Digital Shakespeare Anthology

While reading Blair’s work, I noticed how she left out footnoting as a form of notetaking. I searched the text for the term, and it does actually appear, in a footnote! But she doesn’t spend any time discussing the implications of the footnote in literature, which struck me as odd, because I rely so heavily on them particularly when reading Shakespeare. And then it was Jones’ piece that got me to thinking about annotation in Shakespeare. Which brings me to the focus of this blog in how might we create a digitally open Shakespeare anthology environment that brings together the scholarly conversation afforded by annotation, but further, provides the opportunity for users to link articles, explanations, imagery, sound, and discussion on elements of Shakespeare’s work not to be limited to theme, symbolism, contextualization/historicity, biographical information of the author and characters (the ones that lived at least) and verbiage.


When I got to the part in Blair’s article about Francis Bacon saying “I think… that in general one Man’s Notes will little profit another, because one man’s Conceit doth so much differ from another’s; and also because the bare Note itself is nothing so much worth, as the suggestion it gives the Reader,” I shuddered. Fortunately, she goes on to explain that using others’ notes was and is quite common and has value, but for the sake of this project, how great would it be to include Shakespeare’s own notes to be read in tandem with the plays and sonnets? Those that have been archived could easily become part of this effort and could really help the user get an in-depth justification of what is being read.


I think my favorite part of this would be the possibilities for annotation of artifacts related to the symbolism and themes within a text. For example, in Hamlet, Ophelia’s flowers that she hands out after she goes mad represent different emotions and representations of the characters. When she gives King Claudius fennel, it was because these flowers were believed to ward off evil and thus, that King Claudius is evil. Imagery of the flower and information explaining this interpretation could be provided that make for a richer digital experience than just reading Hamlet on a screen.


Furthermore, in college, I did a project on Jewish mysticism in The Tempest. Bits of the story that relate to the Kabballah and the Talmud (the second time this week we’re discussing the Talmud!) could send the reader off to any number of sources. Being able to make digital connections between the text and what Shakespeare was saying beneath the words is a very exciting concept to me.


Jones recollects being in Santa Cruz and exploring alternative-metered poems of Robert Browning. Couldn’t Shakespeare’s sonnets be played within a similar way? And also explained and elaborated upon for the reader. And read aloud (the audiobook project “layers” Sabina discussed during the presentations come to mind). Not to mention, the sonnets (and the plays) use language quite playfully and multi-definitionally. Annotation that explores this aspect would really bring the work to life.


And to have this project open-source, in that it could be added to by anyone, makes it participatory and inviting. But Anthony’s point about a fine balance in his blog between the “laws of Wikipedia” and the fear of fake news from non-creditworthy sources is a concern. I guess that is something I will have to muddle over. But the implications for the livelihood of Shakespeare’s work, and the pedagogy therein makes me think this would be something really valuable to work on. And really, this could be done with any writer’s work, I just happen to be engulfed by all of Shakespeare’s universal wisdom.


Art, music, live performance, recitation, these are all things that could be part of a digital anthology. Maybe this is already happening and I missed the boat… let me know if you know of something along these lines! Bush quotes “The inheritance from the master becomes, not only his additions to the world’s record, but for his disciples the entire scaffolding by which they were erected,” and I think that nicely summarizes my vision. And if I am going to quote, I may as well throw in the big guy himself: “All the world ‘s a stage, and all the men and women merely players. They have their exits and their entrances; And one man in his time plays many parts.” Such is the case for a digital Shakespeare anthology.

One thought on “Digital Shakespeare Anthology

  1. There are some efforts along these lines: U of Victoria in Canada has an edition:

    And gives digitized versions of the “quarto” editions of many Shakespearian plays in ways that facilitate close textual analysis:

    But your thinking is productive, since each of these does very different things, so one always needs to think about what X and Y readers might need, just as our group project #2 is attempting to do in a quick and dirty way.

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