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When you're studying Shakespeare, there are a few things you need to remember going into it:
The first thing to remember is that you shouldn’t be scared of it. If you go in with a mindset of being intimidated, this will impede your ability to learn and really experience the text. Because ideally, that’s what happens when you read great literature—you don’t merely read words on a page. You experience it. But that isn’t going to happen if you’re afraid or intimidated by the text. Yes, it’s regarded as some of the greatest literature every produced. That doesn’t mean that you’re not up to reading it, and getting something out of it, too. I can speak from experience that the more confident you are going in, the better experience you will have, as opposed to taking the attitude of, “Oh my goodness, I can’t believe I’m reading Shakespeare; this is way too high-brow for me.”
The second thing to remember is that it’s not always going to be cut and dry interpretation. Literary analysis is messy. You need to tear ideas apart and piece them back together. The pieces won’t always fit, and you should expect to be confused from time to time. Just because something doesn’t make sense right off the bat doesn’t mean that you’ve failed in your reading. Great literature is meant to have its secrets, and reading it is kind of like a treasure hunt. If everything was out on the surface, it would defeat the joy and reward of reading. If you want the best experience you can get out of Shakespeare, you need to dig for it.
A third thing to keep in mind is the value of nontraditional sources. When a lot of people are studying Shakespeare, it seems to escape their memory that a great deal of valuable information and insight can be found in nontraditional sources. These sources may include social media, blogs, online forums, modern adaptations of plays, documentary series, etc. The possibilities are great, and when you consider the use of nontraditional sources, your prospects for learning and enhancement are increased exponentially.
Another thing to keep in mind is that when researching and writing about Shakespeare, you need to make sure that your ideas matter in today’s day and age. You may come up with a great idea that has a lot of promise, but ultimately, the question of “So what?” is bound to surface. When it does, you need to be able to prove that your idea can have viability in the modern world. Merely stating your point is not enough. You need to make it matter to your audience.
To sum it all up, don’t be afraid of Shakespeare, don’t be afraid to challenge your preconceived ideas and shuffle them around. Don’t be discouraged if it takes a little while for you to find the deeper meaning in the text, and don’t ignore the use of nontraditional sources. Lastly, be sure to make your research matter to your audience.
This is a great opportunity to study some of the world’s greatest literature. Don’t miss it!