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Lesson Plan

Renaissance Humanism in Hamlet and The Birth of Venus

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Renaissance Humanism in Hamlet and The Birth of Venus

Grades 9 – 12
Lesson Plan Type Standard Lesson
Estimated Time Four 50-minute sessions
Lesson Author

Junius Wright

Junius Wright

Charleston, South Carolina


National Council of Teachers of English



Featured Resources

From Theory to Practice



After reading Shakespeare's Hamlet, students use visual and literary tools to identify, analyze, and explain how elements in Botticelli's painting The Birth of Venus and examples from the play illustrate the philosophy of Renaissance Humanism. Students analyze Botticelli's painting by sketching it and then taking notes in relation to specific elements in the painting. Next, students explore how literary elements in Hamlet reflect Renaissance Humanism. Finally, students explain in writing how the elements in The Birth of Venus and Hamlet establish them as examples of Renaissance Humanism. While this lesson focuses on Hamlet in its examples, any Shakespearean play could be substituted for the analysis.

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Renaissance Humanism Interactive: This online tool provides students with background information about Renaissance Humanism.

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In the introduction of his Reading in the Dark, John Golden states, "Kids tend to be visually oriented, able to point out every significant image in a three-minute MTV music video, but when it comes to doing the same with a written text, they stare at it as if they are reading German." Golden goes on to state "the skills they use to decode the visual image are the same skills they use for a written text" (xiii). Golden's book outlines how to use film to help students practice their skills so they can then be transferred to written texts. The following lesson is based on the same principle but uses a work of art instead of a film to help students reinforce the same skills that are used to analyze a work of literature.

Further Reading

Golden, John. 2001. Reading in the Dark: Using Film as a Tool in the English Classroom. Urbana, IL: NCTE.

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