In 9th grade English class I met annotation, and we were enemies. I was the type of reader that thought the faster you read a book the cooler you were (are the book-worms really cool in highschool?) so I detested anything that I felt would slow my reading down. Obviously, I wasn’t much of a close reader either. Another problem that I had was writing in books- “it ruined them”(Ore 2011), which was a bit hypocritical considering the fact that I treated most of my books like garbage. Imagine all the dog ears, broken spines, and oily fingers that you want.
Fast forward five years and the relationship between annotation and I has become a little more complicated. I quickly discovered that annotation is almost always mandatory when it came to analyzing text, so begrudgingly I was forced to do it more often.
Every time I annotate a text or a play I usually go about it in the same way. First I section off parts of the text into paragraphs or clauses, and then I write my own translation beside it. Although things like modern translations from Elizabethan English to modern day English exist online I always find it useful to translate the play into my own words so that I understand more. I am also a big fan of sticky notes, and I like to add them to the pages I am annotating as little asides or reminders. For example, during the close read of Henry the 5th Act 3 scene 1, one of my sticky notes was a reminder of the context of the play, and the fact that Henry and his men were physically scaling walls (which explains references to “the breach”.
Another annotation practice that I follow is to keep a close eye out for devices such as alliteration, repetition, and metaphor. Usually when I spot these, I highlight or circle them.To represent devices that might be connected (like the long extended metaphor of a solider/beast in Henry Act 3 scene 1 I use the same colour.
When it comes to film, my note taking practices are a bit different. For me, taking notes during a film has always been much harder than annotating a text. This is because films demand so much of your attention at specific times. If you look away from the screen at the wrong time, even to write something down in your notebook, you could miss something important. This might sound a little ridiculous, but in order to fix that problem, when I’m taking notes during a movie, I barely even look at my notes. In fact, I usually just ensure that ,my pen makes contact with paper and that’s it. As a result the words I write down are never actually in the lines of my notebook.
To add to the differences between annotating a text and annotating film, I should probably mention that the things I write for the two are completely different. For example, I don’t need to translate the scene into my own words when watching a film because film makes meanings clear enough. Even if you cant understand the language, film provides context and gives the viewer a strong grasp of what is going on during the scene. Because of this, instead of the actual text and dialog I focus on the visuals. I ask myself questions like: what are the expressions of the actors? What costumes are they wearing, and what does it do for the scene?
A good example of taking note of costumes would be during the Capulet party in the 1996 version of romeo and Juliet. I find it interesting that the characters are not dressed in the traditional masquerade get-ups. Instead, they are dressed in costumes like in a Halloween party. Quickly, I decided that each characters costuming details revealed something about their personality. (This is an example of the type of stuff I write down) And I came to the conclusion that Juliet’s angel costume represented innocence and chastity, Romeo’s knight costume represented combat and honor, and Lady Capulet’s Cleopatra costume was a reference to her obsession with grandeur and blindness to real world problems.
Aside from costuming other elements of film that I tend to focus on are music and lighting. For example, in both the 1998 and 1968 versions of Queen Mab’s speech I paid close attention to where in the speech the music and lighting changed and the effect it had on the viewer. By doing this, I noticed the points were Mercutio’s whimsical fairy thoughts took a turn for the dark.
When I annotated this text I was still able to notice the shift in mood, but I noticed it in different ways. Instead of music, I paid attention to language, such as the way Mercutio seems to linger over the grizzly image of a soldiers PTSD-type dream. Or the fact that Mab’s description turns from a dainty midwife to a hag.
Overall, annotation in general is a good practice and no matter what you are annotation, be it film or text, you will still get something out of it. A lot of the time I find, you come up with the same results (in both the text and movie Queen Mab’s speech touches on hints of madness and transitions from nice to sour in a rather jolting fashion). Perhaps this is a good way of measuring whether you’ve been successful in your annotation then? If after viewing a movie or a play you come up with the same conclusion as your annotated text, at least you know that your interpretation of the text matches how it is intended to be viewed by an audience.