Hamlet Wordless Play: Shakespeare in the Classroom

Hamlet, Act III, Scene ii – 

Enter a King and a Queen very lovingly; the Queen embracing him, and he her. She kneels, and makes show of protestation unto him. He takes her up, and declines his head upon her neck: lays him down upon a bank of flowers: she, seeing him asleep, leaves him. Anon comes in a fellow, takes off his crown, kisses it, and pours poison in the King’s ears, and exit. The Queen returns; finds the King dead, and makes passionate action. The Poisoner, with some two or three Mutes, comes in again, seeming to lament with her. The dead body is carried away. The Poisoner wooes the Queen with gifts: she seems loath and unwilling awhile, but in the end accepts his love

When should I use this exercise?

I use this exercise in the early stages in a unit on Shakespeare in the classroom. It is designed as a way for students to engage with the ideas of the play without engaging with the dialogue. It is a good opportunity for students who need a boost in confidence to have some success without being concerned with learning lines or getting caught up in the text. 

Step by Step Instructions:

Step 1:

As a whole class, read through the above description of the players actions in Hamlet Act III, Scene ii.

Step 2:

Place students into groups of three (taking on the roles of King, Queen and Poisoner). If needed students may work in groups of 4 with the additional role of the director to act as an outside eye.

Step 3:

Students work in these groups to rehearse the scene and then perform for the class.

Extension –

Have the students develop their performances of this scene in a range of different theatrical styles (eg. Melodrama, Realism, Musical Theatre, Absurdism etc).

The instructions for this exercise can be downloaded in PDF form here.

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