William Shakespeare’s plays are getting a makeover in the form of new apps for tablets and smartphones almost 500 years after the Bard took pen to parchment. Plays such as “Romeo and Juliet” and “Macbeth” spring to life in iPad apps released by Cambridge University, which pairs the texts with audio performances, commentary and other interactive content, transforming the classic plays for the digital age. The apps are part of a new series called Explore Shakespeare that was introduced by the British publishing house to expand the playwright’s reach to casual readers.A lot of people including myself have a copy of Shakespeare on our bookshelves although some people never got read because they have this notion that Shakespeare is hard or has to be studied to be appreciated. There is also a belief the plays are meant to be enjoyed and are accessible provided readers are given context to overcome outdated or poetic language.
While the core focus of the app is on the actual text, readers can consult glossaries, notes, photos and synopses at any point in the script. Everything there is designed to keep you in the play and to put you in the mind of the actor, director or writer according to the university.To understand less common language, readers can tap on words and phrases to delve into their meaning. A classic one is in ‘Romeo and Juliet’ which is ‘wherefore art thou Romeo?’ It’s not ‘where are you Romeo?’, It’s ‘why are you Romeo? ‘. Other features include helping readers to visualize relations between actors in a scene, understand how Shakespeare interweaves themes throughout the play, and to analyze the text more thoroughly. Although the app was designed with users in mind, it could also play a role in education, with students embracing the app over its print counterpart. For a teenager, Shakespearean language can be a barrier and to have something right there on the page is really helpful. The publishing house is said to have chosen to develop it for the iPad because it was the dominant tablet platform in schools, but they are also considering Android and Windows 8 apps in the future.