The app's the thing as Shakespeare goes digital

Shakespeare

William Shakespeare's plays are getting a 21st century-style makeover in the form of new apps for tablets and smart phones nearly 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 Press, 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 have a copy of Shakespeare on their bookshelf that they never got around to reading because they have this idea that Shakespeare is hard or has to be studied to be appreciated, said John Pettigrew, executive producer of the Explore Shakespeare series.

Pettigrew believes the plays are meant to be enjoyed and are accessible provided readers are given context to overcome outdated or poetic language.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, he explained.

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?` So that kind of phrase gets a glossary to explain what is meant, said Pettigrew.

The apps also include full audio performances from stars such as Kate Beckinsale and Martin Sheen. Other features help readers to visualize relations between actors in a scene, understand how Shakespeare interweaves themes throughout the play, and to analyze the text more thoroughly.

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