Hamlet as a Second Language

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.hamlet

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.

scrambled_poem_by_ultimatesadness-d5eu3csAlphonse 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:

  1. Be patient with the words and with yourself.keep-calm-and-quote-hamlet
  2. Like Hamlet, ask lots of questions. Of others, and of yourself.
  3. 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.
  4. Read about the plot from other sources, but look for the meaning in the words of Shakespeare.



About melaniewhite2012

I am a high school English and Media Studies Teacher, an editor, and writer of educational publications for McGraw-Hill Ryerson, Ltd, and a mother of three. I distance run, exist largely on raw food, fresh air and sunshine, good literature, thoughtful radio, film, and laughter.
This entry was posted in Uncategorized and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Your thoughts?

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s