– Learning Resources

Rewriting ’s Soliloquy (up to 60 mins)

This learning resource is designed to help students closely examine the themes and language of Ophelia’s soliloquy by asking them to re-write it in their own words.

These activities ask students of literature to analyse Shakespeare’s use of language, structure and form, in order to explore how meanings are created, and will be a useful way in to discussion of soliloquies. Students of drama will be able to apply theatrical skills to this task.

Who is it for?

This resource is designed for GCSE or A-Level students of English Literature and Drama who are studying Shakespearean language. It is not necessary for them to be familiar with the story of Hamlet, but it may be of particular interest to those who are.

Learning outcomes

Learners will: • Take part in a close reading of Ophelia’s soliloquy in III, Scene 1. • Explore how Shakespeare’s linguistic choices evoke themes and emotions in the speech. • Rewrite the soliloquy in their own words. • Perform their soliloquy and discuss the choices they have made.

You will need

• Access to the filmVoice work on ‘O what a noble mind…’ in the ‘On Demand’ player. • Access to the clip ‘O what a noble mind…’ in the ‘On Demand’ player.


1. Hand out copies of Ophelia’s soliloquy from Act III, Scene 1, provided below with a brief synopsis explaining its position and significance within the . 2. Read through the speech as a class. 3. Show the filmVoice work on ‘O what a noble mind…’ using the ‘On Demand’ player. The film features Jeannette Nelson, the National ’s Head of Voice, working on the speech with actor Ellie Turner. Voice coaches regularly work with actors in this way, to help them connect to the meaning of their speeches by analysing language.

1 Hamlet – Learning Resources

4. Lead a discussion about the meaning of the speech using some of the following questions as prompts: • This speech is the only time Ophelia is alone on stage. Why might that be significant? • Ophelia lists the qualities Hamlet has lost in his madness. What are they? • What evidence does Ophelia give that Hamlet has gone mad? • In Elizabethan times, madness was thought of as a lack of reason. Is our understanding of it any different? • What evidence can you find in this speech about Ophelia’s state of mind? • Where does Ophelia use imagery to do with the senses in this speech? What effect does this have?

5. Show the clip of this speech being performed by actor during the National Theatre’s production, labelled ‘O what a noble mind...’ in the ‘On Demand’ player. 6. Invite each member of the class to translate this soliloquy into modern English. The meaning should be as close as possible to the original, but it should be rewritten in language they would use today. 7. Invite each member of the class to perform their soliloquy, and explain the choices they have made.

2 Hamlet – Learning Resources

Extract from Hamlet, Act III, Scene 2


O, what a noble mind is here o’erthrown! The courtier’s, soldier’s, scholar’s eye, tongue, sword, Th’expectation and rose of the fair state, The glass of fashion and the mould of form, Th’observed of all observers, quite, quite down. And I, of ladies most deject and wretched, That sucked the honey of his musicked vows, Now see what noble and most sovereign reason Like sweet bells jangled out of time and harsh – That unmatched form and stature of blown youth Blasted with ecstacy. O woe is me T’have seen what I have seen, see what I see.


This soliloquy occurs during Act III, Scene 1. Earlier in the scene, and Claudius decide to test whether Hamlet’s apparent madness is caused by him being lovesick for Ophelia. To do this, they send Ophelia to talk to Hamlet while they eavesdrop nearby. Ophelia has been instructed to be polite to Hamlet, but he is rude and aggressive towards her, denying that he ever loved her and decrying the deceitful behaviour of all women. He exits, leaving her alone on stage to deliver this soliloquy, before Claudius and Polonius reappear to discuss what they have overheard.