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Home :: Archive :: 2006 :: March ::
An XML Schema for Shakespeare's Plays
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 17.0117  Monday, 6 March 2006

From: 		Peter Paolucci <
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Date: 		Sunday, 05 Mar 2006 22:43:59 -0500
Subject: 17.0068 An XML Schema for Shakespeare's Plays
Comment: 	Re: SHK 17.0068 An XML Schema for Shakespeare's Plays

Gabriel Egan wants to know what I think of David Crystal's Shakespeare 
markup project, and how it relates to my own particular project.

Crystal's tagging (using Antony & Cleo as an example) does not use a 
Schema to define its elements; it uses a different and older technology 
called a DTD.  At one point DTDs and Schemas were competing, but it has 
subsequently become clear (to my team at least) that Schemas are 
preferable because they are more robust and can handle more 
sophisticated searches better than DTDs.  Schema also handle multimedia 
better and faster.

Nevertheless, Crystal's work is valuable and I am learning much from it. 
He defines parameters (tags) that my project would term "dramatic," 
things such as play:title, play:character, chorus, character names, 
prose, song, songtitle, speaker:sex and so on.  He has also has 
(rightly) defined special entities to handle odd characters such as 
letters with diphthongs and ligatures.

Crystal designed his code to correspond to a Penguin edition and he 
wanted also to preserve line breaks, even empty lines (!) and 
distributed lines (i.e.: one metrical line shared by two or more 
characters).   This was *very* helpful to me in my own thinking about 
format and layout as editorial concerns.

I do not know if Crystal used the guidelines for editing and producing 
variorum editions, or even if they were available when he began his 
work, but they certainly are essential these days.

I want to imagine a much more robust and interdisciplinary resource that 
codes not only for dramatic and editorial (textual) parameters, but also 
integrates these with linguistics, stylistics, grammar, criticism, 
Renaissance history, Shakespeare's biography, and an "inter-textual" 
category that maps ideas in Shakespeare to his other literary 
influences.  The project is ambitious, but we are primarily interested 
in creating the architecture for the information more that managing to 
get it all populated with data; that may only happen long after I have 
passed over to a better place!  Deep coding, as it's called, means 
layering multiple XML elements over top of every aspect of the text, 
even punctuation and spacing.

So yes, even though I want to expand Crystal's parameters and negotiate 
between XML and the various other standards that are coming into play 
(TEI, editorial best practices, etc), I have learned from his work and 
he's worth looking at.

One codicil.  In my undergraduate days, the most sophisticated kind of 
tool you could use on Shakespeare's works was a concordance.  What a 
wonderful day that was for me when I discovered that resource!   The OED 
was (and still is) a wonderful help to scholarship, but it had to be 
built through the mind-numbing process of painstakingly recording each 
word and its location. Those of us working on this new area are excited 
by the prospect of developing tools that will empower critical insight 
into Shakespeare in all kinds of new and yet unanticipated ways, but the 
patience required is significant.


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