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I know you didn’t have a great experience with reading Shakespeare plays in high school, but you should know that studying them in college is infinitely better! Don’t stress about the class—look forward to it!
This semester we read quite a few Shakespeare plays, all of which I enjoyed discussing with my classmates. The best experience I had, though, was finally reading Hamlet all the way through and understanding everything. We analyzed the characters, we talked about how we could change the play to better fit certain interpretations, and we discussed different themes. To top it all off, I even got to go see the National Theatre Live’s production of the play with Benedict Cumberbatch as Hamlet. (I knew you’d love that, considering how much we both watch Sherlock)
I think the best way to understand Shakespeare’s writing is to understand that even though his wording seems complicated, Shakespeare really did write to appease the masses. To achieve the popularity that he did means he could not have just been writing for the elite few. So when we find ourselves confused over lengthy, flowery speeches, that is probably what Shakespeare intends. In addition, cut yourself some slack regarding the differences in speech pattern and vocabulary! Hundreds of years have passed, so of course we will not immediately recognize every figure of speech. Just make sure that you find an edition of his plays that includes a glossary or index of terms at the back. They make reading a thousand times easier, and I don’t think that it interrupts the story very much.
When it comes to writing about Shakespeare, the fact that he did write for the masses comes in handy. Shakespeare knew the common man, and he portrays all the complicated nuances of human nature in each of his characters. If you ever struggle to find something new or interesting to say about a Shakespeare play, just try to imagine how it could be read differently if the protagonist is actually selfishor a coward. Or you could argue that the villain actually has a good amount of virtues in his character. Shakespeare allows his audience to interpret to a good degree each character’s potential motives. Coming up with new ideas to write on doesn’t have to be incredibly stressful.
If you take the same Shakespeare class that I did, then you are going to love it. You’ll have to come out of your comfort zone a little bit. Luckily, talking with other students or even family members and friends opens up a whole new way of thinking and writing about Shakespeare. People interpret things in such diverse ways, and if you’re brave enough to talk to them, they’ll likely inspire you more than you originally expected. I wrote a retired professor about a paper he wrote decades ago, and he responded the next day with lots of support and encouragement. Being social means being successful!
Well, I hope this helps. I’m excited for you!