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Getting Into Shakespeare

nomadic myth

New Member
I want to read more Shakespeare. I've read maybe seven or eight of his plays, and all for school throughout the years. I can't seem to pick him up for pleasure reading. How can I get inspired to read and enjoy his plays?
I read most of the plays in college, on assignment, and enjoyed the lectures and discussions. I don't read him now for "pleasure." The play's the thing! I enjoy seeing the plays performed (local theaters perform one or two a year) or in movie versions. Then I may go back to read certain passages which really live for me now that I can hear the actors' voices in my head.
The play's the thing! I enjoy seeing the plays performed (local theaters perform one or two a year) or in movie versions.

I think this may be the key. I should find faithful editions of the plays on video and go with that. I find once I open the plays in book form I get bogged down with trying to visualize and keep track of stage directions.
I would starts with his sonnets and then move to reading his plays. Sonnets such as 129 and 130 are good ones to start with, because they laugh at conventions...although in his sonnnets, he generally laughts at conventions. Also, sonnet 15 is beautiful. You'll learn to appreciate his word play and his language, and then I would suggest moving to his tragedies, as they're more potent than his comedies. Thinks like Othello and Macbeth. And remember when reading to look not only at characters and plot, but LANGUAGE and WORD CHOICE - it adds so much and is very interesting.
Yeah, actually I'm really proud of myself. I read Macbeth last week, for the first time. I was enjoying it a lot, and really wanted to find out everything that happened. The criticism in the back of the book was very helpful for enjoying it on many levels. I'm going for King Lear next. It'll be a re-read, but first reading was 15 years ago, so it'll be full of surprises.

I guess school and university ruined Shakespeare for me. I'm VERY independent, and if something is assigned to me I resent it greatly, and it becomes a chore. Having been out of school for seven years, and having been reading voraciously since graduation (and on my own terms) I thought it was time to give old Willy another chance. Good I did. Much more fun learning him for me.
Shakespeare's sonnets are always a good way to start off on his work...
Also .. even sometimes particular movies that quote shakespeare, i find, always inspire me to read him.. and get lost in his words.. like "The Prince and Me" with Julia Stiles..
good movie :p i'm a soppy romantic.. what can i say :p
I think the reason Shakespeare is so hard to get into is because we are reading essentially the plays' scripts. It would be like reading a movie script and then asked to discuss what is going on. If you wanted to actually get into Shakespeare's plays and fully understand them, you either need to see it on stage (which would probably only be once or twice...although I would recommend you do this at some point if you're really interested in Shakespeare. Live performances really draw you into the play) or see a really good televised play version. Or you could read the play and see a performance and see how it complimented your idea of the play. Shakespeare isn't really made for just reading, but also for observing.

I haven't read his sonnets, but I'm sure that if you wanted to get into his writing, I would think these would be the "easiest" to understand.
I don't like short poems, so the Sonnets are out. I've read a lot of the Sonnets, and appreciate them, but mostly, for me, short poems are unsatisfying. Kind of the a short joke compared to a Woody Allen movie.

I actually liked reading Macbeth last month, so I guess my conclusion is that the best way to get into Shakespeare is to just pick up a play. The introduction and essays in the book helped a lot, too. I'm an ideas type, so the analysis really appeals to me.
King Lear

The BBC has a weekly radio discussion program called “In Our Time” that covers a wide range of ideas. Basically, it is a bunch of well informed bods discussing some piece of philosophy, literature or scientific principle. This week they are discussing “King Lear”, and whilst it is not massively insightful, it is an interesting introduction and there are some nuggets – for instance I never twigged that the play was written for James I/VI rather than in the time of Elizabeth, so the implications of dividing Britain are somewhat different. And I just loved a suggestion that to get the play staged it had to be rewritten with a happy ending – plus ca change :)

Anyway if you are interested it is available as a podcast from the Beeb (just search for “In our Time” on their site).
Once I had to read Hamlet for school assignment. I went to a library and started to read it, but I was falling asleep. I found me an LP at the library, and put the headphones on. It was 33 rpm record. I changed the speed of the phonograph to 45 rpm. And listening while reading really made the story interesting. I finished the story, and absorbed lot of it. Probably would've been more interesting if I heard it in regular voices, instead of the chipmunkish voices. But, I was pressed for time. :)
I'm still in school, and it's the same for me. A lot of the things they make you read, I would've wanted to read anyway, but since it's labeled as an assignment it puts a negative connotation on the whole thing. Even though I was really intimidated my the thought of it, I picked up Much Ado About Nothing and it's surprisingly very easy to follow and I'm hooked. It is my first of Shakespeare's comedies so it's new, refreshing and different.