The Sonnets by William Shakespeare

App review by
Stacy Zeiger, Common Sense Media
The Sonnets by William Shakespeare App Poster Image
Slightly scholarly app features expert Bard interpreters.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this app.

Educational Value

Kids can learn all 154 sonnets written by Shakespeare as famous actors, authors, and Shakespeare experts read them. In addition to using audio and video recordings that accompany each sonnet, kids can discover the meaning behind the poems and take notes as they discover their own interpretations. Despite the academic feel, this multimedia collection offers high-quality content and commentary to help kids get their heads around Shakespeare's romantic poems.

Ease of Play

It's pretty intuitive, but the app could use a tutorial to point out all available features. The main screen feels a bit busy.

Violence

Some sonnets reference violent thoughts and actions.

Sex

Some sonnets reference love, sex, and other elements of romance.

Language

Poems may contain words with questionable connotations, but kids probably will have to be sophisticated readers to get the meaning. 

Consumerism

Small logos on the main screen identify the developer and other publications used, and the app incorporates audio/video recordings featuring a few well-known actors and authors.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

Some sonnets may reference mature themes or actions, including drinking and the use of drugs.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that The Sonnets by William Shakespeare will appeal most to poetry lovers and those who already have a profound appreciation for the Bard. Although the professional recordings and analysis of the sonnets can really help kids begin to understand the content, they may fail to appreciate the care that went into each recording nor are they likely to have the same deep appreciation for Shakespeare and his work as many of the actors, authors, and Shakespearean experts reading his sonnets. You can encourage kids to get past the scholarly vibe and focus more on using the deep resources to help them understand this set of highly complex but rewarding poems.

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What's it about?

THE SONNETS BY WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE introduces kids to all 154 of Shakespeare's infamous sonnets. This includes some of the more popular ones such as "Shall I compare thee to a summer's day?" (Sonnet 18) and "Let Me Not to the Marriage of True Minds" (Sonnet 116). Video and audio recordings of well-known Shakespearean actors such as Star Trek's Patrick Stewart, famous authors, and other Shakespearean scholars reading the sonnets accompany the text. As kids read or listen, they see individual lines highlighted. A notes feature lets kids save their thoughts, questions, and interpretations, and they also can save their favorites. Before or after reading the individual sonnets, kids have access to additional notes, commentary, and perspectives on Shakespeare, his sonnets, and the general form of poetry.

Is it any good?

Although a bit scholarly in its appearance and approach, kids get the opportunity to see Shakespeare's sonnets outside the pages of a traditional textbook. Rather than struggling to read the poems themselves, they can first hear the poems read by actors who have performed in numerous productions of Shakespeare's work, acclaimed authors, and those who have dedicated their lives to studying Shakespeare and his works. As they hear the words pronounced by these scholars and read the notes and commentary connected with each sonnet, kids will begin to gain a general understanding of each sonnet. This will in turn help improve their understanding of Shakespeare's language as a whole, particularly because many of the Bard's sonnets appear in his plays. Unfortunately, to truly get kids interested in all this resource has to offer, parents will have to encourage kids to get past the pretty academic vibe and focus on the poems themselves.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Stage an old-school poetry slam, imagining how it would've gone down in Shakespearean times.

  • Rewrite one of the sonnets using modern-day language.

  • Families can talk about the themes of the sonnets and how they apply to life today.

App details

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