Ever wanted to delve into the works of Shakespeare, but have found yourself put off by the dense, unusual language, or bad schooldays experiences studying the Bard’s work? Then give the Cambridge University Press’s latest Explore Shakespeare apps for iPad a go. An accessible entry-point for Shakespeare newcomers, but with enough literary analysis and smart navigation features to tempt even experts to give it a download, they’re among the most comprehensive apps put together of the revered playwright’s work so far.
Two different Explore Shakespeare apps are currently available, one for Romeo and Juliet and another for Macbeth. Each offers full audio performances of the play including Hollywood talent such as Michael Sheen and Kate Beckinsale, as well as standard features such as plot and character summaries.However, the app takes all these fairly standard features to the next level; audio performances can be broken down line-by-line for a better analysis of how they are delivered when spoken, as well as an easy, bookmark-style reference system. Character relationships are plotted out with venn diagram style circles and family trees, letting you quickly understand familial links and power struggles. There are also word clouds and language glossaries, while themes across the play are presented in line graphs, charting the dramatic rise and fall of emotions throughout the play. These are all interactive, offering touch-friendly navigation systems that let you jump to the area of the text you’re most interested in. It’s far quicker than thumbing through a book, and will be very useful to students hammering out late-night, last minute essays.
Cambridge University Press, being one of the leading academic publishers in the world, also have access to high-quality essays and articles, some of which are offered through the app, and are of a much higher quality than the amateur analysis littered across the web. To round things off, each app also includes a library of images from leading productions of each play, helping you visualise the many ways that these centuries-old dramatic works have been interpreted during modern times.
To sweeten the deal, the apps are currently discounted by 40% at £5.99 each. Usually £9.99 each (a steal considering the cost of paperback literary criticism, not to mention audiobooks with an A-list cast), the Explore Shakespeare apps are available from iTunes now.
Versions for Twelfth Night, Othello, Hamlet and A Midsummer’s Night Dream will also become available throughout 2013.
By Gerald Lynch | November 6th, 2012