Digital Shakespeare (iPad Apps)


The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 23.0439  Wednesday, 31 October 2012


[1] From:        Bud Thompson <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>

     Date:         October 30, 2012 3:12:37 AM EDT

     Subject:     Digital Shakespeare 


[2] From:        Alan Young <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>

     Date:         October 31, 2012 10:48:48 AM EDT

     Subject:     Shakespeare Texts Online 




From:        Bud Thompson <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>

Date:         October 30, 2012 3:12:37 AM EDT

Subject:     Digital Shakespeare


You’ll notice that a computer screen shines a bright light up into the face of the reader. That can get tiring in a few minutes, particularly if the reader is looking at similar pages of text. If you are looking through pages on EBay, let’s say, the pattern and intensity of light will be different with each page, so the eyes, and perhaps the brain will get less tired. 


With a book, of course, the light shines down on the book, not in the reader’s eyes. are reading on a device which does a lot of things, E-mail, financial statements, music. The reader is reminded - by the device - of other distracting things he could or should be doing. If you sit down to read Shakespeare, should you check your mail? Facebook? You haven’t written to a friend. 


A book is comfortably singular.



Louis W. Thompson 



From:        Alan Young <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>

Date:         October 31, 2012 10:48:48 AM EDT

Subject:     Shakespeare Texts Online


I’ve been following the discussion of the use of iPads and online texts with some interest. I’m currently teaching a Shakespeare course to a class of seniors. 


I have been using my iPad continuously in the classroom to display on a large screen KeyNote presentations and clips from movies and TV productions. A surprising bonus has been the effect of incorporating the key passages from the plays that I wish to discuss. When the text appears on the screen, the whole class is “on the same page”, and distractions are at a minimum, especially in our semi-darkened room. I wish I had been able to do that when working with classes of undergraduates, who often had far shorter attention spans and the tempting distractions offered by their own electronic devices. I’d be interested in hearing about the experiences of others who have used digital texts in the classroom.


Alan Young

Professor Emeritus

Acadia University

Lear 5.3 & 4.2


The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 23.0438  Wednesday, 31 October 2012


From:        Gerald E. Downs <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>

Date:         October 30, 2012 9:41:22 PM EDT

Subject:     Lear 5.3 & 4.2


When students are first introduced to Shakespeare (and often for a long time after) they naturally assume the dialogue is the dramatist’s own—every word of it. For the few who retain an interest a series of footnotes and other intrusions may weaken the assumption but it almost never reduces to the best level for textual study. There are reasons for the supposition: much of the canon is well transmitted and Shakespeare teachers teach Shakespeare, don’t they? And (despite the hoopla late last century) plays have authors.


But the fact is, the surviving dramatic works are more or less corrupt. The publishers of the Folio said so and the texts demonstrate the fact. The editorial problem (and the industry’s primary concern, if it cares) is to identify the corruptions and to restore Shakespeare’s text. That’s the goal; it can’t be denied, even if it can’t be met. Part of the beauty of the text exists in (most often modest) achievements in that direction.


While recognizing revision in King Lear from Q1 to F, and not assuming (as before) a faulty transmission from F to Q1, scholars have dropped the editorial ball by reverting to the “Shakespeare wrote it” assumption in at least three ways. 1) They fail to come to grips with the corruptions in Q1, often by turning a blind eye their way. 2) They refuse to consider Q1 derivation from any other source than an authorial draft manuscript. 3) They accept (tyro-like) Q1/F variants as authorial, no matter what. If corruption is brought to their attention, that’s OK—the rest is authorial, no matter what.


This last is manifested in making Shakespearean mountains out of molehill corruptions, when emendation often has a better claim to authorial text. Conjecture is scorned nowadays in the face of “what Shakespeare wrote,” even if he didn’t write it. But if one starts with the many certain errors in Q1 and proceeds to the less certain, it becomes easier to see that the first printing of Lear has suffered a great deal in transmission; that the Folio edition has not escaped the resultant corruptions; that F must derive from Q1; that the essence of the play resides in the 1608 edition itself; and that Q1 (perhaps rivaling Q2 Hamlet) can’t be studied enough. That’s my take, if I poke into Lear only now & then (like now).


After Steve Urkowitz’s post on “All” of 5.3, I turned to another example from Stone’s analysis (which doesn’t suffer from the above ills) with the idea of asking Steve to face corruption showing how Q1/F agreement is not necessarily of value; and further, simply to throw another instance on the corruption pile. There is a bit more to it than I supposed—which I’ll work on here. Not surprisingly, my speculation is speculation—a few hours’ worth—but I am always impressed with Peter Stone’s analyses, one of which I quote in part, on or about 4.2.28:


Q1a: My foote vsurps my body.     F: My Foole vsurps my body.

Q1b: A foole vsurps my bed.


> It is extremely unlikely that the Q compositor could

> have mistaken A for My, bed for body. A misreading

> of foote for foole would be more credible . . . The Qb

> reading is certainly a thoroughgoing sophistication of

> the corrector's, who was evidently doing his work here

> as elsewhere in a somewhat near-sighted way. . . .

> Goneril has bestowed a favour and a kiss upon Edmund,

> with hints of greater rewards in future. His reaction . . .

> ('Yours in the ranks of death.') . . . is both a vassal's

> profession of fealty and a courtly lover's vow [& a nice

> double-nintendo]. With this, it is natural to suppose,

> he throws himself at her feet. . . . If he were at the

> same time to kiss his hand and place it on Goneril's foot

> . . . her next words to him are explained

> (221, "Q1 Readings Unnecessarily Altered").


Respecting Q1 as the closest we get to Shakespeare and seeing that the Q1 compositors transcribed according to their lights without getting too heavy into meaning, this passage passes the Qa test. Corrupt as it may be, it reflects Q copy better than Qb (where the corrector’s guess may not be better than ours if the forme was read against copy during foul-proofing but not during stop-press correction). Qa is probably right and it’s also better theater, seems to me. F’s ‘My fool usurps my body’ is vapid if not meaningless. Goneril is thinking about Niagara Falls, not Albany.


Surrounding dialogue makes clear an influence of Qb on F:


Qa: It is the cowish curre of his spirit  4.2.12

Qb: It is the cowish terrer of his spirit

Q2:                        curre

F:                           terror


Stone (Misreadings in Q1, 183) emends: “tenor (= quality . . . the way in which a thing continues . . . . Terror seems too strong a word for the faint-heartedness in Albany . . . . A neutral word seems required to throw the emphasis on cowish. The Q copy spelt it, perhaps, tenner.”


Qa:                . . . ere long you are like to heare

       If you dare venture in your owne behalfe

       A mistresses coward, weare this spare speech,

Qb: A mistresses command, weare this, spare speech,

Q2:                     coward

F:                        command. Wear this;


Now, try as I might, I can’t make sense of “you are like to hear a mistresses command,” though it sounds like it means something. It’s the type of thing that needs thought more than a “Shakespeare” label. “Coward”, of course, is wrong, not that the compositor cared; he saw ‘coward’ and that was that.


Taking the ‘curre’ above I’m reminded that the easiest misreading of all is “c” for “t”. Schmidt observes of “toward” that Shakespeare can mean “willing, apt, ready to do”: then fell she on her back, fair queen and t. Sounds like Goneril to me. That suggests a mishearing analogous to “answerer” for “answer her.” Perhaps Goneril says that Edmund “was like to hear, in his behalf, a mistress is toward.” If that’s right, F is wrong—and not Shakespeare.


Q2 has “My foote vsurps my head.” from Qa and a substitute. It isn’t fair (to Shakespeare), but F seems to be influenced by Qa, Qb, and possibly Q2: “My” from Qa, Q2; “fool” from Qb; and “body” from Qa. I guess the quibble got through to Q2 all right, where “my body” was baudlerized to “my head.” The Q1 corrector must have missed it; Qb’s “A fool usurps my bed” (common sentiment no doubt, to this day) just doesn’t work here. F isn’t Shakespeare (not completely, anyway), but I can’t make out how it came about. If the reviser didn’t have Qa (or the Q printer’s copy) the one-letter difference is coincidental error. If he is Shakespeare, revising a line for F to ruin, then as usual he inexplicably overlooks all the other errors. And the next lines may also be corrupt:


  Stew. Madam, here comes my Lord.          Exit Stew.

  Gon.  I have been worth the whistle.         (rude wind

  Alb.  O Gonoril, you are not worth the dust which the

Blowes in your face, I feare your disposition (Qa 4.2.28-31)


I don’t see why Goneril would say she has “been worth the whistle.” She can’t be addressing anyone but Albany, whom she has summoned. If the line belongs to Albany he is noting that he must not be completely disregarded by Goneril because a proverbially useless dog is not even “worth a whistle.”


Goneril quickly picks a fight by assuring Albany that he is worthless. At this reply Albany answers, “I fear your disposition”, whereon he begins to preach to her. Not only is Albany the one in the doghouse, it seems unlikely that he would begin religious moralizing with a hateful response that could only anger his Queen (She’s the one who suggests Gloster’s eyes should be plucked out). But he loses control soon enough.


If a compositor omitted a line by eyeskip (‘worth the’ to ‘worth the’) he restored it in foul-proofing. The elements could be confusing, especially if ‘whistle’ is misassigned and ‘O Goneril’ is at first omitted. It might be that ‘Goneril’ in dialogue was an internal speech heading (a la Bordox) mistaken for an address by Albany. A prefix would not be preceded by an ‘O’, however.


At any rate, something must explain Albany’s fourteen syllable reply to ‘whistle’, with ‘rude wind’ turned up at the margin; as elsewhere in Q1, restoration supplies an answer. Using typical John of Bordeaux text as a template, I propose the printer’s copy looked something like this:


Stew. Madam here comes my Lord

I have been worth the whistle) Gonoril O(?) you

are not worth the dust which the rude wind

Blowes in your face) Alb) I feare your disposition


The foul-proof would be rendered:


  Stew.  Madam, here comes my Lord.          Exit Stew.

  Gon.  I have been worth the dust which the rude wind

Blowes in your face.

   Alb.   I fear your disposition


The corrector’s instruction would mean to restore “the whistle Gonoril O you are not worth” but the mistaken ascription (to Goneril) of the prior line caused the omission to be given to Albany, with some adjustments. I transpose “O Goneril” mostly to assert that such matters are subject to compositor/corrector/scribe/actor whim anyway.


With the announcement of Albany’s arrival no entry and no s.p. were necessary—as far, perhaps, as the reporter cared; exits, entrances, and speech ascriptions were guesswork likely left to customers. Here in Q1 there’s no exit for Edmund and no Albany entry. If the compositor assumed that Goneril spoke & if he didn’t have a chance to correct the error (having failed even to read the next line), he may have consulted his own notions—rather than the copy—to get a readable restoration. From the point of view of the workmen, careful editing of a corrupt text would in many respects be wasting time (money). Q1 shows that very attitude time and again; the printer, Okes, would be under no illusions.


Gerald E. Downs

Cordelia’s “I am”


The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 23.0437  Wednesday, 31 October 2012


From:        Alan Dessen <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>

Date:         October 31, 2012 9:59:53 AM EDT

Subject:     Cordelia’s “I am” 


I taught King Lear for the first time as a teaching assistant in Fall 1962 and taught it to some retirees in the OLLI program yesterday. In between I’ve seen (counting movies) well over 50 productions. Thanks to Steve Urkowitz and Michael Warren, since the early 1980s I’ve been aware of the textual muddle and arguments in favor of revision in the Folio. However, only this morning did I discover that in Quarto 4.7 Cordelia responds “And so I am” but in the Folio “And so I am; I am.” Aficionados may already be aware of this item, but, to mangle Prospero’s line to Miranda, ‘twas new to me.


In my in-the-theatre experience (with a strong performance from the actress) that moment has regularly been the most powerful in the show. For me, there are light years of difference between Q and F in that build to the second “am.” In terms of current SHAKSPER debates, I am advancing no larger thesis or agenda, but the Quarto line makes sense whereas the additional two words - whoever is responsible  - are a stroke of genius.


Alan Dessen

iPad Apps


The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 23.0436  Monday, 29 October 2012


[1] From:        Larry Weiss <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>

     Date:         October 28, 2012 2:15:07 AM EDT

     Subject:     Re: SHAKSPER: iPad Apps 


[2] From:        Brett D. Hirsch <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>

     Date:         October 29, 2012 12:50:02 AM EDT

     Subject:     Re: SHAKSPER: iPad Apps 




From:        Larry Weiss <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>

Date:         October 28, 2012 2:15:07 AM EDT

Subject:     Re: SHAKSPER: iPad Apps


>There’s an ongoing struggle between those promoting the free 

>(in both senses) dissemination of knowledge about Shakespeare 

>and those trying to commercialize that knowledge. For the most 

>part, smartphone/tablet apps help the latter group.


For my part, I am not fond of apps; I find them difficult to manipulate on a smartphone and I like to print things out.  But that is my own preference, because I am old and crusty.  Users who value the portability and flexibility of apps may well choose to purchase them.  Naturally, the producers who apply their ingenuity and incur costs and effort to provide the apps are entitled to be compensated.  I can’t understand why anyone would have a problem with that.



From:        Brett D. Hirsch <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>

Date:         October 29, 2012 12:50:02 AM EDT

Subject:     Re: SHAKSPER: iPad Apps


While I agree entirely with Gabriel’s points—particularly his concerns about hardware/software dependencies and the additional programming work required to meet an increasingly fragmented market of platform-specific devices—I’m more optimistic about their potential long-term benefits.


As a number of colleagues have noted (e.g. Lukas Erne, John Jowett, Eugene Giddens, and Gabriel himself), the critical (and, more importantly, the pedagogical) reception of electronic editions of Shakespeare and his contemporaries has not matched the enthusiasm with which they were initially lauded. Among the many reasons for this, I believe, is a continued unfamiliarity on the part of users—i.e. even in an age of ubiquitous computing, students and scholars are still not used to reading and studying Shakespeare electronically.  Printed editions remain the mainstay for our work as scholars and educators. If this is to change, we need not only to change minds and comfort zones, but habits of mind.


Minds are already changing. The iPad is fast becoming the first electronic device through which a new generation accesses electronic content. Consequently, apps represent a learned behaviour for this generation as the primary platform for accessing documents or information. The increasing number of videos on YouTube of infants unsuccessfully trying to turn the pages of printed books using the “swipe” action learned from the iPad and other electronic devices are (however disconcerting) cases in point.


For generations less familiar with such technologies, the increasing popularity of Shakespeare apps will, I hope, work to naturalize the idea that Shakespeare can be read, studied, taught, and enjoyed as successfully on-screen as on the page. Users frustrated with the technical and critical limitations of these commercial apps will then, I hope, turn to the open-access, web-based scholarly alternatives offered by projects like the Internet Shakespeare Editions, Richard Brome Online, the Queen’s Men Editions, and, once it has been launched next year, the Digital Renaissance Editions. Gabriel has already covered the reasons why efforts such as these, working with open standards to deliver their content to multiple platforms over the Internet, are worthy of our continued support.


These apps (and other electronic editions) also force us to reconsider what constitutes an edition, to rethink some of the conventions and assumptions about texts and editions we have inherited from print, and encourage us to experiment with how such early modern dramatic texts are, could be, or should be presented to the reader. This is, I believe, where the most exciting and innovative work on electronic editions is taking place—at the interface level—and the production of apps contributes to this ongoing discussion.


Finally, important arguments about the inequalities of access to devices/services and the commercialization of intellectual content aside, isn’t anything that encourages a wider readership and appreciation of Shakespeare a good thing?


Brett D. Hirsch


[Editor’s Note: Brett Hirsch, for those that might not know, is the inspiration behind the Digital Renaissance Editions: If your are not familiar with the project, I encourage you to visit it. In the interests of full disclosure, I am on the Advisory Board. –Hardy] 


iPad Apps

The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 23.0435  Saturday, 27 October 2012

From:        Gabriel Egan <This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.>

Date:         October 27, 2012 8:07:10 AM EDT

Subject:     Re: iPad Apps


Hardy wrote about the Cambridge University Press Shakespeare history plays app:


> I welcome reactions, reviews, and so on about this

> increasingly numerous group of iPad apps.


Here’s a reaction: for the most part, the growth of apps is a backward step for the users of computers. The Shakespeare content that readers want—texts, sounds, pictures (still and moving)—can be delivered perfectly satisfactorily via websites.  There are internationally agreed open standards for website authoring so that websites are platform-independent. Before the rise of apps, if there was something that REALLY needed programming that couldn’t be delivered by website scripting, then a programmer could reach over 90% of all users by compiling the software to run under Microsoft Windows and could reach the final 10% by recompiling it to run under Mac OS and Linux.


With the rise of apps, the market for software has fragmented so that a programmer has to write for Windows, Mac OS, Mac iOS and Google Android to reach all users. In almost all cases, this extra effort produces no extra value for the user but makes software expensive to write.


There are exceptions, of course. Smartphones/tablets are mobile general-purpose computers fitted with two accessories not normally included in computers: a compass and GPS. If software takes advantage of the compass and the GPS, then a case can be made for the software being customized just for smartphones/tablets (so, for making an app), but only until conventions for using compass and GPS data are internationally agreed upon and built into existing open standards. If any of the Shakespeare apps being launched at the moment uses the compass and the GPS services in the smartphone/tablet, I’d be very grateful to hear about this. (In the next 6 months a project I lead will release a Shakespearian theatre history app that does use the compass and GPS data, and I’d very much like to know what others are doing in this area.)


Publishers are very excited about smartphone/tablet apps. The reason is that they see them as a new way to resell old content, and this opportunity has arrived in the nick of time. Governments have realized that the results of publicly funded research (books and articles) are usually given for free by universities to publishers, who repackage them and sell them back to the same publicly funded universities. When the only means of knowledge dissemination was on paper, this seemed reasonable since the publishers had invested in the necessary infrastructure of presses, warehouses, and distribution chains. With electronic distribution, the publishers’ raison d’etre disappears. Apps throw them a temporary lifeline.


There’s an ongoing struggle between those promoting the free (in both senses) dissemination of knowledge about Shakespeare and those trying to commercialize that knowledge. For the most part, smartphone/tablet apps help the latter group.


Gabriel Egan

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