Hamlet Study Guide now available

I am pleased and proud to announce that the Hamlet ASC Study Guide is now available for purchase online!Here is a ten-page preview, for your viewing enjoyment. This Study Guide covers the following:

  • Our Basics: getting students on their feet, giving them ownership of specific sections of text, exploring iambic pentameter and the rhythms of prose, discovering acting choices, paraphrasing, introductory level rhetoric, how to turn your classroom into an early modern stage, and the hidden guidance of embedded stage directions and audience contact
  • 15 questions your students will ask (Did Ophelia kill herself? Is Hamlet in love with his mother?) and how to deal with them.
  • Staging Challenges: Darkness — The opening scene of Hamlet is one of the best examples of how Shakespeare uses his staging conditions and the talents of his actors in order to set a mood. Your students will explore the information Shakespeare provides about how to “act darkness.”
  • Perspectives: Catching Consciences — Did early modern theatre improve the moral judgment of its audiences, or did it lead them into lives of sin? How did this viewpoint influence Hamlet’s attempt to learn Claudius’s guilt through The Mouse-trap? And how does media continue to influence behavior — or does it?
  • Staging Challenges: Heard and Overheard — Hamlet’s most famous monologue, “To be or not to be,” is not, as it often gets portrayed in media, a soliloquy. Ophelia, Claudius, and Polonius are all listening — but is Hamlet aware of that? Your students will explore the different opportunities presented by this scene and how those choices can affect the audience’s perception of Hamlet’s “antic disposition.”
  • Staging Challenges: Placed to the View — Hamlet ends in a bloodbath, so what do you do with all of those bodies left on stage? Your students will explore the staging of the play’s final moments, working through both the technical requirements and the emotional potential.
  • Rhetoric: Matter and Art — Polonius talks a lot, and how he says something is often as important as what he says. Your students will look in-depth at his use of two different rhetorical figures to examine what that can tell an actor about his character.
  • Textual Variants — Hamlet exists in several early modern editions, with notable variations between them. In this activity, your students will examine some differences between Quarto 1, the supposedly “bad” quarto, and the Folio-standard text.
  • Perspectives: Revenge Tragedies — Hamlet fits in with the popular early modern genre of the revenge tragedy, a tradition which gave the stage a number of bloody spectacles and philosophical quandries. Your students will explore Hamlet‘s similarities and differences to two other early modern revenge tragedies, The Spanish Tragedy and The Revenger’s Tragedy, looking at ghosts, poisoned skulls, and the on-stage presence of death.
  • Production Choices — How did Shakespeare’s company actually go through the process of putting on a play? How does the ASC negotiate those same challenges today? Your students will explore cutting a script, doubling, casting, and other technical aspects of production. This activity also includes instructions for producing a 1-hour version of the play in your classroom.

If you would like to purchase a downloadable PDF of the Hamlet Study Guide (or any of the others currently available), please visit our website. I’m plugging away at the guide for A Midsummer Night’s Dream, which I hope to have available soon!