I’m starting Hamlet with my literature class on Tuesday.
I run my lit. class thematically. Rather than going through the basics – the elements of fiction and the structure and characteristics of different genres; all stuff they should have covered ad nauseum in high school – I decided to set up the class around a few major themes. I started out with identity, social expectations, and overcoming adversity, for which we read Ibsen’s A Doll’s House and a variety of Holocaust literature. We then moved through to nature, responsibility, and what makes us human – Frankenstein covers all that and much more. Now, we’re headed into ethics, family, and decision-making with Hamlet.
I’ve decided, though, since we’re running short on time, that we’re not going to read Shakespeare’s longest play from cover to cover – I still want to get to Dickens and A Christmas Carol. I’m planning to show the class the Franco Zeffirelli / Mel Gibson version of Hamlet (which I have because I bought it long before Gibson outed himself as a religious nutjob / antisemitic asshole; I likely won’t give him any more of my money from now on) and we’ll read excerpts from the play as we go along. I did my Master’s research on using film as literature in the classroom, and I have enough experience with the play to be able to guide the students through the “Hollywood” version with a fair degree of confidence.
I’m going to make sure that the kids read the world’s most famous siloloquy and we’ll likely take a good long look at the closet scene both in film and on paper. Zeffirelli took some liberties with the order of things in the play, too, and we’ll do some investigation of why he may have chosen to move things around the way he did. I’m considering a couple of essay questions for the class, too – there has to be some writing, after all – and I am kicking around the idea of a multi-media project, as well.
A quick check of my bookshelf tells me that I have Hamlet in four different texts (five, if you count the anthology we’re using in class). I love the play, I have to admit to loving the movie, and I’m really looking forward to working through it with what I’ve got left of this group.