Internet Shakespeare Editions

6. Supporting Materials

ISE editions are enriched by in-depth introductory discussions and additional materials, mainly from Early Modern sources, that complement both the scholarly and pedagogical value of the editions. On the Web, the standard critical introduction is replaced by a number of separate, interlinked essays; these will be condensed and reorganized for the needs of the Broadview edition.

6.1. General considerations

A traditional introduction to an edition does not normally exceed 18,000 words, including the discussion of the text, the stage history, and a critical discussion of the play. While the Broadview version of the play will have an introduction of this kind, aimed at the introductory university/college student, the Web version will break this structure into its component parts; while there will not be the same constraint on space a printed edition demands, editors should make every attempt to make their material accessible and compact. Few readers will read extensive material on the screen; thus you must make it easy for readers to find the material that they are searching for, and if you are to persuade them to download and print out your work for more leisurely consultation you may choose to adopt some of the more respectable strategies of the journalist, such as the "hook" that rouses interest, and a clarity of style to keep your readers interested. The appropriate effect can be achieved without compromising the intellectual level of the discussion.

6.1.1. Hypertext again

There are at least two ways of using the hypertext structure of the Internet to make your critical and historical materials readily accessible to your readers. 

  1. From an initial table of contents, break your material up into logical sections, each of which is of modest length. Thus you can construct a linear argument, each logical "page" leading to the next, but readers can branch directly to the specific subject that interests them if they so desire. An example might be in a stage history divided into general periods (Renaissance, Restoration, eighteenth-century, Romantic, and so on), where one reader might choose to look only at one period, and another might look at them all. It will be possible to make the whole essay available in a linear format on the site, as well as its logical sections, if you would prefer to retain this option.  
  2. Write a single, compact essay, with branches to additional material. Thus in your survey of criticism you might wish to choose three or four especially significant critics, representative of their times; the body of the essay would provide a summary, with detailed discussion of the highlighted critics in separate, short pieces.  You will find an interesting discussion of some questions raised by the use of hypertext in critical essays in the article by Laurie Osborne: "SAA Hyperessay on Electronic Shakespearean Criticism" at (though its interface now seems quaintly dated).

6.1.2. Length of essays

In general you would be wise to avoid asking your readers to load larger files, since these are difficult to read on screen; in any case, you should remember to use headings and sub-headings freely, since this will allow for the creation of an initial table of contents at the head of the discussion, from which readers can branch immediately if they so wish.

6.1.3. Footnotes and documentation

In addition to the interconnection of self-contained hypertext additions to your essays, you will probably want to include more traditional footnotes. You will, in effect, have three levels of documentation:

a) In-text citation

Where possible, limit documentation to parenthetical citation in the text; all citations will be linked to the appropriate document if it is part of the edition, to the Bibliography if it is not. 

b) Footnotes at the end of the same document

Where discursive or explanatory comment is needed, you can either create a short note at the bottom of your document, linked internally, or make a separate file. The test should be both the length of the note, and its value to the reader as a separate file to be loaded. Notes at the end of the document should be limited to at most a few sentences.

c) Longer notes or essays linked to your main document

Longer comments, discursive notes, linked essays and so on should be created in separate files which will be linked to the main body of your discussion. The degree of flexibility here is considerable; it is advisable, however, not to create separate long notes to long notes for fear of losing your readers in hyperspace. You can, however provide links to other essays, sources and so on.

Quotations from other works should, except for good reason, follow the spelling and punctuation of the edition cited. Editors are urged to use reliable modernized editions wherever possible. The spelling of book titles, in the notes and in the bibliography, should also follow the spelling of the edition cited.

6.1.4. Indicating links and cross-references in the essays and supplementary materials

Put all requests for links in angle brackets so they are readily found as the files are being prepared for the Web. Put a link of this kind at the beginning of all works that are to be linked from the text:


<Link from TLN 337>

This kind of link is especially important when, for example, you wish a source document to be linked from your annotations. You may wish to link to a part of a longer document:


<Link to Rosalynde [enough information for us to find the spot in the text]>

Your essays, annotations, and source documents may include images, in which case the appropriate format will be this:


<Link to image [enough information for us to locate it (often a file name)]>

It will be helpful if you keep a file of all such links and submit it with your work.

6.1.5. Electronic resources

ISE texts should take full advantage of the wealth of reference materials now becoming available on the Internet. While the trusty OED will remain the standard for historical references to word usage, you should consult, where appropriate, such online resources as the Lexicons of Early Modern English (LEME) at the University of Toronto, and the vast, if not always fully accurate, "textbase" provided by Literature Online (LION). LION is available by subscription only; while LEME has a version of the site open to all users, a fuller search interface is available for subscribers. If your institution does not have a subscription, contact the Coordinating Editor.

LEME is especially useful for seeing how less usual words were understood in the period. It cross-lists words found in early lexicons, lists of "hard words," and foreign language dictionaries; thus words will be associated with what were considered to be synonyms. The advanced search screen on LION permits rapid access to examples of word usage across many plays, poems, and prose works from the Early Modern period. Both resources use old spelling, with the result that it is important to make multiple searches, or to learn to use each site's "wild card" searches in order to access the full range of examples available.

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