Understanding Shakespeare


viewerUnderstanding Shakespeare is the B.A. thesis project of Stephan Thiel at the Interfacedesign program of the University of Applied Sciences in Potsdam.

Its goal is to introduce a new form of reading drama to help understand Shakespeare’s works in new ways.

It also changes our conventional ways of "consuming" narratives and knowledge using information visualization.

What the group was trying to provide was an overview of the entire play by showing its text through a collection of the most frequently used words for each character. It reminded me of tag clouds.

A scene is represented by a block of text and scaled relatively according to its number of words.

Characters are ordered by appearance from left to right throughout the play. The major character’s speeches are highlighted to illustrate their amounts of
spoken words as compared to the rest of the play.

Now, in a very un-Shakespearean way, you can look at how this project created an application of computational tools that explored in order "to extract and visualize the information found within the text and to reveal its underlying narrative algorithm."

They turned the visualizations into actual prints (90cm x ~220cm) for an exhibition.

I can imagine the purists opposition to this tech view of The Bard, but I applaud all efforts to look at old things in new ways with new tools - even if what it accomplishes is to make us once again value the original.


Shakespeare in the Original Pronunciation

Paul Meier, a theater professor at the University of Kansas, had his students this semester stage the first-ever American rendition of a Shakespeare play, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, in its original pronunciation.

According to The History Blog, there have only been “three other productions of original pronunciation (OP) Shakespeare before this one, 2 at The Globe theater in London, and 1 at Cambridge in the 1950s.”

The students worked with David Crystal, a linguist and the author of Pronouncing Shakespeare: The Globe Experiment. Crystal worked on a production of Romeo and Juliet at the Globe Theater in London.

You can listen to audio from the Globe performance and watch some video from the student production at KU.