In Sonnet 98 Shakespeare wrote,
From you have I been absent in the spring,
When proud-pied April, dressed in all his trim,
Hath put a spirit of youth in everything,
That heavy Saturn laughed and leaped with him.
Yet nor the lays of birds, nor the sweet smell
Of different flowers in odour and in hue,
Could make me any summer’s story tell,
Or from their proud lap pluck them where they grew:
Nor did I wonder at the lily’s white,
Nor praise the deep vermilion in the rose;
They were but sweet, but figures of delight
Drawn after you, – you pattern of all those.
Yet seem’d it winter still, and, you away,
As with your shadow I with these did play.
Spring seemed to be absent this year with cold rains and fickle weather. That did not stop my students from exploring Shakespeare’s sonnets and learning more about the wise and witty bard. In addition to close reading and textual analysis of the sonnets, my students also participated in a few visual projects to help showcase their understanding of Shakespeare’s prose.
Here are three sonnet projects to inspire creativity and fun while at the same time helping students master Shakespeare’s text.
1. The 5 Frame Sonnet – I talk about this project in length my book, Personalized Reading (ISTE, 2018). For this project students work in groups to present Shakespeare’s sonnet visually in only 5 photographs. Students must read, interpret, and summarize the sonnet. Using only images, students showcase the summary and main idea presented in the sonnet. The student example below showcases Sonnet 138.
2. The Sonnet Project
– Based in New York City, this organization produced videos of all Shakespeare’s 154 Sonnets with professional actors dramatizing the sonnets. Each sonnet video also highlights a specific part or place in and around Manhattan and the Five Boroughs.
Check out their Sonnet 29:
After viewing these videos, students were assigned a sonnet and group to work with to present in video format. This project also required students to read closely and interpret the sonnet in order to create a video to present the sonnet’s key ideas.
Here are two sonnet videos that students created after working to understand :
3. Pop Sonnets
– I came across this project after reading an article in Time magazine about a Tumblr page that turns popular songs into Shakespearian Sonnets. Actually, a book has been published to showcase many of these pop sonnets created. Every Thursday the blog
shares a new sonnet. Inspired by this site, I gave my students the following assignment:
Here is how I assigned the project to my students:
A. Take your favorite song and transform it into a sonnet. You do not have to write it in Shakespearean English. You do have to use Iambic Pentameter. However, if you use Shakespearean phrases correctly, you will get 10 extra credit points!
How to Start —
- Paraphrase the lyrics.
- Highlight keywords you want to work in to your sonnet.
- Condense and reorder your paraphrase into the key parts. Start with the Volta* and Couplet** and work up to that.
- Modify the language to follow the sonnet rhyme scheme. Extra credit if you use Elizabethan terms correctly and authentically (10 pts).
The outcome from my students were awesome.
Check out this one a student wrote based on Dua Lipa’s IDGAF:
Thou hath approached me in cordial temper
Regarding me in fond sincerity
I hath turned deaf to thine lies so tender
I harbor no more time nor love for thee
Find thine lady who shall hear thy ramblings
Too many a tear I hath shed for thou
Thy ong reign over my heart is ending
You come bearing apologies and vows
In mine heart for you I hold no regard
Thee hath lied and lain with other women
Shun thy pleading words my heart I hath barred
Thou hath plagued me but I am not broken
You hath nary been kind nor true nor fair
Thine time is over and I no longer care