When one says “Shakespeare” things that go through the mind include: sophistication and difficulty. Like anything, practice makes perfect and reading play-text is no different. If one annotates enough it almost becomes second nature. At first, reading Shakespeare text was challenging. However, doing a Shakespeare play every year in high school helped a lot with interpretation. It was seen that the more notes you had on your play then the better that person will do. Taking drama throughout high school I was also exposed to the emotions, thoughts and subtext behind Shakespearean writing from an actor’s perspective. Eventually reading play text and writing down notes became something that I was used to and something I had to do to be successful in representing a character or writing a literary essay.
I think my techniques in play-text interpretation and film watching are almost similar in the sense that they are both Shakespeare and the mindset I put myself in is the same: “It’s all English.” When I realise that then it doesn’t become as scary. Firstly: read, read, read. It may be tedious but if I don’t read I won’t really know what I’m working with. It may look like absolute gibberish but that’s what footnotes and google are for. I try to see a summary of the scene and then I’d put the lines in context and try modernist the language. One doesn’t necessary need to know the depth of every word but to get a general idea is a good place to begin.
In film, it’s a bit different because one doesn’t necessarily have the text in front of them and most of the time the film won’t follow the original script word for word. Again – it’s just English, it’s a movie. Listen and interpret, look at body language- actions and reactions. It’s also part of linking their behavior with their words and get the general idea of what is going on. Seeing another person’s interpretation of the film makes it more of an experience and takes less work. The difference here between text and film is: in a text you have to imagine it yourself but because you don’t understand the words, it’s harder to interpret- which isn’t the case in a film.
If I can get my hands on the movie I like to go scene by scene and ask: What happened? Why did it happen? Who did it happen to? How are these people linked? As soon as I can find these things out and put it into context it’s pretty much smooth sailing from there. i also like to makes character webs, analyzing each characters personality, role in the play/film and relationship with the other characters. this helps with things like following plot.
Being a writer of poetry I also know the importance of symbols, tone, atmosphere and poetic devices (metaphors, alliteration, rhyme, rhythm, themes etc.) and how they are used in the text and why its effective or not. I ask myself: Why use this word? Why compare her to a summers day? What do Juliet and a summer’s day have in common? And come to the conclusion that Romeo thinks she beautiful, warm (and other great things about summer) and that’s about it.
I don’t’ have a specific learning style, both observing (seeing and hearing) and writing are needed in order for me to learn anything. Whether the writing be through pen on paper in the margins of the play, typing pop-up notes on the text, putting the note in a different colour in-between the script lines on a screen or writing down questions while watching a film, it all sinks in. But I do know that I always go back to the text. Even with film, the director’s choices when it comes to music, tone and camera angles all affect the lines being said and how they will be processed in our minds and be brought forward in the form of emotion and expression the audience.
My annotations tend to be more accurate than not. The best way to learn that is to discuss it- discussion is irreplaceable important when it come to Shakespeare because somebody may see something you don’t or vice versa. But usually when a few people have the same idea then my interpretation is usually more or less correct. Also a way to gauge correctness is when I could follow my notes along with my annotations and it lines up with what’s happening in the play and it’s not confusing or random. Another way is to try explaining it to another person and they come to understand the play better.
I’ve never experienced not understanding a play after going through it a few times in depth so I would say my annotations are usually accurate especially because I have no fear when it comes to Shakespeare.