I was turned on to Shakespeare when I had to memorize parts of Romeo and Juliet in high school. Then my best friend, Rosalina and I had to perform our parts in front of the class. I was Romeo and had to tell her I wanted to kiss her (yes, that’s what goes on in an all-girls school. The fantasies are real, I guess). “My lips, two blushing pilgrims, ready stand to smooth that rough touch with a tender kiss.”
We thought nothing of it, however, and were only turned on by the language. She, a daughter of Portuguese immigrants, would teach me how to curse in Portuguese during our bus rides. It’s been a really wasted talent. I am just waiting for the day to tell off someone who will understand me. I will yell, Filhode trinta putas [son of thirty whores] (it’s no Shakespearean insult, but it’s passionate). I then started helping Rosalina with how to translate Shakespeare’s verses into an English she could understand. That was then how we spent our bus rides, translating, memorizing, performing. It was probably atypical of a high school bus ride, but it was fun. And now I realize writing all these blogs reminding me of all the memorization I had to do in school makes me think that is probably why when I walk into a room and forget why I am there today, it is not age--it’s most likely because I have no more room with all the memorized verse in my head to remember much else. I need to remember to explain this the next time I forget to call or meet someone. “It’s not my fault at all. It’s all the literature! “Out, damned spot.” Foda-se (Fuck) and the Portuguese.
I know now that the schools provide the books with translations on the opposing page of Shakespeare’s works. I dislike that. It feels like cheating. Why would the students even look at the Shakespearean side when they have the translation already? That’s why I teach my students that Shakespeare was the OG of rap. Not only did he make art popular and accessible to the poor by opening up the pit of the stage so that these people could stand and watch the play, he wrote to a sick beat. One that sounds like a heartbeat, called iambic pentameter. It’s five(penta) iambs (units) of unstressed then stressed syllables. It sounds like: ta tum, ta tum, ta tum, ta tum, ta tum.
He also made up his own words like the best rappers do (see OG=Original Gansta=the first gangster=the one who started it).
We cannot have a conversation without using a word created by Shakespeare. Here are just some you may have already used depending on how your day is going: cold-blooded, arch-villain, eventful, uncomfortable, dishearten, bedazzled.
Plus, nobody could slam an insult like Shakespeare. He had the swagger (another word created by the Bard) to talk smack (not sure who created that). Wouldn’t you love to tell someone that “More of your conversation would infect my brain” or “The tartness of his face sours ripe grapes”?
He wasn’t afraid to take risks in his story-lines. He was causing East Coast/West Coast type battles long, long before B.I.G. and TuPac. He created more drama than the most dysfunctional reality show. His audience was hooked and we still are.
He was tragic and funny and romantic and dressing men up like women for the performances way before Bruce became Caitlyn.
And like, Kanye he let people know what he thought of himself—that, yes, he was the best.
Just read his famous Sonnet 18 and you will see how it rivals any Kanye tweet:
Shall I compare thee to a summer's day?
Thou art more lovely and more temperate:
Rough winds do shake the darling buds of May,
And summer's lease hath all too short a date:
Sometime too hot the eye of heaven shines,
And often is his gold complexion dimmed;
And every fair from fair sometime declines,
By chance, or nature's changing course, untrimmed;
But thy eternal summer shall not fade
Nor lose possession of that fair thou ow'st;
Nor shall Death brag thou wander'st in his shade,
When in eternal lines to time thou grow'st;
So long as men can breathe or eyes can see,
So long lives this, and this gives life to thee.
After you have read the Sonnet the way it should be read, you can read this translation:
Hey Bae, get ready for this. You are so hot, I am going to compare you to a summer’s day. Although you are even better than the windy, short summer—that comparison isn’t even good enough to explain how, in my eyes, you will always be a hottie. You will never need botox because in this poem, with these perfect words I have created, I have kept you from ever aging and getting old and ugly. So as long as peeps are reading this, you will always remain beautiful. Hey, you’re welcome. 😉😘😎
Farewell. Let's meet again tomorrow.