Ian McKellen Wants To Help You Understand Shakespeare

Kids who attended high school in the United States share one thing in common; you were forced to read Shakespeare at one point. I’m of the school of thought that you shouldn’t be reading a play and should be watching it, but that’s just me.

Naturally, the old English and different lexicon used in his works aren’t the easiest to understand, especially for high school kids. Luckily, Sir Ian McKellen (aka Magneto) is here to help. He wants to let you know that reading Shakespeare isn’t impossible, but that it’s really only meant for actors in the same way that reading see music is only meant for musicians. Kind of a dick way to look at it, but let’s roll with it.

He’s created an iPad app called Heuristic Shakespeare, which creates a sort of Justice League of Britain’s best Shakespearean actors to help you understand the Bard’s work. As of right meow, the only play available on the app is The Tempest, but McKellen and his business parter Richard Loncraine have their sights set on all 37 of Billy Shakes’ plays.

Here’s how the app works:

It’s supposed to function as a middle ground between reading the play and seeing it performed. Actors, including McKellen, Derek Jacobi, and Frances Barber, speak lines from the play directly into the camera as the text across beneath them. While that’s happening, you can take notes and highlight passes. Additional information on the play and bonus content, including pictures from productions, visual breakdowns and videos discussing the plays’ themes, are also included.

For $5.99 on iTunes you can get your hands on this app, if you really care to do so, and each additional play will cost extra. If you’re really into this stuff, you can listen to McKellen discussing the project on the Empire Podcast (around 15:40). He also explains that he’s “the man who invented blogging.” Not convinced? Then maybe his blog, which he’s been running since 1999, will convince you otherwise.

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[A.V. Club]

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