Friday, September 29, 2006

Shakespeare Searched

Clusty is a fun search engine. It does things differently to the usual (i.e. Google) everyday search engines. One thing it does differently is Shakespeare Searched.

This little package offers you a searchable database of Will's plays and sonnets. Before you fret about the demotion of the works of the finest English dramatist to a series of soulless ones and zeroes, don't: it's not intended to replace authoritative, annotated, scholarly editions of the texts. It just offers another way in.

You can search by keyword or phrase, and limit that search by individual characters or plays. My sketchy recollection of A-level English lit tells me that Richard mumbles something about bread in Richard II: Shakespeare Searched confirms exactly what he says, without me having to dig out a copy of the play and flick through the pages until I find it. Act 3, Scene 2, if you're interested.

Project Gutenberg has been providing soulless ones-and-zeroes online versions of texts, including Shakespeare, for yonks. You could always look at this .txt file of Richard II, hit Ctrl+F and search for "bread", but Shakespeare Searched seems to do the job with less hassle and more style. Similarly, you could try to Explore Shakespeare with Google, and end up with a scanned image of the relevant lines.

Shakespeare Searched is more "webby" than the competition. The Google approach searches scanned images of actual books, and Gutenberg offers the full text of books as typed in by volunteers. Shakespeare Searched gives me a nice, clean web interface and something closer to a proper search engine, and that's what I really like.

There is a permanent link to Shakespeare Searched in Signpost's Drama and theatres list. I'm planning on developing literature and homework areas on Signpost as well, and it would be equally at home there.

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