Welcome to Know-It-All Shakespeare. Developed by a high-school English teacher, this series puts the richness of the Bard directly in your hand in a friendly and important way. Rather than just including a few footnotes, some sidenotes, and a frustratingly long introduction (that won’t help if you’ve never read the play before), Know-It-All Shakespeare provides a guided tour. The commentaries that are interlaced between the lines of Shakespeare will support you, amuse you, challenge you, and empower you. You’ll get important supports and questions at just the right moments, get historical context in digestible bites, and arrive at the end with a thorough and satisfying understanding along with a deep appreciation of these works that will enrich your life as well as your confidence with Shakespeare. You’ll find space to read these works on your own terms, and you’ll even laugh sometimes. Shakespeare is a gift for everyone. Know-It-All Shakespeare delivers it.
Rachel DeTemple has been teaching Shakespeare for more than two decades. She has awakened a love of Shakespeare in students from the Deep South (Mississippi) to the Far North (Alaska). She has made Shakespeare fun and approachable for reluctant readers, enthusiastic readers, downright hostile readers, fledgling readers, advanced readers, adult readers, teen readers, and everyone in between.
About the Author
Rachel DeTemple’s unpretentiously engaging tone in her commentary on Hamlet makes her good company for first readers of the world’s most famous play. Her conversational observations —aptly relating the words and actions to the world of students—make their encounter with the play an entertaining journey.
At last, a Hamlet for ironic young readers. Rachel DeTemple’s version offers help and encouragement without burying the classic text in footnotes. Near the end, for example, when Hamlet’s mother gives him advice, he mutters, “She well instructs me.” DeTemple observes, “So he finally admits his mother can be right. He must be about to die.” This commentator knows her audience.
Reading Hamlet by William Shakespeare: The Know-It-All Version is like having a witty smart aleck at your elbow live tweeting the experience in ways that bring it effortlessly to life without ever distracting from the actual text. Rather than offer dry line-by-line paraphrases that suck the life out of its timeless language, this book is a vivid and current conversation that can engage even the most resistant reader. The contextual summaries are colorful and human, and strategically placed breaks offer Hamlet in a delightful dosage of banter that sparks engagement, accelerates comprehension, and makes for raucous classroom discussions. I’ve been teaching Hamlet for over fifteen years, and I’ll never teach it again without this book.
I’ve been producing a popular, free Shakespeare in the parks program around Seattle for over 20 years. I’m all in favor of making Shakespeare accessible and fun, especially for people that might be new to his works. The Know-It-All Version is like having a sassy friend chime in with irreverence balanced by smarts and wit. It’s serious without being sacrosanct; demystifying Shakespeare without compromising Shakespeare, for students (and audiences!).
I always thought works by Shakespeare were too complicated and too old for me to understand. But having Rachel DeTemple’s annotations next to Shakespeare’s words allowed me to not only understand what was happening, but to analyze the text for myself. I was able to connect my own experiences with text that was written hundreds of years ago.
Finally: Shakespeare I can actually enjoy reading! “Know-It-All” strikes an ideal balance of explaining the anachronistic words (what’s a hautboy?), playwriting craft, and political or cultural references so the 16th-century verse is rich with interest instead of a bewildering slog. It’s just enough, sprinkled throughout the original text, to make me feel smart and free to enjoy the story. Brief notes draw attention to themes, pose thoughtful questions, and challenge me to think about how I relate—or don’t—to what’s happening on the page and stage. The light, engaging commentary often makes me laugh out loud; Shakespeare is entertainingly sarcastic and biting at times! Now I understand why Shakespeare was popular in his time and endures today. When is the next “Know-It-All” coming out?