Shakespeare and Electronic Technology

An interesting challenge to readers may be to ask them to think of any life situation that Shakespeare didn’t write about. There are so many things in modern life that haven’t changed since his time: we still have wars and dictatorships, colonial oppression, slavery, military coups, and religious persecution. We have what seems to be the modern phenomenon of terrorism but plays like Coriolanus touch on that too.

Those human situations don’t ever change and unfortunately such things will be with us as long as the human race survives.

But what might Shakespeare have done if he’d had modern technology at his disposal? If you visit the reconstruction of his study at the Shakespeare Birthplace museum in Stratford upon Avon you will see his library – a few books on a shelf. Among them are North’s translation of Plutarch’s Life of the Noble Romans, which he used as source material for his Roman plays; and Holinshed’s  Chronicles, which provided him with the information he needed for his history plays.

Imagine, though, if he’d had an iPod Touch, defined in Wikipedia as a portable media player, personal digital assistant and Wi-Fi mobile platform.  That would have enabled him to research any subject in the world just by touching and moving his finger around the screen. He would have been able to go far beyond the sources of the two major strands of his plays. But would we then have had all the great Roman and the great history plays? Perhaps not, but perhaps we would have had some even better plays. For example, he was interested in musical plays, or masques, as they were called in his time, like The Tempest. He would have been able to use an app in the iPod Touch to write all kinds of music.

We will never know, of course, and the idea of such technology in Shakespeare’s time is absurd, but with a man of his genius, who knows what we might have had from him if he had been living and writing in our time?

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