I didn’t always like Shakespeare growing up. Perhaps it was because my first encounter with it was my sophomore year of high school and my teacher had us listen to Romeo and Juliet on CD for 4 days (Romeo sounded like a prissy teenager who hadn’t gone through puberty) and watch an inappropriate version of A Midsummer’s Night Dream. Or perhaps it was because I simply read the words on the page and answered the questions on the test without really getting to know who the characters truly are. The first time I read Hamlet, I thought the characters were crazy and their intentions and motivations beyond my own understanding.
Shakespeare seemed to write books meant for people who read books by candlelight and dressed themselves in Renaissance clothing. Boy, was I wrong.
My AP English class my senior year changed everything. My teacher, Mrs. McDougall, took such a different approach to Shakespeare that I absolutely loved! We would role play during class and take turns playing Hamlet or Ophelia and answering questions about our intentions or how we felt about certain things. The day that I stood in front of the class as Hamlet, defending my own supposed madness and what led to it was the day that I truly began to understand Hamlet as a person.
There’s something entrancing about Hamlet’s character and how his rage both drives him and defines his character. He’s complex and witty and I love reading his insults that completely go over people’s heads. I love other Shakespeare plays, but there’s just a certain something about this play that I can’t get over. Shakespeare was a genius because he was able to capture raw emotions and feelings that are as true now as they were when “thee” was a common pronoun.
Every time I read Hamlet, I am blown away by the beauty of its words. Call me a romantic, but even the darkest of Shakespeare’s tragedies are tinged with an allure and elegance when they are told in iambic pentameter.
But break, my heart, for I must hold my tongue.
O, woe is me! To have seen what I have seen, see what I see.
I must be cruel, only to be kind: Thus bad begins and worse remains behind.
A major part of coming to understand Hamlet was watching the Kenneth Branagh movie version. It’s so true that you really need to see Shakespeare to truly appreciate it. Here’s one of my favorite scenes where Hamlet makes the decision to finally act instead of scheme. Magnificent. Now here is a proper Shakespearean actor.
As an English Language major, I get to take all sorts of fun classes like English Semantics & Pragmatics and English Phonetics and Phonology. However, this means I don’t get to take all of the English literature analyzation classes. I miss it, the essays, the questions, and the new appreciation of authors. Sigh. However, I do have one class that I am looking forward to taking to cover one of my General Education requirements. Take a look!