Week 9 – Digital Shakespeare – Midsummer Night’s Dreaming and Globe-al Shakespeare

Watching: A Midsummer Night’s Dream at Shakespeare’s Globe, 2016

For additional context about the performance above, read this review on the production, or search online for others.

Reading: Shakespeare, Sonnet 20

For discussion on the quantitative perspective of literature made possible through modern computing, read Literature in a Digital Age, Chapter 5 (pp. 82-130)

Finally, briefly explore at the following links on A Midsummer Night’s Dreaming:

Video 1

Video 2

Explanation of the project

A Midsummer Night’s Dreaming

This week we’ll continue exploring Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream to examine what possibilities the digital age might hold for re-envisioning existing literature, and drama in particular, by way of digital media.  In this case, we’ll be exploring a couple individual performances (that all performances are singular is one of drama’s key differentiations from other forms of literature).  One was brought to fruition through a partnership between the Royal Shakespeare Company and Google.  This endeavor, which was staged over the course of a weekend (midsummer weekend–when else?) in 2013, incorporated a site-specific performance of the play over the course of 3 days with a digital stage where social media content was posted for an online audience (some of whom attended the play in Stratford, England, and some who encountered the performance only through its reporting online)  who also participated by creating their own content to respond to the event.  This event was made possible through the use of what is colloquially known as web 2.0 technologies.  Web 2.0 signals an expansion of the world wide web from static web pages (like those found in Shelley Jackson’s My Body) to spaces where readers not only read but also comment on webpages, not only visit sites but also set up their own accounts to publish material.  All of you who have been publishing on your blog since the beginning of the course have been using web 2.0 technologies.  Web 2.0 also includes crowd-sourced knowledge bases like Wikipedia, social networking sites like Facebook, and Twitter.


One of the key issues that arises in the context of digital media is the question of archiving.  Even as this course was underway this semester, the material I had originally intended for use on the Midsummer Night’s Dreaming site was taken down.  Although some of the content is preserved through websites like www.archive.org, much of the multimedia content is no longer functioning and serves as another point of discussion.
The other performance of the play we will be exploring this week is the 2016 performance at the Globe Theatre in London.  For class discussion on Thursday, please watch the play and consider the alterations the performance makes to Shakespeare’s text, how the performance affects our understanding of the play, how it adapts Shakespeare to a contemporary and global context, and what it’s availability online suggests about the future of dramatic performance.

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