Literature, Poetry, Visual Art
Material Type:
Activity/Lab, Homework/Assignment
High School
  • Lesson Plan
  • Shakespeare
  • april24
  • photography
  • shakespeare
    Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial
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    Education Standards

    Hamlet Soliloquy Artwork

    Hamlet Soliloquy Artwork


    This lesson plan is designed to go along with a classroom reading of Hamlet for high school students (grades 9-12). This lesson is designed to help students with their close reading skills and help them to create a deeper understanding of what is going on in one of Hamlet's soliloquies in the play. The lesson can be adapted for any of the soliloquies found in Hamlet (along with other Shakespearean plays). 

    This lesson plan allows students to come outside of the difficulty of Shakespearean language and create meaning through connecting the words to artwork. It would be appropriate as an individual assignment, as well as an assignment for partners or small groups. 

    Photo Attribution

    This photo, "Cemetery" is copyright 2015 by Rory Mackenzie on Flickr. 


    Students will represent a soliloquy from the play Hamlet (or any other Shakespearen work) by selecting a minimum of two pieces of artwork (photography, paintings, drawing, other visual art) that are images not commonly associated with the play (i.e. not a skull for Hamlet). The images must somehow represent the words or meaning found in the text of the soliloquy. 


    Background for Teachers

    It is best if you have taught the soliloquy to students before asking them to complete this assignment. 

    • Teach the Act and scene of the play where the soliloquy is found, as well as preceding information in previous Acts and scenes. 
    • Students will need to have a basic understanding of the vocabulary and context where the soliloquy appears in the play. 
    • Review characters and settings surrounding the delivery of the soliloquy. 
    • Consider allowing students to work in partners or groups to "translate" the soliloquy together before attempting to represent it visually for the assignment. 


    Step 1 - Goals and Outcomes

    Step 1 Goals and Outcomes

    Learning Intentions:

    • RL Standard 7: Analyze the representation of a subject or a key scene in two different artistic mediums, including what is emphasized or absent in each treatment. 
    • RL Standard 9: Analyze how an author draws on and transforms source material in a specific work. 
    • RL Standard 10: By the end of grade 10, read and comprehend literature, including stories, dramas, and poems, at the high end of the grades 9-10 text complexity band independently and proficiently. 

    Success Criteria:

    • Students will represent specific scenes and words represented within the soliloquy through open source photos, paintings, drawings, or other visual artwork. 
    • Students will artfully demonstrate an understanding of the meaning created within the soliloquy itself. 
    • Students will demonstrate a full comprehension of the words and content of an individual soliloquy, as well as the larger meaning and context of the surrounding Acts and scenes. 


    Step 2 - Planning Instruction

    Step 2 Planning Instruction

    Student Background Knowledge

    Prior to this lesson, students will need to have an understanding of:

    • The cadence and structure of Shakespearean language.
    • How to construct and identify definitions of vocabulary found within Shakespearean language. 
    • The circumstances in previous Acts and scenes of the specific play that is being studied. 

    Strategies for Diverse Learners

    For English Language Learners: provide a copy of the play/soliloquy in both the primary language as well as English. Reduce the number of lines represented by artwork. Could also reduce artwork from two selections down to one selection. 

    For other diverse learners, reduce the number of artwork representations from two to one. Also consider reducing the number of lines represented (1/2 of soliloquy instead of full soliloquy, 2/3 of full soliloquy, etc.). 

    Diverse learners would also benefit from a partner to work with. Consider using partners for all students to be successful in this assignment.  

    Step 3 - Instruction

    Step 3 Instruction

    Students will already be studying Hamlet as a class, and we will be reading and discussing the Acts and scenes in character during the class period. Very rarely will readings of the play happen outside the classroom as it is difficult for students to create meaning from Shakespearean plays on their own without the assistance of the teacher and other students. 

    After the example is presented showing Hamlet's first soliloquy (which takes place during Act I, scene ii), students will use one of the subsequent soliloquies to complete the assignment. Soliloquies happen in nearly every Act in Hamlet, so there are plenty of opportunity for students to complete this activity. 

    It is often helpful to present students with a "modern translation" of the soliloquies before they begin working with them. As such, modern translations are provided as files that are linked below (all files linked herein come from No Fear Shakespeare and Sparknotes translations). I usually have students attempt to translate the meaning of the soliloquies on their own first, and then we go over these translations together as a class to make sure everyone understands what is being said. Then, using Shakespeare's original language, they will create the art representation with the confidence that they fully understand what they are reading. 

    As students begin searching for images, they will need a reminder/lesson on responsible usage of available, open source artwork from the web. Point out the attributions found on the example as ways to cite the sources for the information and remind students to include their own attributions on any images that they find online. 

    It is also helpful with Shakespeare for students to view one of the productions of the movies. For Hamlet, I prefer to show either Kenneth Branagh's version (1996) or David Tennant's version (2009). For both plays, you will need to provide context about the different staging decisions made by the directors. 

    Another resource that is helpful is the 2013 PBS resource titled "Shakespeare Uncovered" that discusses many of the most familiar plays in great detail. I have found it helpful to show clips of this series for many of the plays that I teach. 


    Step 4 - Assessments

    Step 4 Assessments

    Students will submit their final projects on a shared classroom page in Canvas. We will be able to view one another's interpretation of their assigned soliloquies. 

    The projects will be evaluated based on the attached rubric. Students will also give one another feedback based on positive things that they notice in one another's selections and choice of representations. Students will also submit a paragraph to me, as the instructor, explaining why and how they made the choices that they made in their representation of Hamlet's soliloquies.