While the ideas are universal, and the themes are timeless, reading Shakespeare is reading another language. Without knowledge of the word use, the phrasing, and the syntax, readers are circumstantially dealing with SSL, or what I refer to as, Shakespeare as a Second Language.
Fortunately, like any meaningful language, it follows a pattern. Learn the pattern and you decode the mainframe, hack into the soliloquies, and upload the meaning onto your hard drive…extended metaphorically speaking, of course.
But trust me. It’s worth it. I realize that it is hard work, and that is the problem with genius. Genius takes time.
And if you wonder if it is worth you time, I just read an extensive speech by an engineer who framed his whole speech to an engineering crowd around Hamlet and the importance of words to his profession.
Alphonse Chaponis of Johns Hopkins University concludes his speech saying that words have “the remarkable capacity words have to excite our emotions and to produce affective reactions within us. Words make us glad; they make us sad; and they make us mad. They may make our hearts sing or make us weep with joy, love, or patriotism. Conversely, words may frustrate us, drive us to despair, and incite us to kill ourselves or each other. These affective and emotional concomitants of words also have their implications for…engineering….”
As an SSL student, this is my advice:
- Be patient with the words and with yourself.
- Like Hamlet, ask lots of questions. Of others, and of yourself.
- Listen to the words. Repeat them… words, words, words…They are the music of the universe and they are meant for the ear and the mind’s eye and the heart.
- Read about the plot from other sources, but look for the meaning in the words of Shakespeare.