Romeo and Juliet Questions and Answers
by William Shakespeare

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I have a hard time understanding the old language. is there any way to understand it if I got a dictionary or thesaurus to make it a little easier I have a hard time understanding the old language. is there any way to understand it if I got a dictionary or thesaurus to make it a little easier

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Jamie Wheeler eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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There are a number of "translations" out there, like "No Fear Shakespeare." However, right here at eNotes, we offer side-by-side translation. The original text appears on your left, and a modernized version appears on the right. Additionally, words that may be unfamiliar are underlined in red; hovering your mouse over these words reveals the translation.

Personally, I do not like to read extensively online. What I tell my students is to buy the Folger's text as suggested above. The glosses on the left-hand side are invaluable. If the student is absolutely terrified of Shakespeare, I say, let them get one of the modern translations, but ONLY refer to it when they are TRULY stuck with their Folger's. 90% of students tell me they rarely turn to the modern text after the first few scenes. This is good news, for one of the beauties of Shakespeare is the tone and pace of the language.

Additionally, watch a film AND follow along in your text, OR rent a film version with subtitles. We did this recently in my college class when I taught "Twelfth Night" and students felt much better about their level of understanding post-viewing.

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andrea101 eNotes educator | Certified Educator

calendarEducator since 2011

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starTop subject is Literature

I agree, Shakespeare can be hard to read if you are not used to the language. I have a suggestion for you: listen to it instead of trying to read it. Shakespeare wrote plays to be performed, not read (since most people in the 16th century couldn't read). If you can find a recording or even better, a movie, I think you'll find it easier. I've found, in watching Shakespearean plays performed, that the first 15 minutes are like listening to a foreign language. Then something magical happens; my ear gets adjusted to the rhythms and language and I start understanding what is going on.

You might also want to try listening to it and following along in the book. So much of language is the nonverbal emphasis we put on words. If you can hear where the emphsis should be, it might be easier for you to understand it in context.

Don't expect to understand all the words or all the jokes. That takes a great deal of study. But if you can begin to understand the way the sentences are constructed and how the imagery is used, that will go a long way in helping you understand.

Does your book have footnotes for the language at the bottom of the page? Many times those can help you understand the archaic references, such as "Ethiop's ear" in Act 1, Scene 5. You might also find the eNotes Romeo and Juliet text helpful; it has the original text on one side and the "translation" on the other. There's a link to it in the reference links below.

 

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stolperia eNotes educator | Certified Educator

calendarEducator since 2011

write2,948 answers

starTop subjects are Literature, Social Sciences, and History

While Shakespeare's language usage seems difficult to understand, you know the basic plot of the story - boy meets girl, boy and girl fall in love, families disapprove, boy and girl plot to find a way around family opposition, tragic ending.

There are lots of resources to help you update the language. Adaptations of the basic story are available in many formats. If you want to see the story in a more familiar setting, consider getting the movie version of "West Side Story." If you need to work your way through the original version and can't refer to other versions  to help understand what's happening, try the link below. Click on the part of the play you are working on and you'll have Shakespeare's original text side by side with a modern version. Hope it helps!

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kbatten1 | Student

Purchase a Folger's paperback edition of Shakespeare's most popular books.  On the left page you have definitions and explanations and on the right you have the text in Old English.  I struggled with Shakespeare until I read my second Folger's edition.  The more you read, the fewer times you have to refer to the left page.  Believe it or not, I love Shakespear now!