Talking to Myself: Hamlet’s Soliloquies ~ Lesson Plan

Lesson Overview

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LESSON TITLE: Talking to Myself: Hamlet’s Soliloquies

GRADE LEVEL: Grades 9-12

TIME ALLOTMENT: Two 45-minute class periods


In this lesson, students will examine Shakespeare’s use of soliloquies in Hamlet, focusing on the famous “To be or not to be” speech. As the lesson begins, students will view a video segment from the PBS series Shakespeare Uncovered to learn about the soliloquy form. Next, they will be invited to consider everyday situations in which people may need to talk to themselves to work through a decision or problem. Students will then view another segment from the series as an introduction to the soliloquy in Act III, Scene i (“To be or not to be…”). They will read the speech aloud several times and then break into groups to produce a modern-day paraphrase of the soliloquy. Viewing another segment from Shakespeare Uncovered, students will explore what the soliloquy reveals about the character of Hamlet and produce their own interpretations of the character in this scene. They will then work independently to read and interpret one of Hamlet’s other soliloquies in the play.

This lesson is best used during or after a reading of Hamlet.


English/Language Arts


After completing this lesson, students will be able to:

  • Explain the function of a soliloquy in a play.
  • Decipher and interpret Hamlet’s soliloquy in Act III, Scene i.
  • Analyze character in Hamlet.
  • Recognize the presence of internal monologues like soliloquies in their own lives.


National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE)

Standard 1
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.

Standard 2
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.

Standard 3
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).

Common Core Literature Standards for Grades 11-12

CCSS.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).

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 segments

Access the video segments for this lesson at the Video Segments Page.

Segment 1: “What is a Soliloquy?”
A brief overview of the general characteristics of soliloquies.

Segment 2: “The Big Question: ‘To Be or Not to Be?’”
An introduction to Hamlet’s soliloquy from Act III, Scene i and an exploration of some of the big questions the character poses in this speech.

Segment 3: “Many Different Hamlets”
Actors David Tennant and Jude Law discuss approaching the soliloquy from Act III, Scene i.


For the class:

For each student:

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.

For the class, print out one copy of the “What is a Soliloquy” Student Organizer Answer Key and one copy of Hamlet’s Soliloquy, Act III, Scene i Teacher’s Edition.

For each student, print out one copy of the “What is a Soliloquy?” Student Organizer; one copy of Hamlet’s Soliloquy, Act III, Scene i; one copy of Hamlet’s Soliloquy, Act I, Scene ii; one copy of Hamlet’s Soliloquy, Act II, Scene ii; and one copy of Assignment: Reading Hamlet’s Soliloquies.

Proceed to Lesson Activities.