The Shakespeare Matrix


In a thread today on Reddit someone asked about your “Forever Project.”  That idea you have that on the one hand seems impossible, like the kind of thing that you wish existed but know never will…but, at the same time, it’s the idea that won’t go away, and you’re always (at least, as an engineer/programmer/hacker) thinking, “Hmm….could I build that?”

It was only then that I thought of how to describe mine.  I call it The Shakespeare Matrix.

We’ve all seen the movie The Matrix, right?  All of humanity have been enslaved by aliens, hooked up to a giant virtual reality world so perfect that most of them spend their entire lives never realizing that they’re inside a computer simulation.  That is, except for Keanu Reeves and his band of … pirates?  Rebels?  Who have discovered how to hack the system and program it to do the things they want it to do.  Need to know martial arts?  No need to spend years training – just alter the program so that your character simulation knows kung fu.  I bring up this example as an excuse to link one of the best movie fight scenes ever filmed.   (Everybody knows that this is the best movie fight scene ever filmed.  WHO’S DA MASTER?)  Once Keanu masters his talent he begins to see the world around him *as actual source code*.

Anyway, I get off topic.  What I want is a Shakespeare Matrix.  I want a virtual reality world where you can walk around and watch the plays in any number of ways – maybe as the audience, maybe as a character, maybe you interact directly with the characters.  At any time you can summon Shakespeare himself and have a conversation with him as well.  You can also pull up the  original text, much like pulling up the source code to the matrix.  And when I say original text I mean all of it – easy access to Folio and Quarto versions alike, along with all the glossary and reference materials that you might need.

There’s been a whole bunch of people talking about this over the years.  I notice that “Hamlet on the Holodeck” was published back in the late 90’s.  I’m not a big believer in the holodeck idea, I don’t think that will ever meaningfully happen.  But I do know that the Second Life universe had a Shakespeare group.  And then there was the abandoned massive multiplayer universe “Arden” that I had high hopes for, but gives you an idea about the realities of a project of this scope.

Anyway, not really a question in this one, I just wanted to brain dump a little about the Matrix idea, because I just thought of it and I really like the comparison.  As I think of the different kinds of software that could be used for browsing Shakespeare I always teeter back and forth between “Make something light and easy for the everyday user, like students doing their homework…make a game!” and “Make the ultimate reference guide so that the experts who need access to boatloads of very specific Shakespeare information have a single place where they can get it.”  Technically the latter is easier because manipulating pure information like that is easier than the visual work that needs to be done to make even the most basic game.

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