Crossing Borders/Breaking Boundaries
The Arts of the Renaissance
July 14-21, 2003
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Shakespeare’s Words as Art

Jonathan Parker
Group: C
Interdisciplinary Subjects: Art and Language Arts
Grade Level: 8th

Art Areas: Illuminated Manuscripts (Drawing and Painting)
Language Arts: Shakespeare’s Hamlet
Time Period: Renaissance in England
Time Duration for the Lesson: 3-4 class periods (90minute blocks)

Essential Learner Outcomes: Outcome III: Creative Expression and Production

The student will be able to organize knowledge and ideas for expression in the production of art.

Warm Up:

Each student will be given a copy of Hamlet’s “To be, or not to be” speech, found in Act III, Scene I, The class will form a circle, and each student will read one or more lines from the speech. This will be done several times until a smooth transition from one person to another is achieved.


The students will be able to:
  1. read and analyze one of William Shakespeare’s most famous speeches.
  2. understand how to organize a folio using the idea of the manuscript.
  3. create historiated initials and decorative initials to enhance to beauty of the page. The students must also create a cover page using the crest of William Shakespeare.
  4. critique their final project and complete a self-evaluation.


The teacher will:

  1. give a synopsis of what is being said in the speech by Hamlet in detail.
  2. show examples of illuminated manuscripts.
  3. demonstrate different ways of organizing a manuscript page.
  4. demonstrate how to make different styles of decorative letters and historiated initials.
  5. show a finished example demonstrating the synthesis of the different elements used to create the page.

Day 1: The students will become familiar with the text. The group reading will occur on this day. The teacher will discuss what Hamlet is really discussing. The teacher will then discuss the meaning of illuminated manuscripts, and show examples. The students will make a rough sketch for their manuscript.

Day 2: The students will get their sketches approved, and begin work on the final manuscript.

Day 3: The students will complete their manuscripts.

Day 4: The student will be asked to place their work on the board and a group critique will follow.


  • light brown craft paper or a paper bag
  • calligraphic markers (black, and colored)
  • gold pens
  • rulers


  • William Shakespeare
  • Hamlet
  • illuminated manuscripts
  • Renaissance
  • folio
  • historiated initials
  • decorative initial


Did the students accomplish the goals found in the objectives? The students will be graded using a rubric with three categories: Aesthetics, Technical Skill, Creativity. Each category will have a maximum of 4 points for the highest and 1 point for the lowest score.

Follow Up:

A display of the manuscripts will be exhibited in the building.

Sponsored by
the Center for Renaissance & Baroque Studies
and the Maryland State Department of Education