“To Be Or Not To Be”... A Shakespeare Student
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“To Be Or Not To Be”... A Shakespeare Student

What it takes to survive in a college level Shakespeare class

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“To Be Or Not To Be”... A Shakespeare Student
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Shakespeare, the great playwright, has transcended the boundaries of time. There is limited reliable information on him and many of his plays would have been lost if not for valuable collections like the First Folio. What we do know is that...well, I’ll leave the lectures to the professors. Shakespeare classes are definitely a challenge, but they can be rewarding. In this case, I am speaking from experience. So, with my shortcomings, and these tips, hopefully I can help along the next round of Shakespeareans.

1) A thick notebook and good pens

Make sure to write down your every thought while reading. It’s easy to lose your train of thought and get lost along the way. Summarize what your professor says, especially about important people or places that are connected to Shakespeare.

2) A passionate professor

For this type of course, you’ll need someone to keep you engaged and curious. It makes all the difference. Especially if it’s an early-morning class. There are so many details and tangents to go off on, and you’ll appreciate someone who can keep up the forward momentum.

3) Patience and perseverance

Accept that you won’t understand everything immediately and take it one play at a time. Find your rhythm and a method of study that works best for you. Seek clarification if you get tripped up and don’t be afraid to ask for elaboration. Your enthusiastic professor will probably be more than happy to keep talking.

4) A willingness to read to understand, not just to read.

First things first, using Sparknotes isn’t cheating. It does no good to try to read a challenging play of which context is unclear. Read a brief plot synopsis or some character summaries so that you have an idea what (and who) you’re dealing with.

5) A capacity for the “big picture”, how everything is connected.

A simple list of facts, people or places won’t get you through the semester. It’s important to seek ways to make connections between those things and understand their relevance. Try to keep answering the famous question, “Why do we need to know this, anyway?” and don’t let a name just be a name or a place just be four walls and a roof.

6) Active preparation for assignments and exams

You won’t want to put off your reading to the last minute and come to find that you now have an essay to write and a test coming up. Try to connect with people who have taken the class before you and ask what the professors’ exams are like and what exactly they require of you. Knowing what’s most important will help avoid overloading your brain and blanking on everything on exam day.


If you’re just looking for a few easy credits, an easy A, then a course on Shakespeare is only going to prove to be disappointing, frustrating and lacking of any depth or meaning to you as a student. However, an introductory Shakespeare class can calm some of your curiosities and help you decide if you want to pursue it further. Good luck, you’ll need it. But with any luck, hopefully you’ll enjoy it too!
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This article has not been reviewed by Odyssey HQ and solely reflects the ideas and opinions of the creator.
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