Branching Out...‎ > ‎

Hamlet Cut Scene Project

Understanding Shakespeare through Elimination

Introduction: This is a superb way of helping students to understand Shakespeare's total concepts. It's fascinating to see what students will cut or keep, and it helps them better understand complete ideas rather than individual words.

Text: Shakespeare's Hamlet (though any one of Shakespeare's plays would work)

Grade: I do this with the juniors and seniors in my Shakespeare Honors course.

Difficulty: Difficult (students need a firm foundation in Shakespeare's language)

Project Goal:

For this project, you will be doing what many Shakespearean directors must do: cut a work of Shakespeare’s to fit within a limited period of time. While some versions of Shakespeare’s plays can take up to 4 hours (like Branagh’s Hamlet), others are as short as 60 minutes.

Your job, therefore, is to take a scene of 100-400 lines in length and cut lines from it. You may choose to cut an entire character or subplot, or you may just trim here and there, but you must keep the appropriate meter. In other words, you can’t just cut a single word out of a line as that will change the iambic pentameter (the rhythm). Really, I’m testing your comprehension of the text as a whole.


1)    To make your life easier, copy and paste the text from MIT Shakespeare—don’t waste time re-typing the whole scene!
2)    First, you should present the full scene, typed out, with parentheses around your cuts.
3)    Second, present the cut scene only (none of the original text).
4)    Third, write a single page justifying your cuts and explaining the logic behind them.
5)    How much do you need to cut?
            a.    If the scene is 100-200 lines, you must cut 20.
            b.    If the scene is 200-300 lines, you must cut 40.
            c.    If the scene is 300-400 lines, you must cut 60.