Saturday, December 10, 2016

Rachel's Advice on Studying Shakespeare

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Dear Michael,

Wow! I am so excited that you decided to follow in my footsteps and study English! I mean, I feel like I got the short end when you chose to learn trumpet like Jeff instead of saxophone like me. I am glad you have enjoyed it, but I feel better now that you have chosen to study English! Some people might tell you that it is a pointless degree, but you will gain so many beneficial analytical, communicative, and writing skills that will help you in future endeavors, so it is far from being pointless. Plus, lots of girls major in English, so you will be set! ;)

Now, I know you see and hear that Shakespeare is a required course, and all you can do is think back to the teachers in high school that forced his works on you in an unflattering way. You disliked their teaching methods, and wished that you could do something else instead, like playing a video game. But what if I were to tell you that Shakespeare does not have to be awful and boring, and that you can learn just as much from different non-traditional sources as you could from scholarly sources and the text?

Technology and social media are everywhere today, and you can use them in your studies! Shakespeare is better enjoyed and understood when it is more than just read. You can find performances and interviews, pictures and quotes all over the internet that can help influence your learning and study. That really helped me! I looked up YouTube videos that discussed the theme of identity in King Lear, which gave me a great starting point that allowed me to read the text in a more focused way, for I started looking for themes of identity and familial inheritance, and I better understand that text as a result. I also saw a performance of Hamlet last fall that gave me perspective on the textual themes as we read it for class, and when I viewed the performance again, my love for and appreciation of Hamlet deepened because I had been able to experience it in multiple forms, and could compare the differences between live performance and filmed performance on the themes.

Writing about Shakespeare can be tricky, but there are many resources out there to help! Most importantly, choose a theme and text that interest you, or that you feel you have personally connected with. A Midsummer Night’s Dream allowed me to reflect on how my perceptions and emotions have been influenced by memory, which allowed me to see just how important memories are to shaping human experience and maturity. As I reflected on that, I found sources from social media that led me to discover someone creating a children’s book of the play. Her insights gave me the idea that I wanted to focus on in my paper, which was neat! Don’t discount non-traditional sources! Had I done that, my paper would be a sad lump.

Overall, Shakespeare is not as bad as you think! His themes are so relatable today, and some of his famous soliloquys are ingenious. All you need to do is enter your class with an open mind. Don’t let what others say scare you. Shakespeare can help you learn in ways you did not think possible! Because of what I learned about Shakespeare, I can now enter other fields with a more open mind than before. Best of luck, for you will love it!





  1. Rachel, I loved the personal element you added here, though you both should have learned to play the clarinet. ;) Thanks for all your insight and support this semester, I gained a lot from the discussions that I had with you!

    1. Haha, I suppose that was your instrument of choice? I almost chose it! You are welcome, and thank you, I loved being able to get insight from you as well! I am glad we got to take another class together!