Hamlet Literary Study | 123Read&Write

The Tragedy of Hamlet, Prince of Denmark is an epic piece of literature written by William Shakespeare. The play is set in the Kingdom of Denmark, which portrays Prince Hamlet’s revenge on his uncle Claudius. Uncle Claudius kills Prince Hamlet’s father, the former King of Denmark. Thereby, Claudius not only takes over the throne, he marries Hamlet’s mother, Queen Gertrude, pouring salt into an open wound. This literary study is simplified for 8th grade students to learn and enjoy the pure genius of the greatest writer ever . . . William Shakespeare.

For the complete unit, please visit my teacher store at Wake Up Sunshine!

During the unit, my students create an ongoing character web where they intertwine the lives of the various characters in   Hamlet, along with some literary interactive activities. The interactive activities and new printable clipart characters come as part of the Hamlet Literary Study Guide. Below are some character web posters from the past couple years. 

Before even beginning the literary study, I get the students interested by getting them thinking about the concept of revenge in a unique way, as shown below. 

Electronic Version of Hamlet 

Day 1

1. Brainstorm: What do you know about William Shakespeare?

2. Brainstorm: What do you know of the Shakespearean tragedy, Hamlet?

3. View the video “Walk” by the Foo Fighters

4. Group Discussion: How does the main character’s anger, etc. make things go from bad to worse during this challenging day?

Day 2

1. Create Visible Learning poster

Top Left: Shakespeare Brainstorm Web

Top Middle: See, Think, Wonder

A. Look at the image provided and answer the following:

  • What do you see?
  • What do you think is happening?
  • What do you wonder about the situation portrayed?

Note: See below for how this activity wraps up. After Act V, the students learn and understand what the picture truly is; then they complete the visual activity “I used to think . . . Now, I know . . .”

The Poster

Top Right: Explanation Game

A. What are some examples of revenge from the “Walk” video?

B. Why did he act this way?

C. What may have been a better option?

D. What may have been the outcome of the situation after choosing a better option?

Bottom Left: Revenge Quotes

A. What do you think the quote means?

B. Why did you choose this quote?

Bottom Middle: Share and Pair

A. What do your quote choices and reasonings have in common?

Bottom Right: Color, Symbol, Image (CSI)

A. With regards to the concept of revenge, answer the following in your triple column t-chart:

  • What color do you think of regarding the concept of revenge?
  • What symbol do you think of regarding the concept of revenge?
  • What image do you think of regarding the concept of revenge?

Day 3

1. Shakespeare Web Hunt

Let’s Hunt for Shakespeare

Directions: Utilize your choice of technology to explore Shakespeare.

1. William Shakespeare lived during the Renaissance. What was the Renaissance?

2. What is the Globe Theatre? Draw a sketch of it below.

3. Create a Venn Diagram comparing and contrasting the Globe Theatre and our cafeteria.

4. Find and list five famous quotes by Shakespeare.

5. What are “the Lost Years”?

6. Why were all theatres closed in 1593?

7. What is the last line on Shakespeare’s tombstone?

8. What is the “Ides of March” and how does it relate to Shakespeare?

9. What is Gutenberg’s invention and how may have it helped in Shakespeare’s writing?

10. When did William Shakespeare die? What is ironic about this date?

11. Who was William Arden and what did he get in trouble for?

12. Shakespeare is the second most quoted author of all time. What author(s) are quoted more?

13. Suicide occurs how many times in Shakespeare’s plays? Maybe this is why this number has a negative connotation?

14. Abraham Lincoln was a huge fan of Shakespeare and was known to recite his works often. Who killed Abraham Lincoln and what is the irony of this man being the culprit?

15. What is Shakespeare’s longest play? How long does it take to perform in its entirety?

Printable Version of Shakespeare Web Hunt

For a special treat after the entire unit, show the students The Lion King; but this time let them know that this Disney classic is simply Hamlet in disguise! Check out the brilliant comparison by jvanengen.

After Unit Final Writings

Explanation: This final writing assignment is the culmination of my Hamlet unit. The writings require a multi-paragraph essay and a sonnet. These assignment is towards the end of the year; therefore I utilize this piece of writing as part of my STAGES goal, since it shows how much the students have improved not only in their writing, but in their comprehension of very difficult text. Each writing piece utilizes the song Breath by Breaking Benjamin. The lyrics have an amazing correlation to the story of Hamlet. This writing assignment is included the the Hamlet Literary Study Guide.

However, as shown below, sometimes when inspired students like to challenge themselves and branch out on their own. The essay below was written by a student who wanted to correlate Hamlet to Lies of the Beautiful People by Sixx A.M. The results speak for themselves!


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