Before last week, my closest encounter with Shakespeare’s sonnets was a year 9 English lesson, where Sonnet 73 was the launchpad for a tour of extended metaphor, personification and iambic pentameter, and our homework was to write a poem from the point of view of a tree. For some reason, I hadn’t felt the urge to return to them since.
If only our teacher had been able to show us Touch Press and Faber’s new iPad app, The Sonnets by William Shakespeare.
Imagine an interactive version of Radio 4′s In Our Time where you, not Melvyn, are in charge, and instead of having to hurry the dons so as not to eat into Book of the Week, you have endless time to explore the intricacies of the subject. The Sonnets app, like its older sister The Waste Land, has the power to awaken passions (in my case, Shakespeare and poetry) you never knew you had. Reading outside and trying vainly to shield my iPad from the glare, I prayed the sun would go in so I could see what Don Paterson had to say about Sonnet 129.
Paterson’s commentary is the best thing about this app. It’s like sitting in the pub with a witty, more literary friend, who uses language such as “mind bouillabaisse” and “post-coital freak-out”. Most fascinating is his emphasis on the weirdness and borderline misogyny of the sonnets, a view echoed by the other academics interviewed for the app.
I appreciated the integration of the Arden notes, so you can click on a line and find out what it means. And it’s lovely to look at the facsimile of the 1609 quarto while listening to the sonnets. As for the much-trumpeted celebrity performances, my first thought was “yuck”, but it’s tastefully done and you don’t have to watch Stephen Fry and Kim Cattrall if you don’t want to.
Faber’s app commissioner now wields as much power as the person who decides where to open a new Waitrose. Suggestions flying around for what should come next include William Blake’s Songs of Innocence and Experience and Dante’s Divine Comedy and Paradise Lost, all of which would be brilliant. My vote’s for Beowulf.
guardian.co.uk © Guardian News & Media Limited 2010
Seit 1996 bin ich freier Mitarbeiter der Salzgitter-Zeitung, als Experte für das Geschehen im hiesigen Kreisfußball. Daneben sind meine Kolumnen seit 2005 fester Bestandteil im Lokalteil der Salzgitter-Zeitung. Zusammen mit Frau und Tochter sowie zwei gefräßigen wie faulen Stubentigern versuche ich das zu meistern, was das Leben, das Universum und der ganze Rest an Absurditäten für uns bereithalten.