As well as looking at how we’ve staged Hamlet, which you can do in the Investigate section, it’s important to think about what you would do if you were staging the play. And, if you can, to perform parts of it yourself.

We encourage you to look at the play, or scenes in the play, and think through the decisions a director makes with their actors:

  • Where is the play set?
  • How are the characters connected?
  • What do the characters want?

Here you can find some key things to think about before staging the play yourself. Even if you’re working towards an exam or preparing for an assignment, it’s important to think about different ways of reading lines or words and taking a look at the key decisions a director needs to make could really help your essay responses.

  • Key decisions to make

    There are certain things that every director and creative team have to consider when staging Hamlet. The following key things will be discussed in every production, but the decisions that are made can create very different interpretations of the play.


    • How ‘mad’ is Hamlet and how much is an act? Is he in control?
    • Is there a point where he loses control?
    • How is the 'madness' we see in Hamlet and the 'madness' we see in Ophelia different?
    • Why do other characters think Hamlet is ‘mad’? What is he doing, in his behaviour, to make them think this? How can an actor make this believable for the audience?
    • What is ‘madness’? Is it something that happens a lot? Could it be the term they use for behaviour they can’t explain, or mental health struggles? For example, is Ophelia’s ‘madness’ a form of depression?

    The Supernatural

    • How do the guards, Horatio and Hamlet react to seeing a ghost?
    • How much do characters accept or question the presence of a ghost or person’s spirit?
    • Who can see the ghost? Can Gertrude see the ghost in Act 3 Scene 4 when Hamlet speaks to it in front of her?
    • Do you want the audience to believe the ghost is real or a figment of Hamlet’s imagination?
    • How can you stage the appearance of the ghost in a way that helps the audience to believe in the ghost?

    The Monarchy

    • How does the court of Denmark work? How involved is Gertrude in running the country?
    • Did Hamlet expect to be next in line to the throne and what is the impact of this? How can you show that in your staging of the court?
    • What is Polonius’ role in the king’s court? Did he serve Old Hamlet the same way or has his role changed since Claudius became king?
    • How has the change in king affected all the servants, guards and other courtiers? How do they feel about their new king?
    • What kind of king was Old Hamlet and what is the impact of that?

    Within each of these choices there are lots of key moments and scenes to explore.

    Going back through the Investigate section and looking at the different performances we’ve had at the RSC, think about those three areas:

    • Can you see how each director has presented the supernatural and the state of Denmark’s court? Why do you think they have made those choices?
    • How important is Hamlet’s ‘madness’ and the journey he takes? Could it all end differently?

    To explore a particular production in even more detail, looking at the specific choices and thinking behind them, take a look at the Casebooks for the 2004 and 2008 Hamlet productions.