Electronic Shakespeare

2006-04-26T11:43:37Z (GMT) by Gabriel Egan
In 1997 I concluded a report about Shakespeare resources on the Internet with the opinion that "Nothing currently available on the web would justify the cost of buying the computer needed to access it". This remains true: a new computer costs about 1000 pounds, which could more profitably be spent on books. However, many people have a computer with Internet access anyway, so 'free' resources are for them truly free. Electronic texts of Shakespeare's works are widely available on the Internet but, like the 'complete works' sold for a couple of pounds in every Stratford-on-Avon bookshop, these are almost always based on Victorian editions with no explanatory notes. More importantly, nineteenth-century editors of Shakespeare usually felt it their duty to help readers' visualize the events of the story by adding stage directions which are meaningless from a theatrical point of view. Thus cheap editions of Shakespeare (printed and electronic) frequently include descriptive stage directions such as "in another part of the battlefield" and location-setting labels such as "Scotland. Macbeths' castle". While readers might appreciate such hints, they are antithetical to the stage-centered approach which is increasingly favoured at all levels of teaching of Shakespeare and which is central to the thinking behind the Shakespeare's Globe reconstruction.