Internet Shakespeare Editions

The Shakespeare Herald

Reading by Statistics

search.pngHow many roles are there in Twelfth Night? In Henry the Sixth, Part Two? Who speaks the most lines in As You Like It? Questions like these are trivial for a computer to answer—so long as the programmer has set up the algorithm for it to invoke as we ask the question.

There are many other ways we can "read" a play through computer algorithms. As we enter some words into a search box, we are asking the computer to read the play and find everything with our search terms in it. Our Advanced Search link on each page allows visitors to the site to explore questions of vocabulary in more detail: they can search on a single play, all of Shakespeare's works, or all works on the site (including works in the Queen's Men Editions and Digital Renaissance Editions). Within a work they can limit the search to specific parts of a play, excluding all stage directions, for example, so that only the main body of the text is searched—or searching only on stage directions. 

As we have been rewriting the computer code that runs the site, we have been wondering about additional ways we can enhance the ways we can make this kind of approach to the text more sophisticated and flexible. To be effective, we seek input from our readers: what kinds of questions would you want our site to be able to answer? 

I want to be able to find out who in King Lear uses the word "nothing" most often. Does Juliet use the word "love" more often than Romeo?

What do you want our algorithms to answer as you explore the plays and poems? Please write to us at