Use this lesson with secondary learners at B1 level to learn about one of Shakespeare’s most popular plays, Hamlet.


This lesson is about one of Shakespeare’s most popular plays, Hamlet. Students learn about the characters and listen to a summary of the plot. They listen for general and specific information and also make notes on what they heard. In a final discussion, students talk about the play and some of the themes it touches on.

Learning outcomes:

  • To develop students’ knowledge of the story plot and themes of Hamlet.
  • To develop students’ ability to listen for specific and general information and to take notes.
  • To give practice of reading for information and sharing this information with other students.

Age and Level:



75 minutes


The lesson plan and student worksheets can be downloaded in PDF format below.

Warm up: The Tragedy of Hamlet, Prince of Denmark (15 minutes)
  • The first part of this lesson is designed to get students to become familiar with the plot of Hamlet and also to think about what they might do in his situation.
  • Ask students to read through the box of text in pairs and get them to discuss the questions.
  • Read the text on Shakespeare and tragedy together.
  • Note: the full title of the play is The Tragedy of Hamlet, Prince of Denmark, although it is most commonly referred to simply as Hamlet.
Task 1: Hamlet: the characters (10 minutes)
  • Here, students get to find out about the main characters in Hamlet. There are many characters in the play but this lesson focuses on just seven of them.
  • Ask students if they have ever read Hamlet and if they know any of the characters.
  • You could watch a trailer on YouTube by searching for ‘Hamlet trailer’. There are lots of famous film versions from the last forty years.
  • Ask students to read the text and then identify the characters before feeding back the answers as a class.
  • Answers: a. the ghost, b. Hamlet, c. Ophelia, d. Claudius, e. Polonius, f. Gertrude
Task 2: Vocabulary (5 minutes)
  • Ask students to match the words and their meanings. This will help them to understand the plot summary of Hamlet that they will hear in the next section.
  • Answers: 1.c, 2.a, 3.e, 4.d, 5.f, 6.b
Task 3: Listening and ordering the plot summary (15 minutes)
  • Put the students in groups of three or four, and distribute the cut-up copies of Events to cut up for Task 3.
  • If students are already familiar with the story of Hamlet then they can put the sentences in order before they listen to the audio.
  • If not, then get students to read through the sentences making sure that they understand the vocabulary.
  • When they are ready, play the audio once through, and then allow students to work in pairs and work out the answers before feeding back the answers to the class as a whole.
  • Answers:
  1. c Hamlet’s uncle, Claudius, marries his mother, the queen, and becomes the king of Denmark.
  2. j Hamlet is told by a ghost that his father was murdered. .
  3. d Hamlet pretends to be ‘mad’ so he can find out if his father was killed by his uncle.
  4. g Hamlet puts on a play where a king is killed by his brother.
  5. h Hamlet accidentally kills the clerk of the court, Polonius.
  6. a Hamlet is sent away to England.
  7. e Hamlet’s girlfriend Ophelia kills herself.
  8. i Laertes dies in a fight with Hamlet.
  9. b Hamlet’s mother, Gertrude, drinks from a poison cup meant for Hamlet. She dies.
  10. f Hamlet kills Claudius and then dies from his wounds.
Task 4: Listening to the plot summary and taking notes (10 minutes)
  • Explain that students are going to listen to the audio again and listen out for specific information. The idea is that they take brief notes on the specific subject they are focusing on, so students shouldn’t write down everything they hear, just the important information. Split them into groups of three and assign a different topic to each student.
  • When students have finished ask them to share their ideas on the subjects they have listened out for before eliciting the answers. Below are suggested answers, but there may well be more.

Suggested answers:

Sadness and depression. What makes Hamlet sad or depressed? Depression and madness. Apart from Hamlet, who is depressed or mad in the play and why? Conflicts and fights between characters – who fights with whom and why?

His father has died.

His mother got married too quickly and to his uncle.

He’s seen a ghost.

He finds out his father might have been murdered by his uncle.

He finds out his mother might have known about the murder.

Hamlet finds out his uncle did kill his father.

He kills Polonius.

Ophelia kills herself.

Hamlet finds the skull of a court jester.

He kills Laertes (?) Hamlet’s mother dies.

He kills Claudius.

The ghost of the king is depressed because it was murdered.

Ophelia is depressed and goes mad because she is in love with Hamlet and he has gone mad – or so she thinks. Her father is also killed.

Polonius is unhappy because his daughter is in love with Hamlet.

Laertes is depressed because his father is killed by Hamlet.

Hamlet fights with his mother over her marriage to Claudius.

Hamlet wants to kill Claudius for the murder of his father, the king.

Claudius is angry with the actors and Hamlet for the play.

The ghost is angry with Hamlet for not killing Claudius.

Hamlet kills Polonius by accident.

Laertes fights with Hamlet to avenge his father’s death.

Hamlet fights with Claudius after he finds out the truth about his father’s murder.

The Norwegians fight with the Danes.


Task 5: Using your notes (10 minutes)
  • Students work together in this section to match the beginnings and endings of the sentences using the notes they made in the previous section. Encourage students to work together and share their ideas from their notes.
  • Answers: 1.d, 2.a, 3.f, 4.b, 5.e, 6.c, 7.h, 8.g
Task 6: Discussion (10 minutes)
  • In pairs or small groups (perhaps different from in the previous tasks), ask students to discuss the questions together. Give them five minutes (or less if they aren’t talking).
  • Get students to feed back their ideas to the class and develop any interesting topics of conversation that spring from these discussions.


Lesson Plan283.12 KB

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