This 30-minute adaptation of Hamlet uses Shakespeare’s language but is condensed to help young actors make easier connections. Hamlet is a young prince in Denmark who was supposed to become king when his father dies. Instead, his uncle Claudius seizes the throne and marries his mother, Gertrude. Hamlet meets a ghost of his dead father, who tells him that he was poisoned by Claudius and demands that Hamlet kill Claudius in revenge. While all the characters are written with their original pronouns don’t feel limited in your casting. Shakespeare’s characters can easily be played by any gender.
Note: The play itself is 11 pages long, and a general rule of thumb is that one page equals one minute of stage time, but Shakespeare tends to run longer. If you need to extend this piece to put on a longer show, you can bookend your show by having students perform Shakespeare Sonnets, Shakespeare Death Quotes, or Hamlet Comedic Duologue.
About the playwright (adaptor)…
Jen Taschereau is the Drama Specialist at Wellan Montessori School in Newton, MA. She has been teaching for over a decade, often writing scripts to fit the needs of her students and classes. Her work as an actor has given her the opportunity to perform all over Boston, including ArtsEmerson and the Museum of Fine Arts. She holds her BFA in Theatre Performance from Salem State.
Excerpt from the play:
MARCELLUS- an officer
BERNARDO- an officer
HORATIO- Friend to Hamlet
GHOST- of Hamlet’s father
CLAUDIUS- King of Denmark, now husband to Gertrude
LAERTES- Son to Polonius.
POLONIUS- Lord Chamberlain, father to Laertes and Ophelia
HAMLET- Son to the former king and Gertrude, and Nephew to Claudius
QUEEN GERTRUDE- Queen of Denmark, Hamlet’s mother, now husband to Claudius
OPHELIA- Daughter to Polonius
OSRIC- a courtier
*Roles of Marcellus, Bernardo, Ghost, and Osric can be double cast with two actors playing the four roles. Gender flexible casting.
SETTING: Elsinore Castle. Denmark. The stage can be relatively bare, with a few rehearsal blocks, stools, or chairs. The scenes flow into one another with no need for elaborate scene changes.
Elsinore. A platform before the castle
(BERNARDO at his post. MARCELLUS and HORATIO enter.)
Long live the king!
Welcome, Horatio: welcome, good Marcellus.
What, has this thing appear’d again to-night?
I have seen nothing.
‘Twill not appear.
Peace, break thee off; look, where it comes again!
Looks it not like the king? mark it, Horatio.
Most like: by heaven I charge thee, speak!
It is offended.
See, it stalks away!
Stay! speak, speak! I charge thee, speak!
How now, Horatio! You tremble and look pale:
Before my God, I might not this believe without the sensible and true avouch of mine own eyes.
Is it not like the king?
As thou art to thyself: Let us impart what we have seen to-night unto young Hamlet; for, upon my life, this spirit, dumb to us, will speak to him.
A room of state in the castle
(CLAUDIUS enters with his retinue.)
What wouldst though have Laertes?
My dread lord, your leave and favour to return to France;
Have you your father’s leave? What says Polonius?
I do beseech you, give him leave to go.
Take thy fair hour, Laertes; time be thine, but now, my cousin Hamlet, and my son,–
A little more than kin, and less than kind.
How is it that the clouds still hang on you?
Not so, my lord; I am too much i’ the sun.
Good Hamlet, cast thy nighted colour off, do not for ever with thy vailed lids eek for thy noble father in the dust:
I shall in all my best obey you, madam.
Why, ’tis a loving and a fair reply: Be as ourself in Denmark. Madam, come.
(Exeunt all but HAMLET)
O, that this too too solid flesh would melt
Thaw and resolve itself into a dew!
But two months dead: nay, not so much, not two: She married.
But break, my heart; for I must hold my tongue.
(Enter HORATIO and MARCELLUS)
Hail to your lordship!
Sir, my good friend; I’ll change that name with you: My father!–methinks I see my father.
Where, my lord?
In my mind’s eye, Horatio.
My lord, I think I saw him yesternight.
My lord, the king your father.
But where was this?
My lord, upon the platform where we watch’d.
Did you not speak to it?
My lord, I did; But answer made it none:
I will watch to-night; My father’s spirit in arms! all is not well!