How to read Shakespeare

Just do it. Really. Grab a play and open it up and start reading—out loud with friends!

I have every book ever written on “how to read Shakespeare.” Personally, if I had to read a whole book before I felt confident enough to read a play, I'd never start. The very fact that there are so many of these books is part of what intimidates people to plunge in and read!

If you're pretty new to reading Shakespeare, you might stumble along the way and you might feel you don't understand some stuff, but that's perfectly fine. Take the time to talk about difficult passages. Ask questions of each other. Ask why a character is behaving this way or how someone might be saying this line. Let go of things you've heard all your life, such as, “Hamlet's to be or not to be speech is about suicide" or “Petruchio is an abusive husband.” Read the play carefully and make up your own mind!

The remarkable thing about reading Shakespeare's plays is that you will never fully comprehend every bit of a play the first time you read it, nor even the second or third or fourth time—in fact, you’ll never totally understand every line and nuance and layer. Honestly, every time you enter a play you will discover something new, so do not limit yourself by feeling you have to get the whole thing the first time around. This is a lifetime achievement!

The Readers’ Editions I developed are designed specifically to make reading a play so much easier, but without dumbing it down one tiny bit or losing one word. I'm not very good at selling myself, so it takes a lot for me to say that I truly believe the Readers' Editions are the best way to start a Shakespeare reading group!  There. I said it. whew.

If you've used one of the Readers’ Editions in your group, please let me know how it worked for you, what didn't work, and what you might like to see in future editions!