PlayShakespeare.com: The Ultimate Free Shakespeare Resource
PlayShakespeare.com: The Ultimate Free Shakespeare Resource
PlayShakespeare.com: The Ultimate Free Shakespeare Resource
PlayShakespeare.com: The Ultimate Free Shakespeare Resource

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General

Why are the line numbers different?

Posted by on in General
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.

 
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