Digital Archive as Expanded Text: Shakespeare and Electronic Textuality
PETER S. DONALDSON
The materials relevant to the study of Shakespeare are extensive: they include the early folio and quarto editions, the literally hundreds of complete editions and the much greater number of editions of single works published since the seventeenth century, a vast body of critical and interpretive literature, a small library of sources and supposed sources, records of theatrical productions, including playbills, promptbooks, reviews, and other materials. Shakespeare's works have been copiously illustrated, documented, and interpreted in the visual arts, from the water-colour illustrations in promptbooks to etchings, engravings, oil paintings, and photographs. The film, video, and audio record is uniquely extensive. Shakespeare on film begins in the first years of the medium, with King John in 1899, Hamlet's 'death scene' performed by Sarah Bernhardt in 1900, and includes over 700 titles in the recent filmographies edited by Kenneth Rothwell and Annabelle Meltzer1 and by Olwen Terris and Luke McKernan.2 Shakespeare materials are of unusual cultural range and geographic distribution--there are translations into most major languages, long traditions of performance and interpretation in Germany, Scandinavia, most of Europe, and in all English-speaking countries; there are important Russian, Japanese, German, Swedish films, and a rapidly increasing number of video records of productions from every part of the world.
In 1992 the Shakespeare Electronic Archive was founded at MIT in order to explore the potential of emerging electronic technologies to enhance access to these materials. Our vision--first articulated in Larry Friedlander's plans for a 'living variorum' in 19883--is of an electronic archive, eventually networked and available throughout the world, in which documents of all kinds-films, sound recordings, texts, digital facsimiles--would be linked in electronic form to one another and to the lines of text to which they refer or which they enact. There are substantial barriers to immediate implementation of such a scheme even in an