Mar 27, 2008
SY Tan

Shakespeare’s Complete Quartos Go Online

Shakespeare’s complete quartos go online For lovers of Shakespeare’s works, all the 75 editions of the Bard’s plays printed in quarto format before 1641 will be available online soon. The Bodleian Library in Oxford and Folger Shakespeare Library in Washington have teamed up to download their vast collections, capitalizing on the work of the British Library which digitalized its collection of quarto editions four years ago. The downloading is expected to take a year to complete.

There is no greater proof of the merging of art and science. Hamlet will not only breathe through the pages of a book or the theater stage and film, but also through the computer screen.

Online visitors will be able to compare images side-by-side, lay one facsimile on top of the other, search plays and mark and tag the texts. The technology has turned something old and rare into something contemporary and readily available. This may help to encourage more critical appreciation of Shakespeare’s works and at the same time make them less elitist or confined to the use of a small group of professors.

The quartos, the earliest printed editions of Shakespeare’s work is invaluable because they offer an insight into the closest evidence of what Shakespeare might actually have penned and what was used to be performed in theaters at that time. Thus, literature students, scholars, academicians, critics and social historians from all over the world can study the texts easily and carefully to come up with more incisive findings and insights for discussion and debate. It may also encourage more discussion and shed more light on the claims that Shakespeare is not the real writer of his plays.

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