These are the first words in my new notebook, written on the first page, directly under the headline Hamlet.
Yes, I chose Hamlet to be my first read in 2012, of course in regard of Allie's Shakespeare reading month and I will probably finish it the day after tomorrow. Anyway, the focus of this post lies not on the poor prince of Denmark but on a simple word in the second line: notebook.
I am, for the very first time in my life, taking notes on a book (a play in fact, but since I am reading it I am going to count it as a book).
|My infamous notebook|
After all I have already filled four pages with notes on Hamlet, and I am only halfway through Act IV. But back to the beginning: I decided to try and take notes for once because it is Shakespeare, the master of masters of literature. His plays cover so many aspects, their content is so diverse and facts which seem obviously true in Act II are often more than questionable in Act III. That's why I thought it would be a good idea to keep track of my impressions by writing down excerpts from the play which seem important to me and commenting them.
The concept behind it was the aim to truly get everything out of Hamlet: to understand every monologue and all the characters's intentions.
A noble aim perhaps, but of course doomed to failure.
Trying to do something perfectly never brings anything good, and while I feel that I am diving deep into Hamlet and understand a great part of it (at least I hope so, because as far as I am into it it's marvellous) I definitely do not understand every facet, there are undoubtedly motives in the play which I do not even notice.
|Some of my notes on Hamlet|
Anyway, the idea of taking notes was a good one nonetheless because taking notes forces me to pause in my reading and think about what I've just read. This may sound obvious but it isn't, as I experienced when I reached the famous: "There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy".
I wanted to write this down because it is so famous and also because it sounds beautiful, but the context took away all its magic. In fact this sentence is just Hamlet's way of telling Horatio that his father actually has returned as a ghost: it is a simple explanation, of no special importance to the play.
In the end I wrote it down nevertheless because out of context the quote is mysterious and carries only the distant echo of some heavenly knowledge, and there is little human beings seem to like better than something that is heavy with an indecipherable meaning.
Ultimately I think that excerpting important passages helps me to understand Shakespeare better, but I cannot say if I will keep this new habit up when I read novels again: it slows my reading down and is sometimes a little uncomfortable, as far as having to think can be uncomfortable; after all I can only take notes if I understand everything.
How about you? Do you ever take notes when you are reading?