ImprovEd Shakespeare's HamletUNDERSTANDING HAMLET

| by Andee Kinzy |

Here at ImprovEd Shakespeare, we firmly believe you should get to know the story before jumping into a Shakespeare play. In honor of our spring production, we want to share some resources with you.


If you like YouTube, we have a playlist on our channel:
Studies: Hamlet

For a short written summary:

  • No Fear Shakespeare* – No Fear Hamlet
    *Note: No Fear Shakespeare has a useful modern translation next to the original text. (Although, many Shakespeare academics barf at the modern paraphrasing. Grin.)
  • Shmoop** – Hamlet
    **Note: Okay, this site depends on the family. Shmoop is very tongue-in-cheek. There are lots of subjective comments inserted into the summary and a few “older” annotations (like “PITA” and “WTF?”). However, it’s entertaining for a quick overview of the story. And, yes, Shakespeare academics barf at this, too.
  • Tales from Shakespeare by Charles and Mary Lamb
    So this is an old and old-fashioned book. The link above is to one of those publishers who has reprinted the out-of-print classics. We’re a bit annoyed because this particular publisher omits Mary Lamb’s name from the cover (totally lame!). The book contains longer synopses of multiple plays with antiquated phrasing. Some kids enjoy it. Others don’t. You might be able to find one of the older versions used. Or you can read it online for free! – Hamlet
  • Beautiful Stories From Shakespeare by E. Nesbit
    Also old-fashioned and the printing situation is similar to the Lamb’s book above. Nesbit’s version is slightly more modernized than the Lamb version. And it’s online for free, too! – Hamlet
  • Shakespeare Stories by Leon Garfield
    Out-of-print, but you can find it used on Amazon or at your local library.
  • Tales From Shakespeare by Tina Packer
    Out-of-print, but you can find it used on Amazon or at your local library.

For alternative versions:

Entire play:

  • MIT has all of Shakespeare’s works available for free online – Hamlet
  • Or visit your local library! As to the editions/publishers? It’s up to you, but:

Film versions:

  • Hamlet (1996)
    Kenneth Branagh’s Hamlet – PG13
  • Hamlet (1990)
    Mel Gibson’s Hamlet – PG
  • Hamlet
    Laurence Olivier’s Hamlet -NR (1948)
  • Ethan Hawke’s 2000 Hamlet is rated R.
  • Hamlet (2009)
    For Dr. Who fans, David Tennant is in the BBC’s film adaptation of Hamlet for the RSC.

A short note about “modern translations.” Serious Shakespeare academics and scholars feel that starting kids off with these versions is abhorrent. At ImprovEd Shakespeare, we appreciate the modern translations. We view them as a jumping off point. Sometimes you come across a phrase that just doesn’t make sense. Without being immersed in Shakespeare’s language, it can be hard to understand. A modern translation helps a-plenty. It helps you to appreciate the beauty of Shakespeare’s words.

In any case, there’s no one right way to approach Shakespeare. The trick is to find what works for you.

We hope these resources are helpful to get you started on your journey with this play!