Film vs. Text Annotation

Reading a text and watching a film are vastly different processes; reading is active, while viewing is passive. When I am reading a Shakespeare play I can imagine my own version while when I am viewing a film I am immersed in the director’s version. Due to the obvious differences between text and film, annotating text and film varies greatly.

When reading a text, specifically a Shakespeare play, I always have my computer open to the Oxford English Dictionary (and sometimes a modern translation) along with a pen in hand. When reading a Shakespeare text, the key purpose of annotating, for me, is to gain an understanding and insight into the meaning of Shakespeare’s words. I find it easy to read Shakespeare almost mindlessly, in a way where the meaning of the words and the significance of the words are lost; annotation allows you to slow down and fully understand the importance of what is being said. A definition of a word or some context is often needed in order to understand why or what is being said. The beauty of reading is that is can be done at your own pace, with enough time to fully understand what has been written, this is especially important for Shakespeare.

When annotating my text, I begin with a first reading where I go along and try to understand the overall meaning of the passage, this involves using the Oxford English Dictionary and the footnotes to translate the words and phrases I do not understand. I will  then read the section a second time looking for alliterations, similes, repetition, diction, and other technical elements, this helps to give a sense of tone and further helps to illustrate what Shakespeare was saying.

Looking specifically at my annotated text of Henry V act two scene three lines 45 to 54, I first note the overall meaning of the words, for example that “chattels” means possessions or that “yolk-fellows” means brothers, this gave me a general sense of the what was being said. Next, I note the structural elements, for example the metaphor that “oaths are straws” or the repetition of “to suck”, this gave a sense of the tone and further insight into the attitude of the speaker.

When watching a film, specifically a Shakespeare film, I have my notepad open, the text beside, and a pen in hand. When watching a Shakespeare film, the key purpose of annotating, for me, is to gain an understanding of the stylistic choices that have been made by the director, and how it corresponds to the text. Annotating when watching a film is a largely different process compared to annotating when reading a text. Rather than a two step process as seen in text annotation, when annotating a film I write down my thoughts on paper and often do not have a chance to go back again. Watching a movie is much faster than reading a text, for this reason you do not have the time to look up every single definition or note the alliterations or metaphors.I will often have the text beside me, but again, due to the pace of the film, it can be hard to follow along as directors often cut out long sections of the text.

Looking at my annotations for the various clips we have watched in class, I note the camera angles, music, setting, and styles much more often than the word being said. Looking at my notes for Reinhardt’s and Dieterle’s 1935 version of A Midsummer Night’s Dream, the music is the main point that I notice, how it changes from peaceful, to dark, to mysterious. While the word choices, alliteration, metaphors etc. may not be as evident as they are in text, when watching a film the music, setting, costumes, and camera angles can add to and enhance the meaning of the words.

A similarity between annotating text and annotating when watching a film is that their success is both measured through gaining a greater understanding of the content. If annotating does not further your knowledge of the material, then it has not been successful. However, film and text annotation further your knowledge of the material in different ways. While text annotation, for me, gives me a greater understating of the actual words that have been written, film annotation gives me a greater understanding of the different interpretations. I believe that annotating text gives insight into Shakespeare’s mind, while annotating while watching a film gives insight into the director’s mind.

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