Shakespeare Electronic Conference, Vol. 2, No. 311. Friday, 29 Nov 1991.
Date: Thu, 28 Nov 1991 20:38:19 -0500
From: Roy Flannagan <FLANNAGA@OUACCVMB.BITNET>
Subject: New $20 CD-ROM Complete Shakespeare
Shakespeare on cheap CD
CMC ReSearch, Inc., of 7150 SW Hampton, Suite C-120,
Portland, OR 97223; tel. (503) 639-3395 and FAX (503) 639-1796,
is selling through the Computer Direct mailorder company, best
known for teenage software, a CD-ROM complete plays of Shakespeare,
in "Both American and Queen's English versions," for $19.95 plus
shipping. Computer Direct, in Barrington, IL, uses (800) 289-9473
for telephone orders and (703) 382-7545. No one there seemed to
know anything about what was on the disk. So I ordered one, to
find out what American English Shakespeare was, among other things.
I am still not quite sure what American English is, except
that it spells "honor" instead of "honour" and it sometimes does
not capitalize the first letter in passages of dialogue. The
texts, from what I could tell from a quick look, are otherwise
identical. CMC says its editors have taken a public domain text,
which they don't say, and added what are called "dramatic
enhancements in format and style [to] make the works more
readable, useable, and hopefully, more enjoyable." The editors
"rewrapped and reformatted the text to take advantage of the
extra space available on computer screens, and then renumbered
each play or poem for easy reference. These line numbers may
differ from many hardcopy versions." The glossary on the disk
is also said to be in the public domain: it does contain brief
definitions and "the works that contain that word." The editors
have expanded each list of dramatis personae "to list every speaking
part." The lists may be called up at any time by means of a function
key. Speaker attributions and stage directions are marginalized, or
clearly set off from text.
One can gather from the marketing strategy and the directions
above that the audience is computer-wise high-school students with
CD-ROM players. Probably the text has been scanned in and doctored
slightly; the "editors" are anonymous and probably wish to remain so.
They have added clarifying titles to the speech prefixes to aid
naive readers: it is *Queen* Gertrude and *King* Claudius and *Lord*
Polonius, but it is just plain Hamlet and Ophelia.
The CD-ROM Shakespeare should not be treated with contempt,
however, because it does get a public domain version of the texts
into circulation which is easy of access, for $19.95. And the
software engine for the CD, DiscPassage ("search in seconds")
is easy to use and intuitively organized with pull-down menus.
The major limitation of the software is that it finds words only
in acts and scenes, listing them at first and then allowing one
access to the entire scene but to no lower unit. One then has
to locate the word one wants by skipping through the scene until
one sees it highlighted. Oddly enough "Portions copyright" is
printed at the beginning of each scene portion, leading me to
think that CMS has copyrighted the public domain text by
virtue of carving it up and dividing it into American English
and "Queen's English" versions.
In sum, this is the least expensive purchasable "public
domain" text I know of.