Sunday, March 29, 2015

Langston Hughes and Shakespeare

Hughes, Langston. "Shakespeare in Harlem." Shakespeare in Harlem. Illus. E. McKnight Kauffer. New York: A. A. Knopf, 1942. 111.

I'm teaching a survey of American Literature for the first time in my long and illustrious career, and I still find myself looking for the Shakespeare angle whenever it seems appropriate.

Langston Hughes wrote a poem called "Shakespeare in Harlem" in a volume called Shakespeare in Harlem. [Apparently, he also wrote  a play called Shakespeare in Harlem, but I haven't yet been able to track it down.] Like many of Hughes' works, it has a deceptively simple façade. I'll provide the text and then an image of the full page spread for the poem:
Hey ninny neigh!
And a hey nonny noe!
Where, oh, where
Did my sweet mama go?

Hey ninny neigh
With a tra-la-la-la!
They say your sweet mama
Went home to her ma. (111)

It may not be Hughes' best poem, but it does the work of turning Shakespearean songs into the blues. 

Click below to purchase the book from
(and to support Bardfilm as you do so).


No comments:

Bardfilm is normally written as one word, though it can also be found under a search for "Bard Film Blog." Bardfilm is a Shakespeare blog (admittedly, one of many Shakespeare blogs), and it is dedicated to commentary on films (Shakespeare movies, The Shakespeare Movie, Shakespeare on television, Shakespeare at the cinema), plays, and other matter related to Shakespeare (allusions to Shakespeare in pop culture, quotes from Shakespeare in popular culture, quotations that come from Shakespeare, et cetera).

Unless otherwise indicated, quotations from Shakespeare's works are from the following edition:
Shakespeare, William. The Riverside Shakespeare. 2nd ed. Gen. ed. G. Blakemore Evans. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1997.
All material original to this blog is copyrighted: Copyright 2008-2039 (and into perpetuity thereafter) by Keith Jones.

The very instant that I saw you did / My heart fly to your service; there resides, / To make me slave to it; and, for your sake, / Am I this patient [b]log-man.

—The Tempest