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Valentine’s Day celebrated with sonnets

Sara Felsenstein | Tuesday, February 14, 2012

The Great Hall of O’Shaughnessy was full of love Tuesday — love, and lovers of Shakespeare.

In a celebration of Valentine’s Day, nearly 100 members of the Notre Dame community read aloud each of Shakespeare’s 154 sonnets in succession from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Scott Jackson, executive director of Shakespeare at Notre Dame, said the annual Sonnet Fest is meant to reach students across disciplines, helping them find modern-day relevance in Shakespeare’s words.

“The sonnets were meant to be written down, obviously, but still the ideas that are contained in there can be hard to decipher if you just read them off the page and don’t hear a voice bring them to life,” he said.

Jackson said by having all of Shakespeare’s sonnets recited in one place, at one time, his words become easier to understand.

“There’s something about hearing another person speak those words and impart their own emotions to it that … makes it a lot more accessible to someone,” Jackson said. “In a way [during the] Sonnet Fest you all of a sudden are aware that the things Shakespeare is writing about are completely relevant to society today.”

Sonnets were read Tuesday in eight different languages: Spanish, Italian, French, Latin, Morse code, Russian and Parseltongue — the “language of snakes” from the “Harry Potter” series.

Sophomore Mary Prokop, an English and Italian major, read two sonnets in Italian.

“I thought I might as well bring the Notre Dame community Shakespeare in Italian,” she said.

Prokop said she enjoyed stopping by the Sonnet Fest and listening to fellow students’ interpretations of the sonnets.

“I’m loving the atmosphere,” Prokop said. “It’s great to see other Notre Dame students appreciating the greatness of Shakespeare’s words, and I think it’s a very fitting celebration of Valentine’s Day.”

Senior Kevin Barsaloux, a Film, Television and Theatre major, read two sonnets Monday afternoon. He said the Sonnet Fest was a great opportunity to share his appreciation for the Bard.

“Well I love Shakespeare for one, and I’m actually in a class where we’re studying Shakespeare’s text and techniques,” Barsaloux said. “It’s a lot of fun, I love this stuff.”

The first Sonnet Fest took place in 2010, and has now become a Valentine’s Day tradition, Jackson said.

“I never try to do anything the same way twice,” Jackson said. “So there’s been different focuses on each of the last events … I think that each year we’ve had a few more participants.”

He said the Great Hall was an appropriate space to hold the festival because so many students walk through it during the day, and might stop to grab a cookie and enjoy a sonnet or two.

“There’s a certain theatricality [of the Great Hall] to begin with, and secondly, it’s the center of the College,” Jackson said. “There’s such a flow of students in and out of that space over the course of this event.”

Jackson said over the course of the day, students from the local Montessori school, Notre Dame freshmen through seniors, graduate students, faculty and staff recited sonnets.

“Students who might not otherwise engage [with Shakespeare] suddenly find themselves having a good time,” Jackson said. “That’s really the point of the whole event, to have students engage with Shakespeare across disciplines.”