Juliet’s Tweet Sorrow

The Royal Shakespeare Company just produced a new production of Romeo and Juliet… over twitter. It consisted of 4000 tweets over a period of several weeks. I have enjoyed going through the archives and piecing together this version, but wish I’d managed to see it all playing out in real time. I think it is a clever adaptation – fresh, cross-media (tweets, youtube videos, images) – yet it still retains a kind of beauty and poetic nature, with smatterings of the original thrown in, such as:

julietcap16 My wrists be the first to receive the deep red, yet pleasurably painless tattooed pattern from which the water of my veins be purged.

Juliet also had several videos on a youtube channel. In this adaptation Juliet was a wannabe song writer. Here is her song dedicated to romeo and his tweets:

Songwriting is another form of the poetic. I also really enjoyed viewing the images and captions, which were haunting and poignant in the way they captured a young girl’s thoughts and dreams:

One of my former honours students (in 2006 I think it was), did a study of text messaging and literacy and found that many English teachers were using text messages creatively in their classrooms, to explore literature, poetry, writing, and communication.

I really liked an article by David Crystal about the poetics of text messages (and I am making this connection because twitter is also about brevity and containment of a message within 140 characters):

The length constraint in text-poetry fosters economy of expression in much the same way as other tightly constrained forms of poetry do, such as the haiku or the Welsh englyn. To say a poem must be written within 160 characters at first seems just as pointless as to say that a poem must be written in three lines of five, seven, and five syllables. But put such a discipline into the hands of a master, and the result can be poetic magic. Of course, SMS poetry has some way to go before it can match the haiku tradition; but then, haikus have had a head-start of several hundred years.

Crystal goes on further to claim the following:

An extraordinary number of doom-laden prophecies have been made about the supposed linguistic evils unleashed by texting. Sadly, its creative potential has been virtually ignored. But five years of research has at last begun to dispel the myths. The most important finding is that texting does not erode children’s ability to read and write. On the contrary, literacy improves. The latest studies (from a team at Coventry University) have found strong positive links between the use of text language and the skills underlying success in standard English in pre-teenage children. The more abbreviations in their messages, the higher they scored on tests of reading and vocabulary. The children who were better at spelling and writing used the most textisms. And the younger they received their first phone, the higher their scores.

So, I’m all for texting and tweeting in creative ways – and I’d like to see more use of it in classroom contexts.

For further information see:

  • Such Tweet Sorrow (Mudlark and the Royal Shakespeare Company website)
  • Romeo and Juliet get twitter makeover (The Telegraph)
  • Romeo Tweets Juliet (NspireD2)
  • Romeo and Juliet get Twitter Treatment (The Guardian)

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