Okay, so you’ve heard all the hullabaloo over Shakespeare through the years from your teachers or maybe your friends. He’s the poet with a funky goatee who wrote all these boring old plays in which you can’t even understand what’s going on. Big deal, right?
It seems like such a mystery why everyone knows who the man was, but have never read, or heard one of his plays performed well or at all. These are the people I’m talking to today. You recognize that there must be some serious worth to Shakespeare’s plays and sonnets, but every time you’ve tried, you just can’t seem to get through his work.
So I decided to share with you how I finally tackled Shakespeare, his plays and his sonnets. The following is a step-by-step approach to understanding and enjoying the genius of this enormous poet.
NOTE: These steps require that you have a copy of the play you are trying to read, and internet access. You can read all of Shakespeare’s work here.
It is also required to have access to Sparknotes’ No Fear Shakespeare books. They can be read online here.
STEP 1: Listen to a lecture on the play:
There are tons of sites out there that provide recordings of their college lectures on specific Shakespeare plays. For example, iTunes U has a lecture series called "Approaching Shakespeare" and it has a lot of his major works greatly analyzed.
STEP 2: Read the play guided by an audio version of the play:
Most of Shakespeare's plays can be listened to for free from an organization called Librivox. The reason it is important to listen to the play as you read the textis becauseyou are not slowed down or thrown off by new words, odd phrases, etc. You will be surprised how much you can follow a play more when you hear how the text should be said.
STEP 3: You need to read the No Fear Shakespeare on the play you are reading:
You can read them for free at the link above. These are Shakespeare’s plays, translated, line for line in modern English. While they are not a good representation of the great art of words that Shakespeare posed, they helpclarify plot aspects that you may have missed in your first reading.
STEP 4: Watch the play performed well:
I recommend the BBC series that performs all of Shakespeare’s plays. They are by far the truest representations you can easily find online. I do not know a free way to watch this series unless you have Netflix or Amazon Video, but both of those are incomplete collections. A little bit of digging on YouTube, might turn up some of them for free. (Optional: You can watch several different performances of the plays on YouTube and the like. Watching the play done by other actors and directors will give you a well rounded grasp on the play.)
STEP 5: And finally, you need to read the play again, but text only, and get through it in as few sittings as possible:
This has always been my best experience reading Shakespeare. With all the lecture knowledge, and familiarity you have built with the work by watching it performed and being familiar with the plot, you can now enjoy the text from the best possible angle.
Well, that concludes this article on tackling Shakespeare, I hope you can use some or all of my tips here. You really will not forget it.