There are so many amazing tips for understanding and enjoying Shakespeare that reading the great bard’s works should not be a chore, nor a hobby exclusively for literature nerds. Everyone can appreciate some of the greatest literature ever written in English! To discover a few tips for understanding and enjoying Shakespeare to the fullest extent, keep reading!
1. Read "no Fear Shakespeare"
This may seem like one of a cheater’s tips for understanding and enjoying Shakespeare, but truthfully reading “No Fear Shakespeare” versions of plays can help you understand them much better! But don’t let having a modernized version of the text stop you from reading the original writing. Reading Shakespeare is one of the most diverting experiences in the world, so don’t sell yourself short and take the easy way out! However, having a “translated” version available will help you follow the plot better and allow you to enjoy the Shakespearian prose to the fullest extent! You can find all of the “No Fear Shakespeare” titles here: nfs.sparknotes.com
2. Watch the Movie First
Luckily, most of Shakespeare’s more famous works have been made into movies. Before you start reading a play by Shakespeare, watch the movie version, or play version if there are any Shakespeare performing companies near you. Watching the acted out version will set you up with a pretty clear idea of the story’s plot, just like the “No Fear Shakespeare” version would prepare you for what you’re about to read, so that you can focus more on enjoying the fluid Renaissance language rather than following a plot.
3. Read It out Loud
I’ve found that reading Shakespeare out loud helps me follow the plot much easier. Plus, it’s fun to act out the different roles! Changing voices for each character will help engross your mind in the play, which will make you enjoy Shakespeare on countless more levels!
4. Research Shakespeare's Life
Shakespeare wasn’t just a man who sat in a room writing all day and night. He was a writer whose interesting and troubled life influenced his works. After you know about the death of Shakespeare’s child, his shotgun wedding, and more, you’ll understand both the bard and his works in a whole new light. Once you understand the text, it will be nearly impossible not to enjoy any one of his works!
5. Look out for Modern Adages
Shakespeare was the creator of countless adages that now we use every day. Phrases like “It’s all Greek to me!” and “All the world’s a stage” come from, you guessed it, Shakespearian texts! If your reading becomes a hunt for modern phrases coined by Shakespeare, you’ll enjoy your reading experience much more. You’ll also begin to understand why, even today, many critics consider Shakespeare the most talented writer to have ever lived.
6. Choose a Team
We do this with modern novels all of the time! First it was team Jacob or team Edward. Now, it’s team Peeta or team Gale. But do you know what the teams were over 400 years ago? In the Twelfth Night, there was a love triangle between Viola, Olivia, and Orsino, with one of the characters masquerading as a boy! Now if that’s not drama, I don’t know what is! So while reading the Twelfth Night and other Shakespearian plays, you need to choose a team—who belongs with whom?
7. Open Your Imagination
Reading is nothing without the imagination. Your experience reading anything—William Shakespeare or Stephanie Meyer—will be dry if you don’t let your mind run free. To Shakespeare, his characters were as real as you and me. But the playwright is no longer here, so it’s up to you to breathe life into his characters so that you might enjoy and understand the text.
Reading Shakespeare should not be something you dread. Many people regard Shakespeare as one of the most gifted playwrights and poets in history, so you shouldn’t deny yourself the privilege of reading his works. But you need to do so joyously! Why do you enjoy Shakespeare? What strategies do you use to understand the original text?