Audiobooks for Shakespeare

My AP Literature class just started reading Hamlet by Shakespeare and I have come to realize how audio books can help. Like all Shakespeare plays, Hamlet’s language is difficult to read at best and sometimes people cannot understand what is going on in the story. My class read the first scene in school and my teacher played the audiobook while we read. This made it much easier to understand.

Not only are you able to grasp the tone of the situation as performed by the readers on the audio book, but voice inflection and use of the complex, old words allows for an enjoyable read. I went home and downloaded the audio book off of Amazon so that I could listen and read at the same time for homework, and it truly makes a difference.

The audio book downloads right to your phone as well so you can take it with you wherever you go. I use the Archangel audio book if anyone would like to know. I have never used an audiobook before, however I can say for sure that I understand Hamlet, and actually enjoy it as well now.

-Kyle H.

Want Shakespeare on audio? Downloadable titles are available on Overdrive and Hoopla.

Othello by William Shakespeare

Image result for othello cover

Let’s get this out of the way: this play is one of Shakespeare’s many tragedies, and as always, everyone dies at the end. I did write about one of Shakespeare’s other tragedies, Hamlet, which is my favorite Shakespeare play. However, although it is not my favorite, Othello is also a very good play, full of jealousy, lost love, and has a way better love story than Romeo and Juliet or Twilight.

We meet Othello, who is the greatest man in Venice. He is handsome, kind, charismatic, humble, and courageous. He is also a very strong leader of the Venice army, has a very beautiful and perfect wife, and is about to be promoted. So why he is set up for a tragedy? There are two reasons. The first is that he is a Moor, who are known for their dark skin, and Venice is full of people who think that Othello used magic and witchcraft, as it was assumed all Moors could do this, in order to marry the one he loved. The second is that he promoted a foreigner, Cassio, as his right hand man instead of Iago, the most manipulative man in Venice. Thus, Iago hatches a plan that brings Othello, his new wife Desdemona, and Cassio into ruins, all because he had the “green eyed monster” of jealousy inside of him.

This play is great not only because of the plot, but because of the ties to today’s time. The people of Venice, especially Iago, sometimes scorn Othello because he is a foreigner Moor with dark skin, just like how there are many people in the world who are racist today. Additionally, there is also the theme of jealousy that can be seen today. Iago is like the person at a workforce who is envious of someone who received a higher position and decided to destroy that person with a scandal. Finally, there is also the theme of women, which lays out questions for both Shakespeare’s time and ours. In a place and time where women were not thought of as much, the women in the play have a lot of questions to answer. If it gave their husband the world, should they be dishonorable? If every action they had done was perfect except for one lie, can they ever be trusted again? And should they obey every wish of their husband, even if they don’t know why they have to do it or if it is evil?

For the genres, in case one likes these genres, there are politics, a better love story than Romeo and Juliet, tragedy, and much more.

I hope that you can read this amazing play!

-Megan V., 12th Grade

Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare

Shakespeare’s classic play, “Romeo and Juliet,” sheds a light on young love and risky decisions. Depending on what you think of Fate, you either really enjoy this romantic story or get extremely annoyed with its resolution. It’s a light fun play that touches on youthful passion but ends on a dark twist.

Taking place in Verona, Italy, this tragedy illustrates the romance between two teenagers from two feuding families. Ultimately, Romeo and Juliet are enemies but after they meet at a party, their family names are nothing more but a barrier between them. They get married in secret with the help of a few characters and plan to run away together. However this plan is altered when a series of unfortunate events results in both of them tragically dying. Many simple mistakes and the tragic ending could all have been avoided with a little more communication and clear thinking but Shakespeare wanted Fate to play a huge role in the outcome of the play.

In my opinion, the best aspect of this play is the flow of words and the speech that brings everything alive. The writing style itself is beautiful and Shakespeare finds a way to use words to shape the plot. For example, Romeo’s speech is dull and full of misery when he is rejected by Rosaline but as the play progresses and he meets Juliet, his words are bedazzled with figurative language. Juliet also has lovely soliloquies that are fun to annotate and dramatically read aloud. Another way Shakespeare really enhances his play is the use of characters. He provides the young and inexperienced Romeo and Juliet, the hysterical and crude Nurse, the outspoken and verbal Tybalt, the self-righteous and semi-helpful Friar Laurence, among many others to advance the play and add comic relief. Shakespeare skillfully writes this play to demonstrate Romeo and Juliet’s forbidden and rebellious love and the painful cost that hateful feuds bring.

-Jessica T.

Romeo and Juliet, and collective works of William Shakespeare, is available for checkout form the Mission Viejo Library

Hamlet by William Shakespeare

We all know about Romeo and Juliet. The famous star-crossed teenage lovers and “O Romeo, Romeo, wherefore art that Romeo?” sort of stuff. Personally, I didn’t like the play. Romeo and Juliet, as actual characters, were plain and the best character is Mercutio, who not only dies halfway through, but is the reason why the play became a tragedy.

On the other hand, I really liked Shakespeare’s style of writing. He writes all about death, blood and of the era when stories of knights and magic were popular. So I thought, “gee, is there a story that is dark, has fantasy and a lot of blood and death, but also has a decent romance and lively characters? And I didn’t have to look any farther than Shakespeare’s “Hamlet.”

For those who like dark themes, like myself, there is a lot in this play from duels and poison to talking to skulls. Hamlet, the main character of this play, is told by the ghost of his father that he was murdered by Hamlet’s uncle, who is not only the new king of Denmark, but is married to Hamlet’s mother (a sinful act in its time). Hamlet spends the rest of the play not only facing the burden of a promise that he is not sure to keep, but additionally has to deal with the depression and suicidal thoughts leading up to the start of the play, something that a lot of teenagers could possibly relate to. And of course, it’s one of Shakespeare’s tragedies, so almost all of the named characters die by the end. There’s a lot of troubled minds to question and analyze, so fans of psychology would love this play. On top of that, despite the frequency of death, “Hamlet” is actually a better love story than “Romeo and Juliet.” Hamlet and Ophelia are the only link to each other’s sanity.

Finally, the characters are amazing. I loved their development throughout the play and how they appeal to the audience in their decisions. Ophelia, although a dutiful daughter in the end, sasses her father and brother when they tell her to stay away from Hamlet. Polonius, being the nosy parent, spies on everyone and knows their private business. Hamlet, who not only has the role of the emo teenager, but also is clever enough to make fun of every single character in the play. And poor Horatio, who wonders how he got caught up in this mess.

All in all I really enjoyed this play and hope that you get the chance to read it.

Hamlet, and all of its printed and film incarnations, is available for checkout from the Mission Viejo Library. 

Book Review: Macbeth by William Shakespeare

macbethWilliam Shakespeare, the great English playwright, is renowned for his many works, ranging from plays to poetry to sonnets. However, Macbeth is considered to be his best achievement, known for its dark and powerful theme.

Also Shakespeare’s shortest tragedy, Macbeth tells the story of a brave Scottish general named Macbeth. When he receives a prophecy from three witches that declares he will be the King of Scotland, Macbeth becomes consumed with his growing ambition. With the urge of his wife, Macbeth commits a horrible murder in order to take the throne for himself. This terrible deed soon triggers a chain of multiple actions that eventually lead to a civil war that throws Macbeth and Lady Macbeth into a world of treachery, madness, and death.

Compared to the other Shakespearean plays that I have read, Macbeth was fairly easy to follow, as it had a plot line that was intriguing, almost like a novel. I found it interesting how Macbeth, who was once an honorable general, transformed into a heartless monster, whose ambition made him lose all sense of right and wrong. Overcome with guilt and paranoia, Macbeth begins to slowly mentally break down, to the point where he sees ghosts, as well as Lady Macbeth, who becomes convinced that her hands are permanently stained with the blood of the person they murdered.

All in all, I would certainly recommend this play to anyone who thinks Shakespeare is frustrating and difficult to read. Macbeth gave me a new insight on the writings of Shakespeare, and surprisingly, was very enjoyable. For those who have trouble understanding Shakespeare’s language, I would suggest finding a version with footnotes that explain and help in comprehending the Early Modern English. Macbeth is one of Shakespeare’s works that everyone must read during their lifetime, and it reminds us about the danger of ambition and the evil that lurks in every single one of us.

-Kaylie W., 10th grade

Shakespeare? Or Nah?

shakespeare_or_nahNow, I know that a lot of you guys are hardcore literature lovers, and thus would be fundamentally incapable of comprehending why and how people could ever dislike the works of William Shakespeare. I know; frankly, I am right there among you.

But recently, I read about a study that revealed that only a small percentage of teenagers like/enjoy/appreciate Shakespeare’s works. To me, this is sad and disappointing, but I have also discovered it to be a hard, distinct truth of reality. Maybe this has something to do with the fact that students are forced to study his works in school and thus the requirement of doing so makes it unfavorable; maybe it has something to do with laziness, and not having the capability or attention span to dissect his extravagant use of language; or maybe because of all the modern, contemporary ways of passing leisure time, reading to comprehend the works of the Bard is an activity viewed upon as trivial, inconsequential, and pointless.

I wholeheartedly believe this to be untrue. For one, Shakespeare is an unprecedented phenomenon; no one since has been able to harness the English language as brilliantly as he did. We all know that his plays are world-renowned, but the real question is: Why should we choose to read Hamlet when we can SparkNote the play in candid, easy-to-understand, modern-style English in only a few precious seconds?

Michael Mack, an Associate English Professor from the Catholic University of America once compared reading Shakespeare to listening to music. As a self-proclaimed professional music listener, I declare this statement to be surprisingly accurate. The first time we hear a song we notice things like beat, repetition, genre, and whether or not we’d be able to dance to it. It is not until we have listened to the song many times that we begin to recognize the singer/songwriter’s message and start to discover the lyrics’ true meaning.

If you have never tried to read anything written by Will Shakespeare, I encourage you to pick up Romeo and Juliet (a story most everyone pretty much already knows) and read it in its original, non-abridged version. See if you like it. I hope you do. If you don’t, then I digress. I remain the type of person who (re)reads Shakespeare on the weekends for fun.

For those of you who have tried and not been able to navigate the Shakespearean language (no one blames you, trust me) there are also versions of the plays called “Shakespeare Made Easy” which includes the original and a modernized version of the text, along with explanatory footnotes that can be very useful, especially if you are reading for school. These are great reading tools and I encourage you to utilize them.

My advice: Defy society. Read Shakespeare in public.

-Danielle K., 8th grade

Play Review: A Midsummer Night’s Dream, by William Shakespeare

midsummer_nights_dreamLast month, I performed in my school’s production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream. I played the part of Puck, and as I know the majority of the script by heart, I decided to right a review on this whimsical and unusual play by Will Shakespeare.

A Midsummer Night’s Dream is a fantastical fairy-tale comedy that tells the story of four young lovers named Hermia, Lysander, Helena, and Demetrius. Long story short, both the men love Hermia but Hermia only loves Lysander (and Helena loves Demetrius, who doesn’t love her in return). Hermia’s mother, however, feels that Hermia should marry Demetrius. When Lysander and Hermia decide to run away together in order to avoid this fate, they are followed by Demetrius who is followed by the faithful Helena. Upon observing Demetrius’ cruelty towards Helena, Oberon (the king of the fairies that live in a nearby forest) sends his servant, Puck, to put a spell on him to make him fall in love with Helena.

Unfortunately, Puck is revealed to be a careless (and also very mischievous) fairy and he accidentally puts the spell on the wrong man. From this point on, the story follows the amused Puck as he reluctantly sets off to correct his mistakes and restore peace to Athens and regularity to the lovers.

I was ecstatic when I found out that my drama class was going to be doing this play, and it proved to be just as fun as I thought it would be. Puck is a very unique and confusing fairy with a ton of dialogue, which made it fun (and challenging) to learn and play the character.

A Midsummer Night’s Dream is very exciting. There are numerous unexpected plot twists and the characters are unique and strangely captivating. It is also a very good play/ book to have read to be able to reference in essays and whatnot. I recommend A Midsummer Night’s Dream to anyone who enjoys theatre, Shakespeare, or fantasy novels.

-Danielle K., 8th grade