Living in a World where so much seems fragile, transient and throwaway, the words of Shakespeare – hundreds of years on from when he originally wrote them – still seem as relevant as it today as they every were. It was this thought, provoked by a phrase from a BBC Podcast that Shakespeare “is a mirror or our own predicament” that inspired me to make something that would attempt to put into a real-time context the famous and not so famous phrases from Shakespeares’ work.
When the RSC first got in touch with me I confessed that I’d never read any Shakespeare – my school back then was more Kes than Macbeth – but they liked the fact my only experience with The Bard was through pop-culture such as the many movies that have been made of his work. Over the next few months I spent all my time learning and reading about Shakespeare and why his work still permeates our culture on a daily basis.
Over time, having written about every emotion, every part of society from the cruelest to the most wonderful, I asked myself what if those Shakespearean phrases that we hear so much could be super-imposed on to the events of the day, giving modern context to Shakespeare and introducing new audiences to his words through the context of rolling news.
With that idea in mind I took it to the RSC who thankfully loved it, after which I set to work on writing the algorithm that would attempt to match Shakespeare quotes with subjects in the news on a half-hourly basis. Early signs were promising but my knowledge of Shakespeare was sadly lacking. Thankfully I then started to work with a young intern at the RSC who could offer real insight into the database that powered the system. The matches now started to really come together; here was Shakespeare describing events in real-time, showing the timeless nature of the words that he wrote and how even today, hundreds of years later, Shakespeare is as relevant today as it ever was.