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Local Students Hear Shakespeare in New Way Ahead of Festival

Local Students Hear Shakespeare in New Way Ahead of Festival
Posted at 3:30 PM, Apr 15, 2016
and last updated 2016-04-15 11:46:35-04

TALLAHASSEE, FL (WTXL) - A special guest at this weekend's Southern Shakespeare Festival spent the week visiting area schools to bring Shakespeare to some unassuming audiences.

Devon Glover, also known as "Sonnet Man", is a math teacher and rapper from Brooklyn. Glover puts Shakespearean sonnets to music, turning the poems into a "Hip-Hop Shakespeare Fusion".

On Wednesday, Glover visited several classes at Godby High School, including Mrs. Braswell's 9th grade English class.

The desks were moved into a semicircle on the outside of the room facing a projector with a webpage of Shakespeare's 154 sonnets.

The students listened as Glover hit play on his music, introducing himself with a rap.

At it's conclusion, he asked the teens if they liked rap. Most of the hands in the room went up.

"Any of you like Shakespeare?" said Glover. Only one or two hands raised.

Glover explained how he failed an English class in high school because he was studying Shakespeare and how he switched to a degree in math when the bard was brought up again in college.

But then he was asked to bring Shakespeare to hip-hop.

"We have to find a way to modernize it," said Glover. "Because we don't speak like that."

Number 29 was the first sonnet Glover rapped for the class. At the end of the sonnet Glover raps his own lyrics -- his interpretation of what each sonnet is about.

And the transition is seamless; it's hard to tell where Shakespeare's words end and Glover's begin.

"Do you think Shakespeare could have been a rapper?" Glover asked the students after the first rap.

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Next came Sonnets 17 and 130.

Glover knew he had the students' attention; they were finally smiling, laughing and really having fun.

"Where can I buy your mix-tape?" asked a student from across the room.

Glover finished out the class with Sonnet 18, the first sonnet he ever turned into a rap.

"Sonnet 18 is kinda like a pick-up line," said Glover. "If someone came to you and said, 'Shall I compare thee to a summers day,' would it work?"

The students and Glover dissected the question, deciding Shakespeare was essentially saying the subject of the poem was hot.

And that was Glover's goal -- to get the students interested in what Shakespeare had to say.

"I think if we introduce Shakespeare in small parts, like maybe a sonnet -- 14 lines -- I think reading his plays would be more interesting," said Glover.

Sonnet Man will be performing at the 2016 Southern Shakespeare Festival on Friday and Saturday from 7 to 7:30 p.m.

You can see the full festival schedule by visiting SouthernShakespeareFestival.org.