When I read a Shakespearean text, I have several stages of annotation before I begin to evaluate his underlying meaning. Foremost, I will attempt to deconstruct Shakespeare’s lines so that I am able to understand them in modern English. I have always interpreted Shakespeare as being an artisan of linguistics. Therefore, I perceive his words as predominantly metaphorical in nature.
Once I have tried to find the narrative of Shakespeare’s lines, I will write my interpretations of the words in front of me using the right-column of the page. I will underline words and phrases, and attempt to decipher the linguistic tools hidden there: personification, parallelism, and pathetic fallacies are some of Shakespeare’s favourite tools. I will often use my mental taxonomy of synonyms to further attempt to decipher codes in Shakespeare’s text. Moving from one word: “Proud”, to another: “Confident”, in order to delve deeper into the meanings of words. For students of Shakespeare know that there are multiple meanings to a single word.
A useful skill I have applied as a student of Shakespeare is practice. Reading and the repetition of reading the same lines may sound tedious, but upon each reading, there is something new to discover. By reading multiple works by Shakespeare, as a reader I also begin to see patterns in Shakespeare’s style from one play to the next.
Over the course of my youthful education, I have found myself to inadvertently reflect Shakespeare’s poetic style in my own free writing. I believe that by practicing Shakespeare’s style in our own literary reflections, one can become more attuned to interpreting Shakespeare himself.
As I read through a single play in particular, the text becomes decipherable with more ease. The prologues throughout Shakespeare’s Henry V, are consistent in reminding the audience to use their imagination to counter the limitations of the stage. As a reader, when I imagine the characters, the locations, and the emotion of the words, I can paint a more accurate picture with Shakespeare’s metaphors. This is a tool most helpful not only as a reader of Shakespeare, but for my interpretation of any other literary work.
When taking notes of a film, I will use lined paper and write in point form. I make note of the storyline, and the narrative that unfolds on the screen. I find that when one’s pen is on paper, fluidity of ideas become rampant, and it is easier to elaborate the images on the screen to relatable topics in one’s mind. I think as far as adaptations of Shakespeare are concerned, it is best to have seen at least two adaptations of the same play in order to better analyze it. In my review of Baz Luhrmann’s Romeo and Juliet (1996), I found it useful to have also seen Zeffirelli’s 1968 adaptation of the same play. I used the contrasting interpretations of the same work to better evaluate, specifically, Luhrmann’s rendition.
If I am comparing ideas of two directors, I will also consider how I might have directed an adaptation of Shakespeare’s play. I have found it useful not only to interpret Shakespeare, but to try to interpret our own perception of his work.