How To: Decipher Hamlet, Macbeth & More with SparkNotes' No Fear Shakespeare Study Guide

Decipher Hamlet, Macbeth & More with SparkNotes' No Fear Shakespeare Study Guide

How to Decipher Hamlet, Macbeth & More with SparkNotes' No Fear Shakespeare Study Guide

How to Decipher Hamlet, Macbeth & More with SparkNotes' No Fear Shakespeare Study GuideLet's face it— most people don't understand Shakespeare's language.  If they say they do, they're probably lying.  The poetic words of the world's most famous playwright continue to plague school children and college lit. majors alike, but not anymore.

SparkNotes, one of the only free online study guides, now owned by Barnes & Noble, was started by four Harvard students over 10 years ago to help give high school and college students help understanding old literature.  Currently, those teens and undergraduates can find help for others subjects, such as poetry, history, film, philosophy, math, health, physics, biology, chemistry, economics and sociology.

In the past, they had study guides for most of William Shakespeare's work, but now they've gone a step further and broken down the lyrical madness of the English Renaissance into a modern day translation— you know— the kind of words we speak today.  They list the translation side-by-side with the original text, so you see exactly what's going on.

They call it No Fear Shakespeare.

How to Decipher Hamlet, Macbeth & More with SparkNotes' No Fear Shakespeare Study Guide

To see why it's so fearless, check out the sample images below.

(1) Hamlet - Act 4, Scene 4, (2) Macbeth - Act 3, Scene 1, (3) Romeo & Juliet - Act 5, Scene 1, (4) Othello - Act 2, Scene 2, (5) A Midsummer Night’s Dream - Act 4, Scene 2, (6) Twelfth Night - Act 1, Scene 2

Some highlights from above:

How to Decipher Hamlet, Macbeth & More with SparkNotes' No Fear Shakespeare Study GuideHamlet
If that his majesty would aught with us, we shall express our duty in his eye, and let him know so.
turns into
If His Majesty wants us to do any favor for him, tell him his wish is my command.

MacbethHow to Decipher Hamlet, Macbeth & More with SparkNotes' No Fear Shakespeare Study GuideLet your highness command upon me, to the which my duties are with a most indissoluble tie forever knit.
turns into
Whatever your highness commands me to do, it is always my duty to do it.

How to Decipher Hamlet, Macbeth & More with SparkNotes' No Fear Shakespeare Study GuideRomeo & Juliet
My bosom's lord sits lightly in his throne, and all this day an unaccustomed spirit lifts me above the ground with cheerful thoughts.
turns into
Love rules my heart, and all day long a strange feeling has been making me cheerful.

How to Decipher Hamlet, Macbeth & More with SparkNotes' No Fear Shakespeare Study GuideOthello
For besides these beneficial news, it is the celebration of his nuptial.  So much was his pleasure should be proclaimed.
turns into
For besides the good news, we are also celebrating his marriage.  That's the end of the announcement.

How to Decipher Hamlet, Macbeth & More with SparkNotes' No Fear Shakespeare Study GuideA Midsummer Night's Dream
O sweet bully Bottom!  Thus hath he lost sixpence a day during his life.
turns into
Oh that great, funny guy, Bottom!  He would have gotten a pension of six pence a day for his whole life.

How to Decipher Hamlet, Macbeth & More with SparkNotes' No Fear Shakespeare Study GuideTwelfth Night
It is perchance that you yourself were saved.
turns into
It was a total fluke that you yourself were saved.

Deciphering Shakespeare

To check out the full translations above, along with more of Shakespeare's work, simply visit the No Fear Shakespeare section at SparkNotes.  The best part— it's free!  Plus, it tells you exactly how to cite each play for high school and college essays using MLA, APA and more, including footnotes.  There's also links to purchase eBooks or a regular print version at B&N.

To go directly to a title and start deciphering Shakespeare's language, follow the below links.

All No Fear Shakespeare Titles

Image credit: Detail of a portrait of William Shakespeare made out of text from his sonnets

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