Teaching Shakespeare!

A Folger Education Blog

Shakespeare and Hip-Hop?

What does hip-hop have to do with learning Shakespeare? Check out this article, written by Holly Korbey for KQED’s Mind/Shift and featuring our very own Director of Education, Dr. Peggy O’Brien.

Here’s a short excerpt:

Peggy O’Brien, director of education at the Folger Shakespeare Library in Washington, D.C., said often the study of Shakespeare can focus too much on what the words mean and not enough on what they sound and feel like.

“[Shakespeare] is the only book that we give to students that has footnotes everywhere, footnotes and glossaries, where we tell kids practically what every word means,” she said. “And so what happens is, we focus only on the meaning, and we forget that a ton of what Shakespeare is about is what it sounds like with the language, the meter and the rhyme. But hip-hop and freestyle and beatbox, which is all about meter and rhyme, is a fabulous way to enter that world. And you can get to meaning after that.”

O’Brien said that Shakespeare has been adapted to different times in history since nearly the moment he wrote the plays, and calls the trend to bring hip-hop and Shakespeare together a great one. When asked if teachers can use hip-hop to connect students to Shakespeare, she said, “Students can use hip-hop to connect themselves to Shakespeare. If Shakespeare were around today, he’d be doing what Lin-Manuel Miranda has done.” Miranda used hip-hop to tell the story of the “$10 founding father,” Alexander Hamilton in this year’s smash Broadway musical, Hamilton.