If there’s one literary figure that makes high school students quake in their boots, it would have to be William Shakespeare. The Bard may have written one of the most compelling pieces of literature with his witty and pitch-perfect dialogue and prose but interpreting what he wrote and what he means has been the bane of many a student. If you’re one of those people who are intimidated by Shakespeare and his works here are some tips that will help you understand him easily.
Buy a Shakespeare lexicon
Keep it within arm’s reach whenever you read Shakespeare’s works. A lexicon is a handy reference that is similar to a dictionary. But what it contains are the words that have been used in Shakespeare’s works, each one accompanied by a definition and an explanation. Most lexicons contain a handy translation of the Middle English word to its modern equivalent.
Get study guides
Go to the internet and look for online study guides. A number of web sites contain free study guides on Shakespeare. These guides are basically a dissection of Shakespeare’s works, describing characters, their motivations, the various plot points for each work, an enumeration and discussion of the themes explored in each work and also a handy glossary of terms and words used. It even has handy guide questions that help you in understanding the work better and also prepare you for questions that may be asked in class. (Read more on good study habits.)
Get the narrative version
To help you understand the story easily, you can opt to read the narrative version of Shakespeare’s works first before you tackle the actual work. A narrative version tells retells Shakespeare’s works in story form, which is easier to understand. A number of authors have written very compelling narrative versions of Shakespeare’s works. Once you’ve understood the plot and gained insight into the characters, reading the actual work becomes easier.
Recite the lines.
This may sound like a silly tip but it actually works. Do remember that Shakespeare is mainly a playwright. His works are really intended to be said out loud by actors. Saying his words out loud will give you a different perspective on his work that reading it silently won’t be able to give you. Take cues from his work, add the emotions being asked for the delivery, you’ll find it indicated in parenthesis. You’ll have a better feel for the character by doing this and you will also get to appreciate Shakespeare and how his words flow.
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To get “into” Shakespeare- become familiar with some of his great quotes. The passion will then follow!