education : arts : literature
William Shakespeare : The Bard
Why should you read the writings of yet another deceased Caucasian fellow?
Well. He’s considered the greatest English writer ever.
So what? You say. He’s hard to understand.
Okay. Good point. In the context of today, he might seem hard to understand. But if you can do three things, you might decide he’s pretty great too. So try doing this:
This is the big and most important one: Find a fun and engaging gateway to understanding the story itself first. If you can understand what’s happening, then you’ll be able to get caught up in the intrigue and violence and romance and murder and lust and mystery and all those ingredients that are part of great stories.
After you understand the story, the plot and characters and what’s happening, you’ll ideally be able to start enjoying and appreciating the nuances of language, the razor-sharp insults, the dueling dialogues and repartee, the character motivations and eventually the themes that have influenced so many stories since.
Remember to be patient and to pay attention. Just like most things worth learning, you have to put in a little bit of extra work at first before it truly becomes fun. It’s become customary today to have mass entertainment and easy options slung at us without requiring much effort; the passive acceptance of story as commodity. But the reality is that part of the genius of Shakespeare is not (only) his complex insight into character, relationships, and language, it’s the mass appeal of his stories and plays; they are often violent and bawdy, risqué and controversial, full of violence and danger and intrigue and forbidden love. They give you the opportunity to think and to feel. Deeply.
They’re a little bit of work to get into. But they’re worth it. In response to Number 1 (see above), I’ve began writing my own gateway versions of The Bard, complete with commentary and notes.
I will also be including study guides and discussion questions soon. But I haven’t yet. Enjoy!
All's Well That Ends Well
As You Like It
Comedy of Errors
Love's Labour's Lost
Measure for Measure
Merry Wives of Windsor
Romeo and Juliet
Timon of Athens
Troilus and Cressida
Antony and Cleopatra
Henry IV, Part I
Henry IV, Part II
Henry VI, Part I
Henry VI, Part II
Henry VI, Part III