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LESSON TITLE: Suits of Woe: Grief and Loss in Hamlet
GRADE LEVEL: Grades 9-12
TIME ALLOTMENT: One to two 45-minute class periods
In this lesson, students will explore the themes of grief and loss in Hamlet. The lesson will begin with an exploration of the students’ understanding of how grief and loss may be experienced in life. Students will then draw a connection between these everyday examples and the presentation of grief in Hamlet by viewing a video segment from the PBS series Shakespeare Uncovered. Next, students will turn to the text of Hamlet and examine the responses to grief that appear in Act I, Scene ii of the play. They will break into groups to examine the ways Hamlet, Gertrude, and Claudius characterize grief and mourning and draw upon their understanding of the play to speculate about the significance of these reactions. Students will then select one of three characters – Hamlet, Ophelia, or Laertes – and in a short paper explore how grief and loss is presented in the chosen character and how that grief drives the character’s actions for the rest of the play.
This lesson is best used during a reading of Hamlet.
After completing this lesson, students will be able to:
- Describe how Shakespeare explores the themes of grief and loss in Hamlet.
- Draw connections between the students’ experiences with grief (personal or otherwise) with the grief experienced by characters in Hamlet.
- Interpret a literary text by identifying the techniques used by the author and how they contribute to its meaning.
- Analyze themes, plot, and character in Hamlet.
Students read a wide range of print and non-print texts to build an understanding of texts, of themselves, and of the cultures of the United States and the world; to acquire new information; to respond to the needs and demands of society and the workplace; and for personal fulfillment. Among these texts are fiction and nonfiction, classic and contemporary works.
Students read a wide range of literature from many periods in many genres to build an understanding of the many dimensions (e.g., philosophical, ethical, aesthetic) of human experience.
Students apply a wide range of strategies to comprehend, interpret, evaluate, and appreciate texts. They draw on their prior experience, their interactions with other readers and writers, their knowledge of word meaning and of other texts, their word identification strategies, and their understanding of textual features (e.g., sound-letter correspondence, sentence structure, context, graphics).
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.R.2 Determine central ideas or themes of a text and analyze their development; summarize the key supporting details and ideas.
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.11-12.4 Determine the meaning of words and phrases as they are used in the text, including figurative and connotative meanings; analyze the impact of specific word choices on meaning and tone, including words with multiple meanings or language that is particularly fresh, engaging, or beautiful. (Include Shakespeare as well as other authors.)
Shakespeare Uncovered: Hamlet with David Tennant, selected segment.
Access the video segment for this lesson at the Video Segments Page.
An overview of Hamlet and a discussion of the theme of loss within the play.
For the class:
- Computer, projection screen, and speakers (for class viewing of online video segments).
- One copy of the Hamlet Act I, Scene ii Student Organizer Answer Key
For each student:
- One copy of the Hamlet Act I Scene ii Text Excerpt
- One copy of the Hamlet Act I Scene ii Student Organizer
- One copy of the Grief in Hamlet Assignment
PREP FOR TEACHERS
Prior to teaching this lesson you will need to:
Preview all of the video segments used in the lesson. Prepare to watch them using your classroom’s Internet connection.
Print out one copy of the Hamlet Act I, Scene ii Student Organizer Answer Key for the class.
Proceed to Lesson Activities.