Project Name: Play Shakespeare
Project URL: https://www.playshakespeare.com/
Project Author, Team, etc: The project is helmed by founder and Chief Technology Officer Ron Severdia. The project has contributors from across the globe in professions such as scholar, actor, director, theater historian, and diplomat.
Reviewed by: Matt Smith
Review Date: March 10, 2015
Tags or keywords: “Shakespeare, news, reviews, forum, and more” (taken from metadata). I’d add: podcast, chronology, scansion, glossary, and scene study.
Genre: The project’s focus is its digital archive, but the site boasts a wide selection of features such as a database, a forum, teaching resources, theater and book reviews, and interviews with actors and directors. On the ‘Reviews’ tab of this site there is a considerable array of tools that emphasize performance, and under the ‘Study’ tab there is an even larger section devoted to tools related to textual analysis. They also have a yearly Falstaff Award that celebrates the best performances of the year (dating back until 2007).
Project Objectives: As previously noted, there are uses for the literary or performance scholar, the high-school teacher, or the novice, but the ‘About’ section highlights the fact that their site is the “only place to find Shakespeare’s text with proper indentation, which preserves meter.” They were able to achieve this due to large-scale editing of the Globe Edition of 1866, the Gutenberg Edition, and the MIT/Moby Edition (a revised version of the Globe Edition). They also use the, now standard system of reference, “through line numbering,” which is based on Charlton Hinman’s work with the 1623 Folio.
Review: The website contributors take Arden, Folger, Riverside, Bevington, and several digital versions of Shakespeare into account. They are regularly updated and transparent with their emendation preferences. The site has no scholarly or political agenda and follows no particular critical trend other than choosing the most accessible and scholarly-approved text. The site’s contributors follow scholarly consensus and then attempt to create the most user-friendly design possible. The site is extraordinarily easy to navigate. The drag-down menus have no gimmicks and the information included is in the most appropriate location. The front page is not cluttered and it is arranged in non-abrasive coloring. The site has a log-in for the forums, a blog, and uploading performance. Shakespeare Pulse is an excellent aggregator of all popular Shakespeare blogs.
Additionally, there are plug-ins for all major services, such as Twitter, Reddit, Facebook, and RSS feed. The podcast, called “Shakespeare Talks,” offers interviews with directors and actors across the globe. The site has a moderately active forum (2 weeks being the most recent post). What the site does, that sites with less support cannot do, is host a Shakespeare App that is appears to be a great resource for students, teachers, and scholars. Unfortunately, the product costs ten dollars, but if you are willing to forego the price of one dinner (I was not), one can search the full corpus, glossary terms (with assistance from David Crystal of Shakespeare’s Words fame), scene breakdowns, 20 short stories based on the plays, a biography, and a virtual ticket that allows you to search for nearby productions of Shakespeare. The project proudly states that they are the “largest global directory of Shakespeare theatres, festivals, associations, and institutions.” The data is exhaustively cross-referenced and the team is transparent with their choices of emendations, and the contributors provide links to all open-source Shakespeare editions consulted. Furthermore, for each play there is a menu that allows the user to browse the text in the Folio, Quarto(s), XML, and any available translations. Included in the same menu is a collection of reviews, a scene synopsis, character list, and a forum discussion link. The material is suitable for classroom use: there are a wide variety of digital components like videos and interviews, there are scholarly reviews and helpful introductions to more in-depth scholarly works, and there is a menu for character and scene analysis much like Spark Notes. The Folio facsimiles are high-quality and easy to read and all texts come in HTML and XML. The project offers XML versions of all Folio and several Quarto editions, and they hope to convert all quartos and octavos into XML, which would aid in analyzing variants. The website’s contributors range from Barry Kraft, Oregon Shakespeare Festival’s dramaturg, to Cynthia Greenwood, author of The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Shakespeare’s Plays. The project collaborates with http://shaksper.net/ and http://shakespearesociety.org/. They are a member of Shakespeare Association of America and Electronic Frontier Foundation, an NPO involved in protecting digital privacy and open source projects. The project’s contributions are: it is a great database for a litany of theater and textual analyses, it has a fantastic collection of XML and HTML texts suitable for data mining, and it has a vibrant community on its forum and theater, book, and film reviews.
Open Access: The project is open access and free to share or use. The data from the project is easily downloadable, and project shares the XML and HTML.
Expertise Requires: The general public could benefit from the extensive collection of videos and photographs of performances. The general public may also be encouraged to participate in a friendly and casual forum that discusses a wide range of scholarly and general topics. Students from middle school to undergraduate could benefit from the scene synopses, reviews, and historical information regarding theater performance and general biographies of key individuals. The site hosts the largest print or online collection of monologues that, alongside the input of the Crystals (authors of Shakespeare’s Words), would greatly benefit an actor of any caliber. Many of the contributors are theater professionals so their reviews and interaction on the forum could be helpful. Textual scholars may find the in-depth analysis and interviews in the podcasts helpful.