A Study Commentary

ISBN 0-9580058-3-4

Teaching Copy : US$14.95

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Student Edition : US$14.95

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“The guide's inquisitive spirit and sharp, intelligent attention to the play's language and to theatrical features and ‘mechanics’ – pacing, silences, and staging possibilities – set this guide way above the ordinary.” From an AP Central Teachers’ Resources Review.

I have been very pleased with the Hamlet study commentary. I was dropped into a substituting situation for two weeks where the students were working on Hamlet...and the practical tips and analysis provided in the commentary were extremely helpful.'   

                                                                              From our Commendations section      

This is a new edition, enlarged and updated by the addition of an Essay Bank of some two hundred essay titles modelled on exam questions from a wide range of assessment structures - AP, IB and A Level among them.

It has also been revised to align it with the newly published paperback edition (write to us if you'd like details -


The prices above are for single copy purchase of the printable edition. We have now introduced a sliding discount scale for multiple purchase (5% for each increase in the number ordered, up to a maximum of 45% for 10 or more copies). The discounted amount payable will automatically show when you have viewed your shopping basket and updated the number of copies as necessary.

Site Licence

We have also halved the cost of our very popular Site Licence, allowing two-year, on-screen-only access to teachers and students at a considerable saving - a valuable option in a distance learning situation.

'I have used the WordSmith site licence extensively in the delivery and the revision of my Diploma courses, and have experienced excellent returns. The nature of the licence, and of the texts themselves, is such that together they provide the flexibility of working individually, in whole groups or in small groups, depending on the nature of the task.' (From our Commendations section.)

Click here: 'Site Licence Application' for more information.                                          

TEACHING COPY vs STUDENT EDITION: The Teaching Copy has suggested responses to the study tasks built into the text, whereas the Student Edition carries them in a separate Answers Booklet at the endof the resource, so that teachers may withold them if they wish, or dispense them on an ongoing basis.

SAMPLE SECTION: Use the link at the foot of the page.               


Access to the study guide can be either by full purchase (using the Add to Basket buttons above) or through a WordSmith Site Licence. Click on the 'Site Licence Application' button at the foot of the page if you have an interest in giving students on-screen-only access to the book at reduced cost.

The Commentary will help you prepare the play for the classroom. Among other things it will suggest some answers to the tricky questions your students are likely to ask...and it will be an invaluable resource for your stronger students who wish to do independent study of Hamlet, beyond what you yourself have time to offer.


How the Commentary will help you...

If you are an International Baccalaureate (IB) student following the Language A Literature course (first examinations 2021), the Commentary will help you prepare for both internal and external assessment, not only by bringing you to a full understanding of the play but also by enhancing your analytical and critical skills generally, in ways that will improve your performance throughout the course.

If you have chosen the Language and Literature option the Commentary will support your preparations for both internal and external assessment, in particular by expanding your understanding of how language is used in both literature and life.

If you are preparing for Advanced Placement (AP) the Commentary's line-by-line analysis will give you a very complete insight into the play's fine detail, and help you develop the skills of close textual comment. It will also encourage you to think about some of the wider aspects of the play so that you will feel confident about using Hamlet to answer Free-Response Questions.

If you are a GCE A Level student it will improve your understanding of the play's subtleties, and will help you with your course work and with commentary and essay questions in the final exam. 

If you are an undergraduate student (or a general reader) you will find that the Commentary, scholarly in its focus yet informal in its tone, looks at the play in a refreshingly different way and comes to some new conclusions about it.

How the Commentary works...

o It explores what's 'really' happening in each scene - what the situation is, why the characters are speaking and behaving the way they are, and how the play is moving forward.

o More importantly, it asks why Shakespeare is making things happen in that particular way.

o It draws your attention to the ways in which you will be expected to explore individual passages in the Oral Commentary part of the IB Diploma course, and in response to written commentary questions in AP textual analysis questions and A Level exams. It also includes sample commentary questions and a model commentary.

o It carries a wide range of essay questions in the style of IB, AP, A Level and other examination systems.

o It explains the troublesome words and ideas when they are especially important or interesting.

o It's set up to be used side by side with your own copy of the play. Line references are given in the margin of the Commentary to make it easier for you to move from one to the other. (References differ from one edition of the play to another, but not by very much.)

o The Overview section for each scene lists other, broader points of interest, under useful headings which will help you when you come to revise.

o The Student Response sections record some of the things students have said about the play and about the issues raised by it - knowing yourself, turning decisions into action, the line between genius and madness, deceit and play-acting, life and death, honour, loyalty, love, betrayal, revenge, reconciliation....

o All the way through the Commentary essay questions are used as a way of investigating the play further, and also as a means of encouraging you to think about Hamlet not just as an exam text but as a piece of working theatre.

o Quotations, line references and essay questions are colour-coded throughout.

o Since the book is delivered as a .pdf file, the whole range of Adobe tools (most notably the Find option) can be applied when the guide is being used on-screen. This makes researching the text much easier.

o The book is designed to be printed out (if you wish to use it in hard copy) in Letter format (8.5" x 11") so that it can be easily coil-bound or held in a ring binder.

Enjoy your Hamlet studies, whether or not you decide to use the Commentary. You may find they change some of your views on how plays work, why Shakespeare is a great dramatist, and even on why people behave the way they do. Hamlet is Shakespeare's most fascinating play, and you'll see why when you look at it in detail. 

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