As of now I have only read three plays, and a handful of sonnets. My freshman year of high school I read Romeo and Juliet which is my favorite Shakespeare play I have read so far. My sophomore year of high school I read A Midsummer's Nights Dream which I did not enjoy at all. The last play I read was Othello which I read last semester in my college English class. I also read a handful of his more popular sonnets in my college poetry class last semester as well. I would of course like to read more so leave me your favorites. (Update: I have now taken an entire college course dedicated to Shakespeare. While I have read more of his works now, I still feel the same allure by his mysteriousness and awe at the timelessness of this themes and characters.)
Why is Shakespeare so difficult?
Of course the poetic and old English language used in his plays and poetry make Shakespeare less approachable for the modern reader, but I also believe that the medium in which we study Shakespeare makes his work less approachable. Plays are of course meant to be preformed and seen as a visual, not read as words on a page. When I teach Shakespeare in my classroom I want to incorporate as many visuals of the work as possible to help readers get the full Shakespeare experience.
One way I would love to do this is by incorporating graphic novel adaptations of Shakespeare's works into the classroom. I am currently reading a graphic novel of Macbeth which was published by No Fear Shakespeare which is a part of Sparknotes and a really great resource for help with Shakespeare's plays. I highly recommend you check out both Sparknotes and their No Fear Shakespeare section. I would like to read a variety of different adaptions in order to find the best options. I would love to find one that keeps the original Shakespeare language but adds visuals to aid in the understanding of the language.
Tips for reading Shakespeare
Before reading a play, I would suggest looking up the very basic plot line on Sparknotes. Knowing where the story is heading and who the characters are will help you keep track of the plot once you are thrown into the lofty Shakespearean language. Also don't be afraid to utilize Sparknotes to check your understanding and to make sure you are catching the bigger ideas at work within the play.
If you are new to Shakespeare I would suggest starting with one of his comedies, or Romeo and Juliet, they will serve as a great introduction to Shakespeare. And of course, remember to appreciate his perfect iambic pentameter and thought provoking monologues and soliloquies.
Shakespeare's works take a great effort to read, but the benefits are truly rewarding. Look out for my review of the Macbeth graphic novel within the next few days as well as leaving your thoughts down below, I would love to hear them!