A SIMple Funeral Hosted in AP Literature Classes

King Hamlet (CJ Hall) and Hamlet (Patrick Ramsey) pose with Ms. Sim during their Shakespeare party.

Colette Fralen

King Hamlet (CJ Hall) and Hamlet (Patrick Ramsey) pose with Ms. Sim during their Shakespeare party.

Written by Colette Fralen

December brings cold weather, festive holidays, and for Ms. Sim’s AP Lit classes, a Shakespearean party.

On and off for the past 15 years, Ms. Sim has been hosting an array of parties relating to Shakespeare’s ‘Hamlet’. This year, she led the funeral of King Hamlet, the marriage of Hamlet’s uncle and mother,  the anointment of Prince Hamlet, the funeral of Hamlet’s ex-lover Ophelia,  and the Coronation of the new king. Ms. Sim came up with the idea 15 years ago, and it’s been a hit ever since.

“It’s always good to make literature come alive,” Ms. Sim says. “And it’s also a nice way to send kids off for winter break.”

The parties included a singing of songs, poetry reading, news from abroad, (which is where the juiciest of gossip is told), magic tricks, and riddles. All of these activities were inspired by the festivities that happened at actual celebrations during Medieval times.

Ms. Sim’s 8th block English class was assigned the Funeral of King Hamlet. CJ Hall, who played King Hamlet, was given a short, hasty funeral before his reign was taken over by King Claudius, played by Mark Doherty. After the laying of the king, the festivities commenced. Tea was served to the guests, while a fencing match consisting of foam swords and the ‘Star Wars’ theme song played out. After a brief duel, and a violin duet there was a ‘rap off’ written by Patrick Ramsey and Jake Rodal. A humorous slam poem was read through soon after, with a beautiful song performed after that.

After the showcasing of talents, Ms. Sim’s 8th block class then feasted on funeral meats, cakes, apple cider,  and an assortment of other delicacies brought in by the class.

“I loved how everyone got in character and participated. It was so much fun seeing my classmates act the part of Shakespeare characters in such an over-the-top way,” Elyse Morris said about her class’s party.

All of Ms. Sim’s  parties are student-generated. Students decide what they will celebrate and how the party will be celebrated. The year before, one of the classes celebrated Ophelia’s death instead of King Hamlet’s.

“Students always make the party their own. The funeral class this year made me into a lady of the night, which is a motif used often in Hamlet,” said Sim. “Having the class decide what they want to do makes it more memorable for everyone. Students can show off their hidden talents and both the teacher and the pupils can once again  feel like young children having a tea party and playing pretend.”

“I liked how each student got to showcase their talents, and I also liked Ms. Sim’s costumes. Hamlet is by far my favorite of all of Shakespeare’s plays, so I’m glad that we got to recreate it,” Zoe Lucas said about her class’s party.

As with making other novels come alive, Ms. Sim says, “Of course, I would definitely consider doing ‘Pride and Prejudice’, or ‘Jane Eyre’. I believe teachers should find what works best to make context come to life; a lot of teachers are already doing that, and this is just my way.”