How to Read a Shakespeare Play
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How to Read a Shakespeare Play book
In order to read a Shakespeare play with pleasure and profit we do not need any specialized knowledge. Shakespeare himself sees to it that we soon learn what it is necessary for us to know about the plot; he ensures that not only the audience but also the reader is rapidly drawn into the magic circle of the play. But reading a play, like listening to a symphony or looking at a picture, is a process of observation and absorption which may be intensified and differentiated. We can increase our power of observation, and in so doing we gain a larger share in the wealth of the play. A reader with an eye trained to see what really matters will be aware of subtle relationships and correspondences, and will observe finer points of detail than will the unpractised reader, whose attention tends always in the same direction. The purpose of this chapter is to give just this kind of help; even a complete scholarly commentary cannot and should not do more than offer suggestions, which the reader may or may not make use of. There are no binding rules or regulations concerning the approach to works of art. Each reader will want to proceed in his own way, following different interests. Scholarship must remain in the background, offering help now and then, but never intruding with cumbersome apparatus between the reader and the play. For it is essential that a direct contact should be established between the reader and Shakespeare.