How to LOVE Studying Shakespeare

Romeo and Juliet love

Shakespeare is the ultimate storyteller and entertainer! Much like watching a soap opera or blockbuster, Shakespeare’s plays are full of drama, intrigue and absolute shockers.

Who can forget when Romeo drinks poison unable to live without Juliet – and dies as he kisses her lips. All because he never received Friar Lawrence’s letter. Thanks Royal Mail!!

JUST at that moment, of course, she wakes from her sleeping potion, then stabs herself in the heart as Romeo is dead. Oh, the tragedy! The horror! The timing! Such a cruel twist of fate…

That’s not all… Just you try and stop giggling as Fairy Queen Titania in, ‘A Midsummer Night’s Dream’ falls in love with a donkey (AKA Bottom) after being tricked into drinking a love potion. What a hoot!

After more silly shenanigans in the magical woods of Athens, there’s a ‘happy ever after’ to look forward to. Phew…

A Shakespeare Play is Just Modern-day Life in Tights

A Shakespeare play typically has villains galore, victims, conflict, and all human emotion. From love to hate, jealousy to guilt, happiness to sadness. In truth, it’s not that far removed from life today!

Strip the words back and you’re left with gripping stories that make us cry, laugh, think. We witness the very best and worst of humankind. Much like that Netflix series you’re addicted to!

And yes, you do get men wearing funny stockings, neck ruffs and cod pieces while women don silk gowns and fancy shoes.

Not to mention that men had to play the women’s parts in those days. A man with a beard in a frock. What’s not to love?!

But those are just the frills – the real story is ALL the controversy! A Shakespeare play is teeming with it… And you thought Marvel movies were awesome.

A Snapshot of Shakespearian Society?  

Yes, yes – but first: controversy. It’s everywhere:

  • Romeo and Juliet marry behind their parents’ back
  • Macbeth murders a King at a time when James 1st was terrified about being murdered!
  • King Lear’s eyes are plucked out – not for the squeamish!
  • The shocker of Shylock’s racism against Jewish people
  • Power hungry souls willing to kill to get what they want
  • There are suicides aplenty – so grim

As our fabulous gaggle of English tutors will tell you: Shakespeare isn’t for the faint-hearted.

And yet for centuries we’ve been enchanted with the stories.

Allowing for specific context, they mirror who we are as people. They mirror our desires, weaknesses, our motivations.

That’s why we always advise students studying Shakespeare to get into the story first.

Understand what’s in their heads, what pressures are on them and how characters are affected by class, gender, poverty, age and religion and you’re on your way to being a critic!

Navigate Through Shakespearean Speeches and Sonnets

The language barrier. It’s there like fog surrounding you.

The truth is, Shakespearean language is poetic and confusing, but not impossible. Once you get the gist, the mist of confusion clears.

Our head tutor, Nikki de Villiers, always says not to expect to understand every word when studying GCSE Literature, but by closely reading an extract it’s incredible what’s in it.

Start small and work your way up…! Contact Nikki to discuss how we can help your teen make sense of Shakespeare too.

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