March 20, 2018

The Advocate's Toolbox

Shakespeare’s “The Tempest” |Touch and Go

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Just when we thought we had seen nearly everything the app world has to offer on Shakespeare’s plays and sonnets, along comes Heuristic Media’s The Tempest. Behind the app is the famed actor Ian McKellen, who along with professor Jonathan Bate, and business partner Richard Loncraine, has plans to release an app for each of Shakespeare’s 37 plays. For more on the project, which begins with Shakespeare’s last play, hear what McKellen has to say about it in a trailer produced by Heuristic Media or in this Empire Podcast (skip to minute 17:00). Chris Gustafson reviews the production for School Library Journal below.


Shakespeare_icon_bigOn opening The Tempest (Heuristic Media, iOS, $5.99; Gr 7 Up), viewers will be able to choose which of three levels they would like to approach the text (level l recommended to those new to Shakespeare). From there, it’s straight into the play. Those comfortable with the work of the Bard, are likely to begin reading, stopping occasionally to tap the underlined text to access the pop-up definitions of words and phrases. They’ll also see line number notations and thumbnail picture links to images or sets of images from art or theater productions of the play. In portrait mode, viewers can watch as actors (Ian McKellen, Derek Jacobi, Frances Barber, etc.) recite lines while the text scrolls below.

To go deeper, students can tap the menu icon on the bottom of the screen, which pulls up the “Table of Contents,” offering several enticing options. There’s “Play at a Glance,” a summarizing feature. The “Character Map” organizes characters by scene, presents their individual lines in chronological order, and connects to images or videos. Another feature allows students to take notes as they read. Links to “Shakespeare’s World and Times” and “Essays and Videos.” With access to a First Folio, viewers can zoom in and look closely at the earliest version of the play. In addition to the reproductions, videos, and photos, the app is illustrated with distinctive, stylized pen-and-ink drawings washed in earth tones.

Readers may never get around to clicking on the question mark icon on the bottom of the screen when reading the play, which would be a shame, because it will take them to the most useful section of the app, “Navigating the Play.” This video tutorial is guaranteed to save students time as it explains and demonstrates how to get the most out of the production’s features and views. “Content Levels” can also be accessed here (support material changes with the level chosen). Just as valuable is the unassuming “Settings” link, which allows readers to customize many reading experience features.

Novice and experienced readers of Shakespeare can choose to skim the surface or to dig for a deeper understanding of the play, the playwright, and the historical context. App fans will be laying hopeful wagers on which play will be next. Chris Gustafson, Whitman Middle School, Seattle Public Schools

"Nymphs, Reapers, Spirits" Photo of a production of "The Tempest." Scene from Heuristic Shakespeare: The Tempest

“Nymphs, Reapers, Spirits” Photo of a production of “The Tempest.” Scene from Heuristic Shakespeare: The Tempest

Daryl Grabarek About Daryl Grabarek

Daryl Grabarek is the editor of School Library Journal's monthly enewsletter, Curriculum Connections, and its online column Touch and Go. Before coming to SLJ, she held librarian positions in private, school, public, and college libraries. Her dream is to manage a collection on a remote island in the South Pacific.

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