Thursday, May 6, 1999 Published at 18:14 GMT 19:14 UK
Shakespeare in love with online
Surfing Shakespeare: Researchers and actors will use the Net
By Internet Correspondent Chris Nuttall
"The web of our life is of a mingled yarn, good and ill together." All's Well That End's Well, Act 4, Scene 3.
The Arden Shakespeare, which is celebrating 100 years as the leading scholarly edition of his plays and poetry, launches its online version of the complete works on 20 May.
Two years in the making, the Website features fully annotated text, essays by leading academics and archive material of past productions.
Ideal research tool for research
The Arden expects schools, universities and libraries to subscribe to the service on behalf of academics and students.
"It's designed for research and it's designed for teaching," says Nick Kind, Electronic Development Manager for the site.
"If you wanted to read say King Lear cover to cover we would suggest that you bought the book. But if you wanted to find out how King Lear uses the word "mad" in his particular speeches and compare the verse speeches and the prose speeches that he uses that word in, you could search using Arden online to find that sort of thing, which would clearly take a lot of time with the book."
Online aid for performance
Actors and theatre companies should also appreciate having a surfable Shakespeare. The Royal National Theatre already benefits from getting specially-formatted printouts of The Arden Shakespeare's electronic versions of the texts.
"It may well be that fairly soon we find ourselves having laptops in rehearsal rooms because, when two people are arguing about what a particular line means, it's interesting to look at all the variants," says Jack Bradley , Literary Manager at the NT.
The online Shakespeare lacks video excerpts from film versions of the play because of problems obtaining the necessary permissions. The ability to choose between views of the complete versions of the different folios and quartos of Shakespeare's work is also not available yet and there is a problem searching the text with the latest Internet Explorer 5.0 browser.
There are plenty of free versions of Shakespeare's works already available on the Net, but the Arden Shakespeare online is hard to match for authority and comprehensiveness. It may gain a new Internet audience for the plays just as filmgoers have been given a fresh impression of the man by Shakespeare in Love.