Grade 12: Hamlet and Psychological Criticism


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  1. In order to access this unit from the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education website, you will need to register with the site; there is no charge for access to these materials. Use the above link to register.
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Reading Literature

RL.11-12.1 Cite strong and thorough textual evidence to support analysis of what the text says explicitly as well as inferences drawn from the text, including determining where the text leaves matters uncertain.

RL.11-12.4 Determine the meaning of words and phrases as they are used in the text, including figurative and connotative meanings; analyze the impact of specific word choices on meaning and tone, including words with multiple meanings or language that is particularly fresh, engaging, or beautiful. (Include Shakespeare as well as other authors.)

Reading Informational Text

RI.11-12.1 Cite strong and thorough textual evidence to support analysis of what the text says explicitly as well as inferences drawn from the text, including determining where the text leaves matters uncertain.


W.11-12.1 Write arguments to support claims in an analysis of substantive topics or texts, using valid reasoning and relevant and sufficient evidence.

W.11-12.9 Draw evidence from literary or informational texts to support analysis, reflection, and research.


This Grade 12 unit titled “Hamlet and Psychological Criticism” from the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education is intended to be completed in 15-20 sessions of ELA/Literacy instruction (depending on the amount of class time provided daily). This unit introduces students to the use of psychological criticism in the interpretation of literary texts. Students will learn how to synthesize pertinent evidence from a core literary text and from secondary critical sources to support their analysis of a character from “Hamlet”.  An authentic  summative assessment asks students to write a well-researched, annotated paper on a major character from “Hamlet” that states a claim and supports the claim with evidence from  the primary source (“Hamlet”) and secondary sources (e.g., works on psychology,  psychological criticism, and critical studies of “Hamlet” and Shakespeare).


Connecticut teachers should be cautioned that teacher notes and preparation materials are extensive and will require familiarity to be used effectively.  The General Notes and Resources section contains an overview of important instructional guidance, such as: “This is essentially a post-“Hamlet” unit. It assumes a full reading of the play has already been completed.  It does not dictate lessons or approaches for the reading of the play.”  Teachers should also be aware that due to the rigor required for student success, additional supports for students who are ELL, have disabilities, or read well below the grade level text band may be required.  The unit plan does not list any speaking and listening standards, although they are addressed repeatedly and could be added.


This exemplary unit includes a clear and explicit purpose for daily rigorous instruction which integrates reading, writing, speaking and listening so that students apply and synthesize advancing literacy skills. It focuses on complex text(s) and engages students in a productive struggle through discussion questions and other supports that build toward independence. It also focuses on building students’ academic vocabulary in context.  The unit contains reading materials, templates for instruction, assessment guidelines, frequent formative assessments, and an aligned CCSS rubric for interpreting student performance. The concepts and resources in this unit can be adapted to any complex literary work with richly developed characters.  The following link provides an example of how teachers and students engage in citing evidence from a Shakespearean text.

Citing Evidence from Complex Text (from Expeditionary Learning)  Students in Julia St. Martin’s tenth-grade ELA class at the Springfield Renaissance School in Springfield, MA engage in a structured evidence-based discussion of Shakespeare’s Macbeth. Close reading, citing evidence from text, and speaking and listening skills are highlighted through the video.