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5 Tips for Reading Shakespeare

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For a beginner, Shakespeare can sometimes seem like a bunch of strange words put together in no sensible order. Once you learn to read and understand Shakespeare, you'll find out why it has inspired students and scholars for centuries.

1. Understand the Importance of "Getting It"

It is impossible to overstate the importance of Shakespeare’s work. It is clever, witty, beautiful, inspirational, funny, deep, dramatic, and more. Shakespeare is a word genius whose work helps us see the beauty and artistic potential of the English language.

Shakespeare's work has inspired students and scholars for centuries, because it also tells us so much about life, love, and human nature. When you study Shakespeare, you find that human beings haven’t really changed all that much over the past several hundred years. Shakespeare will expand your mind if you let it.

2. Attend a Reading or a Play

Shakespeare really makes more sense when you see the words come to life on stage. You won’t believe how much expressions and movements of the actors can demystify Shakespeare’s beautiful but complex prose.

3. Read It Again

As you progress in school and into college, you must realize that every subjects gets more challenging. Literature is no different. You’re not going to be successful in your studies if you think you can get through anything quickly—and that is triply true for Shakespeare. Don’t try to get by on one reading. Read once for a basic understanding and again (and again) to do it justice.

4. Act It Out

Shakespeare is different from any other piece of literature, in that it requires some engagement and active participation. When you actually say the words out loud, they start to “click.” Just try it—you will see that you can suddenly understand the context of the words and expressions. Call your study partner and read to each other!

5. Read a Plot Summary

Let’s face it—Shakespeare is tough. After you have read the work, go ahead and read a summary of the piece you’re working on if you’re completely baffled. Just read a summary and then read the actual work again. You won’t believe how much you missed before!

And don’t worry: reading the summary doesn’t “ruin” anything when it comes to Shakespeare, because the importance lies partly in the art and beauty of the work.

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