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Shakespeare, the modern way

In the beginning of this class, when we were asked to present how far Shakespeare reached in terms of media, I stumbled upon this video made by Nice Peter on YouTube:

It is a rap battle between Dr. Seuss and Shakespeare and the funny thing about it is, besides the great raps and visuals, they both had a point. Dr. Seuss said Shakespeare and his works were boring and that people needed a translation of his plays, unlike Dr. Seuss’, because they were just too hard to understand. I then recalled the first time I encountered Shakespeare, which was during my first year in high school, and reading the play, Merchant of Venice, overwhelmed me. It seemed like a totally different language and I could not understand a single line from the play. It took me a while before I started to understand the play without having to translate it first and to actually like Shakespeare’s plays and sonnets—I even had to get a tutor for my first few exams about Shakespeare. It wasn’t long till I didn’t mind watching and reading Shakespeare’s sonnets and plays for school and just for the heck of it. However, if it wasn’t for the amazing teachers I had and the great help of the Internet, I would not have even tried reading Shakespeare in the first place.

Now that we’re required to write a multimedia essay on Shakespeare, I thought of writing about how Shakespeare is introduced and taught by teachers, professors, etc. to the youth in the modern times of today. The generation of today has been sucked in to the virtual world and literally, for some, can’t get their hands and eyes away from their laptop, computer, iPad, iPhone and the like. Generations ago, when the Internet wasn’t close to being invented, reading was everyone’s favorite pastime. Nowadays, it’s not too often that you find a teenager or a young adult drowning himself or herself in reading a book—most especially Shakespeare’s plays and really taking interest in them. In order for people to find interest in the bards plays, teachers and other modern companies have come up with a way to interest the youth of today and show that Shakespeare’s plays are not just some boring books written in some foreign language by some dead man.

Here are some examples of modern ways of teaching Shakespeare to the kids these days:

This first video is an original rap by Katie Kovacs and Danny Wittels. Their rap is about the play Othello and if you actually listen to the entire rap, it isn’t at all bad! I’ve seen a few Shakespeare raps on YouTube and a lot are not that great, some not at all. This is one of the few that I really liked because it doesn’t stray from the story and the rappers have good rhyming skills and lyrics.

This second video is of Akala, the founder of The Hip-Hop Shakespeare Company who basically talks about the fusion of Shakespeare and hip-hop. Here’s a brief introduction to the video and a little background on Akala by TedxTalks:

Akala demonstrates and explores the connections between Shakespeare and Hip-Hop, and the wider cultural debate around language and it’s power.

MOBO award-winning hip hop artist ‘Akala’ is a label owner and social entrepreneur who fuses rap/rock/electro-punk with fierce lyrical storytelling (think Wu-Tang Clan and Aphex Twin meets Rage Against The Machine). With Akala’s latest record, convention-defying album DoubleThink, Akala has proven himself as one of the most dynamic and literate talents in the UK. Inspired by the likes of Saul Williams and Gil Scott Heron, Akala has also developed a reputation for stellar live performances with his drummer Cassell ‘TheBeatmaker’ headlining 5 UK tours and touring with everyone from Jay-Z, Nas & Damian Marley, M.I.A. and Christina Aguilera to Siouxsie Sue and Richard Ashcroft, appearing at numerous UK / European and US festivals (Glastonbury, Big Chill, Wireless, V, Hove and SXSW) also partnering with the British Council promoting British arts across Africa, Vietnam (the first rapper to perform a live concert in Vietnam), New Zealand and Australia. In 2009, Akala launched the ‘The Hip-hop Shakespeare Company’, a hotly-tipped music theatre production enterprise which has sparked worldwide media interest since its inception. Previous collaborators include: British actor; Sir Ian McKellen, actor/musician; Colin Salmon and Royal Shakespeare Company Voice Director; Cicely Berry. 2011 sees the launch Akala’s latest endeavour ‘Illa State Productions’ to garner his budding scriptwriting talent alongside TV presenting and as a music composer for various TV and Film projects.

These two online articles also talk about the evolution of Shakespeare’s interpretation nowadays—very insightful and good reads.

  1. http://www.edutopia.org/teaching-shakespeare-digital-media
  2. http://www.edutopia.org/teaching-shakespeare-digital-media-language

Further reading:

http://openshakespeare.org/2010/07/29/shakespeare-and-media

http://www.slideshare.net/mikelomo/shakespeare-media-6853803

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