Searching for Shakespeare

Jun 21, 2006 by

A while ago, Google announced that they had made all of the complete works of William Shakespeare available for searching online. While nothing noteworthy can be said about putting the works of the Bard online (it’s been done before), Google’s ability to search for specific passages and lines within each scanned text is rather helpful for those studying Shakespeare’s works. Scanned images of all his work can be found within the Google Books Search Beta, and searching can be performed via the table of contents for each work (links are embedded in the image) or using the standard Google search for phrases and words.

While Google’s efforts are admirable, I’m much more impressed with the RhymeZone’s Shakespeare Search. Rather than providing the complete works and hoping you remember whether the passage you’re seeking is in “Much Ado About Nothing” or “The Tempest”, RhymeZone allows you to piece many of Shakespeare’s for note worthy lines together incrementally. Once you’ve put enough of the phrase together it begins to offer you suggestions as to which play, and in which act you might find that passage. Even more helpful, it provides direct links to the scenes in which the lines are spoken, so you can see the phrase in context.

For example, if you start searching by clicking on the word “My” you’re then presented with a list of possible second words in the passage including lord, father, and master among others. Clicking on the word “liege,” brings up a smaller list of possible third words. All of these possible words are preceded with the heading “most frequent followers” letting you know there are more choices, but old Bill usually used one of the following. At this point you may have more words to choose from, building up your phrase, or could be given possible complete suggestions of the line you’re looking for and a link to the scene you can find it in. So if you’ve forgotten “My liege, the duke of Buckingham is taken” from Richard III, it will provide the entire sentence in hopes it may spark your memory. Of course, not every line that Shakespeare ever wrote in included, which is why RhymeZone also has the standard search box for looking up the other million or so lines Shakespeare wrote.

A highly useful tool for any high school classes studying Shakespeare, his works, or wanting to quote and/or include references to Shakespearean work in a paper.

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