1. GENERAL HEADING: Language: Sounds, Structure, Meter

2. TITLE OF EXERCISE: "Ghost Story"

3. GOALS: To approach the speech of the ghost in Hamlet 1.2.64-84, in a variety of ways, to open out the complexity of the verse and the psychology of the character.

4. NUMBER OF STUDENTS: At least five, and preferably more.


6. CLASS TIME NEEDED: 15-20 minutes


Sitting or standing in a circle, the group reads through the speech, each person speaking one word. This assures that due attention is given to the final word in each line.

Read the speech again, each person reading to a comma or period. Certain phrases begin to stand out, like the clause including "quicksilver," which imitates the poison coursing through the body.

Read the speech once again, each person reading to a comma, with the first person whispering, the next a little louder, till the last is shouting.

Cast one person as Hamlet, and one as the "Main Ghost," who will speak key lines, all the rest serving as "Choral Ghosts," who will speak the rest of the ghost's lines. Hamlet kneels on the floor, and all the ghosts stand in a circle around him. The ghosts then speak the lines with growing intensity, attempting to terrify Hamlet. To add to the drama of the scene, three or four people can add the sound effect of a heart beat, a few others, the wind.

Peripheral activity: Have three people say, in turn, "orange," "apple," "banana," in such a way that it was clear that apple was better than orange, and banana was best of all. Then transfer that reading to "Unhouseled, disappointed, unanel'd"; then to "Of life, of crown, of queen"; "0 horrible! 0 horrible! Most horrible!"

8. POINTS FOR OBSERVATION, DISCUSSION: This exercise focuses attention on the speech in a number of ways, drawing out the complexity of its verse, especially. The Choral ghost device is particularly effective.

9. SOURCE/REFERENCE: Sarah Berger, from ACTER (A Center for Theatre, Education and Research at UNC-Chapel Hill)


11. VARIATIONS: Joanna Foster, of ACTER, used a very similar approach with Lady Macbeth's "Come, you spirits," with other people hissing like spirits.