Tuesday, January 25, 2011

The Things I Do For Sophomores. Or, Sorry, Billy Shakespeare...

In my sophomore class, we're just tiptoeing into Julius Caesar, and one of their final assessments for this unit is going to be an oral assessment of some kind. The kids have six options, ranging from just memorizing something like a sonnet, to doing a puppet show. But one of their options is a rewriting -- they can take Shakespeare's original and change the language to make it more modern, with the additional suggestion that they select some kind of stereotype and/or particular vernacular to imitate. When I first rolled it out, we didn't have a whole ton of time to discuss the particulars, so I need to do that tomorrow.

And to help them grasp the concept of what I'd like to see, I wrote my own model. Based on Julius Caesar. It's either brilliance or absolute garbage, but hey, it took me all of about ten minutes (maybe less than that) to throw it together, and though I think it's probably not that authentic, I bet my kids won't really know the difference. I was aiming for Jersey Shore, but I think I landed somewhere between the Valley (a la Cher in Clueless, whose voice I can't NOT hear!), New Jersey (I stole "Ant'ny" from Jerseylicious. I won't lie.), and Harlem (damn ethnic studies class where we studied the grammar of AAVE -- I had to try really hard not to include more "he be fightin" "he be trippin'" etc.)... but I think they'll still get the point, especially when I perform it for them with gestures and an accent. HA.

Here's the original, from Act I, scene ii:


You pull'd me by the cloak; would you speak with me?


Ay, Casca; tell us what hath chanced to-day,

That Caesar looks so sad.


Why, you were with him, were you not?


I should not then ask Casca what had chanced.


Why, there was a crown offered him: and being

offered him, he put it by with the back of his hand,

thus; and then the people fell a-shouting.


What was the second noise for?


Why, for that too.


They shouted thrice: what was the last cry for?


Why, for that too.


Was the crown offered him thrice?


Ay, marry, was't, and he put it by thrice, every

time gentler than other, and at every putting-by

mine honest neighbours shouted.


Who offered him the crown?


Why, Antony.


Tell us the manner of it, gentle Casca.


I can as well be hanged as tell the manner of it:

it was mere foolery; I did not mark it. I saw Mark

Antony offer him a crown;--yet 'twas not a crown

neither, 'twas one of these coronets;--and, as I told

you, he put it by once: but, for all that, to my

thinking, he would fain have had it. Then he

offered it to him again; then he put it by again:

but, to my thinking, he was very loath to lay his

fingers off it. And then he offered it the third

time; he put it the third time by: and still as he

refused it, the rabblement hooted and clapped their

chapped hands and threw up their sweaty night-caps

and uttered such a deal of stinking breath because

Caesar refused the crown that it had almost choked

Caesar; for he swounded and fell down at it: and

for mine own part, I durst not laugh, for fear of

opening my lips and receiving the bad air.

And here's my adaptation:

Act I, Scene II

CASCA: Yo, what gives, bro? Why you be pullin’ on my threads?

BRUTUS: Dude, bro, what went down up in there? Why’z Caesar lookin’ so to’ up?

CASCA: Pssh. C’mon, dawg, you was out dere, righ’?

BRUTUS: Dang, man, why do you think I’d ask if I’da been dere?

CASCA: Yo, check it – here’s the haps. Caesar got offered that, you know, weird-lookin’ crown thing they got out there, but yo, like, I guess it didn’t jive with his look or somethin’, cuz he be wavin’ it off like it was a fly or something. And then the crowd, they was was like so excited – it was off the HOOK in the square.

BRUTUS: Then what was the second noise?

CASCA: Aw, dude, same thing, man!

CASSIUS: Yo, yo, yo, they be shoutin’ three times – why’d they yell the last time?

CASCA: Awwww boy! For the same thang!

BRUTUS: Hold up! They offered him the dang thing three flippin’ times?

CASCA: Believe it, son! And he turned it down like every time, but no, like, seriously, though, the crowd was so stoked – they was like fist pumping and crap, they was so excited.

CASSIUS: What butt-kissin’ meat head be offerin’ him some stupid golden hats n crap?

CASCA: Ant’ny.

BRUTUS: Aww, what? Naw, really? Dude, what the hell?

CASCA: Naw, for reals, though, I ain’t got no idea why they’s all about him. It was kah-razy. I saw that Mark Ant’ny creep hold out the friggin’ thing – it was like, sorta a crown, but more, I dunno, bro, it didn’t look right – and, yo, like I already told you, he like rejected it, but yo, check it – I totally think the old dude like really wanted it, like bad. Then Ant’ny like, tried again, and, like, dude, for reals, C-dog wanted a piece of it – didn’t wanna let that stuff go – and then Ant’ny be tryin’ a third time and, man, dude, seriously, that third time, you’da thought the crowd done lost they friggin’ MINDS, cuz they was so excited! All these land mines and grenades and their men be fist pumping and throwin’ their hats up in the air and yellin’ so much that their breath just stank somethin’ fierce, bro – Caesar, man, he like, couldn’t handle it, and he like, fell or somethin’ -- like, for reals, fell down, but like, man, it was so friggin’ funny, but I wasn’t laughin’ cuz, dang, man, I was tryin’ to keep that stink out my mouth.

Oh the things I do for them.

Sorry, dearest Bard. Sometimes, you just aren't that relevant. But with my help, I guess you can be? (Actually, as much as I hate teaching Julius Caesar, it probably has the most relatability potential, given that the whole play is really just Mean Girls in togas... seriously. I'm packing that movie for tomorrow, too. Too many of them seem to have NOT seen it, so my explanations are falling a bit flat.)

GTL in peace, Will.

No comments:

Post a Comment