The Secret Life of Hamlet

Shakespeare’s characters remain so eternally fascinating to us because beneath the seemingly difficult and flowery language, and the extreme and often supernatural situations, they are simply well-drawn portraits of human beings.

They think like us, they react like us, they have our flaws and insecurities, they suffer, they celebrate, their relationships are fuelled by the same emotions as ours, and they are unpredictable, surprising and inconsistent. They seem to have an inner life that extends beyond the page and the stage.

In this task, you will empathise with and write from the perspective of a character from Hamlet.

What makes us care for the characters in Hamlet?

Hamlet is an outrageous story about Kings, Queens and Princes, ghosts, swordfights, murders, madness, graveyard fights, pirates, philosophers and war. Most of these things are beyond our daily experience. But these extremes only operate to engage us on a narrative level. Our deeper emotional engagement is with much simpler and profoundly typical human dramas, things many of us have felt or will feel at some time in our lives;

  • A boy who loses his father, a brother and sister who lose their father
  • A boy angry with his mother for remarrying
  • A boy whose friends let him down when he needs them
  • A girl told she can’t see her boyfriend by a controlling father
  • A confusing break up
  • A girl trying to express profound grief for her father and lover
  • A man whose ambitions have pushed him to commit a crime
  • A woman whose sexuality and freedom is continually judged by the men around her
  • A loyal friend who can see his mate is ‘losing it’ but is powerless to stop it
  • A boy asking himself if life is worth living and what death might be like
  • Jealousy, lust, love, loss, grief, lies and the fragility of life.

Shakespeare observes these fundamental human feelings with such accuracy and they are what carry us along in the theatre. He does this through his control of language.

Choose ONE character from the following:


TASK ONE: Write five journal entries (300 words each), charting the most significant aspects of your character’s journey in the play. Be detailed, deeply personal in your perspective on the events happening to you. Use language to expose your inner life to the reader.

TASK TWO: Within your journal, place an unsent letter (300-500 words), written by you to another character in the play, explaining what you wish you could say to them but cannot.

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