Touch Press brushes the dust off The Sonnets by Shakespeare

Jul 16, 2012
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People worry about the future of publishing in our new digital era. I don’t. Why not? Because great literature has endured technological shifts more profound than the advent of e-ink and virtual pages. Homer and Ovid survive from an oral tradition and most major religious texts predate, in some fashion, chiseling glyphs into rock. Shakespeare’s […]

People worry about the future of publishing in our new digital era. I don’t. Why not? Because great literature has endured technological shifts more profound than the advent of e-ink and virtual pages. Homer and Ovid survive from an oral tradition and most major religious texts predate, in some fashion, chiseling glyphs into rock. Shakespeare’s works have adapted themselves from the early printing press and quill to every form of publication we have today and are no more at risk of being lost in this new digital era than at any other juncture in their history. In fact, the multimedia platforms we have today are ideally suited to survival of The Bards’ printed texts. And, no company shows more insight into how to adapt classic literature for an up-and-coming tablet generation than Touch Press Books, as evidenced in their most recent iPad offering, The Sonnets by Shakespeare.

I’m guilty of something common; I call myself a Shakespeare nut, but when I do, I’m referring to his 37 plays. Most folks tend to overlook that the Bard of Stratford upon Avon was just that, a bard – or poet. He tackled the classical narrative tradition with “A Lover’s Complaint”, “The Rape of Lucrece”, and “Venus and Adonis”, and penned no less than 154 Sonnets. The Sonnet is a formal poetic structure compromised of 14 lines: three rhyming quatrains (ABAB) and a closing rhyming couplet. It looks like a neat block of writing on the page and was all the rage in Renaissance Europe. As he was wont to do, Shakespeare turned this common writerly craft into a metier of his own. Touch Press, who turned TS Elliot’s dark poem, The Waste Land, into accessible reading for the iOS masses, bring these oft veiled and too easily overlooked masterworks to the iPad in a multimedia package that sparks the imagination.

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The Sonnets By Shakespeare app is a reinvention of the Arden edition, complete with a digital reproduction of the original 1609 Quarto. It is packed full of Royal Shakespeare Company actors and the likes of Fiona Shaw, Patrick Stewart, Stephen Fry, Jemma Redgrave, British poet laureate Andrew Motion, and the wonderful young David Tennant of Dr. Who fame who has mastered OP (original pronunciation), each of whom breathes life into their recitations and gives each sonnet fresh resonance in a new age.

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If these works ever seemed dry or impenetrable, they won’t after spending time with this app. Not only does the acting synced to the text open ears to the nuances of Shakespearian language, but the supplementary materials also shake the dust off the backstory. Touch Press rounds up world-class scholars to explain, in engaging videos, the historical context, poetic form, and mysteries that surround everything from the dedication of The Sonnets to the enigmatically-gendered W.H. Auden, to the identity of the Dark Lady, into an experience so far removed from a classroom its hard to remember you’re being schooled by masters. With over two-and-a-half hours of artful performances, the erudite commentary and copious Arden notes, not to mention AirPlay support and even “Share-a-Sonnet” social media integration, Touch Press proves the future of literature is not imperilled so long as it continues to be reinvented in every generation by dedicated contemporary publishing houses that understand new educational and literary paradigms.

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Lisa Caplan

Lisa Caplan writes app lists and guides as well as reviewing iOS apps and games on various tech sites, most recently on her fledgling iPhone and iPad giveaway blog, AppTudes. She is thrilled to be joining the stellar reviewing team at Appolicious.

Located in a balmy Montreal suburb, Lisa has an advanced degree in Creative Writing, and has had an Apple computer by her side since 1979! She is a talentless art nut, bibliophile and accessory junkie. Lisa looks forward to sharing her gaming addiction and love for all tech that promotes culture, communication, social awareness and education at every level.

You can follow Lisa on Twitter @AppTudes for iOS news or @LisaTheAppChick for random nonsense.

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