You are browsing the archive for Musings.

‘O brave new world…’: The Future of Open Shakespeare is Open Literature

- March 12, 2013 in Community, Musings, News, Releases, Technical

At the start of March 2013, went offline. Fear not: it will return in all its full annotating, comparing, analysing, searching, publishing glory soon, as an integral part of this website, where all its data, not least its introductions to individual plays, now lives.

This post will set out the reasons why we decided to make this move, and what our vision is for the project in the months and years ahead.

First, the previous incarnation of Open Shakespeare had several problems, largely invisible to most visitors but extremely frustrating for those of us working behind the scenes.

  • No easy way to upload content such as introductions and essays. This was because we were mixing a pylons back end with a wordpress-powered front end. One of the saddest parts of this situation was that we never managed to get certain introductions live. Now, I’m happy to report that you can read Professor emeritus Hugh Macrae Richmond’s thoughts on Henry VI part 2 for the first time on this website.
  • Open Shakespeare had the potential to be something much bigger than it ever was, as evinced by its sister-project Open Milton, which put Milton’s texts inside the same framework as we were using for Shakespeare. Rather than proliferate parallel projects, it made sense to bring them all together under an ‘Open Literature’ platform: uploading the Milton data is thus one of our next big priorities.

Now from these criticisms comes our vision for Open Literature, an adaptable platform for appreciating literature online. We are creating it with the following principles:

  • Ease of use: many of our Open Shakespeare volunteers, myself included, struggled with the intricacies of the website, the vast majority of Open Literature’s administration can be done through the wordpress interface, whether this is the uploading of texts or the publishing of comments, essays or words of the day.
  • Reuse of existing technology: both the Open Knowledge Foundation and other parter organisations have several projects which overlap with Open Literature: we intend to use Textus to power our annotations here, and we will certainly also be making use of the FinalsClub annotations incorporated into Open Shakespeare through the AnnotateIt system.

So there you have it, the groundings of a website where:

  • Anyone can get involved with little technical knowledge.
  • Literary texts from any authors can be uploaded, annotated, searched and analysed.
  • Quality content about these authors can be made open, available to use, re-use and redistribute.

If you’d like to get involved in setting up this platform, the evolution of all our work on Open Shakespeare, do drop in to the Open Humanities mailing lists, either its general or developer variants.

As Miranda says, “O brave new world / That has such people in’t!”.

Shakespeare’s Birth and Shakespeare’s Death

- May 1, 2012 in Essay, Musings, News, Review

This post was published by the Royal Shakesepare Company as part of their ‘Happy Birthday Shakespeare’ collection.

Shakespeare's GraveThe date of an author’s death is always more important than that of his birth. This is not to say that we shouldn’t be celebrating Shakespeare’s entry into the world, but rather that we must not lose sight of the importance of his exit, itself taking place (perhaps) fifty-two years to the day after the Bard’s birth. Given that it is possible that Shakespeare, like Cassius in his Julius Caesar, died on his birthday, I will therefore take this occasion to wish him, simultaneously, Happy Birthday and, I suppose, Happy…errr…Anniversary. I have my reasons for this.

You see, I’m interested in copyright. The death of the author is more important than his birth because it is, in many jurisdictions, from this moment that we now measure the time before the author’s works enter into the public domain. Of course, Shakespeare was born, wrote and died at a time when copyright law was rather different, but this certainly doesn’t mean that he has escaped the web of regulations that have governed texts over the years.

Walker's defence of his actions (click for a larger image)

Were it not for the copyright-infringing actions of a part-time printer, part-time seller of home remedies (one Robert Walker), actions that forced a price war and put cheap editions of Shakespeare out on the streets of eighteenth-century London, we probably wouldn’t be celebrating William’s birthday (or, in my case, his death) now. These cheap editions made Shakespeare well known to all, a theatrical commodity at a time when theatres were beleagured and were in desperate need of a name that was “no doubt marketable”. From there, thanks to Garrick, Pope, Voltaire, and many others, the rest is history…and more copyright disputes.

Even though Shakespeare died three hundred and ninety-six years ago, many of his plays are still in copyright. This is not because Shakespeare has become legally immortal, but rather because we have no unquestionably authoritative texts for any of his plays. Instead, every editor decides whether Hamlet wants his “solid”, “sullied” or “sallied” flesh to melt, copyrights his choice and its explanation, and charges all and sundry for the use of his text. A set quantity of years after that editor’s departure from this world, his text becomes free to use. As a result, full access to the latest, most academically-rigorous texts of Shakespeare is always the length of a copyright term away from the those who do not or cannot pay for the privilege.

This is important. Take the visualisations on the RSC’s My Shakespeare website, as an example. The emotional colouring of King Lear may well look a bit different if we follow either a quarto-based or a folio-based edition of the play. Similarly, the quotes used in Branagan’s ‘Shakespeare by Chance’ are obviously dependant on the latest critical readings of a textual crux. Visualisations based on up-to-date texts are thus still a long way off, since Shakespeare is always evolving, each editor and publisher giving his words new life, and thus – to look at it a different way – a new birthday, a new future death, and, following that event, a new distant entry into the public domain.

This is, however, changing. On 23rd April 2012, fittingly enough, released a modern, critically-rigorous and machine-readable, edition of Shakespeare’s works, choosing to remove all copyright restrictions from the start. Of course, their text will one day be superseded by new literary discoveries, but it certainly brings the public, analysable, free Shakespeare forward by no “small time”. More scrupulous visualisations are of course now possible, but, beyond this, one hopes for larger things.’s text has the potential to change Shakespeare’s online presence, currently dominated by the out-of-copyright 1898 Moby edition, digitised in 1993.

Even more importantly, it might make us think before we cut and paste what purports to be the Bard on the internet: whose Shakespeare is this? and, ultimately, whose Shakespeare are we wishing Happy Birthday to?

‘Touching this vision’: Comments on Producing Shakespeare Visualisations

- April 27, 2012 in Community, Essay, Musings, Technical, Texts

This post is written by Pat Lockley, who has put together a set of data visualisations for both Shakespeare‘s plays and Middleton‘s. These public-domain visualisations were discussed on Open Shakespeare recently, and Pat has kindly written the following description of his own methodology, with some thoughts on how such e-resources are perceived.

I’ve worked in either e-learning or education now for over five years – and one of the main things I have often noticed is the time and effort required to make new resources. People often dream of having a magical button that will make e-learning materials for you, but this, surprisingly perhaps, still remains very much a pipe dream. Often though, as a developer (I am more developer than scholar, or even teacher), you find something in a form which can be converted in order to create e-learning resources. If we ignore the idea that all elearning has to be drag and drop activities or quizzes, then there is a lot of material on the internet from which teaching materials can be made.

So where did the Shakespeare idea come from? Well, I found the text at, and noticed that the web pages had a
structure to them: you could see in the underlying HTML who was a speaker, the act, the scene and what the line number was. Hence I didn’t have to do anything with the HTML, bar write a little bit of code to read it and turn it into a database. Effectively, this code was looking for repeating patterns in the HTML, and then converting them into entries to store in a database.

Now that I had the text in a database, I could write queries on the database to extract and present the data in a variety of ways. All of the data and code was written by me, and some of it is now online on the OKF’s Datahub and GitHub. I’d also be interested in hearing if people would like the data served in any other way. As I said at the start of this blog, people seem to like magic buttons which do all the hard work, and so perhaps making the data available isn’t that helpful for a general audience? Further, I’d like to think that maybe there is some scope in building services around the text, but again, as someone who isn’t a Shakespeare scholar or teacher I think I’d struggle to come up with useful ones in advance.

Shakespeare Visualised

- April 7, 2012 in Community, Essay, Musings, Technical, Texts

How can computers read Shakespeare? It’s a tricky one, not least because ‘reading Shakespeare’ is a bit of a tricky term: I am certain that everyone who reads a Shakespeare play or poem (let alone seeing them performed), reads them in a different way, with different associations and preferences running through their neurons. If ‘reading Shakespeare’ is such a personal, human thing, then it may well be fair to say that computers are not very well equipped to do it. That said, some recent, public domain images by Pat Lockley, entitled ‘The Science of Shakespeare’ present an interesting way to rethink the relation between computers and the act of reading Shakespeare. A computer cannot in any way read as a human does, but that does not make its contribution worthless. Instead, it makes a computer’s reading of Shakespeare something complementary, something that might challenge or confirm our own impressions of Shakespeare.

One thing that many of the images do, for example, is to flatten Shakespeare: the ‘Shakespeare Connections’ sequence shows us who speaks to whom over the course of the play but not at what times; similarly, the ‘Shakespeare Fingerprints’ sequence shows us when someone speaks, but not to whom. When a human reads a play, these two dimensions, the moment and the direction of a speech, cannot easily be filtered out, and I’m yet to find the human reader capable of mapping in his notebook such images as the ‘Science of Shakespeare’ pages provide. In this respect the computer’s view is unique, because non-human.

Let us concentrate now on ‘Shakespeare Connections’. As I mentioned, many of these computer-generated windows on the play confirm things that we already know. In The Winter’s Tale picture, it is unsurprising that Leontes, the jealous and suspicious king of Sicilia who banishes his baby daughter and comes close to killing his wife, is the character who interacts with the largest number of people.

The Winter's Tale

Similarly, it is no surprise that Caius Martius, aka. Coriolanus, is at the heart of Coriolanus.


However, some plays surprise us with their diagrams. It is Falstaff, and not Prince Hal, who is at the centre of the web of King Henry IV part I, and Portia, not the merchant Antonio or Shylock the Jew, who sits at what might also be called the emotional centre of The Merchant of Venice.

Henry IV part I

The Merchant of Venice

One final point. These images show us neither the character who speaks most, nor the most important character in the story. The former is a job for a different program, and the latter one for a human. The ‘Shakespeare Connections’ simply show the character who speaks with whom, and who, out of all these characters, has the largest number of interlocutors. This focus makes the pictures well-suited to showing us the complexity of Shakespeare’s history plays, plays often criticised for their complex plots and excessive numbers of events.

I would like to conclude therefore with a triptych, composed of those images that represent the Henry VI trilogy. Here, the lines in red show us what a tangled web Shakespeare weaves, and how the trilogy descends from the high martial nobility of Talbot, to the bitter struggle led by York and his sons for control of the English throne, until we reach the last convulsions of the war, where Warwick (and the Lancastrian army) is betrayed and killed at the battle of Barnet.

Book Review: Eric Rasmussen, The Shakespeare Thefts

- November 18, 2011 in Essay, Musings, Review

The Shakespeare Thefts begins and ends in the same place, with a preface briefly sketching the genesis of the first edition of Shakespeare’s collected works, and an appendix adding a little detail on the topic. Between these two descriptions, Eric Rasmussen has gathered a great number of anecdotes and stories all related to the transmission of what the blurb rightly calls “one of the most sought-after books in the world”, known to all as the ‘First Folio’. Many of these anecdotes are the fruit of the research that he and his team have carried out in the compilation of The Shakespeare First Folios: A Descriptive Catalogue, to be published later this month, whilst many more are drawn from existing studies either of Elizabethan England or of the more famous owners of a First Folio. The entire volume, from preface to appendix, consists of a little less than two hundred pages.

As its length would indicate, this is not intended as a scholarly study of the cultural significance of First-Folio ownership; rather, it is, as Rasmussen himself notes in his acknowledgements, a “trade book”. In this respect, there is a great deal here for the Shakespeare enthusiast if not for the Shakespeare expert, and all presented in small, bite-size chunks. Sometimes even an enthusiast might wish for a little more detail, however. My favourite chapter, that detailing Charles I’s First Folio and his annotations of the work, is remarkable for using the historical object as a window into Charles’ imprisonment and mental state, but such an approach is all too brief and lasts only for a mere two pages in a largish font. The next chapter takes us to the bar in which Quentin Tarantino filmed Kill Bill, and an excited description of how one researcher found a hair trapped in the ink of a First Folio. It is of itself a fascinating idea, but, again, lasts for only a few pages before a chapter on a botched attempt to steal a copy of this book takes its place. Despite this endless variety, Rasmussen is able to provide us with little facts at every turn, and it is a testament to his knowledge of the subject, that he is able to wear it all so lightly indeed.

I must confess that as I continued with this book, I had the guilty desire that Rasmussen would depart from what actually happened to the First Folios and begin a fictitious account. Although much of what The Shakespeare Thefts reveals confirms the old adage that truth is stranger than fiction, one can’t help but think that fiction is still often much neater and more readable than truth. So many different things have happened to so many different copies of the First Folio that it would have been impossible to impose a single narrative on them all, and the problems of this constantly moving text are to a certain extent the problems of its topic. The title of the work makes for a particularly good example: it tries to impose some order with the word “Thefts”, but many of the anecdotes told within have little to do with larceny at all. The title, perhaps revealingly, also makes me think of J.L. Carrell’s successful The Shakespeare Secret (2008), a book which does use fiction to create a riveting, coherent narrative out of the multitudinous facts of manuscript transmission.

I enjoyed this book, and after having eagerly turned all its pages, finished it in possession of several new tidbits of information that I did not possess before, such as the fact that a clause in a Japanese will has hidden a Folio from the world for thirteen years, and that the bullet lodged in one Folio stopped at Titus Andronicus. For this, I would recommend the book as a stocking-filler for a Shakespeare buff, although, even then, be prepared to find the aforesaid buff perhaps wanting a little more when he has consumed this book.

One final comment, as one of those in charge of a website devoted to making information about Shakespeare as widely accessible, as open, as possible. At several points, Rasmussen correctly emphasises the importance of the detailed descriptions that he and his team have made of each Folio, since these descriptions make those volumes “The World’s Worst Stolen Treasures”, capable of being recognised by anyone with the information he has codified. Unfortunately, the fruits of Rasmussen’s research are only available in the weighty tome that is The Shakespeare First Folios: A Descriptive Catalogue, and would, I believe, be of greater service to the scholarly community as an online database. I do not know if his publishers have such plans, but given the evident wealth of information available, it really does seem a logical step.

Further, if this database one day became open access, then everyone, their appetite whetted by Rasmussen’s little book, would be able to marvel at the strange and true accounts all jostling for space in The Shakespeare Thefts.

Open Shakespeare presented at NESTA Event

- July 8, 2011 in Musings, News

My trip to speak at a ‘digital day’ organised as part of the new ‘Digital Fund for Arts and Culture’ by NESTA (National Endowment for Science Technology and the Arts) was eye-opening, to say the least. I thought I’d put a few of my reflections, general and specific, down in this short post.

About halfway through the day I noticed that little had been said about social media: I mentioned twitter in my presentation about Open Shakespeare, but Facebook (even in a discussion devoted to ‘social media and user-generated content’) was largely absent. Thinking about why this might be, I imagine several reasons: first, a lack of understanding about quite how important facebook now is in internet usage; second, the absence of experience in managing a successful facebook-based fan network; and, in relation to this, third, the peculiar language of ‘likes’ and so on specific to Facebook, and the difficulty of communicating what may be an original artistic project in the standardised vocabulary of such a platform. For a more developed reflection about this point, do have a look at Patrick Hussey’s thoughts on ‘community managers’.

Although people weren’t talking about social media, they were talking about the annotator used on Open Shakespeare. Everyone was agreed that it would almost certainly grow very big, yet also that, before it did, a few things needed to be put in place, namely:

– Versioning: i.e. a freely annotatable text, from which annotations gradually moved to a more established version.
– Login: crucial to filtering annotations
– Tagging: for filtering; already in place, but needs to be simplified

If we want to extend the annotator beyond Shakespeare, and really increase its use, one delegate pointed out how well adapted science fiction would be to the tool. First, science fiction readers tend to be more tech savvy; second, science fiction (like fantasy) often teaches its readers about its world as they read, thus providing information for retrospective annotation without too much additional research (as opposed to Shakespeare, who often demands a grip of sixteenth/seventeenth century England); finally, perhaps one of the most famous science fiction writers of all time, H P Lovecraft, is almost completely in the public domain…

Last but not least in this rag-tag post, a point about some of the other things I heard during the day. Andrew Nairne, Director of the Arts at the Arts Council, spoke about how £20m had been allocated for digital/artistic collaborations, for which the NESTA scheme serves as a pilot. He spoke of “digital” as an “operating context” (so both a context in which to operate, and one, I presume, that operates upon the content delivered through it), yet also underlined the ability of technology to serve the arts, “accelerating and enhancing”. Last but not least, he and several others, pointed to the utility of adopting a “gaming” model for online art, partly, I feel, in an effort to overcome one of the many instinctive fears of arts organisations, whose presence resounded through the beautifully modern NESTA suite from time to time throughout the day.

Open Shakespeare at OKCon 2011

- July 3, 2011 in Musings, News, Shakespeare, Technical

OKCon 2011, at the Kalkscheune buildings in Berlin, was fantastic, and I thought it would be a good idea to publish a few reflections on some of the stuff that was going on there, both for the benefit of those who did not make it nor watch the live feeds, and for the chance it offers of mapping Open Shakespeare’s position in the wider Open Knowledge community.

Rufus Pollock provided the opening address, pointing out how the convergence of the two phenomena of greater data availability and advanced computing power had created the perfect conditions for openness to flourish. He announced one such flourishing in the form of, which came online at the start of the conference. His next point was to argue that the focus of activities in the community was moving from making data accessible to providing tools for and building communities around that data. Of course, the quantity problem is only half solved (a later speaker pointed out the small quantities of open government data in Asia, for example), but was still at a point where data cycles (ecosystems of community, tools and data) could be founded. This last point fits neatly with Open Shakespeare, since the project is slowly forming just such a cycle: early editions of Shakespeare’s plays are open data, and a small community is either building tools (like the annotator) or using them to create more content about Shakespeare’s works, which in turn offers new programming challenges and so completes the circle.

Glyn Moody’s keynote talk, immediately following Rufus’, approached the topic of Open Knowledge from a different angle, by analysing the current situation in terms of a new abundance which placed pressure on systems, such as the UK’s copyright law, designed for eighteenth-century conditions of scarcity. Although Moody did not mention it, Shakespeare himself was something of a forerunner in this domain: the “fourteen years plus fourteen more” model of copyright established in 1710 was the result of bookseller lobbying, not least that of Jacob Tonson, eager to protect his monopoly on the works of Shakespeare and others (notably Milton, and Dryden’s translations of Virgil). Having sketched out his model of abundance and scarcity, Moody concluded with the provocative question of how open projects would function without copyright, pointing out that many in fact depend upon restrictive legislation as their *raison d’être*. The only answer that I can give is that open projects would perhaps continue as the first models of communities where exchange and collaboration are well established (as in Open Shakespeare), that is to say, continuing as, in other words, those “data cycles” and “ecosystems” that Pollock had described as the successors to the victories of open data availability.

Later on in the conference, in the second track of talks, a panel on ‘Data Journalism: What Next?’ provided considerable food for thought on the topic of communities, much of it served up by the Guardian’s Simon Rogers. It was he, for example, that questioned the merits of crowd-sourcing, arguing that it did not provide objective data, since its contributors could be extremely biased, an MP participating, for instance, in the crowd-sourced analysis of his own expenses. This point was backed up by Stefan Candea, with both he and Simon Rogers emphasising the important labour that remained for the journalist when it came to looking over crowd-sourced responses and shaping them into a story. A neat example of this was the Guardian’s exploration of Sarah Palin’s emails, where users were directed to a random email and then asked to signal anything of interest. Although not flawless (one imagines a Palin aide slaving away to hide significant correspondence), its randomness nevertheless provided an even coverage of the files. This randomness might be an important tool for Open Shakespeare’s own crowd-sourcing of annotations, as a way of directing users to annotate less-appreciated works. As regards the verifiability of these annotations, Open Shakespeare has the problematic luxury of considering subjective opinion on the Bard’s art as valid as objective facts about it, since these opinions map the contours of contemporary attitudes to Shakespeare. Further, the intense subjectivity of responses to art means that such subjective annotations do not suffer from the problem of verifiability, because no such critical response has ever been verifiable (for those interested, this line of argument is behind Kant’s description of “universal subjective validity” in his *Critique of the Power of Judgment*).

It is on this idea of subjective annotation, the generation of subjective data, that I would like to bring this summary to a close. The conference was on Open Knowledge, but it is significant that I found the adjective to have been discussed far more often than the noun. Open Shakespeare’s annotation system, the tool that generates its data cycle, provides both verifiable information (“mirth in funeral” is an example of “synoeciosis” in *Hamlet*) and subjective opinion (“Words, words, words” is, for one user, “one of the most human lines in the play”). Is the second still data? I would argue that it is, but it is of a kind rarely discussed in Berlin. After all, what are we to do with it in order to integrate it back into the system of open data? Such opinion does not atomise easily, just as Shakespeare’s own words resist, with their context and their double meanings, computerised analysis. We can count the instances of the word “prune”, but it takes an article on the subject to bring out the humour from the information generated by the open-source tool. That article itself is data and can be itself the launch pad for new responses, but it moves the axis of the cycle away from developers’ tools and their data and towards the perspective of the user and, more broadly, that of the community. Rufus Pollock was right to argue for the existence of ecosystems of open data, but the case of Open Shakespeare shows that they can only be fully functional if all three elements are given their full weight: tools, data, and users together.

“Time travels in diverse paces”: An Update on Open Shakespeare

- June 26, 2011 in Community, Musings, News, Shakespeare

May and a month that has only belatedly met the standard of what Shakespeare calls “hot Junes” have passed since last I wrote an update about Open Shakespeare. As ever, quite a bit has been done on the project, and there remains much more to do in the future.

If one word could sum up the work of May and June, it would be ‘users’. These two months have seen our online presence, especially on twitter, grow: over four hundred and twenty annotations have now been written, and we have been followed by, amongst others, a Tory MP and the artistic director of the Boston Actors’ Shakespeare Project. In order to provide a regular stream of new content for our followers, weekly articles on Shakespeare’s words have been posted over the last eight weeks, those on “dawn” and “drawer” attracting the most interest.

There is no single word with which to encompass our plans for the future. A study of how people use the website, and especially the annotator, is currently underway, the conclusions of which will soon be presented at OKCON 2011, and – if all goes well – in journal format also. One recommendation will be to establish ready-made categories for annotations, in order to make organisation of the comments much easier. Whilst studying the data, it also occurred to me that the website could be extended with the incorporation of famous past annotations, such as those comments made by Johnson and Pope when they each edited Shakespeare’s works in the eighteenth century.

Of course, we need not only incorporate the annotations of Johnson and Pope into Open Shakespeare: we could also expand Open Shakespeare to Open Literature and include their creative work too. Indeed, just such an expansion is likely to take place over the summer, and we would love to hear about any ideas people have for Open Literature: whether, for example, there is a particular (out of copyright) author you would like to see uploaded soon or whether you simply have some thoughts about the layout of it all. As ever, you can get in touch through the website, post to the open literature mailing list, or best of all, add to the new Open Literature Wiki.

Online Editions of Shakespeare

- January 15, 2011 in Community, Musings, Technical, Texts

The story of Shakespeare on the internet is a tangled tale, and this post is an attempt to unravel it. In expounding the advantages and shortcomings of online editions, I hope also to explain a few of the problems Open Shakespeare faces.

##Editions Used by Open Shakespeare

Every work on the Open Shakespeare website has three possible texts, and it is worth explaining their provenance here in detail:

GUTENBURG FOLIO – These are drawn from Project Gutenberg, with the editorial prefaces removed. Nothing else has been changed. The Gutenberg scanner claims that the text “is as close as I can come in ASCII to the printed text,” however it is important to record here several features of his methodology.
– Some spelling “mistakes” have been corrected according to a dictionary created from the spellings of the Geneva Bible and Shakespeare’s First Folio.
– Typos and abbreviations have also been “corrected”
– “Elongated S’s have been changed to small s’s and the conjoined ae have been changed to ae.”
– The actual text itself is composite, made from “30 different First Folio editions’ best pages”

GUTENBERG – Again taken from Project Gutenberg, this time from a more fully edited edition, with a cleaner layout, and the inclusion of 18th century stage directions. Open Shakespeare, as is usual for us, has removed all the prefatory material but kept the edited text as is. Unfortunately, nothing is disclosed about the process of editing or the source texts used except for the single phrase “This etext was prepared by the PG Shakespeare Team, a team of about twenty Project Gutenberg volunteers.”

MOBY – This text comes from the most widely available online edition of Shakespeare, of whose advantages and shortcomings there is a useful summary on the Open Source Shakespeare website.

##Other Online Editions: ISE and Wordhoard


The principle website for online editions of Shakespeare is ISE (Internet Shakespeare Editions) where the following are offered, taking their entry for Hamlet as an example:

TEXT EDITIONS – These cover modern spelling and unmodified spelling versions based on the first folio and quarto 1 and 2, all of which have been edited. In the case of *Hamlet* this editing has been done by David Bevington, a scholar of some note. For other editions, the editors are less well known, and in many cases there has not yet been a peer review.

FACSIMILES – This is perhaps the real strength of ISE: several different First Folios have been scanned, and the results are very impressive. They also have facsimiles of the 1603 and 1604 quartos of Hamlet.

ANNOTATED EDITIONS – One of these does not yet exist for *Hamlet*, but David Bevington has again produced a useful peer-reviewed edition of *As You Like It*, on which one can toggle his annotations and record of collations.

COPYRIGHT – Everything on the ISE is under a variety of copyrights. The copyright for the edited texts uis owned by the editor, and the images that make up the facsimiles have a rather ambiguous copyright situation, depending on their source. Although, ISE state, “All items published on the site of the Internet Shakespeare Editions…may in all cases…be used for educational, non-profit purposes”, quite where an Open License website like our own fits in is deeply ambiguous, since material published on our website could feasibly be used for commercial purposes.


Provided by Northwestern University, this website provides a set of texts worthy to serve as definitive online editions of Shakespeare. Along with other authors’ works, one can download two versions of Shakespeare’s writings: one encoded in TEI, the other linguistically annotated – which is to say every word in the text is associated with a lemma and part of speech.

For me, the most exciting part of this project is the way in which these lemmatized texts can be manipulated. Northwestern University gives one example: a short program written to answer the question ‘Does Shakespeare use mostly the same vocabulary in each of his works, or does he use different vocabulary?’. I recommend visiting the website for the answer, and for a wealth of other little bits of information about Shakespeare’s vocabulary.

The copyright position of the wordhoard project is complicated. However, the website’s stance is far more ‘open’ than that of the ISE, so collaboration between Wordhoard and Open Shakespeare may be a possibility in the future.

Shakespeare and Media

- July 29, 2010 in Community, Musings, News, Publicity, Texts

I spent much of this afternoon perusing the materials available at Shakespeare’s Staging, after its director got in touch with Open Shakespeare. Amongst all the images of past productions, my favourite was one of the earliest: a drawing of Edward Kean as Bertram in *All’s Well that Ends Well*. I find you get a real sense of Bertram at a perhaps more unguarded moment, mouth closed, eyes set, yet also a little forlorn against the grey backdrop.

These pictures and videos got me thinking about something I said about Open Shakespeare’s annotation tool at OKCON, that by allowing people to digitally annotate we would collect and preserve a continuously evolving catalogue of responses to Shakespeare’s works. Shakespeare’s Staging has done something similar, but, whereas Open Shakespeare is concerned with the text, this site records the response of actors and directors to what Shakespeare wrote. Each performance is, after all, its own unique (re)presentation and interpretation of the text.

The overlap between our work is obvious, and the next step of the process seems clear. If we accept that Open Shakespeare should allow anyone to contribute and share their responses to Shakespeare, and if we decide that performance of a play is itself a response to Shakespeare, then our website should expand to allow records of performances to be included. Such records can exist in written form (I think of that Swiss doctor’s description of a performance of *Julius Caesar* in 1599), but also as images or videos. Each media in turn brings its own problems. A video recaptures the experience of one spectator, but is one spectator’s view representative of the whole audience’s experience? An image captures a moment, a mood, but gains its force through exclusion. Text can only appeal to the eyes and the ears via the brain.

Given the weaknesses of each medium as a record of responses to Shakespeare, the only reasonable conclusion is to adopt a composite approach. Discussion has begun on how best to do this given the current framework of Open Shakespeare, and if anyone reading this has anything to contribute, please do not hesitate to get in touch.

And because I cannot write a blog post without quoting Shakespeare, please allow me to point out one exquisite exchange between the Clown and the Countess worried about her son Bertram, lines which serve as hints for an actor’s behaviour, as much as recognition of the limitations of the written text.

> CLOWN Why, he will look upon his boot and sing; mend the ruff and sing; ask questions and sing; pick his teeth and sing. I know a man that had this trick of melancholy sold a goodly manor for a song.
> COUNTESS Let me see what he writes, and when he means to come.

Shakespeare’s Staging, and Open Shakespeare too, should let us see what Shakespeare writes in more ways than one.