Saturday, December 10, 2016

Isaac's Advice on Studying Shakespeare

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Dear younger sibling (who I am going to name Sir Albatross),

I got really excited the other day when you mentioned that you wanted to take Shakespeare next semester. Mom told me that you started to have some second thoughts though. Can I ask what it is you're hesitant about?

One of the biggest things to remember is that it's okay if Shakespeare seems like a different language at the beginning. You have really good resources, including Sparknotes and other websites, your peers, and your professor, that will help you to understand and enjoy his writings. Take advantage of these; they're not bad. In fact, learning the synopsis through online summaries can be really helpful, especially since when you don't have to focus too much on plot, you can focus more on how Shakespeare actually wrote the play. Another thing is to make sure you're highlighting things that stand out to you. He's so good with connecting with different people. Take what stands out to you and then run with it. That really helped me to enjoy some of his work that I hadn't read before this class, like Henry V or King Lear.

When you find something that really speaks to you, that's when you know you have something to write about. And you have to trust that it'll come. Believe me, if you know the synopsis beforehand, and you look for how Shakespeare wrote, and if you keep up in discussions with friends and the professor, you will always have some interesting topic that you can research and write about. I was able to write a paper about psychological analysis, and another one about teaching. Both of these came just from things that I noticed that I thought were cool and from things that I feel like I'm really interested in.

One thing I learned just barely is the importance of talking about these things with people from all over the place. Don't be afraid to bring up your ideas with your classmates, your friends, and even other professors. I was able to find a professor in Iowa who researched similar topics to my final paper, and I sent her an email. I realized how easy it is to reach out and see if people are interested in discussing Shakespeare, which a lot of people are. I think I could have reached out earlier and to more people online, either professors or enthusiasts, because it really isn't hard once you actually do it.

I want to tell you about one last experience to hopefully sell you on the whole Shakespeare idea. I remember you reading Hamlet in high school. Although you may or may not have enjoyed it, we watched a production of Hamlet for this class after reading it, with Benedict Cumerbatch as the leading role! What was more impressive, however, was not the play itself but everyone's interpretations that they saw in the production that we discussed afterwards. Trust me, Shakespeare becomes a lot better in college when people are more equipped to pick out interesting points. You really see the beauty in his rhetoric and in his plot. You're a smart kid. I think you'd get a lot out of it.

Anyway, good luck with your decision. If you have any questions at all, please feel free to ask me. I'm a hot mess, but I can at least tell you what I know from my experiences.

Love ya Sir,


P.S. Shakespeare is rad, yo!

1 comment:

  1. Sir Albatross is quite fortunate. Hahaha. Well done Isaac, I totally agree with your point about the interpretations of Hamlet being one of the most memorable and significant points of the semester. And after your presentation, I am excited to read online about how a young professor is teaching Shakespeare in a new way that engages with his students in ways that have never been tried before! Best of luck!