Monday, December 12, 2016

Mary's Advice on Studying Shakespeare

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Dear Nobody,

I'm shocked and proud that you finally chose English, and I'm so excited for you to take a Shakespeare class.  From what we've talked about already, I know you'll love it.  I understand why you're worried though.  Reading Shakespeare for a college class can be very different, but let me tell you that Shakespeare is about to get a lot more intriguing.

First of all, if you have a chance to chose a play, I highly recommend Richard III, because villains are great and that one has a variety of interesting characters who haven't all received a lot of critical attention.  While you're reading, it's super cool to look up images of the characters.  Artists have such an interesting way of looking at people and this can really help you get a sense of what's going on.
Also, pace yourself when reading.  Reading too much at once will probably cause it all to just fly over your head and you'll miss some awesome cleverness (Shakespeare is hilarious.)  Look at the footnotes too or else you'll probably miss a lot and get lost, but don't let them distract you and you really don't need to look up things you already know.   Getting some background too is helpful, and it doesn't usually spoil the story. It really helps to get that context, whether that means wikipedia-ing the history or else watching a version of the play first.  (Remember how I hated Rob Roy until I re-read it after researching Scottish history?  Now, I won't shut up about it.  It's basically the same for Richard III, except, well, it isn't quite Rob Roy).

I know the long paper is also worrying you, but I can guarantee that, once you get into the idea, you'll probably having a harder time shutting up that reaching the page amount.  But one vital advice: START EARLY!  You can do so much, but not if you don't have time.  Furthermore, research something that interests you.  Research was made much more fun when it meant scrolling through memes on my favorite social media site to collect resources. And yes, surprise! You can use more than scholarly articles. Heck, use Snapchat if you want.

Once you have that idea that's all yours, it's exciting to learn about and probe. Don't be afraid to get excited and geeky.  If your idea seems a little crazy at first, don't be discouraged, at least you know you're probably trying something new. Talk to other people about it.  Pretty much everyone knows about Shakespeare or had to read some play or another.  I talked to people online who I knew were reading Shakespeare and they had some great ideas and were very encouraging. Also, go to the library.  Even if they don't have a book on your topic and I can guarantee that there's a chapter somewhere there will help you analyse or prove a point. Don't worry that your sources don't exactly match  your subject, remember that it's a good sign if what you're saying hasn't been said before.  The great thing is though, you don't have to stick to the library either!  You can go directly to the scholars if you want and e-mail them.  Knowing you, that's something you'd have no struggle with.

So, don't worry, get excited, try new things, and get as deep into as you can.  Good luck.



  1. I like your advice on the research paper. Picking something you can't shut up about is a great idea. I liked your presentation during the final.