Last week, I was working with a Shakespeare teacher who was looking for ways to help students better appreciate the language. He liked the idea of using song lyrics, and Usher’s “More” in particular. For easy reference, I reprint the excerpt and devices from the earlier post.
From “More” as performed by Usher
Written by Hinshaw, Khayat, and Raymond
Watch me as I dance under the spotlight-
Listen to the people screaming out more and more,
‘Coz I create the feeling that keep ‘em coming back,
Yeah, I create the feeling that keep ‘em coming back,
So captivating when I get it on the floor.
Know y’all been patiently waiting, I know you need me, I can feel it,
I’m a beast, I’m an animal, I’m that monster in the mirror,
The headliner, finisher, I’m the closer, winner.
Best when under pressure with seconds left I show up.
If you really want more, scream it out louder,
Get it on the floor, bring out the fire,
And light it up, take it up higher,
Gonna push it to the limit, give it more.
Repetition: “more and more,” “I create the feeling that keep ‘em coming back”
Rhyme: more/floor, fire/higher
Alliteration: “monster in the mirror,” create/coming/captivating
Assonance: “patiently waiting,” finisher/winner, Best/pressure/seconds, “limit/give it”
Lists: “I’m a beast, I’m an animal, I’m that monster in the mirror, the headliner, finisher, I’m the closer, winner.”
Antithesis: Get it on the floor/take it up higher
But then the question arose as to which passage from Shakespeare to use. When I used to do this activity using “Mosh,” I’d have students compare Eminem’s use of literary devices in the song to Shakespeare use of the same devices in the Prologue from Romeo and Juliet. But that text doesn’t use the same literary devices as “More,” so we needed another choice.
by William Shakespeare
My mistress’ eyes are nothing like the sun;
Coral is far more red than her lips’ red;
If snow be white, why then her breasts are dun;
If hairs be wires, black wires grow on her head.
I have seen roses damask’d, red and white,
But no such roses see I in her cheeks;
And in some perfumes is there more delight
Than in the breath that from my mistress reeks.
I love to hear her speak, yet well I know
That music hath a far more pleasing sound;
I grant I never saw a goddess go;
My mistress, when she walks, treads on the ground:
And yet, by heaven, I think my love as rare
As any she belied with false compare.
Repetition: red, wires, roses
Rhyme: sun/dun, red/head, etc.
Alliteration: “I grant I never saw a goddess go,” “when she walks”
Assonance: “nothing like the sun,” “then her breasts,” “and yet, by heaven”
Lists: The whole poem, basically
Antithesis: The whole poem, basically
What’s nice about this selection is that many of the poetic devices are actually easier to identify in the Shakespeare, making the activity more likely to succeed in helping students connect with the language.
Shakespeare Teacher: your sonnet sommelier.