Hamlet Pre-Reading 

Welcome to a Figurative Tea Party

Each of you has been given 1-2 quotes from Hamlet.  Today, as you finish up the bits of your World Literature cover sheet, start getting familiar with your lines.  If you have tough lines, try to figure out what they really mean.  Consider the motivations of your character and the manner in which s/he’d say the lines.  Aside from the tone and volume of your voice, what postures would your character have?  If talking to another person (as indicated), how would your character relate to that person?

When Spachman calls the “tea party” to order, it’s your time to mingle with the other guests.  All you can say to people is one (or both) of your lines.  You might find someone you can argue with, someone you can sneer at, someone you are trying to manipulate, etc.  Play with the language and see what happens and what you learn about your character(s) during this process.


After the “tea party” is concluded, draw some conclusions about your character(s) (and the other characters you met at the party) and the situations they face in the play.

  • What have you learned/concluded about this character?
  • What have you learned/concluded about what is going on in this play?
  • What themes are apparent or suggested by these characters’ lines?


You are a father named Polonius talking to your son Laertes who is departing for college:
"This above all: to thine own self be true,
And it must follow, as the night the day,
Thou canst not then be false to any man."


You are a young woman named Ophelia talking to your brother Laertes who has been giving you advice about your relationship with your boyfriend:
"Do not, as some ungracious pastors do,
Show me the steep and thorny way to heaven,
Whiles, like a puffed and reckless libertine,
Himself the primrose path of dalliance treads
And recks not his own rede."


You are a dead spirit describing the true cause of your death:
"Murder most foul, as in the best it is,
But this most foul, strange, and unnatural."


You are a young man named Hamlet in a difficult situation talking to yourself:

"To be or not to be-that is the question:
Whether 'tis nobler in the mind to suffer
The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune,
Or to take arms against a sea of troubles
And, by opposing, end them."


You are a Prince of Denmark named Hamlet talking to two of your “friends:”
"I am but mad north-north-west.  When the wind is southerly, I know a hawk from a handsaw."


You are a man named Marcellus talking to a co-worker named Horatio:
"Something is rotten in the state of Denmark." 


You are a Prince of Denmark named Hamlet:

"Give me that man
That is not passion's slave, and I will wear him
In my heart's core."


You are a young man named Hamlet:

"Frailty, thy name is woman---"


You are a new step-father named Claudius talking to your step-son:

"Are you like the painting of a sorrow,
a face without a heart?"


You are a Prince of Denmark named Hamlet:

“O villain, villain, smiling, damned villain!
My tables,—meet it is I set it down,
That one may smile, and smile, and be a villain:
At least I ’m sure it may be so in Denmark.”


You are a mother named Gertrude talking to your son:

“Hamlet, thou hast thy father much offended.”


You are a young man named Hamlet talking to your mother:

“Mother, you have my father much offended.”