28/06/2012 18:19 | By Stuart Dredge, contributor, MSN Tech & Gadgets

The Sonnets by William Shakespeare: app of the day

Shall you compare Doctor Who to a summer's day on your iPad?


Sonnets by Shakespeare (© Touch Press)

What is it?
A beautifully-designed iPad app offering the full text of Shakespeare's Sonnets, along with notes, expert interviews and videos of famous actors reading them aloud.

Coolest feature
The calibre of stars involved is impressive: David Tennant, Sir Patrick Stewart, Fiona Shaw, Stephen Fry and Dominic West are all on board

Platforms
iPad - £9.99

Review
Classic works of poetry can be pretty intimidating, whether you're a GCSE student being bellowed at by a teacher for your poor grasp of iambic pentameter, or an adult trying to find an accessible way into the world of verse.

App publisher Touch Press aims to help. It did so last year with its impressive iPad app for T.S. Eliot's The Waste Land, and now it's returning to the poetic fray with The Sonnets by William Shakespeare.

The title makes the content clear: Shakespeare's 154 love poems, from Number 18 ("Shall I compare thee to a summer's day...) to, oh you know, all the other ones that you can't misquote from hazy school memories.

As in The Waste Land, you get the full text to scroll through on your iPad. Yet there are also explanatory notes from Arden Shakespeare that slide in at the touch of a button, explaining the language and references.

There's an alternative commentary from poet and musician Don Paterson, which I actually enjoyed more. You can also make your own notes to save in the app, which should be good for modern-day students.

There are also video interviews with a range of literary experts talking about the sonnets, Shakespeare's life and specific themes within them. But the real meat of the app comes in 154 video readings by actors and experts, giving you a chance to watch and hear each sonnet.

Sonnets by Shakespeare (© Touch Press)

It really is a galaxy of stars, too. David Tennant, Sir Patrick Stewart, Stephen Fry, Simon Russell Beale, Simon Callow, Kim Cattrall, Fiona Shaw, Dominic West... As well as actors who may not be as familiar unless you're a regular at Royal Shakespeare Company performances.

Each reader has been beautifully shot, and the vast majority of the readings are captivating. You can pop up the text and notes while they speak, too.

There are also elegantly-implemented social features. You can share every sonnet via email, Twitter and Facebook. In all cases, people are directed to a web page where they can watch the full video reading, read the text and tap through to the App Store to buy the app.

The Sonnets by William Shakespeare is a marvellous piece of work, and I write this as someone who's always struggled with poetry (or, more accurately, expected to struggle with it so avoided it).

It's worth every penny of its £9.99 price, especially for anyone looking to study the sonnets - as a guide, the Arden notes in paperback form alone have an RRP of £9.99. The perfect app for a fine summer's day, whatever you're comparing it with.

5 stars

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