05/17/2012 10:45 am ET Updated Jul 17, 2012

Your Guide to Surviving Shakespeare in College

Hamlet, Macbeth, Romeo and Juliet -- all filled with ancient words which at first glance, look like gibberish. Students are expected to comprehend and analyze these works, but the words have different definitions and arrangements. Puzzled and confounded, it's easy to throw in the towel. But no fear! There are a few tricks to mastering this elusive language and acing every essay that is thrown your way.
  1. Watch the movie. This is the one time in class where viewing the movie is beneficial. Shakespeare was written as a play, not a book, so seeing the scenes played out is helpful when trying to decipher the plot-line and character motivation.
  2. Discuss the Book. Participate in class discussions and really listen to the professors' statements. Their opinions are spot-on; these individuals are paid to be experts on literature. If you aren't given the opportunity to have class discussion, then speak with a fellow student about the book. This gives you the perfect excuse to chat up the cutie who sits in the row ahead of you. Besides, there's not anything more romantic than Shakespeare.
  3. Sparknotes it. Sparksnotes is wonderful for understanding the main points quickly and accurately in a language that is familiar to our culture. But be forewarned: use this website as an aid, not as the only resource. Read the book before resorting on taking the easy way out. The modern translated version loses a lot of the original content and beauty so the essence of the story is destroyed. Sparknotes' main purpose is to direct and aid understanding, not to replace the classic works and effort that goes in reading them. In the famous words of Shakespeare, "How poor are they that have not patience!"
  4. Know Your Quotes. Pay attention to phrases that are widely known, such as "To be or not to be," or "All the world's a stage." Odds are, these quotes are famous for a reason and hold a deeper meaning. Take the time to analyze these passages, and you'll be ahead of everybody who only understands the first two lines.
Follow these four steps, and you'll be a Shakespeare reading fool in no time. Fare thee well, and good luck grant thee.

By Kassandra West, Missouri State University