How to Read Shakespearean Plays

Published by Rachel on

A requirement in nearly every school and in most English university courses, Shakespearean plays have been apart of all our lives. Whether you’re reading Othello as part of required material, or just want to tackle Hamlet by yourself, here’s how to read Shakespearean plays!



1. Read Aloud

Shakespeare’s plays weren’t meant to be read, they were meant to be performed. Sitting in the middle of an overly-warm room in an uncomfortable school uniform while a bored teacher drones on about glitter and gold, it can be hard to remember that. When you read it out loud, however, things can suddenly become clear. Pay attention to the commas and full stops and add pauses when necessary. Plays are written in a style that doesn’t correspond to how the sentences are said, so you don’t always need to stop at the end of each line. Once you get into the rhythm of speaking, it’ll be easier to understand the dialogue.


2. Keep Notes

Jotting down your thoughts as you go through the play can help you revise later on. Having a pen and paper next to you with the family tree or major plot points will make it easier to understand. One key feature of every Shakespearean play is the sheer amount of characters. It can be difficult to keep track of who is who and how they’re related and what their goals are, so having this info at hand is good to have.



3. Have Fun

It’s easier to understand the plays when they’re read aloud, but it’s even better if you act it out instead. Having fun with it will help you to enjoy Shakespeare even more. A lot of dialogue is full of puns and jokes that are easier to understand when performed. Adding a touch of drama and theatre makes everything more enjoyable and it will definitely help you remember the lines better when you recite them out loud.



4. Read a Summary

There’s no shame in reaching out for help, and especially not when it comes to Shakespeare. It’s a lot easier to understand the play if you’ve read a quick summary beforehand. You’ll have a rough overview of what’s meant to be happening, who the characters are and what they do, and how it ends. If you prefer to watch things rather than read them, then there are plenty of different productions available online. Many famous actors and actresses starting out reciting Shakespeare and seeing modern adaptions of centuries-old plays can show a new side to things.


5. Look-Up Words

A lot of those strange-looking words are usually just contractions. These are words that have had letters removed. For example, “‘gainst” is a contraction of “against”. There are also a lot of words that Shakespeare purposefully misspelt and misused to cause amusement. He was a master of wordplay and went out of his way to create puns and entendres.



Easiest Plays For Beginners
  1. Macbeth
  2. Romeo and Juliet
  3. Much Ado About Nothing
  4. Twelfth Night
  5. King Lear

Here’s the best step-by-step guide on how to read classical novels!

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