On Eminem and Shakespeare
Please bear with me. The headline isn’t designed just to get a reaction – I really am about to compare Slim Shady and Shakespeare.
Okay. Here’s the background. I’m getting through a whole heap of Shakespeare revision and essays by listening to various playlists. I happen to be reading through Hamlet when a song by Eminem came on.
Cleaning Out My Closet.
I stopped writing, re-started the track and listened again. Very carefully. Attentive to the iambic pattern of the lyrics, aware – suddenly – of a certain pentameter to Eminem’s work.
It was the third verse in particular that struck me most.
- I have underlined the use of sibilance and some alliterative rhymes
- I have italicised the internal rhymes
- I have emboldened the consonance, or mild-consonance. Please note there is also the continued use of assonance throughout.
“Now I would never diss my own momma just to get recognition
take a second to listen who you think this record is dissing
but put yourself in my position
Just try to envision
Witnessing your momma popping prescription
pills in the kitchen
Bitching that someone’s always
going through her purse and shit’s missing
going through public housing systems
victim of Munchausen Syndrome
My whole life I was made to believe I was sick when I wasn’t
til I grew up
now I grew up
It makes you sick to your stomach doesn’t it?
Wasn’t it the reason you made that CD for me, ma?”
And so on and so on. Stunning isn’t it? The full song can be found here:
Now, not exactly compare and contrast time but read the following extract from Act 1, Scene 2 of Hamlet.
William Shakespeare also uses consonance, assonance and sibilant rhymes.
Remember, this young Prince is also experiencing a few mother issues:
O that this too too sullied flesh would melt,Thaw, and resolve itself into a dew;Or that the Everlasting had not fixedHis canon ‘gainst self-slaughter. O God, God,How weary, stale, flat, and unprofitableSeem to me all the uses of this world!Fie on’t, ah, fie, ’tis an unweeded gardenThat grows to seed. Things rank and gross in naturePossess it merely. That it should come to this –But two months dead, nay, not so much, not two!So excellent a king, that was to thisHyperion to a satyr; so loving to my motherThat he might not beteem the winds of heavenVisit her face too roughly. Heaven and earth,Must I remember? Why, she would hang on himAs if increase of appetite had grownBy what it fed on. And yet within a month –Let me not think on’t. Frailty, thy name is woman.A little month, or e’er those shoes were oldWith which she followed my poor father’s bodyLike Niobe, all tears, why she, even she –O God, a beast that wants discourse of reasonWould have mourned longer – married with my uncle,My father’s brother, but no more like my fatherThan I to Hercules. Within a month,Ere yet the salt of most unrighteous tearsHad left the flushing in her galled eyes,She married. O, most wicked speed, to postWith such dexterity to incestuous sheets!It is not, nor it cannot come to goodBut break, my heart, for I must hold my tongue.
The famous Ben Jonson quote about William Shakespeare says it all: “He was not of an age, but for all time!”