Venn Shakespeare


Venn vs Euler Diagram
Venn <-> Euler

The most popular post I’ve ever made is the one depicting Shakespeare’s works as a Venn Diagram (although technically that shape is an Euler Diagram).  That post on Facebook has garnered over 2 million views at this point, and hundreds of comments. People have asked me if it is available as a poster (as far as I know it is not – I did not create the original image).

The problem is, I don’t like it.  Most of the comments are of the form “Why do you have play X in this category but not that one?” and “You forgot to put Y in the Z category” and so on.  The categories (Suicide, War, Romance, Supernatural) are, I think, too broad.  Does Romeo and Juliet count as war between the two families?  I would say no, but some people disagree.  How about Much Ado About Nothing? It starts with the men coming home from war.

So here’s what I propose.  Can we make a better one, or a set of better ones?  Something that more people can agree on? If we can make something that’s generally agreeable to a large audience I’ll be happy to make it available as a poster / stickers / t-shirt / etc…

I’ve been working with Bardfilm on some new categories.  The goal would be to find a set such that:

  • All plays are represented by at least one category.
  • Minimize the number of categories that have no entries.
  • No single category has too many entries.

What categories would you like to see?  “Supernatural” made our list as well.  I was thinking “Insanity” might be a good one. Bardfilm proposed “Fake Deaths” and “Cross-Dressing”.  If we can’t agree across all the categories we can look at doing one for Comedy, one for Tragedy, one for History, but I think those would end up looking a little sparse, and I’d feel bad about leaving out Romance.

What other ideas have you got for us? Tell us the category you think should be on our diagram, and which plays would be in it.

5 thoughts on “Venn Shakespeare

  1. I wonder if “mistaken identity” or “disguise” would be broader than “cross-dressing” but would still contain it.

    I do like “fake deaths”–it would cover MAAN, WT, T, RJ, 2 HIV, CE, P, C, and MM. That’s at least one in every category!

    kj (Bardfilm)

  2. I think this is a wonderful project, but you have your work cut out for you. Does Hermione count as a fake death? What would be a category with no entries? Why would it be on the diagram in the first place? I am also curious about a single category that represents all plays: They contain a dirty pun? (I still maintain that “I wooed thee with my sword” is both a boast about his cocksmanship and a play on “woody,” but no one ever backs me up on that.) Or do you mean that every play fits into at least one category? How could it not? Good luck! Do you have a timeline for this?

    1. By “one play in every category” you have to consider all the overlapping categories, which in an Euler diagram means all combinations (which is how it differs from a Venn diagram, which does not). So if we had categories for War, Romance, Suicide and Poison, there would ideally be a play in the “War/Romance/Suicide” category, the “War/Poison” category, the “Romance/Suicide/Poison” category, and so on. If you look at the original diagram I linked to, see how the bottom right is empty? There’s no entry in just “Supernatural”, nor “Supernatural / Suicide” or “Supernatural/Suicide/Romance”. But there are several in “Supernatural/Suicide/War”, “Supernatural/Romance” and so on. It’s hard to keep in your head. I have software for it.

  3. I am a copywriter so I have a severe tendency to tart things up and emphasize fun as long as it isn’t directly wrong. So I would definitely do “Cross-Dressing” and “I thought you were dead” (covers fake deaths and presumed deaths!) and “Swords!” and “Sex Puns” would make a beautiful giant circle over the entire thing. Organizing this all into a Euler diagram could get tough, though… a mind-map or something like that might also be worth considering? Also: disfigurement, poison, shipwrecks, betrayal, Weird Animals, royalty… this is a really big project but it also seems like a lot of fun! Hope it turns out that way.

    1. Hi Erin :). I’ve actually got some software of my own invention that can track it. I make a list of the plays, a list of categories, check off which goes where (just like those tables that compare the basic/pro/premium version of software) and, in theory, I pick N columns and it generates me the appropriate diagram. So I can literally experiment with as many categories as we like to find a good balance. The trick for me at least is always feeling like I missed something. But I guess that’s part of the fun for people later.

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