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VIDEO: Hampstead boy, 6, hopes to learn 100 Shakespeare sonnets

Jai Sen Castle. Picture: Polly Hancock. Jai Sen Castle. Picture: Polly Hancock.

Friday, January 10, 2014
5:00 PM

“Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day? Thou art more lovely and more temperate...”

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It is the opening to Sonnet 18, one of the best known of William Shakespeare’s 154 sonnets, and not the type of thing you’d imagine a primary school pupil to come out with.

But for more than a year, six-year-old Jai Sen Castle has been reciting much of the Bard’s work.

In fact, Sonnet 18 was the first Shakespearean sonnet he learnt to recite in full after starting at Christ Church School, in Christchurch Hill, Hampstead, in September 2012.

Jai told the Ham&High: “I like the beauty of it. I want to live until I’m 100 and learn 100 Shakespeare sonnets.”

The young wordsmith owes much of his talent to his mother Angel Min Shi who began playing audio recordings of Shakespeare recitals to her son in their Heath Street home.

She said: “I found some interesting interactive Shakespeare apps for the iPad. I started to play a Shakespeare sonnet to Jai and he dropped everything in his hands.

“He knelt down and fixed his face into the screen of the iPad. I asked him how he felt and he said, ‘Beautiful mummy’.”

Since that early introduction to the world’s most famous writer, Jai has visited Shakespeare’s birthplace on a number of occasions and performed his recitals in front of crowds at the museum in Stratford-upon-Avon.

Footage of those performances have since made it onto video-sharing website YouTube.

Ms Shi, who is originally from China and is now teaching her son at home, said more needs to be done in the UK to get young children engaged with the works of Shakespeare.

She explained: “Most people think Shakespeare is so refined [that] you have to introduce it to children later when they are able to understand it. But children can appreciate the beauty of the language.

“Jai is able to appreciate Shakespeare but that’s not because he’s a genius. He’s just been given the chance to access Shakespeare.”

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