Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Karee's Advice on Studying Shakespeare

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Dear Katie-lady-eighty,

I can't believe you are graduating high school already and following me to BYU. You are finally growing into your nickname (though you still have a while for the eighty part). I am also really excited that you have declared English as your major. Because you mentioned you were a little concerned about some of the required courses, I thought I would write a letter explaining my experience. To be upfront with you, the Shakespeare course here is nothing like the watered-down version you get in a high school class.

First of all, it helps that the whole class (everyone) is devoted to reading, discussing, and analyzing Shakespeare's works. Because everyone was invested in reading and analyzing I didn't feel like it was just the professor telling us what to think and the meaning of each play. I will agree that it does initially sound like a bit of a challenge to have to find themes and meanings on your own, I actually had an enjoyable experience. It isn't as bad as it sounds.

Two things helped me to better understand the plays and prepared me to write formal analysis of a variety of plays. One tool that is a less formal form of education: watching the plays on YouTube. This may seem like an odd thing to suggest when we don't have that much time to do homework, but I know you are a visual learner like me. I think that being able to see different portrayals and the stage interactions between the actors helped me understand what was going on in the play. It was also good practice for me to begin opening my eyes to different staging decisions, which helped me add further analysis of the play because I had seen different portrayals.

The second tool was the class discussion. My class had a physical class discussion and an online class discussion on Slack. I found that my peer's comments sparked new insights and feed into new analysis and interpretations of the play. My professor encouraged us to reach out of our own sphere to develop these interpretations. We mostly used channels on Slack (an instant messaging service) to host online conversations. One particular conversation with Sarah about how many of the characters put on a disguise to hide who they really were, helped me to realize that King Lear and Hamlet both had characters that were suffering from low self-esteem. Which sparked my interest because I am writing a book about self-esteem right now.  It was interesting to see that I could take themes from Shakespeare and begin to apply them to my own interests to enhance my learning.

Also, don't worry that you are going to have to read all of Shakespeare's works in one class. I was assigned to read a few required plays along with a two additional plays of my choice. I feel like this mixture of plays allowed us to see the wide range of Shakespeare's style and themes. Through the class discussions and some additional research I was able to see how Shakespeare's themes still apply to us today. I was expecting to learn about what Shakespeare thought about love, death, and betrayal, but instead I learned more about self-esteem and how people interact. Shakespeare will be an enjoyable class that you will be able to find how your life interacts with themes of the past. I'm excited to see the connections that you make!

Love, Karee


  1. Way to incorporate a picture! Interesting to see that you found YouTube helpful!

  2. You did a good job emphasizing how a Shakespeare class in college differs from highschool English class - particularly when you mention that everyone is devoted to studying Shakespeare because they all chose to be there.