Infinite Monkey Syndrome

Date: 2012
Posted by: James R. Ford
Cast: Not given
Credits: Produced by James R. Ford
Duration: 1.30

A few months ago it was reported that US programmer Jesse Anderson had set up a virtual set of some millions of monkeys (using Hadoop), all of them tying at random on virtual typewriters, and had managed produce something that was 99.99% Shakespeare – the first text to be achieved in this way being ‘A Lover’s Complaint’. Anderson had cut corners however, because every time the random typing came up with words that roughly matched something from the Shakespeare canon then they would be retained, if not then discarded. With this and other constraints, Anderson could achieve his goal. The purely random production of Shakespeare by an infinite number of monkeys remains something for the philosophers and theoretical mathematicians.

Or for a videomaker. This droll piece, made by British artist James R. Ford, is an extract from a 9 minutes 8 second loop (therefore designed in principle to run forever). It shows us a woman in a monkey suit, typing Shakespeare, as the tags to the video tell us, because otherwise we would not know (a photograph of the typewriter on the artist’s website indicates that only gibberish has been produced – so far). Is is a Shakespeare video? I say that it is – and so it is (and just to make the point this post has been tagged with all of the plays and poems). A video to watch, infinitely.

Jesse Anderson explains more about his project on this video:

YouTube page
BBC online news item on Jesse Anderson’s project
Jesse Anderson’s Million Monkeys Project
James R. Ford’s personal website

Cardenio trailer

Date: 2011
Posted by: theRSC
Cast: Oliver Rix (Cardenio)
Credits: Not given (but from theatre production directed by Gregory Doran)
Duration: 0.56

We haven’t included many theatre trailers here on BardBox, but the chance to include something on Shakespeare’s lost play Cardenio is not one to miss. Of course, Cardenio remains very much lost, but a play by Lewis Theobald said (without any clear evidence to back this up) to have been based on the the lost manuscript, The Double Falsehood; Or, The Distrest Lovers, was produced in 1727 and was optimistically included in the Arden Shakspeare in 2010. Now this has been adapted by Gregory Doran for the Royal Shakespeare Company and billed as Cardenio for audiences in 2011. It’s more marketing than theatrical archaeology, one may think, but of course we will want to see for ourselves rather than have the pleasure withheld from us.

The RSC has issued this teaser trailer, and it is fascinating. Just a minute long, it uses the visual (and the aural) to make up for the limitations for the verbal. The words are spoken as being filled with Shakespearean insight and moment, which they rather lack on the printed page. But it is the sounds of the words that matters, not their import. They sound like Shakespeare is supposed to sound, blended as they are with noises that conjure up an imminent storm with background effects denoting disturbance. While all of this is going on our attention is focussed on the sight of Cardenio oppressed by thought, turning to the camera for just a second, to give a look full of reproachfulness and dread, before the title of the play comes up. What comes next? You’ll have to go and see. Cardenio may be a double falsehood in itself, but it can be made to look and sound like Shakespeare, with the help of the camera. It feeds on our expectations. It makes us want to look deeper, brief as the trailer may be. It’s the perfect tease.

Gregory Doran’s production of Cardenio runs at the Swan Theatre, Stratford from 14 April – 6 October 2011.

Gregory Doran’s Cardenio blog
RSC page on Cardenio
YouTube page