will affect my life in the future?
  2. How would knowing what will happen after death affect the way I live?
  3. When is it appropriate to act on impulses, and when should care and consideration be taken?

Brief Hamlet Summary

The Tragedy of Hamlet by William Shakespeare takes place in Elsinore Castle, the home of Denmark’s royal family. A ghost resembling the recently dead King Hamlet, has been spotted walking throughout the Castle. Prince Hamlet, the late King’s son, comes to speak to the ghost. The King tells his son that he was murdered by Claudius, the King’s brother, who inherited the throne and married the queen, Gertrude. Before disappearing, the ghost orders his son to seek revenge.

Prince Hamlet, a devoted son, agrees to avenge his father’s death but is overwhelmed by the weight of the task. Hamlet has been moody and depressed since his father’s death, and now becomes manic. Claudius and Gertrude had asked two of Hamlet’s good friends, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, to spy on him, but even they are unable to discover the cause of Hamlet’s strange behavior.

Before long, Hamlet devises a plan to test his uncle. A group of actors have come to perform at the castle, and Hamlet instructs them to perform a scene resembling his father’s death. Horatio, one of Hamlet’s oldest friends, and the only other person who knows of the murder, agrees to watch Claudius’ reaction.

During the sequence, Claudius runs to pray. Horatio and Hamlet believe this suffices to prove his guilt. Hamlet goes after Claudius with the intent to kill him, but hesitates, and refuses to kill Claudius while in prayer.

Hamlet then confronts his mother about his father’s death and her new husband. While in her room, he hears something behind the curtain. Thinking it is Claudius, he draws his sword, stabs through the curtain. The person behind the curtain was Claudius’s chief counselor, Polonius.

Hamlet is banished to England with for accidentally killing Polonius. The King sends Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, along with signed orders for the King of England to kill the prince. Knowing their treachery, Hamlet switches out the letter with orders to kill Rosencrantz and Guildenstern instead. The two men are executed, and Hamlet returns to Denmark.

Back in Denmark, Polonius’s his daughter, Ophelia, who had been courting Hamlet, drowns herself in a river. Polonius’s son, Laertes, vows to avenge his father’s death, and blames Hamlet for Ophelia’s death as well. Claudius and Laertes devise a plan to kill Hamlet during a fencing match.

In the match, Hamlet scores the first point. Claudius offers him a drink from a poisoned goblet but Hamlet declines. Instead, his mother takes a drink and it kills her. Hamlet is struck by Laertes with a poisoned sword, and in a scuffle over blades, the two switch swords, and Laertes is shortly after wounded with the poison blade as well. Before he dies, Laertes confesses to Hamlet that Claudius poisoned the goblet. Hamlet stabs Claudius, and forces him to drink the rest of the poison from the goblet. Horatio attempts to drink from the poison goblet, but Hamlet orders him to stay alive to tell the tale. Fortinbras, King of Norway, arrives to find the entire royal family dead, Horatio tells him the story of what has happened, and Fortinbras takes the crown for himself.

Other Hamlet Activity Ideas

  1. Create storyboards that show a contrast between times Hamlet acted quickly and when he was methodical. Show how the outcomes were different.
  2. Depict an event from the play that, if it happened differently, would have changed the entire play.
  3. Create a parody or satire of the play as if it took place now with social networking! Storyboard That has the icons you need to adapt Hamlet to your favorite website!
  4. Depict the important parts of the famous Hamlet soliloquy, “To be, or not to be...”, in six cells.
  5. Add a presentation to any storyboard project to showcase your abilities! (And hit CCSS Speaking and Listening Standards!)

Buy Hamlet on Amazon

How To Explain Tragedies Using Storyboard That


Introduce Tragedies

Introduce the concept of tragedies to students using descriptive definitions and well-known examples. One example other than Hamlet that every student must be aware of is “Romeo and Juliet” which is also written by Shakespeare.


Create a Storyboard Template

Provide the students with a storyboard template with different panels and cells where they can write the different stages and patterns that are common in tragedies. They can also use one specific tragedy such as Hamlet to write down main events.


Maintain Order and Flow

Make sure the panels transition logically from one to the next to retain the consistency of the story. To show the flow of events, students can join panels together using arrows or lines. By changing panel sizes, students may convey a feeling of pacing.


Make Comparisons

Teachers can also use Storyboard That to help the students make comparisons between different types of tragedies. They can also use this chance to make a comparison between tragedies and other forms of writing.


Reflect and Analyze

In the end, students can summarize what they learned from the activities performed above and their own analysis of different tragedies. They can also try to connect these old tragedies with the modern world and its impacts.

Frequently Asked Questions About The Tragedy of Hamlet, Prince of Denmark

Who is the protagonist of "Hamlet"?

Prince Hamlet, the young heir to the Danish throne, is the main character. He is a complicated person, divided between his need for vengeance and his tendency toward introspection. His inner conflicts and emotional journey are at the heart of the play's plot.

What line from "Hamlet" is really famous?

Hamlet's soliloquy in Act 3, Scene 1 is where the classic quote "To be or not to be, that is the question" is found. Hamlet reflects on the nature of existence, the suffering of life's challenges, and the terror of the unknown in death in this reflective speech. This quote from the speech is really famous all over the world and is an excellent topic for discussions and debates in class.

What part of "Hamlet" is considered a "play within a play"?

Hamlet used the "play within a play" as a strategy to reveal King Claudius's guilt. Hamlet performs "The Mousetrap," a play that recreates the events of King Hamlet's death. In Hamlet's eyes, Claudius' response to the play confirms his guilt.

Why is Hamlet frequently referred to as a tragic hero?

Hamlet's noble origins, commendable traits, and ultimate fall from grace make him a tragic hero. His overthinking and hesitation are sad flaws that cause him to die tragically. The audience feels empathy and catharsis as they see him struggle and ultimately perish.

Find more lesson plans and activities like these in our English Language Arts Category!
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