Huzzah! Touch Press Brings Shakespeare’s Sonnets to the iPad

In our quick-as-lightning digital world, poetry may seem quaint and irrelevant to many. The Sonnets by William Shakespeare, created by UK-based developer Touch Press, proves those sentiments wrong.

The Sonnets guide users through all of the aspects of this enduring poetic form. The app includes so much more than a just Shakespeare’s 154 poems. It’s a revamped version of the Arden edition, that adds a reproduction of the 1609 Quarto, Arden Shakespeare’s notes and introduction, as well as commentary from a variety of experts, and as the pièce de résistance: performances of each sonnet by a diverse group of talented actors.

 Sonnets crack open the poem’s tough linguistic shell, so readers can enjoy the kernel within. The Perspectives section defines the sonnet, and adds context that allow the reader to place Shakespeare’s work within the form’s poetic tradition. To the app’s credit, the commentary doesn’t solely comprise the thoughts of erudite academics. Poet Don Paterson‘s commentary is particularly accessible and relevant. His thoughts on Sonnet 130, the oft-taught “My mistress’ eyes are nothing like the sun;” will surprise and engage readers.

The performances include readings by Dominic West (The Wire’s Jimmy McNulty, check him out in the clip below), Patrick Stewart, Steven Fry, as well as a host of Shakespearean actors. The performances are paired with the text, so the reader can follow along.

  

Readers can choose how much or how little outside commentary they wish to have while exploring the Sonnets. Since Shakespeare is often canonized as the history’s greatest English writer, it’s easy to forget that opinions on his work and forms vary, but the app’s commentary and performances serve as a reminder that a modern reader’s ability to interpret Shakespeare helps to keep his work relevant. A reader can also add his own notes, and share sonnets outside the app through email, Twitter, and Facebook.

As an app, The Sonnets tackle its subject from multiple angles, but regardless of the direction the reader moves, the aim is to make sure the reader understands Shakespeare’s poems better than he did before he opened the app. Whether the reader spends minutes, hours, or days exploring the content, he is sure to learn something.

Download the Sonnets by William Shakespeare from the App Store for $13.99.

What I liked: The performance section stands out from the many wonderful features of the Sonnets. The performances remind the user that poetry is a fundamentally oral tradition. Listening to the wide range of actors who contributed to the app was a pleasure.

What I didn’t like: Like the rest of Touch Press’ remarkable oeuvre, Sonnets is a large file (1.37 GB), yet it was worth every bit of digital space.

To buy or not to buy: Regardless of age, any student of the English language will learn from The Sonnets. Even though the app is one of the App Store’s pricier offerings, it remains a good value. As the use of iPads in education continues to grow, apps such as The Sonnets provide a compelling reason for a teacher to bring the iPad into the classroom.

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About Emily: Emily is a freelance writer who loves discovering new apps whenever she can pry the iPad away from her children or husband. You can contact her via Twitter: @whatwentwrite