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I’m so excited that you have the opportunity to study Shakespeare! I know that Shakespeare can be intimidating, and takes a little work to understand, but it’s definitely worth the effort. I personally really enjoy reading Shakespeare because his characters are so interesting, and have so much depth. I really felt this as I was reading Hamlet because many people have very stereotypical views of Hamlet, but as I read it I was able to understand much more about who he is, and what motivated his behavior. It really is a great experience to read Shakespeare.
The best way to understand Shakespeare is to look up a summary beforehand. Because they are plays it is often difficult to get a good idea of what is happening when you aren’t watching it happen. So if you already know what is happening you can sit back and enjoy the language Shakespeare uses, and his characters. I also recommend that you watch performances of the plays. A lot of things that don’t make much sense will click when you see them performed. It also makes it a lot more fun, because the funny things are funnier, and the intense things are more intense when you watch them than when you read them.
When writing about Shakespeare the most important thing is that you pick to write about something that interests you. The whole process is more enjoyable because you won’t get bored, and will be more involved in what your writing. As far as research Shakespeare is so prevalent in our society today that finding research about him is incredibly easy. The difficult part is sorting through it all to find what is most useful to you. For me, it was really helpful to find some casual sources, on google or social media, just to get a better idea of what interested me and then look for that in more scholarly sources. Also I am a huge advocate of using print sources as well as electronic sources. There are tons of good articles and books in the library, so use them! Also when you find a good source you can usually find other good sources right next to it on the shelf, which is something much more difficult to do with electronic sources.
Finally you have to talk about what you are reading and writing with other people. Not only will they have insights that you don’t have, but it just makes the whole process more interesting. First off it puts more responsibility on you to have read and understood the reading. Secondly it gives you the chance to discuss, and refine ideas that you have about the plays. Your classmates make great reading buddies, and of course I am always here, and willing to talk about Shakespeare with you.
Lastly don’t be so worried about understanding that you forget to enjoy the experience! Shakespeare is a writer like no other that is why he is such a great author to study, and also why he is more difficult to understand. Don’t worry if you don’t get it at first, keep working and it will come!