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Love, hate, and murder most foul, ghosts, incest, madness and more – welcome to the world of Hamlet the tragic hero of Shakespeare’s most quoted and memorable play, Hamlet. Hamlet, the Prince of Denmark's struggles with the loss of his beloved father the king, and after his mother hastily marries his uncle, he falls deeper into melancholy. When the ghost of his father appears to soldiers and later to Hamlet himself, the young prince must decide whether the ghost speaks the truth about his father’s untimely death or if the apparition lies. As Hamlet seeks the truth, suicide comes to mind in the most famous of the Shakespearian soliloquies. In appearance, Hamlet oscillates between normalcy and insanity and those around him struggle to cope with the mayhem that ensues He must decide whether he is “to be, or not, to be” and how to avenge his father’s murder. His love Ophelia, and her father Polonius fall prey to the indecisiveness of the miserable prince. When a troupe of players visits the castle, Hamlet believes “the play’s the thing Wherein [he’ll] catch the conscience of the king.” The chain of events only adds to Hamlet’s tentativeness leading to a tragic ending where even the most innocent die. Meanwhile, a battle moves towards the kingdom as Fortinbras, a prince bent on taking the throne of Denmark as his own, marches forward to claim the prize.

Grades 6–12
Characters 29
Number of Timeline Events 45
Duration 2 weeks to 1 semester

$10.00$5.00 / Student

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Sample Timeline Events

King Hamlet DEAD

The Kingdom of Denmark mourns the loss of its beloved and noble King Hamlet. The king died unexpectedly and quickly and the cause of his death is unknown. The otherwise healthy and vigorous king died with his son Hamlet and wife Gertrude by his side. He spoke no last words that might have shed light on the cause of his untimely death. In addition to his son and wife, he is survived by his younger brother Claudius and a throng of loyal subjects. 

Some in the Kingdom Suspect Prince Hamlet of Madness

After the death of his father and the hasty wedding of his mother to his uncle, some suspect that young Hamlet has gone mad with grief and depression. Set to return to school soon, the prince has been seen in the library talking to himself. When approached by Polonius, the new king’s trusted advisor, Hamlet let “fly a litany of nonsensical words and phrases” having to do with nothing more than words. Because there have been claims that Hamlet was visited by the ghost of his father, Polonius and Claudius are closely monitoring the young prince’s behavior.  Additionally, others have noted odd and erratic behavior from Hamlet. All efforts to discern whether on not the prince has gone insane and to prove it with certainty have been curtailed by the prince himself. 

Polonius Offers Advice to Laertes as he Departs Denmark

Polonius and Ophelia saw Laertes off today as he embarked to France to return to his studies. Polonius offered his son sage advice as he ventured off. Know that Laertes would meet a variety of people and encounter temptations, he told his son to be the best man he could be and to always stay true to himself. Read Polonius' speech and watch the video. What does Polonius advise his son? Discuss with your classmates how is Polonius' advice relevant today? 

Prince Hamlet Sees Dead King

Hamlet stayed alone seeking out the Ghost. When it showed itself, the Ghost confirmed that it is the spirit of Hamlet's father. In its declaration, the Ghost told Hamlet that he must avenge his murder. It alson told the Prince that the King had poisoned him in the as he slept by pouring poison in his ear. The Ghost departed soon after, leaving Hamlet to sort out his feelings and the news that his uncle had murdered his father. 

War Looms While King Claudius Faces Problems at Home

King Claudius fears Young Fortinbras of Norway might invade Denmark and he sent ambassadors to Norway to urge the King of Norway to restrain and not risk war. While the new king deals with political matters, he is also addressing problems associated with Young Hamlet distrust of him. The King and Queen have both voiced concerns as to the state of Hamlet and why he won’t embrace the marriage and accept the new king. Hamlet, in an exclusive interview, says, "I am but mad north-by-northwest. When the wind is southerly, I know a hawk from a handsaw." 

The King Tells Hamlet to Return to England

King Claudius, made uncomfortable by Hamlet's behavior of late, commands the Prince to return to England. He plans to send Rosencrantz and Guildenstern to keep any eye on his nephew (stepson) while in England. 

Hamlet Looked to Kill the King

Hamlet, distraught by the events during the play, sought to kill his uncle but having encountered Claudius kneeling in prayer, the Prince once again finds himself unable to act. After the players enacted the murder of a king, Claudius left suddenly convincing Hamlet of the truth in the Ghost's words and of Claudius guilt in killing his own brother. 

Ophelia Has Mental Breakdown

Ophelia, after hearing the news of her father’s death, suffered a mental breakdown. She carried bundles of herbs and flowers and danced erratically around the main hall. In the presence of the king and queen, she sang songs and bemoaned the loss of her father. Everyone she encountered was shocked at her demeanor and countenance. The young daughter of Polonius, whose brother, Laertes is away a school, look disheveled and unkempt. Her lady in waiting said she had not slept since her father’s murder at the hand of her love, Hamlet.  Recently, Ophelia had suffered a different kind of loss when Hamlet had spurned the lady, denying their relationship and instructing her to enter a convent. Hamlet, of late, had been himself acting insane and now he stands accused of killing Ophelia’s father. Ophelia was last seen wandering the castle grounds. 

King Claudius and Laertes Conspire to Kill Hamlet

Behind closed doors, King Claudius and Laertes discuss the murder of Polonius, the father of Laertes. To avenge his father and at the encouragement of the king, Laertes agrees to kill Hamlet.The pair devised a plan to acquire poison and to put in on the tip of Laertes sword so that during the match Hamlet would die even from the slightest scratch of Laertes sword. The king's servant, Osric, took word to the prince that he would duel Laertes. 

Hamlet Sword Fights Against Laertes - Both Die

Hamlet was summoned by Osric to fence against Laertes. The King,  Queen Gertrude, and others gathered to watch the duel. Laertes challenged Hamlet to the fight after he learned about the death of his father, Polonius. The two men engaged in a dramatic battle of words and swords. Unbeknownst to Hamlet, the sword used by Laertes was tainted with a powerful poison. Laertes made the first blow, piercing Hamlet's skin, but in the fray, swords were switched and Laertes, too, was stabbed by the poisoned sword. The two men died, but not before Hamlet killed King Claudius. 

Does Hamlet suffer from ABOULOMANIA?

Aboulomania is a mental disorder in which the patient suffers from mental derangement by weakened willpower or pathological indecisiveness. Aboulomania is typically associated with anxiety, stress, depression and mental anguish. It can severely affect one's ability to function socially. In extreme cases, this can lead to suicide. Do a little research about aboulomania and consider Hamlet and the decision he fails to make. Look over his key speeches and decide whether or not he is an aboulomaniac?  Find evidence in the play to support your opinion.

Unit Personas

1. Bernardo 16. Laertes
2. Captain 17. Lucianus
3. Claudius 18. Marcellus
4. Cornelius 19. Musician
5. First Ambassador 20. Ophelia
6. First Player King 21. Osric
7. First Player Queen 22. Person One
8. Fortinbras 23. Players
9. Francisco 24. Polonius
10. Gertrude 25. Priest
11. Ghost of King Hamlet 26. Reynaldo
12. Gravedigger 27. Rosencrantz
13. Guildenstern 28. Second Gravedigger
14. Hamlet 29. Voltimand
15. Horatio

Each Discourse unit provides an interactive, social media platform and accompanying curriculum to create a collaborative and entertaining educational experience.

Each unit includes the following:

  • Unit overview
  • 30-40 characters for students to role-play
  • Timeline Events that not only focus on the relevant events of the unit in study, but also encompass the cultural and broader events of the time period, thus providing context for the unit
  • Breaking News events with original source documents
  • Profile information about each character (teacher only)
  • Page for students to determine their relationships to each other character in the unit (auto-graded)
  • Period-relevant items for students to Like or Dislike based on their character (auto-graded)
  • Opportunity for students to create events and send private messages while role-playing their character
  • Advertisements appropriate for the time period; some include original video or music
  • Grading matrix for the role-playing (auto-completed as applicable)
  • A game-like trophy system that awards student progress
  • Teacher product instructions
  • Student use instructions
  • Teachers have access to the Discourse unit and students’ work for one year after the initial set-up date.
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