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Shakespeare's sonnets given a hip hop twist

Press Trust of India  |  London 

World famous playwright William Shakespeare's most famous words have been given a modern rap twist as part of a project aiming to bring the bard to a wider audience and mark his 400th death anniversary.

English and drama students at Birmingham City University (UK) have been working alongside the Sonnet Man, a New York- born rap artist who delivers Shakespeare's sonnets set to hip hop beats.


Rapper and teacher Devon Glover became 'the Sonnet Man' in a bid to make Shakespeare more accessible to young people - particularly to those from low income backgrounds.

He visited the university to work with students on understanding the meaning behind Shakespeare's words, as well tasking them with putting their own modern spin on the famous words, withtodaymarking 400 years since the playwright's death.

Among the well-known lines examined was Sonnet 18, most famously recognised for the words "shall I compare thee to a summer's day?"

Glover said: "I began this project to show a connection between Shakespeare and my world of hip-hop. In my neighbourhood, our major genre of music and culture is hip hop.

"However, there is a huge perception that Shakespeare is not for certain neighbourhoods - particularly low-income - leading to the disconnection. I've noticed the correlation between my students understanding the bard and a rise in their confidence levels. This project was also made to inspire my students to strive to become the next Shakespeare."

After working with students, Glover performed a number of the passages in front of a live audience.

Islam Issa, Lecturer in English Literature at Birmingham City University, said: "It's important to give the students something different, so while we do discuss the literary texts in detail, it'sgood to be as diverse as possible in how we present the literature.

"Shakespeare in particular is as relevant today as ever, and the Sonnet Man is able to demonstrate some of that relevance."

The university has marked the anniversary of Shakespeare's death with a celebration of his work.

Earlier this year, students from School of Visual Communication created a life-size paper tribute to the bard.

While students from Birmingham School of Acting have been performing a translation of 'Hamlet', known as Yamlet and 'Macbeth' performed in the style of acclaimed director Quentin Tarantino.

Emma Blyth, second year English and Drama student at Birmingham City University, said: "The Sonnet Man was able to create in me even more admiration for Shakespeare's work. His songs were catchy andit really did reinforce the fact that Shakespeare was meant to be performed.

First Published: Sun, April 24 2016. 19:42 IST
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