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

Dallas Bill and The Merchant of Venice by William Shakespeare

Date: 2008
Posted by: texasdallasbill
Cast: Dallas Bill (Shylock), Steve
Credits: none given
Duration: 5.16

Dallas Bill is a white-beared, hat-wearing Texan who delivers speeches from Shakespeare in a folksy, reassuring style style. In this example, friend Steve introduces him in a form that makes you think of a low-budget cable channel. It cuts to Bill who greets us with a ‘Howdy’ before giving us a bit of the background to play and character, followed by the “Hath not a Jew eyes?” speech. He tells us what the import of the speech is, particularly its meaning for the Christian community. Unfortunately Bill then goes on to inform his audience that Portia is Shylock’s daughter, which of course she isn’t. The “quality of mercy” speech follows, the video ending with his catchphrase “This is Dallas Bill, doing a bit of Will”. It’s a sort of Shakespeare’s thought for the day.

Other examples to be found on Dallas Bill’s YouTube channel include the most familiar lines from Macbeth, Henry V, The Tempest, and a decidely creepy take on Othello, featuring Steve (for some strange reason tied to a wall) and occasional support performer Dottie. Knowing in style without knowing much, odd but quite charming.

YouTube page
Texas Dallas Bill’s channel

Soliloquy from Merchant of Venice (To bait fish withal)

Posted by: oldernwiser0
Cast: srivatsa (Shylock)
Credits: Made by oldernwiser0 (i.e. srivatsa)
Duration: 2.18

This deserves some marks for being different. The usual rendition of a soliloquy (here Act 3 Scene 1 of The Merchant of Venice) comes not with the performer staring accusingly at the camera, but instead an electronic flame that could represent Shylock’s rage, or it might a purely abstract concept, or maybe it’s literally the flame speaking – like the burning bush. The filmmaker is a 60-year-old from India who mostly videos the food he’s been cooking. But everyone has to have a bit of Shakespeare in them, somewhere.

YouTube page