Romeo: yes, c u soon.
The above exchange might have made William Shakespeare shudder, but it made Trident Academy English teacher Julie Stephenson quite happy. Stephenson added a twist to an assignment on The Tragedy of Romeo and Juliet. After reading the play, each student either wrote a new scene or rewrote an existing scene. The twist was that the scene had to be written as text messages between the characters and could contain no more 160 characters.
“The texting Shakespeare assignment gave students the opportunity to think creatively, to use technology, to practice summarizing, and to have a little fun with a topic than can be a bit dry,” Stephenson says. “I really liked when students turned to each other when they had a question, rather than to me. I may have been reading Shakespeare longer than they have, but they certainly can text better and faster than I can!”
Stephenson says the hardest part of the assignment was convincing the ninth graders that she really did want them to bring their phones to class. The project really captivated the students and all were focused and actively involved in the lesson.
Text messaging the play is certainly the newest take on this classic tragedy, but its influences in popular culture run deep. The play has frequently influenced popular music, including works by The Supremes, Bruce Springsteen, Taylor Swift, Tom Waits and Lou Reed. The most famous such track is Dire Straits’ “Romeo and Juliet.” The most famous musical theatre adaptation is West Side Story with music by Leonard Bernstein and lyrics by Stephen Sondheim.
Here are a couple of examples from Stephenson’s assignment.
Act V, Scene I by Morgan AvRutick
Romeo: Have news?
R: What is it
B.: Shes dead
R; don’t lie to me
B: Im not; I saw her in grave
R: Get ink, paper
B: Calm down
R: ugh, im ready to DIE!
B: Its all ok
R: leave me alone
B; Ok bye
Act III, Scene ii by Sara Frances McAlister
Mercutio: Hey Tybalt. Want 2 duel n da town square?
Tybalt: U R on!
Romeo: I herd Mercutio was fightin Tybalt
Mercutio: Don’t hold me back R man!
**Mercutio gets stabbed.**
Mercutio: Dis iz both a ure faults!