Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Mason's Lesson Plan

Death Themes in Hamlet
Lesson Purpose
Inspired by studying death in the play Hamlet students will react creatively by making a work of art of the themes of death brought up in the play.

1. Create a work of art about death
2. Support their creative reasoning behind their art, how it portrays themes of death in Hamlet

Symbolism in art history

  • Explain that death is a major theme throughout Hamlet. It is constantly on Hamlets mind and also seems to be the end result of most of the characters. Shakespeare seems to be asking us to address the concerns and questions about death and mortality.

Killing and Characters
  • Point out that most characters die. Ask who died? How did they die? Answers may be:
    • Hamlet Sr.-poisoned in his ear
    • Hamlet Jr. -poisoned sword
    • Polonius- stabbed
    • Claudius- poisoned sword/drink
    • Gertrude- poisoned drink
    • Laertes- poisoned sword
    • Ophelia- suicide
    • Yoric- has been dead
  • In discussing these deaths you may want to ask students what they think of them. Were these deaths or killing good answers to problems or situations? Important deaths and the effects they have that you may wish to bring up are:
    • What effect does Hamlet Sr.’s murder have?
      • Starts the whole play off
    • What effect does Polonius’ murder have?
      • Point of no return. Hamlet is sent away. Ophelia goes crazy. Laertes is angry.
    • What effect does Ophelia’s death have on everyone left?
      • Speak about the funeral scene pointing out the reactions of Hamlet and Laertes. Possibly point out the reactions of the lay people to Ophelia and her death.
  • While most people seem to see death as the answer in the play isn’t it interesting how Hamlet stops Horatios suicide at the end. Why?

    HORATIO (Speaking of drinking the rest of the poison)
    Never believe it:
    I am more an antique Roman than a Dane:
    Here's yet some liquor left.
    As thou'rt a man,
    Give me the cup: let go; by heaven, I'll have't.
    O good Horatio, what a wounded name,
    Things standing thus unknown, shall live behind me!
    If thou didst ever hold me in thy heart
    Absent thee from felicity awhile,
    And in this harsh world draw thy breath in pain,
    To tell my story.

For in that sleep of death what dreams may come?

To die: to sleep;
No more; and by a sleep to say we end
The heart-ache and the thousand natural shocks
That flesh is heir to, 'tis a consummation
Devoutly to be wish'd. To die, to sleep;
To sleep: perchance to dream: ay, there's the rub;
For in that sleep of death what dreams may come
When we have shuffled off this mortal coil,
Must give us pause:

·         This is a question that many people think about. What lies after death. Richard Matheson is an author (Wrote books like I am Legend, Bid Time Return( also known as Somewhere in Time)  who was inspired by this line to write a book, What Dreams May Come, where he takes a fictional character through the after life? Ask the students what they think lies beyond death?
·         At the end of the play who finds peace in death?
o    Nobody.
·         Can one find peace in death? How?

Inspiration For Art:

Explain to the students the Symbolist Art Movement and how death was a major theme studied and depicted. Use examples of their works and help the students take their ideas and reflections on death and turn those into a visual representation too.

Symbolist artists:
Symbolism was an art movement that began in 1885 and reigned through to 1910. The Symbolist movement was a reaction against the literal representation of objects and subjects, where instead there was an attempt to create more suggestive, metaphorical and evocative works. Symbolic artists based their ideas on literature, where poets such as Baudelaire believed that ideas and emotions could be portrayed through sound and rhythm and not just through the meaning of words. Symbolist painter styles varied greatly but common themes included the mystical and the visionary. Symbolists also explored themes of death, debauchery, perversion and eroticism. Symbolism moved away from the naturalism of the impressionists and demonstrated a preference for emotions over intellect. The Symbolist period contributed much to the development of the abstract arts of the 20th century, and is a crucial step in understanding consecutive periods. Famous Symbolist artists include Gustave Moreau, Odilon Redon and Gustav Klimt.

Gustave Morea Death offers the crown to the tournament victor


      The Apparition
      by Gustave Moreau 

Death’s Head
by Odilon Redon

This isn’t done by a symbolist artist, it is a painting of Ophelia done by British painter John Everett Millais. Explain that Hamlet and Shakespeare have influenced the art world.

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