Can the Bard Survive Being Hashtagged?

One of my favorite email newsletters comes to me via an indie bookstore in Chester County, Pennsylvania. Shelf Awareness is a fun mix of commentary, links, and reviews.

Today’s issue included three new books for young adults that either draw from Shakespeare plays or, as with Macbeth #killingit, update the bard for contemporary readers. The latter book is part of a series called OMG Shakespeare. As someone who has defended teaching Shakespeare and spent four years helping high school students grapple with “Romeo and Juliet” and “Julius Caesar”, I had to buy one. I went with Macbeth. It immediately declares itself to be fun! Directly after the copyright pages, there is a note to the “slackers being quizzed tomorrow”: good luck.

The rest of the book is a crazy mix of emojis, hashtags and images. I’ve got it open in the Kindle Cloud Reader in Chrome so I’m wondering if the formatting is messed up as it doesn’t always seem to sync the way it should. And a warning to those who might be intrigued: if you don’t have a sense of humor when it comes to great literature, this book is not for you. Let’s just say that the poop emoji makes an appearance.

While I don’t really subscribe to the digital native/digital immigrant divide, I do feel a bit out of my element. Texting is my newest technology , and I’m wondering if it’s time for an instagram account so I think this book is really written in a second language for me. It is a bit like the 21st century version of rebuses so I can apply that but I don’t know what all the abbreviations and images mean.

Plus, it’s just a little boring. I’ve made it to Act I, Scene 6, and it’s starting to get old. Part of the reason Shakespeare has survived for 500 years is because of language like this:

Tomorrow, and tomorrow, and tomorrow,
Creeps in this petty pace from day to day,
To the last syllable of recorded time;
And all our yesterdays have lighted fools
The way to dusty death. Out, out, brief candle!
Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player,
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage,
And then is heard no more. It is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,
Signifying nothing.
Emojis and hashtags just can’t do this justice.

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