Admit it: Shakespeare is hard. It’s hard to get around all of the ‘wherefores’ and ‘art thous,’ especially when you’re in a rush because you put it off until the last minute. However, there are ways to understand a text that’s four centuries old, and, despite what you may have heard, have a lot of fun with it.
1. Get Into Character
There’s no better way to feel like a Shakespearean character than to dress up like a Shakespearean character. This might seem like a daunting task, or a useless one – but it can be fun and helpful. For example, when reading A Midsummer Night’s Dream, try dressing up with Oberon’s antler crown or Titania’s white gown. If that sounds too difficult, you can easily make yourself a neck-ruffle to mimic the Bard himself. It’s an easy way to get more into a play that you feel detached from.
2. Role Play
If you’re having trouble visualizing a Shakespearean scene, try getting a group of friends together to play it out. This might sound like a lame way to spend a Saturday afternoon, but it would probably be more fun than a stagnant study group. Plus, the more you can see the action in a play, the more you can connect to the characters and comprehend the plot. If you’re having trouble grasping the emotions of the scene, try looking it up a video on Youtube – almost every Shakespearean play has a movie version that you can emulate.
3. Take on Another Voice
Another fun way to feel more energized about Shakespeare is to imagine someone you know, or someone you admire, as the main character. It’s an easy way to connect to characters that you can’t connect to otherwise. For example, I like to pretend that every male protagonist is Sean Connery. It’s silly to hear his slurred Scottish voice in my head, but it works.
4. Play with Time Period
If you can’t picture the environment of the play, try imagining it in current times. There are many film adaptations of Shakespeare plays that transplant an old plot to a modern setting. For example, the movie 10 Things I Hate About You is actually a version of Shakespeare’s The Taming of the Shrew. Looking at Shakespeare through a modern lens can help you have a greater understanding of the plot and character motivation.
5. Insult your Friends
Perhaps the most fun way to have fun with Shakespeare is to attempt to integrate his colorful insults into your regular speech. Next time one of your friends cuts you in the sandwich line, don’t call him a ‘jerk’ – call him a “flesh-monger, a fool and a coward.” Next time you find a person spreading mean rumors about your best friend, don’t tell her that she’s a dumb liar – tell her that her “tongue outvenoms all the worms of the Nile.” And, next time you want to break your little brother’s chops, don’t beat him up – call him a “poisonous, bunch-back’d toad!” Using Shakespearean insults are one of the best ways to sound both funny and educated. Plus, they have the added benefit of getting you in the proper mood for his plays.
So there you have it. Next time you’re feeling up against the Shakespearean wall, remember that there are more options than Sparknotes and copying off of Max Randhahn. You can have fun with Shakespeare and enjoy him – plus, there’s a direct correlation between how fun you have with a book and how high your grade is on the final essay. Word.