Internet Shakespeare Editions

[revised 2017-07-17 by Janelle Jenstad and James Mardock]

1. Introduction

The Guidelines which follow were initially developed for the Internet Shakespeare Editions (ISE) from those prepared by David Bevington for the Revels Plays. Additional guidelines on spelling and usage are based on those prepared for the RSC Shakespeare Complete Works edited by Eric Rasmussen; these are, in turn, indebted to those that David Bevington prepared for the Norton Anthology of English Renaissance Drama. Like the electronic editions themselves, these Guidelines should be considered as a work in progress, capable of refinement and adaptation as the editions are developed and new questions arise.

Much about the editions will be the same as those prepared for print: the same high standards of scholarship, the same activities involved in arriving at the modern text, and the same kinds of supporting discussions on the text. But there will be a number of ways in which the Internet Shakespeare Editions will differ from print editions.

1.1. Copyright

The primary aim of the Internet Shakespeare Editions is to create scholarly texts and tools for the educational community. You will, if you choose, retain copyright for materials you personally create for the site; all, however, will be freely available for downloading and use for educational and non-profit uses. The modern text will also be reviewed for publication by Broadview Press in a "distilled" format, focusing on a text usable in the classroom; your contract indicates that the you will agree not to use your copyright materials for the creation of additional versions that would compete with Broadview╩╝s.

All texts posted on the site will be accompanied by the following notice:

Copyright [Editor's name], [date]. This material may freely be used for educational, non-profit purposes, so long as due credit is given. All other uses must be negotiated directly with the holder of the copyright.

While you retain copyright on the separate texts you put on the site, the actual edition (its links, format, and any interpretative software associated with the site as a whole) will remain the property of the Internet Shakespeare Editions.

It is your responsibility to gain copyright permission for any materials (written, graphic, sound, or video) included in your edition; you should make sure that you have permission to post the material on the Web, as well as permission to reproduce it in print if it is also to be included in the Broadview version.

Note: Editors are advised to consult the policy of their institution concerning Intellectual Property.

1.1.1. Changes to the text on the site

Digital texts are capable of continuing refinement and improvement; thus the text on the site will be a "maintained" edition, never be in a fixed or final state. While the original editor is willing and able to act as consultant, all changes proposed in the text or its supporting materials will be approved by him or her before being posted. In the event that the editor is not available, the Coordinating Editor reserves the right to seek alternative advice.

1.1.2. Acknowledgment of collaboration

It is the policy of the Internet Shakespeare Editions to give full credit to all those who have worked on any text, including research assistants.

1.2. Hypertext

Hypertext is the name given to the capacity that an electronic text has to link one passage to another directly by a click of the mouse. The effect of this kind of linking is often called "non-linear" or "lateral"; it would, however, be more accurate—and useful—to call it "multi-linear," since each individual passage is itself linear.

1.2.1. Multilinearity

The effect of hypertext's multilinearity is twofold when it comes to the way you can develop an argument or organize data.

a) It is extensible

Your basic document can be extended by detailed but separate discussions of points that might otherwise impede the linearity of your basic document. This function of hypertext is very like the traditional discursive footnote, except that it neither requires rooting around in the back of the book, nor cramping space at the bottom of a physical page.

b) It is a network

Since the "footnote" becomes the center of the reader's attention once it has been displayed, it is itself capable of being interconnected to other materials, either its own further annotations or other materials of many kinds. ISE editions permit varying types of footnotes, from a simple gloss to an "extended" note, the equivalent of a complete appendix in an independent essay. See below, 5.3, for more detail.

1.2.2. "Good" hypertext

The effective use of the power of hypertext involves rethinking the way you write. Here are some guidelines.

a) Keep it compact

Since there is the opportunity to attach further discussion or documentation to any stage of your discussion, you should make every attempt to keep the primary document as tightly constructed and worded as possible. Remember that your readers will have to wait for the text to be loaded, and may be paying for the privilege in connection time. At all times avoid large files; the recent increase in "bandwidth" for many users should not lead editors to make the ISE texts difficult for students or scholars in developing countries to access. Think of your primary document (the textual introduction, the survey of criticism, etc.) as the backbone of your argument, with details fleshed out in separate mini-essays. Paradoxically, this means that the electronic medium both gives you the power to present a briefer, more cogent base discussion than the print medium, and, at the same time, allows you far more freedom to support that argument by detailed discussion.

b) Make a click worthwhile

No-one wants to wait for a document to arrive if it is a simple line reference or a two-line comment. For this reason, you should include in-text references as much as possible, branching to other documents only when they will be worth the wait. Where you refer to an internal section of another document, make sure that you indicate the section as well as the document as a whole so that the browser will locate the specific passage. More detail on how to do this is provided in the separate sections below; see especially section 6.1.

c) Use headings wherever possible

Despite the development of light portable computers and tablet, the typical Internet reader will want to locate information quickly, speed-read it, then download or move on. Thus you should use headings wherever possible in order to direct your reader to the section of your work that is of interest. The table of contents will be generated automatically from your headings. The tradition in Humanities disciplines does not generally include the use of headings; think of them as brief topic sentences, and divide your discussion accordingly.

Try to avoid the rather clunky formulation "For more information, click here" and others like it. Integrate the link into the flow of your sentence. On a textual crux that requires a separate extended discussion, you might indicate the link thus: "This reading has been the subject of much debate."

1.2.3. Web browsers and the format of the files

Editors will work with a simplified set of "tags" that identify the characteristics of the text (see Appendix A below); most of these are provided as a template with the tagging already in place. Working from these base texts, software will automatically generate different formats to satisfy different needs of scholars and the varying kinds of browsers currently available. In technical terms, the base texts will be converted to XML (eXtensible Markup Language).

1.3. Introductory materials

In addition to the Textual Introduction, each text will normally provide general introductions to major areas of critical and historical debate:

In each case the essays should be considered as independent from the actual text, though linked to it where appropriate. There is the opportunity to add essays on other topics that you believe your audience will find helpful in their reading of the play; in the histories, for example, it will be possible to provide a document summarizing the historical background of the time and the characters.

All these materials should be prepared according to the suggestions above concerning the nature of hypertext; in the Broadview version, these materials will be presented in a traditional, linear fashion, though there will be headings throughout, following the Web organization to facilitate movement between the two media.

1.4. Additional resources for the Broadview edition

Broadview Press requires that each edition contain a chronology; a bibliography; and annotated appendices amounting to between 50 and 100 book pages (or approximately 30,000-60,000 words) of background materials (most commonly source materials, documents relating to the historical and intellectual context of the play, documents relating to the play╩╝s staging, and documents relating to the critical reception of the play). All these materials will be on the Web site; in most cases you will want the Web version to be more complete so that the student coming to your edition from the book will find richer resources for research.

1.5. Additional resources for the Web

Since there are effectively no space limitations on the Internet Shakespeare Editions, you will be able to provide far fuller supporting materials than a printed edition, limited only by your industry and the need to get copyright permissions.

1.5.1. Written

The editions will include the following:

1.5.2. Graphic

Whereas printed editions are limited by cost to relatively few illustrations, you will be able to provide as many graphics as you can get permission to use. This feature of the editions should be of particular value in the sections that deal with performance history. An increasing number of libraries and collections are willing to make their images available on line; contact the Coordinating Editor for a list of libraries where an agreement has been negotiated.

1.5.3. Multimedia

In the age of YouTube, we anticipate that increasingly editors will be able to add video annotations to their essays or footnotes. Copyright problems here are a major difficulty in terms of well-known films and productions; the ISE has had significant success, however, in attracting the interest of the acting community in such a way that productions and segments of productions will be archived on the site and made available for research and teaching. See the Theater of the site at

1.6. Collaboration

Collaborative editions are rare in Shakespeare studies. The scope of the Internet Shakespeare Editions, and the nature of the electronic medium, however, are such that collaboration is to be encouraged. Editors may choose to concentrate on the basic text for the edition, and to seek assistance in producing other materials.

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