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Shakespeare's Life and Times

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What kind of person was Shakespeare? What was life really like for him and his contemporaries? What were people thinking, doing, writing about, or inventing? What kinds of music did they listen to? What recipes did they use in their cooking? The section of the CD-ROM that deals with Shakespeare's life and times is a multimedia library that introduces explorers to the world Shakespeare and his audience lived in.

This section of the CD-ROM is enhanced by superior graphics, music, and some video clips of renaissance dance. There is also a feature that allows users to create their own web pages as they work through the program, with links to the sections that they choose to comment on.

Instructional level

The program will appeal to general readers, and students from High School level to introductory College or University. Advanced students will find extensive bibliographies that point to future study in the library. The power of the computer allows users to choose the level of complexity they wish to work at.

Instructional objectives

Although there are many references to Shakespeare's plays in the program, there is no extensive discussion of the texts themselves. The program is not intended to be a critical analysis of Shakespeare; it is an introduction to what we know of his life, the stage where his plays were first acted, and the various influences--social, political, intellectual, and literary--that lie behind the words on the page.

Shakespeare's Life and Times is designed in a format allowing maximum flexibility. For the general reader and the high school student it offers enough detail for projects on major issues raised by the plays. For university level students the most effective use of the program is as a link between the classroom and the library.

Recent films of Shakespeare's plays are a wonderful way of modernizing Shakespeare for the reader unused to his language. But the next stage is to provide the tools for readers to understand the original culture of the plays, and to come to an understanding both of Shakespeare's language, and the contexts from which they grew. Shakespeare's Life and Times provides an accessible and stimulating environment for this kind of exploration.

How the program is organized

The flexibility of the computer allows the program to be organized in a number of different ways simultaneously.

  • Individual topics are described as "books," each with a number of "chapters." Users can use the "tree" structure of the menus, beginning with the Introduction and branching to the menus in each Book and Chapter.
  • Users can go directly to the Indexes in the Reference Book and look for the subject that most interests them there. Clicking on a word or phrase will bring up the relevant page.
  • Users can go to the section of Frequently Asked Questions about Shakespeare (in the Reference section) and browse until they find a question that is of interest. Clicking on it will bring up a page that will help towards finding an answer.
  • Users can go to the selection of Plays Explored, find a play that interests them, then use the topics introduced there as a starting point for exploration.
  • Users can go to the Map (accessible from any card through the icon of the compass at the top of the screen) and click on a topic there. The Map is like the center of a web, branching directly to all parts of the program.
  • It is also possible to treat the program like a book, starting at the opening screen and "paging" through it with the forward arrow.

Click here to see the list of system requirements.


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The Internet Shakespeare Editions is a non-profit organization. All proceeds from the CD-ROM go to research and development.