"2B?NT2B?=???" It might look like deranged algebra but the truth, for purists of the language of Shakespeare at least, is worse. Mchwrs. The strange equation is Hamlet's line "To be or not to be" rendered into text message speak for university students involved in a scheme which claims to promote understanding of English literature's classics via the mobile phone.
The project will send text message quotations and plot summaries of seven works, from Milton's Paradise Lost to William Golding's Lord of the Flies, to mobile phones to act as an aide-memoire for undergraduates.
The mobile phone company behind the scheme yesterday denied it was guilty of a poetry-crushing gimmick. Instead, Dot mobile, a service for students, pointed out that its messages were devised by the media-savvy academic, John Sutherland, emeritus professor of modern English literature at University College London.
Professor Sutherland, who was also chairman of the judges for this year's Man Booker Prize, insisted that far from denigrating great literature, rendering it into text message language would improve understanding and recall. He said: "The educational opportunities it offers are immense - texting cannot merely archive vast stores of material, it can boil that material down to its most manageable base elements.
"You could shrink the whole five-act text of Hamlet into a few thousand characters. And those syllables could serve as an aide- memoire, enabling you to back translate into the golden syllables of the original."
The literature-by-text service, which will launch in January and is free to Dot mobile subscribers, will offer lines and précis from Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet and Richard III, Charles Dickens's Bleak House, Charlotte Bronte's Jane Eyre, and F Scott Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby.
Traditionalists will find much to make them splutter into their hardbacks as they translate the messages, which mix text abbreviations with street jargon. The line from The Great Gatsby, "'Whenever you feel like criticising anyone,' he told me. 'Just remember that all the people in this world haven't had the advantages that you've had'", becomes: "WenevaUFeelLykDissinNe1,jstMembaDat AlDaPplnDaWrldHvntHdDaVantgsUvAd."
The organisers of the project deny that it could open the way for students to cheat at exams by saving abridged quotations on their phones, pointing out that universities have long banned mobiles from exam halls.
If the scheme is successful, further text versions of great works will be added to the service, including Chaucer's The Canterbury Tales - a work that many young readers might think was already in text language.
The project is just the latest example of the "textification" of more unwieldy reading matter. A Christian group in Australia last month unveiled a text version of the Bible.
Cut short, the classics coming to a small screen near you
PLOT OF ROMEO AND JULIET
A feud between two houses - Montague and Capulet. Romeo Montague falls in love with Juliet Capulet and they marry secretly, but Romeo kills Juliet's cousin and is banished. Juliet fakes her own death. As part of the plan to be with Romeo she writes him a letter but it never reaches him. Everyone is confused and both lovers kills themselves.
FeudTween2hses--Montague&Capulet. RomeoM falls_<3w/_JulietC@mary Secretly Bt R kils J's Coz&isbanishd. J fakes Death. As Part of Plan2b-w/R Bt_leter Bt It Nvr Reachs Him. Evry1confuzd---bothLuvrs kil Emselves.
PLOT OF JANE AUSTEN'S PRIDE AND PREJUDICE
Five sisters wanting husbands. There are two new men in town - Bingley and Darcy. They are handsome and wealthy. Big sister Jane falls for Bingley, but second sister Elizabeth hates Darcy because of his pride. Slimy soldier Wickham says that Darcy has a shady past. It turns out that he's actually a really nice guy and really fancies Elizabeth. She decides that she likes him. Everyone gets married
5SistrsWntngHsbnds.NwMenInTwn-Bingly&Darcy Fit&Loadd.BigSisJaneFals4B,2ndSisLizH8sDCozHesProud.SlimySoljrWikamSysDHsShadyPast.TrnsOutHesActulyARlyNysGuy&RlyFancysLiz.SheDecydsSheLyksHim.Evry1GtsMaryd.Reuse content