Shakespeare Was, Like, The Ultimate Rapper

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Vol 41 Issue 34

Bush Calls For Rock Revolution In Weekly Pirate-Radio Address

WASHINGTON, DC—President Bush called for an end to corporate rock, "wuss-metal," and sellout-punk in his weekly pirate-radio address Saturday, delivered from an unlicensed mobile transmitter in the back of his presidential limo. "You don't wanna be an American idiot!" said Bush over the opening strains of "Take The Power Back" by Rage Against The Machine. "Reject Clear Channel's spoonfed bullshit! Wake up, motherfuckers!" An estimated 2,000 listeners in the District of Columbia tune in weekly to Bush's notoriously low-fi, DIY show, The Revolution Will Not Be Podcast, broadcast Saturday from 11 p.m. to 1 a.m.

German Luftwaffle Chain Offers Waffles, Overwhelming Air Superiority

MUNICH—An elite force of three dozen 24-hour Luftwaffle restaurants were unveiled across Germany Monday, with free waffles for blond-haired, blue-eyed customers, discounts on Cheese SwasSticks, and the incendiary bombardment of Luftwaffle's largest competitor, the city of London. "Soon, customers will fall under the sway of my lightning-quick, piping-hot Blintzkreig," said Hans Kreuzen, Luftwaffle's founder and oberstmanager-general. "All will know the sweet, buttery taste of fear and waffles from above." Luftwaffle restaurants are expected to face ruthless competition in Germany's already crowded martial-themed eatery business, which is led by such established chains as WehrKnochwurst and Der Marzipanzerkommand.

Missing Park Ranger Found In Better-Paying Job

FLAGSTAFF, AZ—Forest Service ranger Lawrence Anderson, missing from his fire-warning post in the Coconino National Forest since mid-July, was found alive and well-off in the manager's office of a Flagstaff Home Depot Sunday. "We announce with a sense of relief that Larry is safe and financially secure," said FBI agent Donald Grasso. Anderson described his years as a ranger as "an ordeal," recounting how he was sometimes forced to subsist on root beer and prepackaged bologna-and-cheese sandwiches from the park gift shop for weeks at a time.

Leaving Hollywood

Lured away by tax breaks and other incentives, many producers have been shooting films outside of Hollywood. What do these alternate locations have to offer?

Entertainment Lawyer 'Fighting The Good Fight'

NEW YORK—Although he works long hours for less than seven figures a year, entertainment lawyer Jude Mortison said knowing that he is "one of the good guys" makes it all worth it. "I might not be one of those big fancy city-courthouse types, but I do my part," said Mortison, who tracks down song lyrics used in published works without proper permission and secures the requisite legal and penalty fees for music publishers. Mortison, who bills $800 an hour, added that the look of satisfaction on the face of Warner Brothers executives is all the additional payment he needs.

Gaza Pullout

In an effort to reinvigorate the Middle East peace process, Israel fulfilled its pledge and withdrew from the Gaza Strip. What do you think?
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Shakespeare Was, Like, The Ultimate Rapper

As an English teacher, I have to make The Bard resonate with today's youth. I get the same questions every year: "Shakespeare? What does this dead white guy have to do with me? He doesn't know where I come from, what I'm all about. He's not from the streets."

Well, what's totally fresh about Shakespeare is that he wrote for ordinary people. His homies. My students say, "Then why did he write in this snooty poetry that no one can understand?" Well, that's just it. His poetry was the best street rhyming of his time. And Shakespeare was the best "player" of them all! Even today, 400 years later, Shakespeare is the world's ultimate rapper!

Shakespeare had the tightest flow in the history of the English language. His iambic pentameter couldn't be touched by the other MCs, although player-haters think he sampled heavily from Ben Jonson. In fact, were he alive today, I'm convinced he would be a rapper. Well, I guess he could be a playwright, too.

You see, Shakespeare never intended for his works to be read in some dusty old study! They were performed before a rowdy audience of ne'er-do-wells, servants, and charboys who interacted with the players and even threw things on stage. Sounds a lot like a rap show, doesn't it? The Globe truly was the Apollo Theater of the day.

Rap resonates because it talks about our lives, and tells stories of love, violence, sex—the things that get our blood racing. Well, word to your mother: Shakespeare may have worn tights and big lace collars, but he addressed the same questions as 50 Cent or Tupac Shakur. Are you feeling me? Try this: I'll list a plot point, and you try to guess if I'm describing an R. Kelly song or a Shakespeare play.

A daddy asks three homegirls to tell him why he's so fly.

A black gentleman suspects the white girl he's dating is playing him.

A crew of noblemen gets together and murders their homeboy.

Ready for a surprise? Those are all plot points from Shakespeare's tragedies! Compared to Shakespeare, R. Kelly is a choirboy. Why, Romeo And Juliet begins with bawdy jokes that would make 2 Live Crew blush! Shakespeare definitely knew a thing or two about "groping for trout in a peculiar river!" That's from Measure For Measure. We won't be reading that, though.

Big Willie Shakes rapped in his Big Willie style about everyday life, too. He rapped about friendship: consider Prince Hal and Falstaff, Hamlet and Horatio, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern. He rapped about race issues: Othello, anyone? He even rapped about slammin' phat beats!

Back when Papa Tony's Pizza had those rapping TV commercials 10 years ago, I would recite a soliloquy from Hamlet in the exact same cadence, and it never failed to crack up the class! One year, there was even a student who accompanied me with the mouth-drumming noises, and we actually sounded very impressive together. I haven't done it in a while, so I'm a bit rusty, but I'll give it a shot anyhow:

'Tis now the very witching time of night,
When churchyards yawn and hell itself breathes out
Contagion to this world: now could I drink hot blood,
And do such bitter business...

Well, uh, it goes on a bit more, but you get the idea, right? Yeah, I guess I'm a little rusty on the rapping. I'll practice tonight and try again tomorrow.

I've been teaching English for nearly 18 years, and even today, I'm still amazed at how fresh and current Shakespeare remains. Back when I was in college, I found so many parallels between Shakespeare and James Taylor. Then when I started teaching, I was struck at how Shakespeare explored the same themes as R.E.M. And boy, how my students from the '90s perked up when I played Kurt Cobain during the Hamlet unit!

Well, I hope that I've demystified the Bard Of Avon a little. I mean, trust me, I'm not some old fuddy dud who sits around watching PBS! I was down with Baz Luhrmann's Romeo + Juliet as much as you were! In fact, it happens to be in my personal DVD library, right in between Boyz N The Hood and Colors. How do you like those apples?

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