Don’t let The Bard get you down – top tips for studying Shakespeare

by Helen Abbott | 1 September 2016

If you struggle with Shakespeare, you are not alone. In fact I would go as far as saying that everyone has been through their own love/hate struggle with the Bard. If anyone claims to just “get it” straight away, trust me, they’re probably lying. They may be further along the road than you, closer to “Shakespeare genius” than “Huh?” but they all started at the beginning. I’ve always loved Shakespeare – watching it, studying it, directing it – but there’s a lot I don’t understand on first (second or even third) reading. I think I’m probably somewhere between “Right, I get it” and “I have to read that whole page again as I got so confused I gave up trying”. It might not be to everyone’s taste but one thing I am sure about: if you give Shakespeare a chance a world of language, poetry, humour, beauty and magic will be opened up to you.

So, here are a few things to bear in mind when you – or your students – are starting a new text. I hope they will help you along the way:

It is not cheating to read a synopsis before reading the play

It can be far too daunting to sit down and start reading a lengthy text cold. Even the character list at the beginning can be confusing. So instead of feeling intimidated by the task ahead, put the play down and read a simple synopsis, one that covers the important plot points is a good place to start. This will help you get an overview so you know the rough content and direction of what you’re about to read.

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