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‘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!”.

Open Shakespeare Out of Hibernation

- June 4, 2010 in Musings, News, Publicity, Releases, Uncategorized

Exam season is finishing, our free time is returning, and Open Shakespeare is coming back to life. We held a short meeting yesterday evening, and can now announce what we intend to do in the near future:

EXPAND: there will be an Open Shakespeare Party in Emmanuel Fellows’ Garden, Cambridge at 3pm on 14th June. Be there if you can, and if you can’t visit our newly refined ‘Get Involved’ page.

WRITE: the first round of introductions will soon be completed, but we want to welcome more submissions, especially if they build upon the work of previous writers.

BLOG: the Word of the Day feature will be back with us very soon, and will hopefully expand in terms of both writers and articles. The blog itself has already had a little bit of an overhaul, and some out-of-date material will be replaced over the coming weeks.

TEACH: following suggestions made at OKCON, we are proposing the use of Open Shakespeare as a classroom aid. Through this we help to raise the profile of the project, and offer a new way for school children to collaboratively engage with Shakespeare.

These are the main points of the meeting, whose minutes are available for perusal. It remains only for me to quote Nestor, in *Troilus and Cressida*, and say that this post is only a hint of what’s ahead, and yet…

> in such indexes, although small pricks
> To their subsequent volumes, there is seen
> The baby figure of the giant mass
> Of things to come at large.

Cardenio or Double Falsehood

- April 15, 2010 in Community, Musings, News, Releases

There’s been a bit of a stir in the Shakespearian community recently, what with the release of a new play by the Bard. To be fair, it is not quite so sensational as it sounds: the possibility that part of *Cardenio* or, as the Arden edition entitles it, *Double Falsehood* might be by Shakespeare goes back to at least the 18th Century.

What’s new is that textual and historical evidence is now available that confirms this play to be from some time in the early 17th century. It contains, for example, the word “absonant”, which is found only in texts by Shakespeare…and by his successor as writer for the King’s Men, Fletcher. Thus the play is most likely a collaborative work between the two, as was perfectly normal for the period. Other Shakespeare/Fletcher collaborations include *King Henry VIII*, and possibly parts of *Pericles*.

I post this news here because such a claim was only made possible thanks to advances in technology dealing with texts. New databases of texts make searches for references to a play far faster and easier, whilst new stylometric algorithms make the most of such databases to pick up minute differences in vocabulary usage that allow an author’s DNA to be distinguished. For the curious, Shakespeare uses “thee” and “hath“, whilst Fletcher, being fifteen years his junior, uses the more modern “ye“.

Perhaps one day, The Open Shakespeare Project will contribute to such breakthroughs. Until then, we have a separate issue to deal with: do we add *Cardenio* / *Double Falsehood* to our site?

What do you think? Could you write an introduction to it?

Annotation is here!

- March 16, 2010 in Community, News, Releases, Technical, Texts

The fabled ability to annotate any text of Shakespeare is now part of the Open Shakespeare website!
Massive thanks to Nick for all his work on something far too complex for me to even describe its complexity (apparently there were difficulties with there being ‘no TextRange in the DOM’).

Here’s how to get annotating:

> 1. Click ‘read texts’ on the homepage.
> 2. Scroll down to find your play of choice in the list and click on ‘annotate’.
> 3. Find the line you wish to annotate, then highlight it, then click on the little notepad that appears.
> 4. In the newly-present dialogue box, type your words of wisdom.
> 5. Press enter to save your annotation and close the dialogue box.

Work has already begun on *Hamlet*, but feel free to annotate wherever you wish.

As to what you should write in an annotation, we currently have no guidelines: shorter is usually better, and, obviously, offensive comments will be removed – but apart from that, all insights and explications are very welcome.

Improvements to come include: restricting editing and deletion to the owner of each annotation, showing user information on annotations, the ability to filter annotations, and the capacity to use markdown in each comment.

Shakespeare v0.6 Released

- October 29, 2008 in News, Releases

See which includes full installation instructions. We’ve also reorganized the sites so that the news/blog is here at and the Shakespeare package web interface is at .

Main changes include:

* Major refactoring of internal code to be cleaner and simpler
* A new cleaner and reorganized web interface
* Search support via Xapian:
* Statistical analysis and graphing
* By word:
* By text:
* Start on Open Milton

v0.4 of Open Shakespeare Released

- April 16, 2007 in News, Releases

A new version of open shakespeare is out. Get it via the code page:

### Changelog

* Annotation of texts (js-based in browser) (ticket:20, ticket:21)
* Switch to unicode for internal string handling (resolves ticket:23: some
texts breaking the viewer)
* Add functional tests for the web interface (ticket:11)
* Substantial improvements to speed of concordance (ticket:22)
* Switch to genshi templates from kid
* Switch to plain WSGI from cherrypy

#### Outstanding Issues

* Annotation cannot handle long texts because of javascript performance

### About Open Shakespeare ###

A full open set of Shakespeare’s works along with anciallary material, a
variety of tools and a python API.

For more information see the about page:

Get involved:

Mailing list: