Five Act Structure in The Tragedy of Hamlet
Lesson Plan Reference
Grade Level 11-12
Difficulty Level 2 (Reinforcing / Developing)
Type of Assignment Individual, Partner, or Group
Type of Activity: The Five Act Play (Dramatic Structure)Common Core Standards
- [ELA-Literacy/RL/11-12/3] Analyze the impact of the author’s choices regarding how to develop and relate elements of a story or drama (e.g., where a story is set, how the action is ordered, how the characters are introduced and developed)
[ELA-Literacy/RL/11-12/10] By the end of grade 11, read and comprehend literature, including stories, dramas, and poems, in the grades 11-CCR text complexity band proficiently, with scaffolding as needed at the high end of the range.
By the end of grade 12, read and comprehend literature, including stories, dramas, and poems, at the high end of the grades 11-CCR text complexity band independently and proficiently
- [ELA-Literacy/W/11-12/4] Produce clear and coherent writing in which the development, organization, and style are appropriate to task, purpose, and audience. (Grade-specific expectations for writing types are defined in standards 1–3 above.)
A common use for Storyboard That is to help students create a plot diagram of the events from a story. Not only is this a great way to teach the parts of the plot, but it reinforces major events and help students develop greater understanding of literary structures.
Students can create and show a storyboard that captures the concept of the Five Act Structure by making a six cell storyboard, like the one below. For each cell, have students create a scene that follows the acts in order: Prologue, Conflict, Rising Action, Climax, Falling Action, and Denouement.
Act 1: Prologue
The setting is Elsinore Castle, in Denmark. The former king of Demark has died, and a group of soldiers tell his son, Prince Hamlet, that they believe they saw his ghost. Hamlet later sees the ghost and it is indeed his father. Hamlet learns the king was poisoned by Hamlet's uncle (the king's brother), who has since married the queen and is now the new king.
Act 1: Conflict
Hamlet feels that he must seek revenge on his father’s behalf. However, he struggles with the authenticity of the “ghost” and is indecisive about his course of action.
Act 2: Rising Action
Claudius hires two of Hamlet’s old friends, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, to spy on the prince. Polonius, chief counselor to Claudius, also spies on Hamlet. Polonius’s daughter, Ophelia, had been courted by Hamlet, but he now seems to reject her, perhaps in an effort to convince Claudius he is mad. Throughout the rising action, Hamlet tries to figure out if Claudius truly killed his father. When he hears a group of actors are coming, he requests that they act out a play that depicts a king being poisoned in the ear. This mimics the way the ghost claims he was killed. Hamlet thinks if Claudius reacts, it will prove his guilt.
Act 3: The Climax
Claudius leaves the play and goes to pray forgiveness for killing Hamlet's father. Hamlet overhears this and wants to kill him. However, he thinks if he kills him while he is praying, Claudius will go to heaven.
Act 4: Falling Action
Hamlet speaks to his mother about how disgusted he is that she is married to Claudius. Hamlet accidentally kills Polonius and is banished to England. Claudius includes a letter to the King of England that orders Hamlet’s execution. Hamlet escapes and comes back to Denmark. Ophelia, crushed by Hamlet’s apparent disdain and the death of the father, has drowned herself. Hamlet is challenged to a fencing match by Laertes, Ophelia’s brother, who blames Hamlet for the deaths of his sister (Ophelia) and his father (Polonius).
Act 5: Denouement
At the match, Laertes poisons the tip of his sword. Claudius poisons a cup and tries to get Hamlet to drink from it. Hamlet refuses and Queen Gertrude drinks from it instead. Laertes stabs Hamlet. They grapple, and Laertes is stabbed by his own sword and also poisoned. Hamlet makes Claudius drink from the poison cup, and then stabs him with the poisoned sword. In the end, only Horatio is left to tell the story. Fortinbras, King of Norway, arrives to find the royal family dead, and claims Denmark.
(These instructions are completely customizable. After clicking "Copy Assignment", change the description of the assignment in your Dashboard.)
Create a visual plot diagram of Hamlet.
- Separate the play into the Prologue/Exposition, Rising Action, Climax, Falling Action, and Denouement.
- Create an image that represents an important moment or set of events for each of the acts.
- Write a description of each of the steps in the plot diagram.
(Modify this basic rubric by clicking the link below. You can also create your own on Quick Rubric.)