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General

Why are the line numbers different?

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We get asked this a lot and the answer may seem simple, but can sometimes be complicated to understand. So I put together a sample comparison between a few editions and some key points to consider.
 
Paper books gave us a durable medium which has lasted for centuries. It’s a fixed size, from small to large, and fits into a pocket or a bag. In Shakespeare’s day, this portability factor was key to making literature accessible to the masses.
 
In 2014, we have truly gone beyond the traditional paper book with eBooks and the Internet. Text no longer takes the form of a fixed layout on a page of predetermined size. Web pages flow continuously and you scroll to read. If you’re reading the NY Times on your computer, the pages and text flow will look different when viewed on your mobile phone or tablet device. Instead of content being predetermined by the author or publisher, it’s adapting to the context where it’s being displayed. The text may get larger when viewed on a mobile phone vs. what’s displayed on a big computer screen. If your eyes are bad, there might be a button to make the text larger, smaller, or change color to suit your preference.
 
Shakespeare’s texts have been studied in great detail over the years and a handy way to reference specific lines in each scene is by line numbers. This works great, but as publishers, editors, and scholars developed their own editions, line numbers varied due to editorial decisions—some editors preferred the quarto version over the folio version or vice-versa. This caused line numbers to be off by sometimes a little and sometimes a lot.
 
When Shakespeare’s text become electronic, line numbering became problematic because blank verse has defined line breaks, but prose doesn’t. This didn’t matter so much when we had print books because the columns were laid out by the book designer and prose line numbers could be adjusted to match a previous or alternate edition. But when the columns are different widths (or when there are no predefined columns at all), prose line numbers can be completely inconsistent.
 
If the plays were written entirely in blank verse, complete with hard line breaks for each line, the problem of prose line numbers wouldn’t exist. But that’s not the case. There are only five plays that are 100% verse:
 
Edward 3
Henry 6.1
Henry 6.3
King John
Richard 2
 
There are five plays that are mostly verse with a small percentage of prose:
 
Antony & Cleopatra (92%)
Julius Caesar (94%)
Macbeth (92%)
Titus Andronicus (98%)
Two Noble Kinsmen (95%)
 
And there are no plays that are 100% prose—Merry Wives of Windsor (87%) is the highest followed by Much Ado About Nothing (72%) and Twelfth Night (61%).
 
The spreadsheet below shows the line counts for Hamlet (72% verse) across a variety of editions, including the edition on this website the same edition used in our Shakespeare app.
 

line_numbers.png

 
As you can see, differences in print editions can vary by up to a few hundred lines. When it comes to digital editions, that variance can be even more depending on the screen size of the device (and font size) you’re using to view the texts because of how prose text reflows and editorial differences. The PlayShakespeare.com and Shakespeare app editions are identical, but they will reflow differently by as much as 100 lines over the course of a play. Plays with more prose will have more variance than plays with less. The 28% prose within Hamlet means the play could have large variance.
 
In my opinion, line numbers should never be dogmatic. Actors and directors rehearsing a modern play today would never use line numbers to find their place in the text (they estimate or navigating by act and scene numbers or page numbers). So I’ve always taken the tack that line numbers are a guide to get the reader in the ballpark, if not the exact line. If the line number is used in rehearsal, discussion, or study, its accompanied by a note or comment of some kind to give context.
 
So the next time someone insists that all editions are alike when it comes to line numbering, you can tell them that’s not at all true. Even the same edition viewed on multiple digital devices will also be different.
 

A Tiny Tempest

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Tact will be performing A Tiny Tempest, a fast paced 55 minute version of The Tempest at this years Edinburgh Fringe. If you are going to be there like our facebook page or contact me for special offers.

It has taken a (very) long time, but PlayShakespeare is proud to announce its first review of Two Gentlemen of Verona, performed in Shona (native to Zimbabwe), no less. London reviewer Craig Melson caught the production, which is part of the Globe-to-Globe festival hosted by Shakespeare's Globe Theatre. You can read his review here.


Reviewing 'lesser done' Shakespeare is a key goal for the site. We have reviewed twenty-nine Midsummer Night's Dream productions, twenty-seven Hamlets, and twenty-two Macbeths. By contrast, for example, there are only two King John reviews--a fact we'd like to change over the coming year. Additionally, we are still looking to review a production of Two Noble Kinsmen, Sir Thomas Moore, and Edward III. If you are putting on a 'lesser done' Shakespeare in the near future, please be in contact with me or the staff reviewer in your area, as we are keen on reviewing your show.

NEW YORK, NY  - The Shakespeare's Sister Company  is raising funds for our all-female theatrical production William Shakespeare's "Romeo and Juliet"  to premiere Valentine's Day, 2012 in New York City's East Village. Our film noir version features chicks with guns during the 1929 St. Valentines Day Massacre.  The production is being presented as the Shakespeare's Sister Company's on-going mission in women's empowerment and social change for women's rights.

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The Need
In 23 days, we will need to raise a minimum of $8000 to get the show up and running for a solid production run.

In Our Production
This epic tragedy will be set in the roaring 1920's of Chicago when gang rivalries between the Italian and Irish sprung up over power struggles within the underworld culture. Emulating the Al Capone vs. Bugs Malone rivalry, the Capulet's will represent the Italian south side and the Montague's will claim the Irish north side.

Underground Speakeasies, playing jazz and rag time music, provide a mysterious setting to escape from the strict laws of prohibition. With a high unemployment rate leading toward the great depression, desperate people take desperate measures to maintain jobs and keep friends. The Capulet's host a masked ball where they invite policemen to drink from their illegal alcohol stock and seal the deal to keep their bootlegging anonymous. Romeo sneaks into the Capulet's masquerade party to spy on their transactions and falls into forbidden love with the fair Juliet. The Capulet's domination of bootlegging infuriates the Irish and sets up the tension leading to murderous fights between the two groups akin to the St. Valentine's Day Massacre of 1929.

Women have just gained the right to vote, but there is still much to fight for in this patriarchal and dangerous society. Juliet will test the waters of exploring women's new found freedom by dating a boy from the wrong side of town. She journeys from a young woman forced to have a constant guard (her nurse) to a cultured flapper who visits speakeasies, has male sleepovers, and is allowed to decide her own fate.

With an all female cast, this show will create opportunities for women to play both female and male roles in a divided society. Women will play the men as men allowing females to explore the violent nature of gangsters adjacent to women playing females trying to find the strength to fight for their right to rise up in society.

About the Shakespeare's Sister Company
Formed in 2008, the Shakespeare's Sister Company is a not-for-profit theater organization which supports women in the arts. Our commitment is to produce great new plays and established theatrical works by female authors. Our mission is to address global change through the theater, including women empowerment workshops and literacy for youth.

For more information, please visit our webpage at Shakespeare's Sister Company at http://www.shakespearessister.org and our kickstarter campaign on http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/546154532/romeo-and-juliet-st-valentines-day-massacre-of-192

New Five-Part Series

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PlayShakespeare is about to begin publishing a five-part series covering filmed versions of the Bard's works. Writer Matthew Henerson has written a magisterial account of major Shakespearean films, resulting in a "top five" recommendation list. Each installment will cover a review of one film and Henerson's reasons for including it in the list. Images and, where possible, video clips will accompany the stories. Look out for a new installment every week, and leave your comments on the message boards.

I'd like to draw attention to what I expect must be a first for PlayShakespeare (I haven't checked all the archive reviews, so I may be wrong): two reviews of the same show. In December, I reviewed the Donmar Warehouse's production of King Lear (you can read the review here) in London. After a highly successful run, Lear was broadcast live and then went on tour throughout the UK. Recently, Lear (featuring Derek Jacobi in the title role) made its way across the pond, where New York reviewer Roseanne Wells saw it. (You can read her review here.)

Sometimes productions can be divisive, but I think it's pretty clear that this Lear is fantastic. Both Roseanne and I rated it very well and highlighted Jacobi's performance as the work of a true artist. Michael Grandage's direction also received high marks.

If you're interested on two different takes of the same production, check out the Lear reviews.

I have recently posted Michael Meigs's review of Measure for Measure, performed by the touring company of the American Shakespeare Center (based in Staunton, VA). Michael is the PlayShakespeare Austin, TX correspondent, and saw the show last week when it came to UT-Austin. His perceptive review contextualizes MM as one of Shakespeare's 'problem plays' and points out the text's many seemingly contradictory currents. In the review, Michael indicates his appreciation of the actors for their solid performances, but takes issue with the direction, feeling that it oversimplifies a complex text. The production's overly-humorous emphasis glosses over important themes.

It is a commonplace to say that every age, every generation, has its preferred Shakespearean plays. The 19th century was apparently enthralled by King John, but the history play is now rarely performed (the only review on PlayShakespeare is here). Other plays, however, are being 'rediscovered' as occasion demands--Troilus and Cressida with the beginning of the Iraq war and Timon of Athens with the start of the financial crisis. Even traditional standards of the repertoire have seen a darkening in tone, as witnessed by the Midsummer Night's Dream from director James Rutherford. Shakespeare's canon is large enough, and his writing insightful enough, to remain topical, it would seem, 'for all time'.

What Michael's review uncovers, however,  is a production that resists (whether through deliberate choice or good-natured obliviousness is unclear) the 'problem' of this 'problem play'. His review brings up the question, 'Must we respond to the "problem plays" as "problems"'? Is an interpretation that ignores the more serious elements of the text a legitimate interpretation? In this day and age, can productions of MM (or T&C, WT, Tempest etc.) get away with a purely lighthearted tone? 

Questions, questions, questions...

Tobacco Factory, Bristol

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So begins my four-day, five-play and one interview tour of England's Shakespearean scene. I am currently sitting in the cafe/bar area of the Tobacco Factory in Bristol. I left London by train in the afternoon, and after an unremarkable journey, arrived in Bristol an hour and a half later. It was a ten-minute (and clearly signposted, thankfully) walk to the Youth Hostel, followed by a longer, more languid trek to the Tobacco Factory, outside the city center.

The Tobacco Factory is one of those re-claimed, re-constituted spaces, now trendy and housing a flourishing arts scene along with a sizable bar/cafe. Speaking of which, the spicy (curried) carrot soup + a portion of homemade bread has just arrived. Tasty. The cafe/bar is large and open, with a small raised stage area on its far left side. A series of red beanbags line the stage, in addition to painted warnings: 'No kids on the stage'. How are they supposed to resist? [Having just set down my laptop to collect my tea from the bar, I catch the woman sitting next to me reading what I've written so far. Sorry, lady, no points for subtlety.]

Tonight's performance is Richard II -- a play I feel in love with the first time I read it in an introductory Shakespeare class in college. I am eager to see it performed, and early buzz on the Twitterverse has complimentary things to say. As I walked down the long Bristol streets to the Tobacco Factory, I felt the anticipation one feels for a satisfying event: there's something deeply settling about witnessing what you know to be a strong play performed by (what will hopefully be) a strong cast.

Tomorrow is a train ride back to London, a short Tube journey to an east London train station, followed by a train ride to Norwich.

Review of Richard II  forthcoming!

 

 

Shakespeare for All Seasons

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If the on-line newspapers are to be believed (or many of my friends' g-chat status updates), the US east coast is drenched in snow. Here in London, gray skies and rain make for a dismal February. But the weather has not prevented some counter-seasonal productions. In the last week, PlayShakespeare has posted two reviews of A Midsummer Night's Dream, one staged in California, and another in New York City.

As a way of shaking off the mid-winter doldrums, I am arranging a mini-Shakespeare tour of England. On Wednesday (February 17) I leave London and head westward to Bristol to see Richard II at the Tobacco Factory. Though Richard II is one of my favorite plays to read, I have never seen it in performance (live performance, that is). The next day, I need to be on a train by 8 am to head back to London where I hop on another train and go straight to Norwich. Hopefully arriving before the 2 pm start time, I'll see Propeller's Comedy of Errors and, later in the evening, Richard III. The all-male company has been receiving strong reviews, and I'm excited to see what they do with the plays. Between the afternoon and evening shows, I'll be interviewing members of the company to ask what it's like working in an all-male performance group. If you have any questions you want asked/answered, send them along to This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .

Friday sees me on another train, headed to Bury St Edmunds to see a production of Much Ado. Saturday is a drive to Guildford for the Guildford Shakespeare Company's Hamlet, staged in an old church. I'm told the first fifteen minutes are going to be frightening -- looking forward to a production that makes the ghost a fearful presence. Possibly early next week (before leaving for Bristol) expect an interview with the GSC and the show's director Caroline Devlin. 

On my trip, I'll be blogging about my experience (when I'm not typing up reviews). If you have questions or issues you'd like me to address, send me an e-mail, or tweet -- @beijingcoma.

Up-coming on PlayShakespeare will be more book reviews, including Contested Will and 1599

Cheers

Chris

Introductions

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Hello PlayShakespeare community!

My name is Christopher Adams, and I am the new editor for PlayShakespeare. I am excited about the opportunity to work with PlayShakespeare as it enters the new year and looks forward to expanding its scope, both in the US and elsewhere.

In 2011, PlayShakespeare hopes to add reviewers in several cities throughout the US, Canada, and the UK, helping to generate a greater number of reviews and creating a deeper understanding of Shakespearean performance. In the more distant future, the site seeks to become, truly, the place of record for global Shakespearean performance, first focusing on the English-speaking world and then branching into areas further afield. So be on the look-out for reviewer postings in your city.

Additionally, the site is looking to have its finger on the pulse of Shakespearean/Shakespeare-related events by offering book, film, and exhibition reviews.

Already in January our reviewers are scheduled to cover shows in California (Hamlet Has No Legs), New York (Cymbeline, Midsummer Night's Dream), and London. Ron Severdia has already offered his take on the Julie Taymor-directed Tempest  (starring Helen Mirren) and Mary Maher's book Actors Talk About Shakespeare.

My schedule is set to become quite busy, covering the RSC's winter London season (with Julius Caesar, As You Like It, and King Lear left to see). At the end of the month, I'll be attending Comedy of Errors by Sell A Door productions at the Greenwich Playhouse, followed by Richard II, Richard III, and another Comedy of Errors in February (the last two by the all-male company Propeller--they will be featured in an up-coming interview). Indeed, I'm toying with the idea of going on a two-week Shakespeare binge in the latter half of February, since so many productions are set to open. 

The winter is only just the beginning--a warm-up to the full-on extravaganza that is spring/summer Shakespeare. And, at least in the UK, it's looking like it will be a spectacular season. Kevin Spacey (who needs no introduction) is set to star in Richard III at the Old Vic, Michael Sheen (Frost/Nixon, The Queen) in Hamlet at the Young Vic, and David Tennant and Katherine Tate (Doctor Who) are scheduled for Benedick and Beatrice in Much Ado at the Wyndham. The RSC has announced the plays for its up-coming season, making use of its new (and impressive) performance facility in Stratford. The Globe has chosen to commemorate the 400th anniversary of the King James Version of the Bible with its 'The Word is God' season, featuring, among other plays, Hamlet, Doctor Faustus, and a modern play entitled The God of Soho

All in all, it looks to be a busy season.

If you have any questions/comments, feel free to e-mail me at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

Chris

 

Please tell your friends. Almost finished with our Hamlet based docudrama. Thx.Our Link: http://kck.st/hozRMI