1. GENERAL HEADING: Video and Film Analysis
2. TITLE OF EXERCISE: "Prayer Scene" from Hamlet
3. GOALS: To sharpen students' critical abilities when watching a play in performance. To acquaint them with the range of choices available to actors and director in this and other scenes from Shakespeare's plays.
4. NUMBER OF STUDENTS: Entire class
5. EQUIPMENT AND SUPPLIES: VCR and TV; viewing arrangement.
6. CLASS TIME NEEDED: Approximately 75 minutes.
7. STEP-BY-STEP DESCRIPTION: Have students watch four different versions of the "Prayer Scene" (3.3) from Hamlet: the Olivier movie (1948); the Mel Gibson movie (1990); the Kevin Kline production (1989); the BBC production with Derek Jacobi and Patrick Stewart (1980). Discuss (see below), preferably after each film clip.
8. POINTS FOR OBSERVATION, DISCUSSION: Questions to pose to students: What cuts would you make in this scene? How close does/should Hamlet get to Claudius physically? What time period is indicated by the setting? Is there any music evident, and if so what effect does it have? What structural analogues or echoes does the scene evoke? Does this scene provide the audience with its first glimpse into Claudius's conscience? After all the clips have been viewed, teachers could ask: What different choices did you see the directors and actors making? Which version did you think was most effective? Why? What is the purpose of this scene?
Another approach would be to have students write whether they think Hamlet should kill Claudius at this moment, then have them watch one of the film clips, then write again on the same question.
9. SOURCE/REFERENCE: Alan Dessen
10. ADDITIONAL READING: N.A.
11. VARIATIONS: Other clips from other available film versions could
be substituted. Clips of other scenes could be used to emphasize different
structural and thematic points.