Wednesday, May 14, 2008

How To Easily Read Shakespeare?

http://howtodothings.com/education/how-to-easily-read-shakespeare

I'm not sure I agree with much of what is on this list, which starts with "have a lexicon/dictionary handy."  I think that a desire to fully understand the etymology of every single word in every single sentence is a little too "can't see the forest for the trees", honestly.  I don't understand every single word, I admit that freely.   I move on.  I try to get the feeling for the whole passage, and then work backwards.  Took me a long time to understand what it meant to 'defy augury', but it didn't change my appreciation of the play.

I do, however, believe in #4, read the narrative to get the plot.  That's basically what I do for my kids.  I  think it's a little patronizing to suggest Charles and Mary Lamb's version to a grown adult, but hey, whatever works.

6 comments:

ShakespearesLady said...

"Read an expository writing or essay on the work. "Shakespeare without Tears" by Margaret Webster, and Tom Stoppard's "Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead", are useful in helping you put the Middle English into a modern perspective."

Seriously?? How is reading Tom Stoppard going to help you understand anything about the actual plays? I really don't believe Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead would help put anything into perspective.

Duane said...

:) Yeah, I forgot about that one when I posted. I thought that particular choice a little silly, too. Maybe The Skinhead Hamlet would have been a better choice? Or Shel Silverstein's Hamlet?

ShakespearesLady said...

No, no, no - Hamlet in Klingon definitely is the better choice!

Also, Shakespeare is Early Modern. Not Middle English (a pet peeve of mine. I know the difference isn't vast, but....)

Duane said...

I love when the universe is small. Just this afternoon a coworker and I were discussing the week's meme about how kids today are the "dumbest" generation, and Shakespeare/Chaucer came up. "One of the common questions I get," I said, "Is how am I expected to understand Shakespeare when he was writing in Old English. Actually he was writing in modern English, to get Old English you have to go back to the Chaucers and such."

"Actually," said my coworker, "Chaucer is middle. For Old you'd be going back to Beowulf."

Alan K.Farrar said...

Serious hat on (don't do it often).
As someone who teaches English to none English Speakers, the advice here is dreadful.
I spend a lot of time stopping people looking up individual words - the translation mentality is a real 'block' to picking up a language.
First and foremost is 'context' - and for Shakespeare, there is no better context than the theatre.
Give the plot, watch the play, read a bit - watch another, read a bit more ...repeat several times ... amazing how easy Shakespeare becomes to understand after that.

Alan K.Farrar said...

And Garfield ... Shakespeare Stories (def. better than prissy Lamb - who should be slaughtered).