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This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at St. John's chapter.

At first glance, classical or ancient literature does not appear to be the simplest of readings. While you certainly wouldn’t select an ancient Greek play for your casual beach read, there’s no need for literature of the past to be seen as a reading activity simply for academics. Here are some great first-reads for those trying to dip their toes into classical literature: 

For those interested in the dramatic….

  1. Medea by Euripides

This tragedy from 431 BC centers on the actions of former princess Medea, which include murdering her ex-husband’s new wife, killing her brother and hanging her children from the side of her chariot. It is seen as a piece of ancient feminist literature being that Medea ends up on top –  somewhat of a warning to the men of Greece to watch their back. 

  1. Hamlet by Shakespeare

This 1601 tragedy perfectly displays the effects of human overarching and egotism. Hamlet is visited by the ghost of his recently deceased father who informs him that he was killed by his own brother. Hamlet now must avenge his father’s death while avoiding his uncle’s plot to have him murdered, as well. The story is sprinkled with a surprising amount of humor that makes the Shakespearean language far easier to understand. 

For those interested in the mysterious and gothic….

  1. Rebecca by Daphne Du Maurier 

This 1938 gothic novel depicts a nameless woman that marries a wealthy widower, soon discovering that both he and his home are haunted by the spirit of his late wife, Rebecca. This novel is simply beautiful and full of symbolism. The narrator’s blonde hair and blue eyes give us the stereotypical innocent look, in contrast to Rebecca’s tall and dark look. My favorite literary symbol, the Rhododendrons, make an appearance in this novel. Being portrayed as 50 ft high and towering over everything, these plants represent Rebecca’s towering personality as well as the red color symbolizing power and blood.

2. The Phantom of the Opera by Gaston Leroux 

This 1909 novel is perhaps one of the best-orchestrated House of Horrors-type stories. It tells the tale of a musical genius that haunts the Paris Opera House. Mesmerized by the voice of the young singer Christine, the Phantom lures her in and falls deeply in love with her. The novel’s lack of a narrator adds to the gothic feel, without it being confusing to read.

For those interested in classical feminism….

  1. Emma by Jane Austen

Emma, written in 1815, is a famous Austen novel centered around the relationships of a group of adolescents new to the world of love. The characters are charming and relatable enough that the novel is less detached from the way the world and love are today. The title character is lovable and certainly not in search of a husband. 

All in all, classical and ancient literature doesn’t have to be as scary as it may seem. Many books are digestible and entertaining enough for any level of reader to enjoy.

Grace Notarstefano

St. John's '26

Grace is currently a freshman at St. John’s University in Queens NY. She is double majoring in History and Italian, with hopes to someday become a professor and enter the world of research. She can be found painting and sculpting, reading, trying new recipes, or writing up a post for her blog on the literature of the world.