The Explore Shakespeare iPad apps are interactive versions of Shakespeare plays, made on behalf of venerable British publisher Cambridge University Press. In addition to the full text of either Macbeth or Romeo and Juliet, you get an entire audio performance, plus photos of productions, glossaries and textual notes, plot synopses, academic articles, study activities and more. A perfect gift for students, or anyone with more than a passing interest in the bard.
… interactive versions of two of Shakespeare’s plays: Macbeth and Romeo and Juliet. As well as the text of each play, the apps include a full audio track so you can listen to the play being performed to bring scenes to life in your head. The audio performance is not a read-through, but a full dramatic production complete with atmospheric background noises and some recognisable names taking on parts (including Kate Beckinsale, Michael Sheen and Fiona Shaw). The audio performance can be switched on and off as desired. When it’s on, the text scrolls along in sync to allow you to read and listen (handy for actors learning lines).
The apps also include embedded glossary and textual notes so you can tap to bring up word definitions on sections of text or additional context about particular textual quirks and curiosities. The look of the app can also be customised — from a relatively plain view with limited additions, building up to one that includes layers of extra context, such as photos, plot synopses, added marginalia and study activities. Elsewhere you can read essays on themes, and do a spot of data visualisation via word clouds, theme timelines and a character circles feature that displays the relations between characters in case you’re having trouble keeping up with all the plot twists. Another character-focused features lets you look at only the scenes in the play in which that person features. And for Shakespearean word nerds, there’s a full text search feature with highlighting and filtering.
… students studying the plays, actors needing to learn lines — or anyone who’s especially fond of Shakespeare (and owns an iPad).
… all the world’s a stage, and all the men and women merely players. Or rather as a thoughtful gift for someone who really digs the bard. The apps would also be especially useful for schoolkids with Shakespeare texts to study who are maybe finding it difficult to get too excited about reading the plays. The audio feature means they can plug in their headphones and look moody while technically still studying.
There are other interactive Shakespeare iPad apps you could also consider — such as The Shakesperience series made by Sourcebooks, which includes Hamlet, Othello and Romeo and Juliet. However, those apps don’t include entire audio performances of each play, rather offering snippets of audio (and video) from various historical performances. If you want to be able to listen to the full sound and fury of Macbeth, or hear every wistful sigh of the star-crossed lovers, then Explore Shakespeare is the way to go.
NB: Fans of Shakespeare’s sonnets might also like to receive The Sonnets by William Shakespeare: an app that includes all 154 sonnets performed to camera by a phalanx of famous actors, including Sir Patrick Stewart, David Tennant, Stephen Fry and Dominic West.