Internet Shakespeare Editions

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The Shakespeare Herald   

Magic Webs: A Word from the Coordinating Editor

"There's magic in the web of it."
(Othello, 3.4, TLN 2218)

MB.jpgMagic and the supernatural in Shakespeare tend to be threatening: the witches' cauldron in Macbeth, various ghosts and spells. In my epigraph, Othello is referring to the warp and weft of Desdemona's handkerchief, which she has mislaid; the result of her loss becomes deeply threatening, since Othello believes that the magic in it guaranteed his fidelity to her. A gentler magic is the love juice in A Midsummer Night's Dream, comic in its effects when Puck puts it on the wrong person's eyes, and essential in maintaining peace and harmony at the end, when one of the lovers (Demetrius) is left with it on his eyes to make sure he is in love with the right person. But Prospero's powerful magic, which is also used for predominantly good purposes, must be forsworn at the end of the play:

I'll break my staff,
Bury it certain fathoms in the earth;
And deeper than did ever plummet sound,
I'll drown my book.
(The Tempest TLN 2005-8)

Our digital editions will not drown, or banish, any books. What they will do is enhance what books are already doing, and will continue to do. Instead they will bring new ways of reading and exploring Shakespeare's works. 

In a sense, Shakespeare was a multimedia writer. He wrote plays for the dynamic medium of the stage, and he must have been hearing how his actors would have spoken the lines as he wrote them. He certainly knew how to keep his actors happy by giving them brilliant stage moments: dramatic entrances and exits, battle scenes, clowning, and moments of great pathos. The screen—from a large desktop monitor like the one I am writing this piece on, to the tiny space of a smart phone—allows the text to become dynamic, and encourages the editor of a play to link it to illustrative graphics, music, or (when copyright makes this possible) to videos of performance.

Our vision for the Internet Shakespeare Editions is to use the good magic of the digital medium to make Shakespeare's works alive, and available anywhere in the world that there is an Internet connection—or a mobile phone that can connect to the Web. We are especially pleased to launch the version of our site optimized for smart phones. Not only is there a whole younger generation wanting to access information on mobiles, but there are many places in the world where the only dependable connection to the Web is through a phone. 

Through the magic of the Web, the Internet Shakespeare Editions bring the world the magic of Shakespeare. We are grateful to the University of Victoria and the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada for their support, but for continuing stability and sustainability we need libraries to become Friends of the ISE so that we can build an endowment to provide stable funding independent of granting agencies. Please look at our pages outlining the campaign: "Making Waves" at

February 2013
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