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Home :: Archive :: 1992 :: September ::
A Hypertext Edition of Shakespeare
Shakespeare Electronic Conference, Vol. 3, No. 212. Sunday, 6 September 1992.
 
From: 		Michael Best <
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Date: 		Saturday, Sept. 5, 1992, 09:10:24 PDT
Subject: 	A Hypertext Edition of Shakespeare
 
Dear Shaksper-ians
 
With some trepidation, I am preparing a sabbatical project for 1993-
94:  a hypertext edition of a Shakespeare play. Most of you will know
that hypertext is the result of the power that the computer gives us
to make multiple lateral links between linear texts. Thus, for
example, the computer makes it possible for us to make continuous
links between a play and its source, so that at any time the reader
can examine what Shakespeare was using as he wrote. The "text" that is
linked can also be a sound or a graphic image of some kind. There are
some experimental hypertext works in existence at the moment, but (so
far as I know) none is devoted to the work Shakespeare -- and I would
argue that his work would benefit more than almost anyone, since his
text is so rich in interlinked ideas and images already.
 
I am writing to the Shakesper network to solicit ideas. What would you
like in your dream text of a Shakespeare play?
 
Which play? It would be a natural choice to go for something like
*Lear* or *Othello* with all kinds of tricky things to link and
explore between the major texts, Quarto and Folio, but I'm not by
training (or inclination) mainly a bibliographer, so I'll probably
choose something easier, possibly *As You Like It*, in part because
the music attracts me. In this case, the hypertext edition could
provide something like this for starters (all interlinked). . .
 
Texts
 
   * The Folio text in machine readable form.
   * (Ideally) the Folio text in graphic form.
   * An edited modern-spelling text.
 
Related material
 
   * Lodge's *Rosalynde*.
   * Morley's music, both as graphic and in performance.
 
Scholarly apparatus
 
   * Detailed hypertext "footnotes" on such subjects as wrestling,
     duelling, fools, melancholy, and so on, as appropriate. (Note
     that hypertext does not really have footnotes, since
     everything in them is itself interlinked, so that the reader can
     make the material thus accessed more or less important than the
     actual text, at will.)
   * A concordance of the text, with each word linked to each of its
     occurrences.
   * An extensive bibliography, accessible by context-sensitive links
     from both text and supporting material, of both critical
     discussions and related works that deal with historical and
     social issues of the time.
 
Critical commentary
 
   * Hypertext would most effectively offer links between contrasting
     or differing critical reactions to specific lines, though the
     ability to link a passage to others that in various ways are
     similar is effectively a critical exercise. My own bias would be
     to offer ways for the user to explore parallels (and to create
     links where he or she perceived parallels) rather than to
     expatiate upon them.
 
Ideally, I would like to be able to include actual video of
performances, but both the amount of storage needed and problems of
copyright make this attractive possibility unlikely at the moment.
 
I have made no decision thus far on the platform or the software to be
used, though my temerity in undertaking the task is partly the result
of my experience in developing the program (earlier described on this
network) on HyperCard, *Shakespeare's Life and Times* (now in version
2.1, incidentally).
 
Computers have been used extensively in research on Shakespeare, but
it has not yet been employed extensively as the means by which we read
the plays. The whole concept of an "edition" could be modified by the
power of the computer to create lateral and multilinear links between
otherwise separate, linear texts.
 
Please offer your ideas.
 
Michael Best (
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