Henry V 360

Date: 2015
Posted by: Royal Shakespeare Company
Cast: Alex Hassell (Henry V)
Credits: Original stage production directed by Gregory Doran
Duration: 2.20

Wherever there is technical innovation in the arts, Shakespeare soon follows. Soon enough, if some manufacturers have their way, we will all be wearing headsets to immerse ourselves wholly in virtual words, leaving flat screens and the distance between observer and observed behind forever. Well, may be not, but 360-degree videos are certainly a growth area, with YouTube now offering a section devoted solely to the form. You don’t have to have a headset to view them, but you do need to use the navigator on the screen or your mouse paid if you want to view the action to the front, back, top, sides or whatever.

And so you can explore all the angles available in this sample 360 video, courtesy of the Royal Shakespeare Company and the RSC and the Google Cultural Institute. Alex Hassell gives the ‘Once more unto the breech’ speech from Henry V on the empty stage of the Royal Shakespeare Theatre at Stratford-on-Avon (staged by the RSC in 2015). He strides about vigorously to encourage us to follow him about the screen. We have to stay alert with the navigation, or we are in danger of losing him. Some curious feature of the 360 recording has made the actor look more like an video game version himself than an actual human being. Perhaps this is intentional.

It’s worth watching the video without touching the navigation tools at all. A pumped-up man in battle clothes strides towards, then beyond us. All we then see is an empty stage with some smoke billowing, while the man who strode past us shouts and breathes heavily out of sight, occasionally popping back into view as he gets more and more worked up, before disappearing again. Having said his piece he strides back into frame and exits the stage. It is an intriguing exercise in the absurd.

It is probably the first 360 Shakespeare video, and it certainly won’t be the last, though whether one will want to inhabit a full-length play in this way seems open to question. When they talk of horses, we will want to see them printing their proud hoofs i’ the receiving earth, but that does not mean we will necessarily want to ride with them.

YouTube page
Royal Shakespeare Company at the Google Cultural Institute

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

Shakespeare (“Shayla” by Blondie)

Date: 2010
Posted by: historyteachers
Cast: Not given
Credits: Not given
Duration: 3.18

History for Music Lovers is a YouTube channel put together by a couple of history teachers from Honolulu with the intention of making the teaching of history of fun. They take historical events and figures, and put them to re-worded versions of pop songs with appropriate vidoe to match. Goodness knows how it is resourced, but the results are great fun indeed: Leonardo Da Vinci and the Beatles’ ‘Dear Prudence’, Roman history told to ‘Mambo no. 5’, the French Revolution to Lady Gaga’s ‘Bad Romance’, Elizabeth I to The Zombies’ ‘She’s Not There’, and – sure enough – William Shakespeare sung to a version of Blondie’s ‘Shayla’. It’s not one of the best of the series, and it doesn’t tell prospective students much beyond the titles of plays, but what the heck?

Also in the series there’s Marianne Faithfull’s version of ‘As Tears Go By’, rewritten to tell the story of the Battle of Agincourt, with scenes from Kenneth Branagh’s Henry V:

YouTube page