Reading poetry equals fear and loathing for all but what seems like a “happy few”. Make that poetry by Shakespeare and you increase that by an unknown factor.
But a helpful approach is listening to a poem. It can ease you into the task. Watching a trained and charismatic actor perform it and you reduce the confusion even more. Add more video commentary by experts who talk to you like they’re having a conversation with you and it starts to make sense. Now throw in interactive features like highlighted text as you read, excellent video touch controls, and you may find it an enjoyable experience.
Touch Press, the makers of “The Elements” and “The Barefoot World Atlas”, has created “The Sonnets by William Shakespeare“, a stunning collection of readings by renowned actors, mostly intuitive interactive features, supported and aligned with expert notes on the text, and a rich commentary, “Perspectives”, on the sonnets.
What works for me
The user interface allows rapid and intuitive navigation between the video performances, the notes, and commentary.
The display of the Arden Notes, Commentary, and the My Notes feature, alongside the sonnet text provides seamless learning.
The video controls provide frame by frame manipulation. The ease of rewind, replay, and fast forward enables comprehension and learning that I want every time I watch video.
AirPlay support is a plus for viewing on a big screen with Apple TV.
What didn’t work
The Performances interface: Selecting actors by pictures, although beautiful, only reveals their names and readings after selection. This isn’t intuitive. I don’t know most of these faces so the randomness of this is frustrating.
At first the cost seemed like a lot for an app, but when I compare this with the cost of a book that delivers some of the content, no performances, and none of the interactive aids for learning and enjoyment and now I see it as a bargain. Oh, and my favorite sonnet gets dissed by the editor but it’s redeemed by a great reading by Patrick Stewart who “makes it so”.
This app makes for a singular and satisfying experience helping to make Shakespeare and his poetry accessible and gratifying. However, for students I would add interactive features, e.g., the ability to read, record, and share a sonnet for a networked educational experience. This would impact teaching and learning. This is one way to move the user from passive to active. Shared experience, collective learning and comprehension, takes the content beyond repurposing for a new technology.
This app is what the iPad does best but needs to take it further. I still give it five stars.
The Sonnets is available on iTunes for $13.99.