The enigmatic qualities of Shakespeare’s Prince
make this drama an appropriate choice for high school students
who can evaluate and analyze the complexity of Hamlet’s situation, his motivations, and the choices and decisions he
makes. Students are immediately intrigued by the play, especially if teachers introduce them to the complicated dilemma
of Prince Hamlet before they begin reading. Once students are aware of Hamlet’s tragic story, they are compelled to learn
what he decides to do and the consequences of his decisions.
is a monument of Shakespeare’s talent, and as such. Teachers have the exciting opportunity to proceed in infinite
directions in their teaching of the work. The most meaningful focus, however, is to be found in studying the character of
Prince Hamlet. As a young man, he is not much older than many of the teenagers who will the play. He is uncertain about
how to deal with the loss of his father, confused about what his actions should be, and angry at most of the adults in his
life. Students of all ability levels should be encouraged to interact with
on personal and analytical levels, providing
a multi-dimensional reading experience.
Included in this guide are activities for students of varying abilities, background on the play, an act-by-act synopsis,
suggestions for organizing instruction, a list of journal writing topics, discussion questions, and activities for use before,
during and after reading the play.
HAMLET: AN OVERVIEW
Most of the action of play occurs in and around the castle at Elsinore in Denmark. King Hamlet is dead, and Prince
Hamlet has returned to Denmark from school in Wittenberg, Germany, only to discover that Queen Gertrude, his mother,
has married his Uncle Claudius. Claudius has had himself crowned king.
Hamlet is informed that what is apparently the ghost o f his dead father has appeared to the palace guards (I, ii). When
he later confronts the ghost, Hamlet learns that Claudius murdered his father and hastily married Queen Gertrude (I, v).
Throughout the play, the ongoing border disputes and political machinations amongst Denmark, Norway, and Poland
serve as a backdrop for the action in the Danish court (I, ii; II, ii; IV, iv; V, ii). Prince Fortinbras, whose father was killed
by Hamlet’s father, is a man of action, and his character serves as a foil to the contemplative Prince Hamlet.
Polonius (Lord Chamberlain), his son Laertes and daughter Ophelia are also important characters in this drama. Polonius
and Laertes are concerned about Ophelia’s romantic involvement with Prince Hamlet and caution her against such a
relationship. Polonius also provides fatherly advice to Laertes as he leaves for Paris (I, iii).