App Reviewed on: iPad 2
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Shakespeare was a poet, but first and foremost he was a playwright. He wrote his plays to please the crowds who came to see them performed. Shakespeare wasn’t an academic darling; he was part of Elizabethan pop-culture. Mindconnex keeps this in mind with Shakespeare in Bits –A Midsummer Night’s Dream.They also tailor the app to those who are put off by all the “thees”, “thous” and “perchances," not to mention the obscure slang and social references from the 16th century that too often stop young readers from understanding, much less enjoying, the great works. This is an app that tackles those two issues head on and makes Shakespeare and his language come alive on any iOS device.
Shakespeare in Bits, as the name implies, doles out the play in small portions, each accompanied by fully animated and voice-acted original video. Like those who sat at the Globe, users watch the action unfold in vivid color, hearing voices that have the right cadence and tone.
This makes the experience more authentic than a straight reading, and certainly the visual cues help explain the action. But, Shakespeare in Bits also acknowledges that much of the vocabulary can be obscure, spoken or not, so each potentially difficult word is highlighted. A tap gives the reader the contemporary synonym.
The developers want to make sure the play is understood, so they don’t stop with the text. Each scene has accompanying notes and a complete synopsis. It’s like have a more literary version of Cliff Notes packaged with the text and a movie. The app goes even deeper offering detailed character analysis and relationship maps. Further analysis of the plot as a whole, the various themes, the language and imagery are also available at a tap.
The language used in the explanatory texts is clear, concise, and light on literary jargon. But, that doesn’t mean they dumb it down. There is depth here and lots of meaty discussion points. Currently there is no way to take notes or highlight important passages. And, line numbering would be helpful, but otherwise this is an extraordinary educational package.
While the animated re-casting may not be The Royal Shakespeare Company, it has such genuinely compelling graphics and is so a well-read, any student is sure to be both enriched and entertained. An iPhone version is sold separately.