Much Ado about Shakespeare: Hamlet

Ref: C2343689

Hamlet, Shakespeare’s best known play now and in his time? What sort of play is it? A tragedy? - but one does the hero deserve his fate? A psychological thriller? -one of the earliest. A revenge story? - which questions the whole idea of revenge. We shall explore its themes of responsibility to one’s self, to family, friends and lovers, to society, to country, to God. What am I doing here, and why? Hamlet is a study of what is going on in the mind, and in deciding what to do and how to do it. In an atmosphere of suspicion, distinguishing between true and false, acting and deceiving, acting and exposing. What is the point of theatre? We will consider the problems and opportunities of staging this play today and in Shakespeare’s time. With its play within a play, and Hamlet’s advice to the actors, we get an insight into Shakespeare’s own thoughts about this. And then there is the richness of the language and poetry, which always has more to say than we could possibly imagine.

Course aim

This course is for those who have never quite understood what all the fuss is about, and for those already half in love with Shakespeare. For beginners and those with more experience. "Hamlet", his best-known, and most popular play is our subject.

Do I need any particular skills or experience?

  • You will need your own personal email address so that you’re able to login to the WEA’s digital learning platform: WEA Canvas. You will need to be able to understand how to follow URL links to pages on the internet. If you want to understand more about Canvas please visit:
  • You will need to be able to follow links to join our WEA live video learning platform: WEA Zoom. If you’d like to understand more about our video learning platform, Zoom please visit: and
  • No skills or experience needed
  • This course is suitable for beginners and improvers
  • A love of theatre and an open mind.

By the end of the course I should be able to:

  • Contribute to discussions of Shakespeare's themes, language, theatrical methods.
  • Explain the context in which the play was written, the background of the period when Shakespeare was writing, its politics and the Elizabethan/Jacobean view of the world
  • Offer insights into the language of the play, its effect on our language today and the changing meanings and associations of words.
  • describe modern theatrical approaches to the play and discuss various ways of performing it.
  • explain the relevance of Hamlet today.

How will I be taught?

  • The WEA’s digital learning platform, Canvas will be used to provide resources or to support lessons, enable assessment, provide learner feedback and for other activities for individuals away from the course. If you want to understand more about our digital learning platform please visit:
  • The WEA tutor will use a range of different teaching and learning methods and encourage you and the group to be actively involved in your learning
  • You may be asked to undertake additional work in your own time to support your learning
  • We shall read the play, making sure we understand the words and exploring their wider effect. You will watch extracts online for discussion in class. You may prepare speeches for reading in class. We will ponder the play's relevance to each of us individually and collectively. We will enjoy it.

What kind of feedback can I expect?

  • A range of informal activities will be used by the tutor to see what you are learning which may include quizzes, question and answer, small projects and discussion
  • You will have opportunities to discuss your progress with your tutor
  • You will be encouraged to share your work with the group and discuss your learning
  • You will be encouraged to consider other students work and give your opinions and suggestions
  • All students are encouraged to read aloud and to discuss the text, and offer answers to questions, views and comments on each other's and the tutor's ideas. We are exploring what the play means to us. There are no wrong answers.

What else do I need to know?

  • What you need: You will need an internet connection, speakers, a microphone and a webcam so that you can use our video learning platform, Zoom. If you’d like to understand more Zoom please visit:
  • You will also need access to the internet outside of your sessions. You could do this using a smart phone, tablet, laptop or a desktop computer (at home or through a library etc.).
  • You will need a personal email address to join the WEA’s digital learning platform, Canvas so that you can receive resources, record your progress and achievement and to work with others and share ideas. If you want to understand more about our digital learning platform please visit:
  • You will be provided with a text of the play and the text we are working on at any one time will be shown on the screen. It would be good to have pencil and paper handy during the sessions.

Pre-course work, reading and information sources

  • You will have access to course resources and links to wider learning through the WEA’s digital learning platform, Canvas:
  • No pre reading is required but research on the subject on the internet or in the library may be helpful
  • Try to see the play online or DVD or live if you can.You may want your own printed copy of the text, with helpful notes. Beginners might like the Oxford or the Cambridge School Shakespeare editions, those more experienced might try the Arden or the Oxford World Classics editions.

What can I do next?

  • Progress to another WEA course
  • Progress to a course with another provider
  • Become involved with the WEA in a range of voluntary work and other activities including campaigning as a WEA member
  • Become involved as a volunteer for a WEA partner or another organisation
  • You could progress to Higher Education courses. Follow link to the PEARL website for information
  • Access the WEA What Next? booklet here
  • Nottingham has a Shakespeare Society you can join. Their lectures are open to all on payment of a small fee. Local professional and amateur theatres produce Shakespeare plays from time to time and sometimes have related events and information. Watch their websites.

Download full course information sheet

Much Ado about Shakespeare: Hamlet

Enrolment Conditions

As a registered charity, and to meet our funders’ requirements, we need to check a few things with you before you enrol. Please check the details below to ensure you meet the basic eligibility critiera:

  • You are paying the standard fee (with a credit or debit card) or you are on any of the qualifying benefits
  • You have a valid email address so that you can receive confirmation of your booking
  • You have been resident in the UK, EU or EEA for the last 3 years
  • You are aged 19 years or older on 1st September 2020
  • You have read and accept our standard terms and conditions

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