How to write a blog post

By Hayley Dunmire

There a couple of things to remember when writing a blog post:

1. it is like a diary- be honest and insightful

2. no stuffy language: keep it light but formal

3. what you say must have meaning and depth – you can’t just say anything

4. just because it is a blog doesn’t mean that all your essay writing goes out of the window

Be Honest

A blog is a process of writing, meaning that it is how you got to your findings as opposed to showing what you found out. How you get your findings also includes the good and bad that you find with it. However just because you are allowed to show the bad doesn’t mean that your blog becomes one giant rantl it has to have meaning and substance behind it.


The language of a blog part of what makes it a blog. It is a combination of both formal and informal–in that it is nothing like the language used in a formal essay where it is stiff and has no emotion or personal connection tied to it, or the language we use when we text people where it is a jumbled mess of missing words and symbols. It is a combination of the two: it looks at your personal experience of learning and association with the language that can be easily comprehended and understood but still has a sense of class.


What you have to say is still important in that the meaning and depth behind something has not evaporated. Just because the formality of the language has disappeared, does not mean the substance has to go as well. The whole point of a blog is to get your message across, so make sure what you have to say is important.


Just because a Blog isn’t as formal as an essay doesn’t mean that the format of the post can be whatever you want. It should still be as organized as an essay with an intro, body and a conclusion. Your Blog post should also include a theme and thesis, which your Blog should rotate around. For the body of your essay you should include screen shots to act as examples to your body paragraph which supports your blog post.

Overall a Blog post is like a fancy diary entry with truth, class, structure as well as a meaning.


How to Write a Blog Post (In Three Easy Steps)

[This is written by Madelyn Brakke, a student in English 203 in Winter 2012.]

When Dr. Ullyot first told our English 203 class that we would be writing blog posts for the course I was a little sceptical. I had never read many blogs, let alone write one. I’ll admit, my first blog post was a little rough, however with each post I began to get a feel for the unique style of writing required for blogs. I also came up with a quick guide to writing blogs, that I hope you will find helpful.

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How to Write a Blog Post

Writing blog posts as assignments for classes is, to most, a foreign concept. Raised from the standard depths of five paragraph essays complete with an introduction, body paragraphs, a conclusion, and to the point of a concise thesis, some are intimidated by the idea of writing anything different. Well, fear not! Blog posts are fundamentally very similar to the standard essay that many of us have written time and time again. Like essays, your posts have a reader, and you introduce, explain, and conclude your topic of discussion. The only differences are that, in an online community, your posts do not just have a reader, but they have readers, whom will all be interested in what you have to say because you will explain and explore your ideas. How do I know they will be interested, you ask? Here’s how:

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Reading with the Stars…and Scholarly Peers

There are fewer tools that actually build an archive of live interpretation—as opposed to facts layered and ready for interpretation–around a stable text.“  – Augusta Rohrbach and David Tagnani

That’s where an amalgamation of Highbrow and Voyeur would come in.  The argument against the incorporation of humanities in English literature courses is solid, mainly, that it distances the reader from the text and removes the qualitative perspective only possible through human interpretation.  To replace it are mathematical calculations such as those presented in digital tools like Voyeur.  The creator of Highbrow, Reinhard Engles, describes his developing program as an “experimental genome browser for literary texts.”  Now, friends, genomes are inheritable traits of an organism.  Disbelieving as I was, I turned to the video screen casts and the electronic organism known as Highbrow.

Engles has put forth a set of 5 different tutorial videos, within each are demonstrations of the texts that have been uploaded into the program for use.  As Highbrow is still in its developmental stages, there are yet only 4 literary texts and 1 video to choose from:

Dante’s Divine Comedies

Ralph Waldo Emerson (Multiple Works)

Shakespeare’s First Folio (no references yet)

The Bible (King James Version)


Here are the strength and weaknesses, problems I found while working with Highbrow, as well as a basic “how-to.”  To start with I will mention that I will not be working with the Shakespeare set as it is incomplete and does not show, to the full extent, the capabilities of Highbrow.

“An Interactive Deep Zoom Widget:”

Rohrbach and Tagnani admit in their post “Reading with the Stars: Teaching with the HIGHBROW Annotation Browser,” that although there are plenty of tools available to ‘aggregate and organize existing information for users to interpret,’ these tools more or less become a step between students and the text and distance them from the literature itself.  Students begin to analyze the calculations formed by tools rather than “build an archive of live interpretation” from the text itself.  From this predicament and the partnering of Associate Professor, Augusta Rohrbach; PhD student, David Tagnani and Engles himself: ‘Reading with the Stars’ was born.  In their Washington State University classroom environment, Highbrow became a way for students to build upon both their own thoughts and conceptions about a studied work as well as the ideas and commentary of their peers.  ‘Reading with the Stars’ allows for a class to break beyond the barriers of a physical classroom and allow a ‘relaxed academic’ (oxymoronic in the eyes of many scholars, no doubt) atmosphere housed in a vast digital realm.


Putting it Together:

Aside from providing a digital meeting ground under the pretext of a .. well, a text, Reading with the Stars/Highbrow also allows an exceedingly more organized method for students to collaboratively annotate, highlight and organize ourselves beside the literature.  On an average day a student carries around their own weight in books – the conditions of which are dangerously suggestive of a younger sibling having had at them with a box of stationary.

Only somewhat inconvenient for budgeting students, we cry out for an answer, and Highbrow provides:

Highbrow: a clean and tidy alternative – and more. Click here for Engles screencast on “Interactive Editing.”

The ability to add/subtract “tracks” and edit the names of groups (which, by default, are sorted in chronological order – for the OCD perfectionist in us all) provides a unique experience catering to each individual’s preference.  Highbrow has a clean-cut interface with relatively easy navigation.  Zoom in with the mouse wheel, tapping the arrow key, or simply clicking.  Zooming in on specific segments allows you to view segments from books, to cantos, to verses and line numbers (in the case of Dante’s Divine Comedies):

Once you have registered, you can add your own annotations right next to the elite.  There are over 288,000 “tracks” of commentary, broken apart by centuries by default. It is interesting to see what 7 centuries of annotation looks like alongside each other, which were more interested and which were less interested: 1600 (Clearly everyone was wrapped up in Hamlet.)



Now come the annotations! At first, I had attempted to deselect all commentators aside from the track labelled “English” (seemed like a safe bet) and although it did produce English annotations, this greatly decreased the amount of notes in the right hand column.

My focus aimed at Canto V of Inferno (one of my favourite cantos from my favourite comedy) I decided to play with the “search text” button. As previously mentioned, Engles has designed a very clean interface and so it is quite simply point and click on the blue link in the upper left corner and a window will appear like the one pictured below:

What shall we look for in Canto V?  “Love” of course, although when searching, I would point out that your searches are limited to text only (or so I was unable to disprove) and not to the commentary.  Once you have typed in whatever desired lines or key word(s) preferred, simply click “search.”  Whatever keyword was searched will create a new “track” next to whichever others you had previously selected to the right.

Imagine my surprise when my search for “love” in the second circle of “The Lustful” produced 0 results. 

Then it hit me.  Oh yes, that’s right, it’s Italian.

Unfortunately, my Italian isn’t that strong otherwise I would have added in my own commentary next to  Alighieri’s own blood – Pietro!  I would imagine that in the near future Engles will be hosting further collaborations with other teachers, classrooms and of course, doing his own weekly adjustments to his program.  That being said, I was disappointed that I could not work further with Dante as I absolutely adore the Divine Comedies.  I would expect more works of Shakespeare will be added at the very least, along with more literature and perhaps a translated version of the Comedies – as the original is difficult to navigate even with a translator.

As this was the only real let down of the program for me, any other “weaknesses” I could possibly comment on an intelligent browser such as this – still so young in development, are few:

  1.  I had noticed that while searching through the text and annotations, I had only the option of scrolling with my mouse/track pad.  This became awkward and occasionally inconvenient when wanting to scroll with speed and precision.  This however, turned out to be strength on the programmer’s behalf as I later found out he added a side-scroll bar into the Emerson text.
  2. Also, searching with the “search text” tool does not search through the annotations: the most unique and intriguing part about Highbrow.


“Immersing into Emerson”

Although I am admittedly, and quite ashamed, not familiar with much of Emerson’s work, I had a lot more fun experimenting with Highbrow at this point.  I also had a lot more opportunity to see exactly why Rohrbach and Tagnani were suggesting that fun in a classroom could be facilitated with Highbrow.  So too, could I juxtapose the use of  Voyeur with it, discovering that the tool pairing make up for many shortcomings of the other and complement one another nicely.

I did not figure out a way of imputing the annotations themselves into Voyeur;  the results of which would have been more than thrilling for me at this point.  However, alternatively, I input the entirety of Emerson’s  “Intellect” into Voyeur and produced the following the results:

It was interesting to see (note: the top right corner of the ‘Word Trends’ chart) the correlation of Voyeur’s trending of truth and the identical spike pattern formed when put into a “track” in Highbrow.  True, data is data, the solidification of cohesiveness between the tools was refreshing given the complications presented throughout Phase II.  A few tools disagreed with one another more than once leaving room for doubt about the effectiveness of one or each tool.  I returned to the Voyant interface and I noticed shortcomings about Voyeur I hadn’t picked up on before.  When coming back to Voyeur again after a long absence and recently experimenting with Highbrow, I found that the Corpus Reader is excruciatingly ineffective in comparison to that of Highbrow’s navigation and heat-map highlighting layout.  Side by side, Voyeur is obviously lacking however, that is just the Corpus Reader.  Voyeur obviously has visual advantages, as best exemplified in my blog post: Singing with the Gravedigger, over Highbrow many of which are not as effective as they could be with Highbrow without first extracting user commentary.  I would love to see how Highbrow could be further taken into the other tools of ENGL203 and how it could match up with the other tools.  The ability to calculate frequencies within the text to then correlate with Highbrow’s human annotations based on activity spikes.


Putting it into Practice: “Reading with the Stars…and Scholarly Peers”

Rohrbach and Tagnani mentioned that what gauged the most reaction from students was an amalgamation of peer interaction and the public stage of the web.  This excitement and student exchange was part of the framework of our own classroom setting in English 203.  At one point in the “Prof. Hacker” blog post, they mention – “Indeed, when our students at WSU found out that they could read comments from a group of students approaching the text from a different context, the excitement was palpable: they wanted to see what students from another school and another kind of class thought about the text.”  Attempting to set Highbrow onto a classroom was probably one of the cleverest things possible for its capabilities and emphasizes each of the strengths that I discovered in my journey with “Reading with the Stars.”  They are as follows:

  • As the writers of the aforementioned blog post eloquently put it, Highbrow is like “reading through the lens of established experts.”   How much more fortunate can any student get?  For academic writing, the ability to have elite annotations from several centuries, alongside hypothesis testing tools such as Voyeur, would improve the quality standard of essays, academic papers and critical thinking as a whole.
  • On top of that, and providing further fuel for student minds, Engles is an actively involved programmer.  Rohrbach and Tagnani proved this in their described discourse with the creator,  illustrating him as delighted to assist and collaborate with them in their effort to establish “Reading with the Stars” at Washington State University.  Engles’ Alpha 2 is a screen cast about the highly enticing concept (and his plan) to incorporate multimedia into Highbrow.  In short, and certainly not doing the theory justice; the video really is a must watch, he is attempting to add the interactivity of annotating into multimedia such as videos as well as adding famous artwork based on literature as new tracks or perhaps timelines.  The video demo is, of course, not without his signature organization strategy of cutting the whole into tidy segments.  Further adding to his dedication, and as a result adding to the strength of the browser itself, Engles mentions that he is devoted to “adding new features every week for the next few months.”
  • We’re not done yet folks!  Highbrow/Reading with the Stars also provides potential benefits for the educators!  Associate Professor Augusta Rohrbach says herself that in her own classroom: “There is simply not time for everyone to contribute every class period, and the less confident and more introverted students find it easy to just hide in the crowd.”  This becomes true for every class discussing a literary work(s) and especially when it comes to analyzing said literary text; tenfold in a humanities lab.  When everyone wants to speak and provide a lengthy explanation, only 5-10 out of 100 get to speak and the hesitant/shy students are left quiet in the back row with their potentially break-through ideas remaining unfulfilled or expanded.  With Highbrow and Voyeur, alongside perhaps a more textual based tool like Wordhoard or Tapor; students can collaborate and build a strong and thorough breakdown of a text using mediums that best suits how their thoughts progress.  As commentary builds on the ever-growing student tree of side notes – the more each thought fuels newer, deeper questions.  Where the previous problem was too many voices and not enough space, the issue evolves into a strength for the classrooms digital environment: the more the merrier.  With so many voices and thoughts flowing via annotations, and with the superior organization of text Highbrow offers, professors can keep “track” of it (pun intended) easily by monitoring separate student tracks and annotation spikes.  More information regarding this and other ideas can be found in Engles’ third installment of his screen cast tutorials: Alpha 3: Interactive Editing.
  • One of the comment reviews about Highbrow I agree with the highest enthusiasm is that of anonymous ‘Tim’ who says “[It] would be wonderful for Buddhist studies which has 2000 years’ worth of commentaries.” This is particularly exciting for collaborating with Voyeur as the view of ancient texts through the lens of modern digital tools would breathe fresh life and doubtless new perspectives for new and old generations alike.
  • Lastly, I would like to point out a particular strength that Highbrow had a high hand over all of the tools English 203 studied: text location and isolation.  The precision Highbrow has displayed remains unmatched by Voyeur and to the best of my knowledge, any of the other tools.  Highbrow, with greater ease than it would be to flip to a chapter in a print book, isolates precise segments (such as cantos and acts) from the rest of the text – ready for examination by eager students.

Highbrow combines both qualitative and quantitative information, whereas Voyeur expands on the quantitative.  As I mentioned in an earlier “Phase I” blog post Voyeur is mainly a hypothesis testing tool – putting words into math-like calculations which may then potentially be further speculated.  Highbrow/Reading with the Stars, as it is peer and comment based, is most likely most useful for hypothesis generating.  Together: THEY WILL BE VICTORIOUS (too much?)


The End?
I think the connected functionality of this program will lead to a more united classroom.  It could potentially further encourage layering peer thoughts creating one or two linear thoughts as opposed to a separated classroom movement. Although English 203 came together, and watching it come together was probably one of the most enjoyable aspects about blogging, I could see a place for Highbrow as an addition to any classroom rather than a replacement altogether. Blog posts would continue to allow students to freely express and layout their personal thoughts on a page, easily a necessity in this course; and Highbrow to draw out the introverts and build confidence in their ideas as well as shine a new light on the same text for everyone to realize ideas they didn’t know they had.  The next logical step for books is digital humanities, evidently, but we don’t want to lose our relationship with the stories, authors and text. Together, we make it stronger instead of simply replicating the effect of annotations by peer commenting and annotating.

With the addition of Voyeur, visual stimuli would undoubtedly lead “students to think more deeply about those passages, passages that they may have initially ‘took at surface level,’” (as one student had mentioned) – not unlike the realizations of our own humanities course by semester’s end.  Although Highbrow does not at first seem much different than our own classroom blogging method, the ability to annotate alongside the text increases the student relationship with the writer and text (much like writing all over our hard copies has done for us in the past) and decrease writer’s block intimidation and perfectionism.  It’s like building an anthology, complete with graphs, for future classes or perhaps assisting other classrooms and students across the world!


A Rocky Start, A Triumphant Finish

Introduction: Taking the book worm into the realm of computers

This semester has been a roller coaster to say the least. I started this term as a traditional reader with a pen in one hand and the book, play or texts in the other and was dropped into the world of computers, computer programs and digital analysis. (Terrifying, I know.) My initial feelings with the whole process were feelings of trepidation, anxiety and a little bit angry that new technology was taking over something I have always loved. Andrew Prescott wrote in his blog,  “a sense of being overwhelmed by technology, of anxiety about the way in which new technologies are transforming society”, which is exactly how I felt. “Why change something that is not and was not broken” was also something that kept going through my mind in the introductory weeks.

I am a person that is not a fan of change, so I really struggled to find the beauty in the digital humanities. My internal struggle and my main questions during the semester were focusing on the pros and cons of the quantitative process over the traditional qualitative process. How will the numbers, figures and pictures help us gain more insight and new views into texts we have studied for centuries? Will this type of analysis help or hinder the reader and researcher when looking at a piece of work?

Trials and Tribulations with TAPoR

My first foray into the digital humanities world was less then promising. The tool I was given was TAPoR and for the computer impaired, it was torture to figure out. I saw my grades slip from between my fingers and so I cursed all things computers for the next month or so. My first few blogs I posted were less then steller to me but most people found pure enjoyment from them. TAPoR and I could not seem to work together, and the more I pushed the more it pushed back with error messages. A couple of error messages is not bad but when you run 12 separate searches and get 12 different error messages it just takes computers fighting back to a whole new level.

For your enjoyment here are a few:


Once I figured out what TAPoR likes and what is does not, I started seeing results. This was a glimmer of hope in what I was sure was a doomed project. However, this glimmer soon flickered out and I again I was left in the dark hopelessly trying to find the light. The huge problem I have found using my tool is that same results are hard to come by. For example I used the same program (TAPoR), and the same text (Hamlet), and ran them through the same tool called CAPS Finder, each time I got a different result. I was starting to think that this program had it out for me so I enlisted my fellow classmates to redo the same search with the parameters I had already set. Sadly, out of 5 TAPoR users we did not get the same results.

After weeks spent slaving over the computer, TAPoR and I had come to a working agreement where it would give me result 50% of the time. This is was huge step into realizing that this whole thing may not be so bad.

Qualitative Research

I have a soft spot for Hamlet by William Shakespeare. I have studied this play over 7 times in an academic setting and every single time I find something new, interesting and different. While the quantitative results I got did shock me and helped me find new undiscovered information, I find you still need a human eye/reader. For example, a quote said by the Queen in Act 3,“madness. There is something in his soul..”. TAPoR pulled up the term madness using the concordance tool but it is up to the reader to figure out the significance of this line. Words are mean to be interpreted and a computer cannot help us with this process. It’s a human reader to text process that is the key to figuring out Shakespeare.

Quantitative using TAPoR

This section I will need to break up into two parts, the pros and the cons. Using digital analysis tool was something new for me to experience and it took a while to succumb to the idea.  So the only way to get my full feelings of the program was to break it up.

The Pros

            Within my research I finally saw the light at the end of the tunnel when I started looking to the senses and their meanings with Act 3. The senses I took an interest in are: eyes, ears, tongue, sight. I did start the process in a qualitative matter but with out the help of digital humanities would not have found something that I have never realized before. By doing my searches I found that all the senses were connected and used interchangeably within Hamlet. Noticing the patterns of the words and how they were used made my research move forward with ease. This also pains me to say, but I was surprised how efficient and quick it found these patterns. It is a tedious task to do it with the human eye and you will miss a word or two in the process.

I also had the time to research other things using my other textbooks from history and the Internet to figure out the meanings of these words in a historical context. (This was only possible with all the extra time I had, since I was not hunched over a text book for hours on end). The results took to a whole different level of literary analysis, and a greater, deeper meaning of Hamlet.

The Cons

            Well, what can I say? The list of cons dealing primarily with TAPoR is long and tedious but since I have already talked about that, I will list other things in my findings. My number problem I have had with just the digital humanities is that the computer program takes away from the text. I found the more I got into the research aspect using TAPoR the less and less I used my hard copy of Hamlet. There it was, laying on my desk besides my computer, looking lonely and unused. It was a very heart wrenching moment when I realized that in 3 full weeks I have not opened the actual texts onceMaybe I am old fashioned, traditional, or whatever you want to call it but isn’t the text the most important part of literary analysis?

Another issue I found was TAPoR was not the only program with inconsistent results. We used five different programs (Voyeur, Monk, WordHoard, and WordSeer) and every single one gave us different results. It was hard to trust which program was right or not so we just put all our results into the our research and hoped for the best.


Andrew Prescott compared the birth of digital humanities as necessary as the “industrial revolution and the birth of print.” It may very well be and I honestly do like it for certain things.  It is definitely a time saver with the ability to search times quicker then the traditional methods. It can pull out patterns, words and phrases that a human cannot do with only missing something while doing so, and with such certainty. However, I have said this in my pervious blogs, this is a tool NOT a replacement to traditional methods of reading and analyzing a text. No computer or program can show you the beauty of these words put together on a page. Without the reader we cannot get the meaning that the author was trying to get across nor can we understand the text fully when we know that Shakespeare used the word “mad” a lot.

I have come a long way since the start of the semester. Digital humanities and programs will be a tool I will use as I proceed through my degree but it will not replace my book and pen. This has been an experience for me that I will cherish for all I have learned. I hope you all enjoyed the process as much as I have! Enjoy


Works Cited

Shakespeare, William. Hamlet. A Norton Critical Edition. Ed. Robert S. Miola. New York: W.W. Norton & Company. 2011. Print.

Prescott, Andrew. Blog-


The Favorability of Textual Analysis In English

Beginning the Journey with WordHoard

I walked into English 203 with the preconceived idea that we would be studying a literary text and analyzing it with the discoveries made by physically reading the text. Instead I was introduced to a whole new world of textual study; digital humanities. Up until the first day of class I was oblivious to the idea that literary texts could be studied using programs on my computer. Being someone who loves to find a “quick route” to any task, this new concept made me doubt all the traditional analysis I had done for other English classes in University.

I began my journey into the tech savvy world of digital humanities with a not so fancy partner by the name of WordHoard. Through our journey we had our ups and downs (the full details can be found in my second blog post); although the downs surpassed the ups in quantity, the advantages of having WordHoard as a tool ready to analyze alongside me helped balance out the negatives. WordHoard is a great starting tool for students like me who are just being introduced to the possibilities of technological analysis. While analyzing Act 3 Scene 4 in  our first phase, I couldn’t help but wonder if the “discoveries” I was making with WordHoard could have just as easily been found if I were to do a close reading of the play myself. Those small seeds of doubt gave way to the growing thoughts of whether digital analysis was even needed to better understand a text. Like all things in life, the rose colored glasses of technological research had to come off and I had to decide if I would ever take part in the digital humanities world after the conclusion of my English 203 class or if the knowledge I attained during these four months would eventually be stored away in the back of my brain.

Distracted by Appearances

We as humans have a tendency to focus on items that have appealing appearances; like children we reach out for the bright object, unconsciously attracted to its shine. That attraction towards a shiny object exists in the digital humanities as well. In Fred Gibbs‘ article Organizing Early Modern Texts he gives an anecdote about the printing press. During the early 19th century, the printing press faced competition from newer sleeker methods of printing such as engraving. In order to cut the competition, printers began to add artistic borders to the pages being print. Were these borders or ornamental designs helpful or necessary in regards to the print? Nope; instead as Gibbs said “the medium had overtaken the message”.

How is this related to Digital Humanities? After working with the various analysis tools in Phase 1 and Phase 2, we became familiar with the many different functions these tools have. While some were useful, others made you wonder what the point of the function was at all. The image above is a screen shot of a word cloud from Voyeur; the larger the word is the more it’s used in the play. While this image helps me conclude that Hamlet is the most used word in the play, I don’t make any great epiphanies by studying it. The image itself is appealing, such that I could use it as an art piece to decorate my room but it would be on the lower end of the scale of its usefulness in analyzing Hamlet. The same information could easily be stated in a window without all the art work. The screen shot below shows us that the word Hamlet was used 85 times in the whole play and goes on to show the dialogues it was used in.

During Phase One, my group and I focused on mastering WordHoard; of course this wasn’t possible in the short time span, but we tried our best to at least know how to run the program! Throughout this phase our main complaint was how WordHoard looked so plain in comparison to the fancy screen shots everyone else had for their tools. It wasn’t until we joined together with other members who had expertise in the different tools in Phase 2 that we came to realize that WordHoard, although lacking in the visual department, had an advantage over some tools when it came to analyzing the text itself.

This brings me back to the point that although the other tools look better or present their data in artistic forms, they are unnecessary for the analysis of the play. A literary text can be analyzed just a well without the multicolored word clouds or line webs. When using digital tools we can fall prey to the appearance of the data being represented but we aren’t really progressing further in our research. Instead the medium, or method in which the data is presented, over shadows the data itself. Digital analysis of texts is useful but I believe that we do not need all the “bells and whistles” which these tools come equipped with in order to better understand a text; instead these functions can sometimes serve as a distraction from what we are really looking for.

Quantitative versus Qualitative

I’ve always enjoyed reading my novels with a pen in hand ready to vandalize the prim and clean pages of the book. You get an odd sense of satisfaction by writing down a note or underlining a specific sentence especially when those scribbles help you read in between the lines of what the author has written. You feel a connection to the author because you uncovered the deeper meaning behind their words. What I missed the most this semester was the connection you have with the text by close reading. That isn’t to say that the Digital Humanities prevent you from better understanding a text or making a connection with the author because it does help you your analysis. Both the traditional method of analysis and digital analysis help you research a text but the only difference is that the traditional method of close reading allows for a qualitative analysis while the digital one is more quantitative in its results. In order to better understand this concept, I will compare the two methods of analysis.

                Textual Analysis

In Phase 2, my group members and I revolved our research around the theme of madness (more details in my blog post). For my part of the research I searched up how the other actors in the play reacted to Hamlets “madness”. Limited by what I could search up using my tool (WordHoard doesn’t search up synonyms of words) I had to literally go through all of Act 3 and find quotes made by the different actors regarding Hamlet’s madness. This wouldn’t have been possible because the characters do not always use the word madness when they speak of Hamlet; close reading is required to understand their view points. The following are quotes I found from my Hamlet book.

  • Nor what he spake, though it lacked form a little, was not like madness. There’s something in his soul. (Claudius, 3.1.166)
  • O, what a noble mind is here o’erthrown! (Ophelia 3.1.152)

As you can see madness is not the only word used to describe Hamlet’s disposition. I would never have thought of searching up the words “noble mind” or “o’erthrown” therefore I would have missed out on Ophelia’s opinion of Hamlet’s insanity. This would definitely hinder my analysis if I were to solely base my research on discoveries made through digital analysis. Even without the use of a technological tool, I can interpret through close reading that Claudius doesn’t truly believe Hamlet is mad but has a motive behind that insanity. Ophelia’s interpretation is that Hamlet is mad, but this madness is just a phase which he can move out of and eventually be restored to his normal self.

                Digital Analysis

Through the use of WordHoard I made the following discovery in Phase 1:

In the whole play, Hamlet is the one who uses the word madness the most. This can give way to the idea that Hamlet encourages the people to believe he is insane by constantly using the term himself. I can also make the conclusion that madness is a major theme in the play because the word itself is used the most in Hamlet when compared to other Shakespearean plays. Both of these inferences are based on the quantitative data presented by WordHoard. I didn’t have to do the time consuming act of reading through the whole play in order to highlight madness whenever I see it and count how many time sits used, neither did I have to read any other Shakespearean play to compare it to Hamlet.

After my comparison you can see that the textual analysis is qualitative because your interpretations are more in depth and made after you give the words more thought while digital analysis is quantitative because the interpretations made were not truly based on deep thought but rather on the data presented by the digital tool. While I prefer close textual reading even I can admit to the fact that a combination of both traditional and digital analysis is necessary to conduct efficient research in regards to literary texts. Some might believe that the use of technology to make inferences in literature is just another way to accommodate our lazy generation but this is incorrect because as I’ve show the computer cannot make interpretations or develop great epiphanies; it is still the researcher’s responsibility to uncover the message of the text. Fred Gibbs gives a perfect explanation when he says “Digital methodologies leverage the computer’s ability for mindless drudgery to help us do and see more than we would otherwise—and hopefully make discoveries that would otherwise go unnoticed.”

My Train of Thought

The introduction of digital tools to the written world has been an amazing innovation for literary researchers; I won’t deny it because everything needs an upgrade from time to time. During a time when the analysis of texts was long, repetitive and in some cases inefficient, tools such as WordHoard, WordSeer, Tapor, Monk and Voyeur have given those who choose to undertake the task of literary analysis a chance to move past the long tiring hours spent close reading several texts and focus on the actual comparisons being made. The use of digital tools helped me:

  • Compare several Shakespearean plays to Hamlet giving me insight on the various meanings of words in different contexts
  • Easily quantify data found when comparing scenes, acts or even plays
  • Interpret the data found through visuals
  • Analyze Hamlet a lot faster than I would have done through close textual reading alone

I cannot deny that the use of digital tools to dig into Shakespeare’s Hamlet made literary analysis somewhat easier but neither can I say that it helped me make a mind blowing inference that I couldn’t have made through text analysis. Digital Humanities helped me move through the analysis of a play a lot faster than I could have ever done on my own but I also feel that there are certain texts which are just not suited for the technological world. We live in a society where we desire everything to be accessible to moment we want it; we’ve become impatient and this outlook has seeped into all aspects of our life, even the way we read. This need for speed, I believe, is unfair to English literature which with its richness in complexity and meaning deserves for us to spend time thinking over what we have read. For early modern texts and Shakespearean plays, I think it is crucial for us to use our own minds to think critically of the text. Till this day I can reread The Blind Assassin by Margaret Atwood or Jane Austens’ Pride and Prejudice over and over again because I make a new discovery every time I move through the pages. Digital Humanities will play a role in literary analysis but it can only go so far before the researcher has to turn to traditional textual analysis.

Works Cited
Shakespeare, William. Hamlet. Eds. Ann Thompson, and Neil Taylor. London: Arden Shakespeare, 2006. Print. Third Series.

It Begins at the Beginning and Ends at the End


I have stated many times how conflicted I have been about this class. Having absolutely no idea about what it contained when I first entered, I was first struck by two things. One, was Professor Ullyot’s absolute enthusiasm for the subject that he was teaching and the second was the how foreign the subject matter was to me (in the sense of the digital humanities). Having been raised in the first digital era and still retaining vague memories of dial-up, I was fully aware of the capabilities of computers, how far they have advanced and how they could shape lives and ideas. It was an oversight on my part that I did not fully recognize that they could also be used in analyzing English and the literature within it. Looking back I can now fully recognize my error however, my whole experience has come away a bit bittersweet. My personal tool which I used (Voyeur) was easy to operate however I felt that while it had a great number of tools, the number of useful tools that I possessed was somewhat low. However, at least my tool was able to operate on a fairly regular basis. Looking at the other word tools and that issues that they caused my peers, their irregularity has to be acknowledged as an issue that the digital humanities community must face if they wish their field to progress. However at the same time I find myself thinking of different texts that we would be able to analyze with these tools, despite their faults. That would be the enthusiasm of Professor Ullyot shining through.  This picture by Beetroot Design Group shows every “Romeo” and “Juliet” through the entire play connected by red lines with 55,4440 lines used total…









These pictures reminded me of the digital humanities and their ability to connect thoughts and ideas through a text that we may not have known about before. I love that about the digital humanities, however the flawed method that they are administered through causes me headaches and heartache.



Having read Hamlet once before in high school, I felt that I had a fairly good overview of the play. While I think it would have been interesting to have different groups examine different texts within the separate tools, I feel that the use of a well-known text such as Hamlet allowed a good backdrop for learning the different nuances of the digital humanities. Since it is such a universally known story, it allowed each of us to concentrate on how the digital humanities tools helped us to understand the text rather then having simultaneously learn the plot and analyze the text. In my earlier blog post “Frustration and An Abundance of Claudius” (, I examined Claudius and his speech throughout Act 4 using Voyeur.  It was through the use of my tool, that I was able to identify Claudius’ concern for all of the other characters within the scene, repeatedly mentioning each one in turn. While this is a plot tidbit that I probably would have been able to uncover through a more through reading of the play, the digital tool allowed me to examine his speech in a different context using the Word Trends tool. Using that tool allowed me to examine Claudius’ behavior within Act 4 using not only the provided literature, but also the literature in a graphical form. As the digital humanities evolves and changes, so too will our methods of interpreting text and thus more nuances within the stories can be uncovered.


While still in Phase I, my Voyeur group and I sat down and decided to discover our tool together rather than going off by ourselves and discovering it on our own. For our own particular group, this method worked very well. Being able to collaborate and use each other as resources became an invaluable aspect of the Phase II aspect of this course. In my Phase I blog post “Art Deco and Flexibility” ( I went over some of the additional tools that Voyeur had to offer and found them to be slightly lacking. Sure they looked pretty, however the way that they presented their information was vague and difficult to decipher. The balance between the aesthetics and functionality has to be maintained. While thinking of the future development of the digital humanities this aspect must be taken into consideration when designing future programs. One aspect of Voyeur which we found to be advantageous was the tools ability to analyze certain parts of text rather than being forced to analyze the entire corpus/text. It allowed for flexibility within the corpus while maintaining the same level of analysis as the larger bodies of text. While I do enjoy Voyeur for the certain advantages that it holds, it must be maintained that all of the digital tools must operate together in order to create a comprehensive picture of the text.

Tangent or Future?:

Are the digital humanities the future, or simply a tangent? I happily sit on the fence on this argument. While it is lovely to maintain that there are only two sides to this argument and pack everything up in little boxes and force people to each choose sides, the issue is more complex then that. On the one hand, technology is progressing at an extraordinary rate and advancing so quickly that I dare not even fathom what they might be capable of in the future. The insights that we gained from our tools while examining Hamlet were some that could have possibly taken years to undertake by hand. Voyeur adds a level of visual detail which helps some people to better grasp Shakespeare while some of the large corpus tools such as MONK analyze entire bodies of work and find the details within seconds. These are advantages of the digital humanities which cannot be ignored. However, does the rise of these new text analysis tools mean the failure of books and the abandonment of older methods?

Not necessarily.

While the new digital tools offer some new methods with which to analyze, the same job could in fact be accomplished by a scholar sitting at desk with nothing but pen and paper, it would take much longer for sure however in the end, the same result is gained. One also has to consider how long it takes to create programs such as these and how someone would have to go through every single manuscript word by word and mark down the speakers, the nouns, the verbs etc. Would that same amount of time also be used to gain the same results as sticking them into a computer to analyze? I must admit some weariness amount the foothold that technology has gained on our lives. In academia the effect is omnipresent, in the ten courses that I attended in the last year of university only one did not require a computer. Professors post their notes on Blackboard or use texting polls in class or use digital textbooks and quizzes to test our knowledge. In examining this I have to wonder what would occur should one part of it fail? No digital systems is without it’s flaws as evidenced by to error messages ourselves faced when completing this project.

My main point is that my book won’t break when I hit it with a hammer and it never runs out of batteries.


While this class has had it’s share of ups and downs I am very glad that I experienced it. It opened up my mind to new methods of analyzing text and introduced me to new facets of one of my favourite Shakespeare plays. The digital tools must be used together in order to have the most comprehensive picture of the text you are attempting to analyze. In the manner of future Vs. tangent, I back away slowly and embrace a more ambitious future where they both exist in somewhat strained peace.

Last Post of the Semester- My final thoughts on the Digital Humanities

Throughout the semester I faced many challenges and pleasant discoveries in the realm of the “Digital Humanities.” The digital humanities served as a further development to my previous knowledge of Hamlet, allowing me to realize just what I had missed when I was simply reading the text for what it was instead of carefully analysing it. This class, English 203- Literary Analysis, made me critically focus on what word choices Shakespeare used and how these particular word choices lead to his different types of play genres and character developments.

Of course, as I have passionately expressed before in my previous blogs- the digital humanities proved to be rather difficult at first and then just plain frustrating after I knew how to work it but technical difficulties came in the way. I thought- What’s the point of his?! I understand the play perfectly well! I know Hamlet is a tragedy play, I know how each character is and I most certainly know the events in the plot. But that wasn’t the point of this class- merely to read the play and write a summary on it. Dr. Ullyot pushed us by making us research and use the digital humanities (programs: Wordhoard, Wordseer, Voyeur, Tapor, and MONK), to help us understand the significance behind what happens in the plot. Identifying certain words demonstrated importance in knowing who dominated the play by speech, and it was easy to recognize each characters relationship with one another. For example, I was able to search a basic theme in Hamlet such as “death” and then do a double search by typing in a person, and seeing how many times death is said or related to that one particular person. This was a huge benefit of Wordseer, and I could keep adding further searches to have a solid idea of what I could potentially be looking for. That is one of the beauties of the digital humanities- one can use it as a hypothesis tool and then use the other tools to find different results. One can come out of it by getting little conclusions and ideas on one thing, or keep going until one has a massive conclusion encompassing everything one possibly wanted to find.

The image shows a comparative search in Wordseer using a theme (death) and a character (father). The image below that one shows the same results as the left, but with a further search of another theme (revenge).














Also, another benefit I found with the digital humanities was when I was doing my Phase 2 project with my group on Act 4. Kira, who was using Tapor, was able to find words associated with a character’s personality by checking the word frequencies of those words. The importance of this is that we found words used more often for one character than another, giving us a better idea of that character. This is an example of Kira’s finding in relation to Gertrude, Hamlet’s mother.


According to this video I stumbled upon on Youtube regarding the digital humanities- are definitely points and arguments that I agree on and support. Whether I like it or not, the digital humanities IS the future of analysing literature and perhaps the presenter’s point on reading the literature online and using the digital humanities will have the perfect balance of using technology and still using the traditional method of actually “reading” the literature first. He mentions that it will serve to be eco friendly and create“openness.” By being open, I believe he means that information and data will be a lot more accessible, and this will be to everyone and not just a number of people in the publishing or scholarly world. As well as this, I take it that it could also mean that when one reads the text from a book and only trust their own instincts on their findings, it “closes” their mind up to further development on that particular text and by using the digital humanities, one will find more than what they thought or were expecting- therefore opening up their literary horizon. I will give props to the digital humanities for also serving as a social network in its own right. Sure, it’s not the new Facebook, but it is a link of blogs, videos, scholarly journals that anybody can read and one will keep reading and find more links that lead them to just that right person they need to know that will get them published or get them recognized for another piece of work. It does increase the competition no doubt as more and more people are getting their works “published” on the web, but the initial challenge of getting read is huge, and I believe the digital humanities offers that first step.

After mentioning this great opportunity the digital humanities has to offer, personally, I believe this just to be a bonus and not the end all, be all. I would never just go to the digital humanities and try to find everything that I could, because I much prefer the old method of reading and looking out for the important and thematic words myself. I do realize that this would take substantially longer, and technology serves to better convenience us, however, it takes away from the art form of what English students do and serves to be something that anybody, not just English junkies can do. There is nothing wrong with this, but I strongly feel that the digital humanities would be better as a secondary source of information and not the one and only source. There will be a time when reading a book and marking it up with findings will not even exist, but perhaps reading it for what it is and take what you get from it is good enough. Isn’t that how it was supposed to be when the work was first written? As the years go on, it is important to read through and understand the word choices because it gives one a glimpse of society and life back in the days, and it also helps us see how the English language has changed and transformed.

I was against the digital humanities for the main reason that it took away from the art, making something creative and crafted, into a scientific solution. It kind of reminds me of the point I learned in my Shakespeare class just recently concerning the romance play: The Tempest. Prospero uses magic to manipulate and create events to his benefit, and he describes it as his art form- something that can be altered and changed. If it were scientific, it would be fact- no change about it. So here I was thinking the digital humanities was trying to make art into fact, but I know realize that it is further adding creativity into the mix by changing our ideas of Hamlet rather than making us stick to our concrete biases and own judgment of Hamlet. So, was I originally taken the art away from this piece?

When studying a piece of literature, there are questions one is asked in order to analyse and annotate the text. There’s this video that is a good example of what questions one might ask about Hamlet and it is because of these questions that the Digital Humanities serves to be so vital in our entire understanding of the play.

Without finding themes, frequencies of words, relationships with characters and their characteristics, or characters and other words- it would be harder to answer one’s initial questions about the play. When going through the digital humanities, there is direct quotes and evidence in passages that would literally take ages to find on one’s own. It goes through the entire text or particular scenes or acts and does all the work for you pretty much, the only thing is that you must provide the technology with what to find. It still relies on our human smarts and literary knowledge in order to know what to look for and only then can it provide substantial amounts of data.

One last thing…

Honestly, before I began English 203 this semester I had never heard  the term Digital Humanities before (crazy, I know!).  After taking a four month long course on the Digital Humanities, I can say that this form of learning will most likely be the future for most English majors. Using the internet to write blogs, show visuals, and share information within seconds is an incredible way to spread new information worldwide. Within the course of a year I have skyped with a journalist in New York, corresponded with a program developer at Berkley University, and reviewed an article by a writer at a University in Ireland; all in an English classroom in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. This type of connection is what has changed the humanities to a digital atmosphere, collaborating with individuals worldwide. My argument for this post stems from the question: How do the digital humanities strengthen our knowledge of previously read texts?

Have we forgotten about Shakespeare? 

For our course on the digital humanities we definitely did something unique. Reading a play written by William Shakespeare in 1600, and using a computer program tool designed for the 21st century to analyze it. Every English major, scholar, or high school student, knows the story of Hamlet, Prince of Denmark.  When we were asked to once again analyze Hamlet, I was sceptical at the possible outcomes. Honestly, how many times can you go over a play and still find new information? Let’s just say, I was wrong. Over the course of thirteen weeks, I learned more about Hamlet then I ever knew before. It was not just the story and theme of the play, but the writing, word choice, and context of words used. Every aspect of analyses of this play was done online, by use of the digital humanities. Now I am not saying that I never had to use the hard copy of the play, because I did.  As I mentioned in my fifth blog post I do not think it would be possible to analyze a play—especially Shakespeare—without having read the actual text. Yes, you could extract the main themes, and guess a basic plot line based on the word and character usage, but reading the play is the only way to have all of the background information needed to understand it.

We began the course by simply reading Hamlet individually and discussed our findings in class. Once again I was shocked how much new information I was learning from my classmates. Group discussions took place and we came up with an incredible amount of new insights into Hamlet. Using evidence from the play these are just some of the ideas we came up with:

  • At first glance Gertrude comes off as a minor character with little personality. However she is surrounded by a number of questions which make her a major influence on the plot of the play. Why can’t she see the Ghost? Did she marry Claudius for love or power? What is her relationship with Hamlet, besides being his mother?
  • Characters use different words, comparisons, and sentences in their own unique way. For example Laertes often associates with the body and soul. When speaking to Ophelia he states: “…safety and health of this whole state…Unto the voice and yielding of that body/Whereof he is the head,” (1.3.20-23)
  • Hamlet often speaks of life, death, heaven, and hell, especially during soliloquies. Could these speeches foreshadow the events of the play?

“O all you host of heaven, O earth—what else?—And shall I couple hell? O fie! Hold, hold, my heart, and you, my sinews, grow not instant old/But bear me swiftly up. Remember thee?” (1.5.92-95).

Okay, so now we know the play and have analyzed it using nothing but our brains and a good old-fashioned book. That being said, how can our knowledge be strengthened by the digital humanities?

My stellar highlighting skills

WordSeer and the Digital Humanities

For the second part of the course we were split into groups and were assigned digital humanities tools designed to analyze texts. My tool was WordSeer, a Berkeley created program with multiple features used for analyzing Shakespeare. For me—or anyone not familiar with text analysis programs—beginning a presentation based on a computer program is kind of intimidating. I did not know where to begin, so I started playing around with the site and its capabilities with Hamlet. Not to sound too humble or anything, but soon enough I became a pro at using WordSeer. The interface is simple to use and understand, Shakespeare’s entire corpus is readily available, and the collections function allows you to save your work frequently and efficiently.  All of these features and detailed descriptions can be found in my first blog post: Could WordSeer be the simplest word analyzing program?

Now to discuss what I actually discovered using WordSeer.

All of us who have read Hamlet know most of the main themes: betrayal, revenge, and madness. But how can we prove these are themes? How many times are the words revenge or madness even mentioned in Hamlet? This is obviously not something that can easily be done using a highlighter. Why not use a digital tool that includes word counts, frequencies, and visuals to represent information in a different way? WordSeer has all of these functions including the ability to isolate and analyze a single scene or act. Very convenient!

So, once again, how can you tell if something is a common theme in a text using a digital tool? You find the word frequency of course! I think every group at some point searched for the word revenge in Hamlet using their digital tools. Finding the main themes of a play is essential when analyzing a text, and being able to isolate those words is pretty important. Digital tools are created to find these words within seconds.

Digital Humanities Now

In Mike Cosgrave’s blog post, A Broader Digital Humanities, he asks three questions based on the perspective of the student: How do digital tools enhance research led pedagogy? How do digital tools facilitate research led ‘peeragogy’? and What new questions can I ask using digital tools? As an English student I feel as if I can answer these questions honesty and accurately.

  1. How do digital tools enhance research led pedagogy?

This was a question I was trying to answer over the course of the semester. I also think this blog —and most of my other posts—does a good job of explaining it. We began the course by finding new and interesting facts about Hamlet through the digital tools we were assigned. This led to new discoveries and easier findings then just reading through the text. For example we were able to find out that the word know appears in Act Two of Hamlet 35 times. How long would it have taken if we were just using the text itself? Being able to search for words within a text and find them with the click of a button is pretty incredible compared to the hours it would take to find them on your own. These tools allow students to look at literature differently: in terms of quantitative versus qualitative and objective versus subjective views.  In conclusion, digital tools enhance learning by cutting down the amount of time it could take to actually do research and spend more time on the actual assignment/question.

2. How do digital tools facilitate research led ‘peeragogy’?

First of all I looked up the word “peeragogy” with no results (maybe someone should add it to Wikipedia? Make some money off the invention of a new word?). What I am assuming Mike Cosgrave meant by this term is student-led research and student-led research questions (feel free to correct me if I am wrong!). For me this question is easy to answer. We worked on two group projects this semester, both—for the most part—led by the students. We came up with our own questions for each presentation and—based on our tools—what we wanted to focus on. For these reasons using a digital tool helped our group collaboration because we were able to share our information online and each find different results.  To conclude, digital tools can facilitate student based research by simplifying the research process and broadening the scope of the information found and shared.

3.What new questions can I ask using digital tools?

One of the first things I discovered when using WordSeer was that no question was too broad and no answer too narrow. The possibilities of just using WordSeer are endless, let alone the four other text analyzing tools we researched. One of the main differences I found using these prgrams was the shift from qualitative thinking to quantitative thinking. I am going to re-use a picture I used on my previous post because it does a great job of explaining what I am talking about (and it looks pretty!):

From Mercedes Benz commercial

To sum everything up, the digital tools used in the digital humanities establish new questions based on a different way of thinking: more left-brain than right-brain theory, data versus opinion, and numeric versus artistic.

So, to answer your question Mike, yes I think the sciences use digital tools for data and research; the humanities are using this technology in a different way. To come up with new ideas, find information quicker, and present our findings in a different way than the past thousand or so years. This is what the digital humanities are based on and this is what humanities and social science classes have to look forward to.


So is this the future of the digital humanities? One which includes both social sciences and science courses?  Could the future of paperback books be in danger? Since basically everything can now be done using technology, why would anyone need a copy of a text to physically hold and read, as opposed to getting several versions of the same text online? As I finish my final blog post of this course I have come to two conclusions regarding the digital humanities and English courses. Firstly, if everything is moving away from books and towards technology, are the digital humanities the only way English courses can stay relevant and available? Secondly, with all the research and analysis of material needed in humanities classes, are the digital humanities just a faster way of gaining the same information? The content is already available, but the time we have to find it is not. I have no explanations to either of these questions, but I am sure within the next few years we will all get our answer.

The future Will?


Shakespeare, William. Hamlet. Ann Thompson and Neil Taylor: London, 2006. Print. The Arden Shakespeare.

Thanks to: Mike Cosgrave and Aditi Muralidharan




The Digital Humanities: What It Has to Offer

First Impressions of the Digital Humanities

When I first learned that in English 203, we would be using the digital humanities to analyze Hamlet, my initial thought was fear. I have never been a technologically savvy person, and when I learned from the course syllabus that we would be spending the entire course focussing on the newfound digital side of the humanities, I cannot deny that I was fairly anxious about the course. The closest that I have ever come to using technology for English was when I used the online dictionary or thesaurus for some of my essays. My first thoughts about having to use computers for this course, was that we would have to be able to program software, or design tools that would help with picking out themes. Now that I look back at my initial responses, they seem ridiculous and far-fetched to me. The idea of actually having to program and design tools no doubt came from paranoia I had about computers, because I am so technologically inept. I was very comfortable analyzing literature the old fashioned way, with a text in one hand, and a pen in the other, so when change was mentioned, I got a little carried away with my ideas of what that change would bring. Fortunately, what we actually had to do was nothing like my far-fetched first impressions. The only thing that made my journey through English 203 a little more difficult than it should have been was that I was one of those lucky people that got chosen to use TAPoR as their tool. As I have mentioned in my previous blogs, TAPoR is very temperamental. It seems to work only when it feels like it, and only if you set it up in a specific way. The only way it worked, for me at least, was if you only used the tools that ended in (html). Otherwise, the only response you received was one of TAPoR’s multiple error messages.
As well as having specific conditions, I felt as though this program changed its mind quite a bit. What I mean by that is that if I tried to do something and it didn’t work, if I tried it a little bit later, it would work. An example of this would be when I first tried to use documents from My Texts instead of putting in the URL, it wouldn’t work. However, when I tried using the texts that I had saved in the program later on in phase one, TAPoR decided to co-operate, and I was able to actually obtain a result. Due to these specifications and issues TAPoR had, it is not surprising that in the beginning of phase one, I started to believe that you had to work for the tool, rather than with it. Instead of using the tool to help me, like I should have been doing, I was using the tool just because it was a necessary component for this course. After I had used TAPoR for the first few times, I felt as though in order to find any relevant results at all, I had to know what it was that I was looking for. Instead of using the tools to help me find themes and ideas within Hamlet, I more or less used the program to find evidence of those themes and ideas. During this part of the course, I honestly thought that the program was much more trouble than it was worth. Before I was introduced to TAPoR, I was perfectly able to delve into the depths of Hamlet the old fashioned way, using nothing more than a highlighter, pen, and my brain.

Growing with the Digital Humanities

After a while of having this pessimistic view of the Digital Humanities, I began to gain some respect for what TAPoR, and the rest of the digital tools we were using, could do. Going into the second phase of our team projects, I was able to see what the benefits of using online tools were. Though using TAPoR was definitely not my first choice of tools that I could have used, it appeared to be helpful in the end. Unsure of what to talk about in the final group project, I used one of the simpler tools that TAPoR provides to give me some ideas. The only thing that this tool was able to do was list the most used words in a specific text.

Though this task is not something a person would consider difficult, it did yield some very interesting results. After finding this piece of data, I was almost able to completely forgive TAPoR for its inability to co-operate and its incredibly large error message collection. In a former blog post, and in my final group project, I mentioned how finding this specific word at the top of the list inspired me to look deeper into the play. I have mentioned it again here because this was a pivotal moment for the Digital Humanities and I. This was the part of the course for me when I realized just how helpful the digital humanities can be. This program was able to show me something new, something I would have other wised missed if I had not used TAPoR. Even though, due to the opinions of my classmates and me, TAPoR was not the best tool, it was still able to provide me with information that I found interesting. It was this point in my research that I was able to fully understand the gift that is using online tools to do research. Later on into phase two, I also realized how helpful the other tools were. After TAPoR showed me to look into the use of the word “Lord” by Ophelia, Voyeur was able to show me how her use of the word declined as the story went on.
With these two results that the tools gave me, I was able to piece together the declination of Ophelia’s respectful attitude. This is something I honestly would have never noticed if I had not been able to use the tools that we were offered in this class, and it is information that I think is pretty important to the character of Ophelia. The use of these tools was definitely helpful, and I was able to see through this phase, how awesome the Digital Humanities can be.

Digital Humanities: Important, but not quite “Game-Changing”

After finishing phase two of this course, I started to believe in the power of the Digital Humanities. Being much faster and much more efficient than the old school way of highlighting and going through the text to count how many times a word is used, the use of online tools helps us to reach or end goal of comprehension in a much shorter time period. That is why, on the last day of class, I chose to side with the people fighting for the digital, rather than those fighting for the classic way.

In this last debate, it was interesting to see what other peoples honest thoughts were about the digital humanities. There were many conspiracy theories about how in the future, about how there will be no books, only people reading with their kindle or ipad, and about how children are going to grow up without ever having seen a book. Missing out on the ability to truly look into the novel or play they must read for class, these children will grow up never knowing what the true meaning of analyzing literature is. Although these aren’t the exact words the team against the Digital Humanities used, it is a feeling of fear that seems to be shared by quite a few people. In the blog Game Change: Digital Technology and Performative Humanities by Tom Scheinfeldt, he talks about how many people refer to the introduction of the digital humanities as a complete “Game Change”. Tom Sheinfeldt defines the phrase “game change” as something that redefines the original action, and an entirely different action (or game) is produce. He does this in the terms of baseball, the game in which this term was first used. After Babe Ruth changed the game with his ability to score homeruns in the likes that no one had ever seen before, baseball players needed different skills from the previous ones in order to successfully play this new game.
He then goes on to talk about how with this definition, there is nothing game changing about the new usage of digital humanities. Although it is new, and is in a format never seen before, online tools are used for the same purpose and to the same end that previous ways of text analyses have been used. With this new and advanced system of text analysis, the objectives stay the same. We look for important words or phrases, or different things that have been used in conjunction with each other often. These searches that we do, the items that we look for in a text, stay the same. The only difference in the way we used to analyze something, compared to how we analyze it now, is that we are making the research work for the time period we live in. With today’s technology, we are able to do everything that we have always done, but in an easier and more efficient way that is better for everyone. Being able to use today’s technology does not change what we have always been doing, but rather adapts our process to today’s society. If, in the future, kids grow up learning how to analyze texts through these online programs instead of learning on paper the way we have, not much will have changed. The will still be looking for things people have always searched for, but they will be doing it in a way that is more familiar to them and to their generation.

Concluding thoughts about the digital humanities

As I have mentioned above, I definitely went into English 203 with some doubts and some fears as to what we would be doing. I had grown accustomed to reading and searching within a text the classic way, and I am not the kind of person to accept change into their life with open arms. This is most likely why so many people believe that the digital humanities is, for lack of better words, such a big deal. The idea of change is terrifying to people who are used to doing something a specific way. This initial dislike of change mixed with the terrifying reality of our world becoming more and more dependent on technology would have a lot of people speculating about the involvement of computers in literary research. They also might be skeptical of the idea of being replaced by a computer, as I was at the beginning. The thought that a computer was able to do what I was able to, but in a faster and more direct was, was also a little insulting. However, as I grew accustomed to my online tool, and what it had to offer, I started to accept the idea that the digital humanities aren’t as scary as they seem. Though TAPoR was able to help me with a few different things, like showing me what to look for, and giving me statistics, it was in no way the overwhelming technological experience that I had feared. While the computer was able to do all of the quantitative research, I was the one who was doing all of the qualitative work. While it is extremely useful and handy to have a computer to do the grunt work for you, without the insight and thoughts of the person doing the research, all you would have would be a bunch of numbers. So, even though I agree that the digital humanities make research much more straightforward, I do not believe that it is the most important part of literary research. In other terms, even with the addition of this new resource, the game of text analysis has not changed all that much.

Endless Context: the Future of the Digital Humanities Ringing in the Digital World

An Introduction

Every time I hear the words “Digital Humanities” I cannot help but think it is some little subset of the DigiWorld. As I have already mentioned in this course, the Digital World of Digimon is the product of massive amounts of information being packed into data, and eventually having enough information to simulate a world of its own. In my opinion, this is not so far-fetched. Take a moment to think about the Internet. There is nothing else that can hold such a massive amount of knowledge, and that is accessible to virtually any person at the speed and ease of the modern digital world. The knowledge comes directly form people who write about life, the planet, it’s functions, and everything their imagination can contribute beyond that. What the Digital Humanities actually is would be the branch between literature and technology. It has existed for ten years, maybe more. On the other hand literature is something that has been around since almost the beginning of recorded human history. It has had thousands of years of development in style and use, but also in cultural development. People have always had personal and historical inspirations for writing and because of this the context of even a single piece of literature is practically endless. Before the Internet, this context and background information was only accessible in physical form or within a great memory. However, by the incredible developments of technology, the Digital Humanities were born making years worth of physical texts into easily accessible data. Suddenly a text from approximately four-hundred years ago is instantly available and so is the history, interpretations, context and author’s biography with a few simple clicks of a button. This is what Sharon Leon is expressing in her post about if the Digital Humanities continue to expand information for countless users, then they will soon become the main resource for study in a given field; however, they will never replace the human aspect of comprehension.

Something New

The introduction to the Digital Humanities was a bit of a shock. For someone who simply adores the books and hours of cross referencing, it was almost unpleasantly simple to find a text in seconds immediately followed by various tools of text analysis. What would be gained by leaving all the work up to the computer and only using our gift of understanding to analyze Hamlet? However, it was no easy task. There were many searches to perform, and many results to be had, but the problem was what to do with them! From word frequencies to comparing Shakespeare’s entire opus we learned to read data. The best example is the NaiveBayes/Word tree analysis. You input a text, and the meaning you predict to come form it. And you get…

What exactly? At first glance this looks like a jumble of gradients and ratios. It looks like maths with visuals. The reactions were of course:

  1. What is Maths doing in the Humanities?
  2. What does it all mean?
  3. Why does it have to mean anything when we could just read instead?

In fact the word tree and NaiveBayes are ratios, probability, and percentages! As a group full of English majors we were both fascinated and terrified. (Link to second blog post) We had not yet deciphered this information, and we had not earned it; therefore, we did not understand it.

Luckily for us, Dr. Ullyot explained in our first few laboratory classes how words and speakers can be tagged. Voila! Instant understanding gained = instant credibility! Thus never caused a great tragedy, but we did need to learn how to link that data with our understanding. Eventually, and with a lot of perseverance we did. Some very cool things we found out were how to compare word counts between Shakespeare plays using the “comparison tool.” Imagine doing that by reading!

In other words Monk served us very well despite being the professed prototype of DH pioneers, one that was soon forgotten due to frustration. The unavoidable thing about frustration; however, is that it tends to lead to broken things… and the great thing about it is that broken things father ingenuity! Phase two was the reveal of all the ingenuity that followed Monk:

Then Monk met TaPOR, Voyeur, Wordhoard and Wordseer. The great discovery then was that each tool, whether cryptic or simple, supplemented the inabilities of the next as seen here: <>  Each partner had learned to link the data being uncovered to understanding, and we successfully delved into a theme of Hamlet that particularly interested each of us. The theme of Hamlet’s madness enables us all to utilize our tools strengths, whether it was searching for a speaker, someone described, or how much madness was in a particular act. Our Act 3 ended up being the maddest of them all including lines like: “That I essentially am not in madness, / But mad in craft” (Act 3, scene 4).  We ended up using such discoveries from Monk as a starting point. The NaiveBayes tool provided us with direction on what, through association, could relate to our search about Hamlet’s madness, and the Monk concordance searches could find a bit of context. From there we could use one of the searches in Voyeur or Wordseer to place it in the text. One of the most intriguing results we found this way was that the tongue and the sword were both spoken of as weapons.  This started a whole project on poisoning the ear with words, and the damage caused by lies and words. Obviously: “The courtier’s, soldier’s, eye, tongue, sword…” (Act 3, scene 1). In the end it turned out that a bunch of English students could learn to leave the searching up to the tools, and to focus on comprehending the results.

400+ years

What would Shakespeare have done if he were to find there was a technology to break down his entire works into categories, word count, or frequency? If there were something to link all his meanings together? He would probably rewrite his plays to make them that much more cryptic!
The wondrous thing about his plays is that they were even complicated for the time they were created. Nowadays there are scholars who devote their lives to discovering the meanings of Shakespeare and the voices of Shakespeare. The article I chose is speculative on the future of museums and archives whether it will be possible to provide on-site enough information to let the average viewer read a work of art or historical artefact like an expert. She imagines a world where information is immediately available to those who seek it. It sounds like the future for those who would take the time to pursue it. I believe this is the future of the Digital Humanities. It would not be that while reading Hamlet notes appear at the side of the text to divine meanings. There are already books suited especially for that. Instead, this would have the power of the internet behind it. All of the searches we can do in the five tools are to deliver what you are searching for in their location, location, location. Sometimes you can even figure out who delivers the line, how often and if similar words were delivered. It is up to us to understand it. The difference, and what I believe is the future, would be to deliver context to the seeker. Not just the immediate ability to see the context and meanings of Shakespeare in notes by previous scholars, but also maps of discovery. What this would mean is that a person would find Hamlet in a digital tool, and not just find a word. The word would come with the initial and evolved definition since Shakespeare’s time, any idiomatic references it may contain of the 1600s, and the option to dive deeper in to what other scholars think about it. From this our understanding would not only be our own limited experience. Sharon Leon wrote:

“The difference here is in the effort to bring together evidence in a user interface that allows for the consideration of many perspectives and multiple causality, as opposed to offering a single perspective that simplifies the past” (

This would be the ultimate information sharing. Anyone could learn about anything. It would open the flood-gates for textual analysis over the internet. The amount of information eventually becomes its own little official world of Shakespeare. If you remember one of my previous posts, Digimon and Divination (, this is a continuation of my theory. Not necessarily that the DH world will become a different dimension where small monsters run around (even if this sounds accurate for some of the plays), but that any structure of a certain size becomes official. For proof, just look at the recent additions to the dictionary (e.g. to heart as seen here:   The digital humanities may very well become the official source for literary scholars. Although the Humanities, like everything, will become digital it will never actually lose its footing in the physical world. The world of Digital monsters careened out of control because it lost its basis in the physical realm when the programmers abandoned it. Really though, the Humanities will always exist through humans because that is where the value lies. Besides all that the Digital Humanities will never lose its base as long as books still exist in paper… and let us face it; are there really any humanities scholars who do not adore an old fabric bound, gold edged novel from a by-gone era?

For the Love of the Digital

The next question may be… one I have already asked. “Where does the world end and data begin?”
The most shocking thing about computers is really how ridiculously simple they are at their very base. They just constantly make decisions. 1 or 0? Seriously, that is all they are in essence. So what is so complicated about that? Well you should see the extent that it goes to! Have you ever seen a software engineer’s homework? I have, it does not look like it has ANYTHING to do with 1s and 0s. What I do understand about computers and the Internet is, of course, the humanity of it all. I quote myself:
Internet, and the Digital Humanities; “must hold significant portions of the literature that shapes the world we live in. Literature is made in the image of the earth and of human experience, and the characters that inhabit it are in the image of its creatures. The depth that it reaches to is too far to count. It is too far a stretch to say that the universe of data is alternate to the universe of reality?” (

This is where the appearance of math I mentioned earlier meets that of the humanities. People are fantastic at taking literature and finding meaning in it. Computers are simply made to learn the basics of our patterns of association, so both must contribute. Monk, TaPOR, Wordseer, Wordhoard, and Voyeur can show us what they find, but without knowing how the user cannot appreciate the results. Although we are miles away from writing these programs ourselves, at least we now understand the power we are accessing.
It is incredible how much can be stored in virtually no physical space. It probably would blow Shakespeare’s mind. However, this wonderful thing has its demons. If people can burns books and art to erase ideas, then how hard could it be to highlight and delete…? Fight Club had a point: if you erase all proving data of debt, does it still exist? Banks already lend money that does not exist, making 100% plus interest of it back, effectively stealing from you for using a service.

Anyway, that was a tangent, but hopefully it gets the point across. Things that do not have root in the physical world have no credibility, but the Humanities will never survive without human interpretation. A computer can do whatever it is told, but at present, it will not understand why or how. You can tell it how to find the word “cowardly” and that sometimes “yellow” will mean the same thing, but it will not be able to distinguish when. Nuances are another thing that might never be known to a computer. Also idiomatic meanings, connotative meanings, emotional effect, so the list goes on. In Monk workbench even, you can search for lemmas of “madness” and you will be lucky if it comes up with anything about possession. However, in context, as the Sharon Leon (“Content and Context”) this will be the future. Even then the computer will not care. There are in fact many businesses and services that have gone digital beyond the need of human input. Luckily, this will not be one of them. The humanities have always been rooted in the realm of human experience, in passion, and in literature. As you can tell by the very word “humanities” it will never extend out of the influence of human intervention. The “digital humanities” depends fully on the cooperation of the digital and physical, the computer binary and the abstract human brain, and the fabrications of both. Thus at least there will always be the credibility, and always be the earned knowledge.

And So…

The introduction of the Digital Humanities has been like no other experience. Having comprehension transcend physical books was a scary idea, but I understand now that neither the DH nor literature can exist without the other. Reading will always have understanding and relation to fuel it, and the digital humanities will have its massive stores of data and the ease of accessing it to continue with. Thus the use of the five tools has become a triumph, and it will continue. Since understanding will always be required, the Humanities can march on to provide endless rounds of data association with works of art, literature and artefacts, and no meaning will be lost. Hopefully this is the pure future. Information will be accessible to everyone who chooses to find it, and not just through months of study. There will never be any loss of credibility because only some will choose to understand it fully. And the parallel universe made up of our data about the world we live in will never materialize with digital monsters and a doomsday prediction because… actually I cannot promise that one.

Works Cited:

Ann Thompson and Neil Taylor, eds. 2006: Hamlet. The Arden Shakespeare. 3rd

Series. London: Thomson Learning. 613 + xxii pp. ISBN 1-904271-33-2

Digital Humanities, My Eyes Are Wide Open.

In the beginning…

In the words of Hamlet, “Nothing is either good or bad, but thinking it makes it so”. The
digital humanities have two basic critics. The first welcome and anticipate the
new ways of learning through up to date and ever expanding online sources, and
the second to put it simply, aren’t as subject to change and prefer the hands
on approach with the actual play in front of them. However, I find it rather
difficult to associate myself with either group, due to the fact that I feel I
was given a false first impression of all that the Digital Humanities can do
for us. The troubles encountered throughout the term were far from miniscule,
and of course I made sure that everyone knew the feelings I was experiencing,
mostly in a particular phase 1 blog post, ‘The building similarities of Ophelia and I.’ Once
you begin associating yourself with a suicidal and slightly insane Shakespearean character, Ophelia, you know things
aren’t going so well. To say I had some difficult times is a drastic
understatement. If I had to declare a general theme as the base of my blog
posts as a whole throughout phase 1 and phase 2, I would probably say it was Self Pity. My focus was almost strictly
centered around what my text analysis program Monk couldn’t do.
Shakespeare expressed through Hamlet how he felt that the world is run by
opinions, which we often listen to more so than the actual facts. While the
Digital Humanities may have proved themselves useful to me, I developed a
rather sour view on text analysis programs in general, due to the frustration
and confusion I experienced with Monk. It was not until I read Tara Andrew’s
blog post,, that I
began to understand that the issues I was encountering were not completely one
sided. Andrew’s post was able to open my eyes to the difficulties the creator
undergoes while not only learning to code, but the making of a program. Despite
Monk having swayed my opinion to the negative side of the Digital Humanities at
the beginning, Andrew’s and some further research gave me a new perspective on
how  this ‘new’ concept of studying texts deserves not only recognition, but an understanding of the background work that
goes into it. Due to the unpleasant nature of my ongoing negative issues with
Monk, I am unable to say that this particular program came in use. If I had to
choose between Monk and simply reading through the text myself, I would pick
the old fashioned novel-in-my-hands approach. BUT, after some deep thought,
reading Andrew’s post, and discovering a new find appreciation towards open-mindedness,
I have come to the conclusion that text analysis and the Digital Humanities in
general is a useful alternative to how we would once analyze particular

Questions, Questions, and More Questions…

Throughout the progression of not only this class, but my own personal time spent at home
in front of the computer, I developed many questions regarding not specifically
Monk, but text analysis in general. At first it was hard for me to understand
what I was doing, let alone WHY I was doing it. As was mentioned in my very
first blog of phase 1,,
I referred to my difficulties by stating, “I feel the need to blame it mostly on my extreme lack of abilities to operate a
computer properly.”
But it wasn’t just my rather small knowledge on technology that was setting me back. In
order for me to understand things properly, I have to know WHY I am doing it,
and for some reason this was hard for me to wrap my brain around. I kept asking

  •         What is the point of text analysis?
  •         Wouldn’t it just be easier to stick to the original old fashioned way of strictly learning by hands on approach with the
    novel right in front of me?

Following my discovery of Andrew’s blog post, which mostly expressed the difficulties faced by the creator, I developed two new questions:

  •         Is either individual’s effort worth it?
  •         Do the struggles that both ends of the spectrum experience through learning and creating ultimately pay off?


Monk and Failed Expectations

Spending all of your time on analyzing the negative side of a
particular subject, doesn’t help anybody, especially when you are working with
a group. Nevertheless, I continually felt as though I was a big disappointment
to my entire phase 2 group, but as hard as I tried I couldn’t seem to find any
value in what Monk had to offer me. It was only once we were able to
collaborate our programs uses that I figured out a way to look at texts through
Monk in a seemingly helpful manner. By receiving frequent text lists from my
fellow Wordhoard and Voyeur experts, I was able to examine the context in which
they appeared through the Concordances tool, as seen below.






For example, after discovering that ‘alas’ was a commonly used
weird amongst Gertrude’s vocabulary, I searched it through Monk, and was able
to get a better grasp on the particular situations in which she used this
specific word. I often wondered if what I was doing would have been just as easily
done by examining the text by looking through the actual play, but in this
case, Monk proved itself to be a time saver as well as it was able to show all
the occurrences of the word in a list, which saves you from having to flip back
and forth through the book.

Originally I had been anticipating using the comparison
tool, which had been Monk’s finest achievement due to the fact that this
program was created to be used as a way of comparing two separate texts. Unfortunately,
when the time came to start developing our phase 2 presentations, it stopped
working. Typically, it is supposed to work like this:

You choose a first workset followed by a second, select the
analysis method you want to explore (frequency comparison is used in the
example above), choose between spelling or lemma (lemma is used in this case)
and finally specify which feature class you are wanting to look up (noun).

The purple displays the most frequently used nouns in Shakespeare’s
tragedies, and then green does the same but with Shakespeare’s comedies.
Although it isn’t shown in the screen shot, once you scroll down there is a
list of white words which shows us the most commonly used words combined
between the two texts being examined. Using this in regards to phase 2 seemed
ideal due to the premise we created, being to compare Hamlet with other
Shakespeare tragedies. But, like I mentioned, it wouldn’t work. Monk would
simply not recognize the worksets I had previously defined, and despite changes
in browsers and login names, it wouldn’t budge. The frustration I was feeling
only seemed logical to direct it at none other than the creators of Monk.
Obviously they had done something wrong, and by not fixing the current issues,
it seemed as though they had abandoned their creation and left the users to
deal with the problems at hand. And then, I read a blog post that changed my
previous opinion, almost entirely…

Discoveries Through Another Perspective

Tara Andrews, author of Codes and Collaborations was able to open my typically stubborn eyes with her take on the perspective often ignored; the problems the creator endures while creating a text analysis program. In the words of Gertrude…




“The lady doth protest too much, methinks”.

Yes, Gertrude, I’d have to agree. It was about time I stopped
complaining, and learned more about the forgotten point of view of the creator.

Andrew’s addresses some of the disheartening moments of failure in
her blog post, stating “For all the ‘Eureka’ moments, there are a hundred moments of wondering why your test is failing now”
and “…the sinking feeling that you have solved this particular annoying data transformation problem three separate ways on four separate occasions”. The author points out that while using this programs is encouraged, it is often worthy of your time
in the long run to learn how to do coding yourself. Not only would it give you
a new found appreciation for all the behind the scenes work that is put in
while making a program, but it would also help you figure out what all can be
discovered through text analysis.

In conclusion…

While I have to say that I am, and will always be an old fashioned gal at heart (at least in
regards to English), throughout this term, I’ve begun to see the actual worth in learning about
and using the Digital Humanities to help me with analyzing texts on a deeper
level. I refuse to let my negative experience with Monk affect how I feel about
text analysis as a whole, because from what I could see from the other programs
we learned about, Monk was the exception when it came to non-useful programs. I felt as though this class was more than just an introductory course on all the Digital Humanities can assist us with. I deeply appreciated the chance to write in a more casual manner than is usually expected in a typical english class. I was educated not only on text analysis, Hamlet, and how to conduct a proper blog post, but I also saw that there is an extreme amount of value in opening your eyes to other ways of approaching a subject which is usually so set in stone, in regards to how it not only taught, but how you interpret it. Taking a look back at the questions I had originally been asking myself, I’d have to say things are much clearer now. I see the benefits in the Digital Humanities as opposed to analyzing texts in previous more traditional ways. Not only is it much faster, but you are able to see things in ways which are much harder to grasp while simply reading a hardcopy of the play.  Is the effort put in by both sides of the party worth it? Does it pay off? I can’t answer this for everybody, but as for the learning aspect, yes. I do believe it pays off. Not to mention it never hurts to expand your knowledge on any given subject. In regards to the creation side, as Tara Andrew’s said, “Understand that the things you want to do are still going to be hard, and forbiddingly time-consuming, without any sort of guarantee that the investment will pay off.” Not exactly uplifting, but it’s a choice people make. I for one, am thankful for those people.

I'll never leave you, old friend.









Shakespeare, William. Hamlet. Ed. Ann Thompson and Neil Taylor. London: Arden Shakespeare, 2006. Print.

Andrews, Tara

New Perspective via the Integrated Force of Tradition and Digital Tools


So, this is my last post for English 203, and instead of sitting here at a loss of words (like I was so often in earlier posts) I find I’ve got so much to say. Digital humanities has enlightened me to so many more possibilities than traditional close reading of texts, giving me new ideas and analyses about and for classical literary texts. But, that doesn’t mean I’m going to completely disregard everything I know about close reading and the pen-in-hand-holding-a-tattered-book method. In contrast, the digital humanities has actually made me appreciate those techniques even more. In my opinion, the traditional and the new should be integrated in order to be most effective, otherwise, I fear the two methods will be locked in their own ways so much that neither will be able to grow. My opinion of this is supported by Metaphorz’s blog post Humanizing Code found on the Digital Humanities Now editor’s choice blog. While he—assuming Metaphorz is a he— discusses using technology and software in accordance with the digital humanities, rather than specifically for designing  digital text analysis tools, the reasons he argues this can be applied to those same tools and their use with close reading skills. Metaphorz blog post highlights that though the digital humanities tools are being created by computers and then given to people, they are not as effective as they could be. He says “there are many differences in our respective theories, and yet, there are bridges opening up” about digital tool designers and digital tool users and their interactions. In his opinion, by keeping software and its tools separate, it prohibits the tool from adapting for the people to better use it. We saw this problem in our class with the way Monk seemed to have been abandoned. In contrast, Aditi’s changes to Wordseer exemplify Metaphorz’s argument for more integration and back and forth between users and designers.

There are “bridges opening up” between readers and digital humanists, just as there are between tool developers and digital humanists. And, similarly, we can see the same issues arising when we try to keep the digital text analysis tools separate from close reading techniques. By using only close reading, a person only gets so far in their analysis, simply because the process is time consuming and strenuous. By using digital tools exclusively, the results we gain are not only incomprehensible, but also hit and miss. Used together, close reading skills and digital tools—like WordHoard—can filter ideas and perspectives towards a unified theme of exploration.

Traditional Method and Hamlet

As I discussed in my earlier post, The Game is Afoot, Hamlet can be read and interpreted as it always has been. In that post, I discuss Ophelia and her apparent suicide, and formulate some ideas about if she is or is not suicidal. To continue to explore this vein of thought using conventional methods, I would have to go back through Hamlet to every scene of Ophelia and determine a change of character within her. Then I would want to compare her behaviour when she is with her father, to her behaviour when he is not around. Using these close readings, I would look at Ophelia’s mind frame and see what type of change there seems to be (assuming of course, there is one, as most people would agree).

Overall, this whole process would be very tedious and use up quite a bit of highlighters and sticky notes and may drive a person into insanity themselves, as I’m sure most people studying English would agree with.

WordHoard and Hamlet

Looking at Hamlet without regard for close reading and just searching randomly on a digital analysis tool, such as WordHoard, give little insight to the play as a whole. For instance, searching “Hamlet” gives 85 results to fish through for what is important/ relevant to what you wish to search. By clicking on each of these entries, you get the context, but not the speaker until you double click and it opens up the whole document of hamlet with your word highlighted. Clicking 85 times would be ridiculous—you could, but it would negate any time saving you gain from using WordHoard rather than by hand.

So, you could randomly click and see who seems to say your word (“Hamlet” in this case) the most frequently, then open a new page in WordHoard to search “Hamlet” again along with that speaker. But this could be misleading if you wanted to see who had the most interaction with Hamlet, so just to be safe, you could search how many times each character says “Hamlet” and then analyse each character’s feelings about Hamlet from there. But getting to this stage purely with digital humanities is difficult, especially if you want to focus on a specific thematic element or event, because, as I’ve already implied, it can be rather hit-and-miss when searching without a solid starting point.

For example, when I open one instance where the word “Hamlet” is said, I get Gertrude saying, “That your good beauties be the happy cause/ Of Hamlet’s wildness” (III, i, 38-39) to Ophelia. This isn’t particularly helpful in figuring out how either Gertrude or Ophelia feel about Hamlet, it only indicates—by the use of the word “wildness”— that by this point (Act 3, scene 1) Hamlet is already going mad, or at least seeming to. Even if a reader had not close read Hamlet before doing this search with WordHoard, I would expect them to already know about Hamlet’s madness. Perhaps it would reveal that the root may have been his love for Ophelia, but I doubt anyone would find this to be accurate if they had read the play.

Another example is in act 4, scene 3 when Claudius is talking to Hamlet about sending him to England. The king says “Hamlet, this deed, for thine especial safety/ … must send thee hence” (IV, iii, 40-42), and if someone had not read Hamlet, or had just skimmed through it, they may discount this quote as useless, seemingly harmless as it is, or else credit Claudius as having Hamlet’s best interests at heart. This assumption seems quite farfetched, but by only using WordHoard and arbitrary searching and clicking, that is a conclusion someone could draw. Had someone read Hamlet and encountered this quote in a search, they may still disregard it as being unhelpful in determining characters or relationships, but by looking at the context it is in, you can see how Hamlet is in fact playing with the king while the king is attempting to manipulate Hamlet—a much more complicated situation than someone uninformed would believe it to be.

Not only is it a hit-and-miss technique (especially with WordHoard), but it is frustrating to work without a good idea of where you want to go/ what you want to be looking for. Even if it turns out there is nothing to find, it is better to start with an idea than to just plunge into analyzing a text like Hamlet without something to go from, as Dayna discusses in her post Unlocking the Mystery that is WordHoard. I agree with her because, as she says, the design of the digital tool WordHoard is such that you need to know what you’re searching to be able to fill in all the fields and create a more narrow focus of information you receive. Otherwise, as with my earlier search of “Hamlet”, you get too many results to navigate effectively and which take many circuitous routes to narrow down.

Traditional Reading with WordHoard

Through my personal experiences with WordHoard, I have come to the conclusion that it, and the other text analysis tools used in our class, works best when in combination with close reading skills. By employing close reading skills initially, you can best form an idea about what you want to analyze and how you want to do so. As I discussed in my second post, Battle with WordHoard? Challenge Accepted—in agreement with Dayna’s post Unlocking the Mystery that is WordHoard—WordHoard needs specifics to deal with. You have to have read your text close enough to have a formulated idea to explore, as well as a plan for how to explore that idea. WordHoard challenges its user to think about how best to problem solve—you can’t search for tone or metaphor, only words. So you have to have read your text and know what type of language is used in order to be able to search words that appear in the text. WordHoard can isolate specific characters when they speak, and also show you the context and person to whom they are speaking, but it needs a focus to garner meaningful results. This takes WordHoard maybe two minutes to compile—by hand it would take several hours to mark where an individual speaks and then make up a list of what they said and to whom, etc. WordHoard brings this up immediately, allowing you to get more results faster. But then we must to back to close reading to interpret these findings accurately. Again, WordHoard is helpful here because it shows the sentence the word you searched appears in, and allows you to click the sentence to get the exact page to show up so you can read the context before and after. Close reading of this context can not only provide you with other search options/ ideas for exploration, but also allows you to more easily distinguish if results yielded by WordHoard are false positives or negatives. Once you’ve got results (positive or negative) you have to then employ your close reading skills again and check the validity of your results. Perhaps you have false positives and need to double check the context or way in which the word was used—as Shakespearian use of language is different from our own, the word “love” could be used to describe the emotion or a character’s feelings, or merely be used as an expression. Or else, you may have a false negative  if you are searching for words that are synonyms to what are actually used in the text or describe a common metaphor but are not present in that metaphor.


So, as I found in my post The Game is Afoot, traditional close reading of a test like Hamlet only gets you so far and can lead to much frustration because of the time consuming nature of this traditional method. But, using a digital tool such as WordHoard on its own or with minimal close reading employed also gives way to the same limitations. As Metaphorz says in his blog post “Acknowledging our differences, let’s step back and look at our similarities”. While close reading and digital tools encounter similar problems in finding difficulty focusing, they also possess a similarity of purpose. Both are methods of interpreting and analyzing a given text, and can help each other with coming to a conclusion. They work toward a common endpoint with different tools and so complement each other’s findings. What I’m trying to say is that neither close reading or digital tools are infallible in analyzing a text. You need to be able to use them both in conjunction as a give-and-take method to get the best out of each and to (possibly) uncover a new perspective. Both traditional methods and new face the same problem of filtering out extraneous details, but when used together, they complement each other’s weak points and work to narrow searches and ideas into a cohesive point.

Exploring the Traditional

During this semester friends and family frequently asked what I was studying in English.  I knew that the response “digital humanities” would mean nothing to them, much as it had meant nothing to me until a few months ago.  I could explain that the field of digital humanities is an innovative method for textual analysis, which utilizes computer based tools to research pieces of literature, but that explanation is a bit wordy.  In the end I just responded with “Hamlet,” at least that they can understand.

Specifically, my English 203 class used the five digital tools, Monk, Wordhoard, TAPoR, Voyant, and WordSeer to study William Shakespeare’s Hamlet.  These tools perform a variety of functions, from compiling word frequency lists, to identifying specific words, nouns and adjectives, to using complex algorithms to classify a text.  This method of research is both fast and easy.  With a click of the button, I can find all instances of the word “death” in Hamlet.  With two more clicks, I can look at that word in the context of all of Shakespeare’s plays.

During the course of my studies, I began to wonder as to the future of the Humanities.  Will high school students read Romeo and Juliette through a series of charts and graphs, as opposed to worn paper copies? As a book lover, the thought of losing the art of reading is scary, but this new method of digital scholarship is not without its advantages.  Digital analysis broadens the area of research by compressing information, while also allowing humanists to observe qualities of a text that cannot be found through traditional reading and analysis.

On the other hand, the computer is imperfect and lacks the understanding of a human reader.  For instance, it is difficult for programs like WordSeer to recognize the different lemma’s of a word.  Likewise, the computer cannot make qualitative assumptions about a text, such as the tone or mood.  Thus, the results of digital analysis have the potential to skew one’s interpretation of literature.  Without a thorough understanding of elements like plot, characters and setting, graphs and charts have little meaning for the casual observer.  In this method of digital analysis, it is still important to read a text to comprehend the themes and context of the literature.  Only then can one create questions for further analysis.  Thus, the digital humanities is a method of study to be used in conjunction with traditional analyses to expand the field of research and test established hypotheses.   


The Pros and Cons of Exploratory Analysis

Aditi Muralidharan is the developer of the text analysis program WordSeer.  Aditi’s program integrates the works of Shakespeare for analysis using a variety of visualization tools, such as heat maps, concordance diagrams, and frequency graphs.  These tools aid the user in what Aditi calls “exploratory analysis.”  In her blog post, “Men and Women in Shakespeare,” Aditi addresses the question, “How does the portrayal of men and women in Shakespeare’s plays change under different circumstances?” Using this question as her guide, Aditi exercises “exploratory analysis.”  This term essentially means establishing a hypothesis based on investigation with the digital tool.  In other words, Aditi is using WordSeer as a hypothesis-generating tool.

Taken from Aditi's blog

"Possessed by his" on the left; "possessed by her" on the right.

Aditi begins by searching words that are “possessed by” both “his” and “her.”  In general, she found the language referencing women to be more “physical,” because of its association with male family members and body parts, including “hand” and “heart.”  A comparison to “his” showed a similar occurrence with the addition of “sentimental” abstractions, like “life” and “favor.”  Closer examination with heat maps led Aditi to the conclusion that body parts are more prevalent in histories than tragedies, but family relations is unchanged across the two categories.  Therefore she created a hypothesis that body parts have a greater role in plays where love is a prevalent theme, as they are often a symbol of a character’s affections.

Though this hypothesis has merit, it is a very general observation of all plays.  When applying the exact same search to a specific text like Hamlet, the results stray slightly from Aditi’s hypothesis.

"Possessed by his" in the Full text of Hamlet.

"Possessed by her" in the full text of Hamlet.

One immediately notices that family members are still common possessed objects in both genders.  However, in the “possessed by her” results, body parts are not as common as they were in Aditi’s search.  They are still present, but mentioned only a few times.  Furthermore, these body parts differ from the initial “eyes,” “lips,” “cheeks”, and “face” that Aditi searched, as they include “bosom,” “neck” and “waist.”  As such, these new words were excluded in her heat map search, causing Hamlet to fall under the “not-love” category of plays.  However, as one who has already read the play extensively, I am aware that love is, in fact, a major theme within Hamlet.

As a reader, I can then find a broader range of data than Aditi found with her general approach.  For instance, there are only two females in Hamlet, Gertrude and Ophelia.  As such, these women are referred to as “her” very little, because they are present in the majority of the scenes.  An example of this is when Hamlet and Gertrude are alone in the closet scene of act 3.4.  In this scene, the possessive pronoun “your” is often used by Hamlet, but not to complement Gertrude’s beauty or proclaim his love.  As I talk about in my second blog post, this informal address by Hamlet is actually a method of insulting Gertrude, and therefore body parts are not used in association with Hamlet’s love and affection for his mother.

"Possessed by your" search of only act 3.4.

A “possessed by your” search of act 3.4 immediately shows a larger variety of words than the “possessed by her” search.  In this instance, we see the presence of words like “hand” and “heart,” but the context of these words does not insinuate love.  For example, after killing Polonius, Hamlet says to his mother, “Leave wringing of your hands.  Peace, sit you down/And let me wring your heart” (3.4.32-33).  In this instance, “hands” and “heart” are not indicative of love, but of Gertrude’s conscious.  Consequently, Hamlet’s motive is to change the subject away from Polonius’ death, and accuse her of contributing to King Hamlet’s death.  These body parts in context have little correlation with love and therefore do not fit with Aditi’s hypothesis.

This example is not to say the Aditi’s method of exploratory analysis is ineffective, for it does have a place in digital humanities.  I am simply suggesting using traditional methods of comprehension and annotation to guide digital searches, rather than progressing from computer generated results to text annotation and hypothesis.


Expanding on the Traditional (From Close reading to Digital Analysis)

Traditional analysis through close reading is a focused and unbiased way for an individual to begin working with a text.  As seen in the picture above, I will write questions and observations in the margins while I am reading.  I will also make note of rhetorical devices, unusual word choices or significant lines.  This annotation is my way of getting to know Hamlet, and gaining a comprehensive understanding of plot, characters and themes within the story.  Through close reading, I create questions and observations which I then use as a guide when working with the digital tools, thus expanding my research in an effective manner.

My team members and I used this approach in phase two while analyzing act five of Hamlet.  With our annotated copies of the text and our understanding of the play, we noticed a number of comedic aspects to Hamlet that conflicted with the tragic genre of the play.  Particularly in act five, the characters of Osric and the gravedigger are very comedic in nature.  Hamlet says of the gravedigger, “We must/speak by the card or equivocation will undo us” (5.1.129-130), because the gravedigger makes many puns during his banter with Hamlet.   Likewise, Osric uses an absurd pattern of speech by excessively addressing Hamlet as “lord” and “lordship” (5.2.76, 80, 83, 86).  As a reader, I recognize these men as clown-like figures.  Knowing that that the final act is often where tragedy culminates, I then find it their presence in act five very unusual.

To further investigate these comedic attributes, I divided the final act into four parts. On each part, I then used the “List Words” tool in TAPoR to determine word frequencies (See my Blog Post).  Using my background knowledge of Hamlet, I objectively analyzed the results.  I determined that the comedic relief is concentrated in the middle of the act, as there are a higher number of comedic words used in the dialogue of part two and three.  Through a knowledge gained by reading Hamlet, I identified comedic characters and created an effective research method to further my investigation and test my assumptions.

During phase two our group also came to the realization that the digital tools are sometimes inaccurate. For instance April, as our resident MONK expert, used the classification toolset of MONK to classify the genre of Hamlet in comparison to other Shakespearean plays (April’s blog post).  However, the results she received were inconsistent with our knowledge of the play. Paige further investigated (Paige’s blog post) using Wordhoard and determined that many of the words that MONK used to classify genres were not present in Hamlet at all.  Thus our group was able to rule out the inaccurate results that could taint our analysis of the act.


Combining Exploratory and Traditional Analysis

Though our work in phase two was largely text based, we did use Aditi’s method of exploratory analysis to compare Hamlet to other Shakespearean tragedies.  Dane used a very similar search to Aditi’s while investigating the tragic genre during our presentation (Slide 9 ).  In his search, Dane used the heat map function of WordSeer to visualize the words “villain,” “kill,” “hate” and “death” in the fifth act of Hamlet and three other tragedies, including Othello, Macbeth and Titus Andronicus.

Order of plays from left to right: Hamlet, Macbeth, Othello, and Titus Adronicus.

Though these words are very general, Dane chose them because he thought they were particularly representative of the tragic genre, as based on Aristotle’s definition.  Interestingly enough, the combination of these four words occur less often in the fifth act of Hamlet than they do across the other fifth acts of different plays.

Dane’s search was a great way to begin our analysis of the fifth act because it reinforced our hypothesis that the fifth act does not completely fit the definition of a tragedy.  Dane’s exploratory analysis tested what we already assumed about the act from reading.  From that point on, we could look at the specific reasons as to why Hamlet does not resemble other Shakespearean Tragedies, so our research remained focused.

Dane’s search is just one example of how an individual’s results would influence the rest of the group.  Often another team’s blog posts would inspire new questions, or ideas for further investigation.  This ability to collaborate is a strength of the digital humanities.  One does not have to travel far to discover what a colleague is working on and contribute to their research.



Before this class I had already read Hamlet twice, and I was not looking forward to studying it again.  However, analyzing Hamlet through a computer offered an entire new perspective on the traditional story.  By using digital tools I identified nuances of diction that I previously overlooked.  By breaking down the complex tale of revenge, love and deceit in Hamlet, I realized the importance of the words themselves.  The words chosen by Shakespeare and the frequency of select words took on an entire new level of importance.  They defined compliment and insult, as well as comedy and tragedy.  Without these tools I would have been unable to make such discoveries, but my skills as a reader were also invaluable.  Like any good scientist, my group members and I read Hamlet, and had a thorough understanding of elements in the text before we conducted searches with our digital tools.  Therefore it was easier to test our hypotheses because we had a focused approach, and the ability to identify significant factors in our results, while excluding the inaccurate.  Sometimes our findings contradicted, but often the results of a team member would spur new question and new searches.  Thus, with our knowledge of the text, we expanded into new avenues of understanding while reinforcing what we knew.


Works Cited

Shakespeare, William. Hamlet. A Norton Critical Edition. Ed. Robert S. Miola. New York: W.W. Norton & Company. 2011. Print.

Technology vs. Literature: An Insight into the Digital Humanities

After this brief window of intense use of the tools that the Digital Humanities offers, I feel I have become quite opinionated on the field itself.  It should be taken into consideration that my time with the Digital Humanities has only spanned the last two months, and that the majority of that focus has been to one tool (some time was spent using other tools, which I found to be the most exciting, but I will get to that later).  So how is it that I can form a valid argument that is either for or against this field? The answer is that I can only really asses the situation and experience that I had with these tools, and hope that my opinions can be thought upon as different and insightful.

Initial Thoughts…

I admit that my apprehension of this field could have persuaded my opinion.  When first introduced to the Digital Humanities my immediate reaction was such – ‘what was wrong with the good old fashioned reading and annotating?’.  I did not want to give up on the classic method; I enjoy talking with my peers about what happened in a scene and I enjoy developing theories about the characters based on their lines and actions.  But if the tools could help me learn more about the characters, then why should I not make the most of them?

As I began working with my assigned tool I quickly came to the realization that Monk was not letting me do what I wanted it to do, or rather, it was not giving me the results that I wanted.  As seen in my first blog post I was extremely frustrated.  Why could the computer not do what I wanted it to do? Isn’t this what the Digital Humanities is supposed to do for me?  Essentially, why isn’t my experience with the digital humanities giving me more insight to my literary study of Hamlet?  I was under the impression that this tool, among others, was going to help me.  But after Phase 1, I just wanted to throw my computer against the wall, pick up my copy of Hamlet and read!

Once I got the Phase 2 I attempted to be more open minded to the potential of the collaboration of Monk with other tools (such as WordSeer, WordHoard, Voyeur and Tapor).  I admit that I was pleased with the results that  I was getting from the other tools, once my teammate Dayna showed me how to use WordHoard, I found myself often resorting to that tool to answer the majority of my questions.  One of my favorite aspects of WordHoard was that when I searched a word, I got with it the speaker and context of the play (something Monk did not offer me).  This was perfect for my team’s plan of action that which was focused on character development.  So alright Digital Humanities, I will give you that one.

But, as interesting as I found our results to be in Phase 2, and yes I will recognize the fact that some of the results that we got we would not be able to have discovered by just reading Hamlet, I am still unwilling to put all my eggs in one basket.  As much as the digital humanities can help me gain new knowledge about Hamlet, it is also taking away my personal insight into the text.  When I search the word madness into lets say Wordseer’s search engine in hopes to determine whether Hamlet is mad or not, I am essentially not trusting my own reading of the text.

Allow Me To Elaborate…

That last statement may have been a bit extreme, but I find it necessary to make such a claim in order to get my point across.  In working with these tools I found that I became too trusting in their results.  Instead of making my own conclusions about Hamlet’s sanity based simply on what I had read, I was now allowing a program to tell me that this theory was either correct or incorrect, based on the data that I had inputed into the search engine, or just it’s own database.  Now hold on a minute.  Aren’t I an English major? I thought that the whole point of being in this department was to talk and write about our readings, not put it into a computer and have to analyze the data that it spat out at me.  I understand that the Digital Humanities can allow more insight into a text, I will not deny that, but I feel that as a literary lover the action of reading a text must be preserved.  And that the conclusions drawn from the simple act of reading a text must not be deemed as wrong or inconclusive.  Just because I came to the conclusion that Hamlet is sane based on my own personal reading of the play and not from Monk or Voyeur’s results, does not mean that the conclusion should not be trusted.

Essentially, I believe that there should be a balance between the digital humanities and the old fashioned literary studies and that the digital humanities should not be considered the saving grace of literary studies.

This coincides with Ted Underwood’s blog post properly titled “why digital humanities isn’t actually ‘the next thing in literary studies’ ”.  Here Ted describes that the digital humanities should not be the “. . . answer to the question “How should we save literary studies?” ”.  Ted addresses this topic by suggesting that the literary studies do not need to be saved, or rather, the survival of the profession need not depend on the digital humanists.  Based on his argument it seems that they are quick to assume that the digital humanities are the saving grace of literary studies.  But as Ted points out, this is not really their battle.  For one thing the digital humanities can not be the be all end all of this academia crisis because it is not a “movement within literary studies”.  In fact, Ted goes as far to deem the field as extra-disciplinary, saying it includes “historians and linguists, computer scientists and librarians”.  If the digital humanities are not just focusing on english literature, then it should not be expected to be the saving grace of this field.  Ted goes on to explain that the digital humanists are not exactly avoiding the problem in the academia world, but they are doing it in a different way.  They are in fact “rethinking peer review and scholarly publishing” and are trying to get across that when thinking about academia, we must think of it as a “social institution”.  So overall, the digital humanities can help with the revival of literary studies, but we should not be assuming that it is the next best thing.  By associating the digital humanities with the “health and survival of the profession” we must not forget about where we cam from, and what makes literary studies so great in the first place.

My Exploration and Doubts…

One of the main things that I noticed when I began working extensively with these tools was that I was creating questions that I wanted the tools to answer.  These questions were not just some that I made up on the spot, they were based on the text that I had read.  So really if I had not read Hamlet, I would not have been able to come up with questions such as – ‘based on the language used, is it possible to tell if Gertrude’s feelings towards her son changes from Act 1 Scene 2 to Act 3 Scene 4?’, or, ‘based on the language that Claudius uses in his first monologue in the play, Act 1 Scene 2, and his soliloquy in Act 3 Scene 3, how does he really feel about his brother?’.  I used both of these questions in my part of the Phase 2 project simply because I had never really done any type of research into the King and the Queen.  I wanted to learn more about their characters, based on what I had originally read in the text.  Granted I will give credit where credit’s due; WordHoard did give me some interesting results when I searched the word brother in Claudius’ monologue and soliloquy:


Yes, WordHoard was able the isolate the instances that I wanted to study.  But once this moments in the play have been isolated, it still is depending on me to come the conclusions based on my interpretation of these results. In my second screenshot I see that the word brother can be associated with the word guilt (seen on line 40).  But I have come to that conclusion based on reading that part of the text.  As much as this tool (and others) can reveal to me, it is still up to my ‘literary mind’ to process, interpret and create arguments and conclusions based on the results.

And really how different is that, from this?


In The End…

I would like to conclude by saying that I am not wholeheartedly against the entire field of digital humanities; that it should be thrown away and forgotten.  Instead, I am trying to suggest that we create a balance between its use, and our reading. I have enjoyed learning about the digital humanities and what they can potentially offer, but I am unwilling to give up my hard copy of Hamlet just yet.  I hope that my harsh judgement of the digital humanities (especially Monk) has not turned people off of the digital humanities.  I just that in order to get my point across “I must be cruel only to be kind” (Hamlet, 4.1.181).  As much as the digital humanities can offer, we must not throw away our texts, and we should not expect this field to be the saving grace of literary studies.  As Ted Underwood says “the ‘digital humanities’ is the name of an opportunity . . . . the meaning of the opportunity is going to depend on what we make of it”.


Works Cited

Shakespeare, William. Hamlet. Ed. Robert S. Miola. New York: Norton, 2011. Print.

The Bridge Over Troubled (Digital Humanities) Waters

My Evolving Perspective

Four months ago, I thought I had a sense of how one usually studies a work of Shakespeare: you read the text, read all the footnotes, occasionally pull out the highlighter or scribble some notes down here and there.  After completing English 203, it’s safe to say that I really can’t imagine going back to studying a Shakespearean text by only doing a close reading of the text.

I’ve now been exposed to this new, exciting concept of digital humanities, and in my mind things can go nowhere but up from here.  I’m not trying to be cheesy when I say this, but digital humanities genuinely gets me excited about studying a Shakespearean text.  Although we are still at the beginning stages of this form of study, I truly believe it has so much potential for the future.  I used to almost dread studying a new Shakespearean play because I would usually read the whole thing and often need a lot of external help to grasp the main concepts.  I would borrow study guides from the library, watch the films, everything.  But now with digital humanities tools and the masses of opinions and findings posted online, I can tap into a vast ocean of information that can further my learning effectively with a few clicks of the mouse.

Movement vs. Extension?

Many scholars such as Ted Underwood and Feisal Mohamed have begun to argue, however, that “digital humanities is not a movement” but a “natural extension of the work that bibliographers have always done”. You can find a list of articles and different opinions on this subject by going to Digital Humanities As A Literary Studies Movement: Editors Choice Round-Up. I agree with the statements made by Underwood and Mohamed.  Just because we now have the technological ability to obtain all sorts of data from a text, it does not mean we should completely abandon the text as a whole or forget where the text came from in the first place. We also now have the ability to share our findings online with the world. Mohamed touches more on the role of digital humanities in his blog post, “Can There Be a Digital Humanism?” and I would like to use the rest of this blog post to express my feelings in response to his opinions on this subject and also share what I think the role of digital humanities should look like based on my experiences with it in English 203.

I just wanted to add a comment here about how much the internet truly is affecting humanities. As you can see above, there are at least five different ways in which you can read or respond to Mohamed’s thoughts. These social networking outlets like blogging, Facebook, and Twitter allow so many more minds to be connected and thoughts about humanities to be shared to a wider audience through the power of the internet.

Back to the article, Mohamed speaks in agreement with Underwood in saying that digital humanities is not a movement because “it does not offer to reshape the ideas that we carry into our reading of texts and cultures; it offers instead a new and powerful set of tools available to a broad range of existing critical approaches”.

The Tools of Focus for English 203:

  1. WordHoard
  2. WordSeer
  3. TapOr
  4. Voyeur
  5. Monk

The concepts that we base our hypotheses off of when applying tools such asthese to a play such as Hamlet are not brand new concepts.  The tools do not magically reveal themes to us if we have no prior context or understanding of the play.  These plays have been studied and analyzed for many, many years, and without the help of digital humanities tools such as these.  The sudden incorporation of digital humanities tools should not determine the thoughts we have while reading these original texts, but simply help enhance our understandings and reach further in what we already know.

Our Method in Applying the Online Tools

We decided as a group during Phase 2 of the course that we would each pick a character from Hamlet and use our tools in a collaborative fashion to learn more about them.  I analyzed the Ghost’s character, which was a challenge with WordHoard alone, as I was the so-called WordHoard “expert”, but I was able to use in in combination with the other tools to help me. You can read about what I found in my post here.

For example, analyzing Hamlet by hand versus by, say, WordHoard is not impossible but the time consumption it would take to find every instance the word “mad” is used in the play is exponential compared to the 3.2 seconds it takes WordHoard to do it. It also gives me the context of every instance of the word, so I can read the direct quotes relating to Hamlet’s madness instantly such as Polonius’ quote “that he is mad, tis true” (2.2.97) and Gertrude’s infamous realization, “Alas! He’s mad!” (3.4.106). I talk more about using WordHoard’s efficient word-finding abilities for my study of Hamlet in my blog post here. We are living in a new century of efficiency and convenience, and digital humanities is only building on that, extending the processes that scholars have been using for the past century and enhancing it. It’s just like an automatic door; there’s no reason we couldn’t open the door ourselves, as people have been doing for centuries, but technology has advanced in our world today so that we don’t have to manually do as much.  This of course not necessary, but it’s the world we have grown accustomed to.

Applying the Digital Humanities “Bridge” to the Study of Hamlet

No matter how much data a tool can deliver, it is the human mind that makes the connections and helps create a bridge between the quantitative and qualitative aspects of the tool.  With Hamlet, one has to understand the story before plugging in words or drawing out data from the tools to get results that are of quality interest.

This was something my group learned first hand while analyzing the play and I believe it is a perfect example of why digital humanities is more of a natural extension than a movement.  We had all read Hamlet prior to working with the online tools, so we had some ideas about what we wanted to use the tools for. My group member who was studying Horatio found something with her tool, WordSeer, that she had never noticed while simply reading the text.  It showed her Horatio was related to the word “overlooked”.

She took this as a sign that Horatio must have been overlooked in the play, which would in any other context would be a rational assumption.  I had had a lot of success in finding informative details about Hamlet by simply searching certain words and seeing how many times they occurred and where they occurred in the play with WordHoard.  I helped her use WordHoard to search the word “friend” spoken by Hamlet and see how many times he referred to Horatio as a friend, continuing with the idea of Horatio being overlooked.

She gathered the numbers and information she needed, which you can read about in her post here, and used it to prove her hypothesis in our final presentation.  The problem that arose, however, was that we trusted WordSeer as a tool to tell us too much.  The hypothesis she had became discredited when the WordSeer developer, Aditi, and Dr. Ullyot pointed out that the context of the word “overlooked” was not in the way that she had assumed when obtaining her results.

The tools gave her a false impression about the word “overlooked”, and the only way she could have known for sure what the true meaning and context was was to go back to the original text and read it for herself.  I decided to use WordHoard to see exactly what the context of the word “overlooked” was in the play and found the quote to be Horatio reading a letter to himself from Hamlet, it reading “Horatio, when thou shalt have overlooked this, give these fellows some means to the king” (4.6.11).  In my Norton Shakespeare Anthology, there is a footnote on the word “overlooked” and it says it is another word for “read”.  It’s amazing to me that by simply taking things back to the actual book, such confusion could have been easily avoided.

She finishes off a reply to Aditi and Dr. Ullyot after our presentation with a quote that couldn’t be more true: “I suppose this is the first lesson of the Digital Humanities: ALWAYS be sure you are using reliable sources before getting excited!“ I can’t think of a better first hand example displaying the issue Mohamed raises in his blog post than this.

Concluding Thoughts

We directly experienced the importance of the bridge between the human mind and the digital, quantitative aspect of the tools.  We cannot simply trust the computer to tell us what to think.  It can gives us information that allows us to further understand what we already know, but it cannot operate the other way around.  It is a little bit scary to see what the tools are capable of and what problems they could cause in the future.  Writing is an art form, it needs to be understood and interpreted with proper context, and without that one can get a completely false impression about what the text what saying.  This is why we must use this new concept of digital humanities as a stepping-stone, and way to enhance our analysis, rather than abandoning the very text it was originally based on.  To once again quote Mohamed in his blog post, “digital humanities projects often say that they are innovating the way we investigate texts and cultures, though that innovation arises from a set of technological tools rather than an intellectual position” and to that he adds that “the kind of humanism that seems to me to be most valuable at present is that which fully disarticulates innovation and progress; which makes visible the limits of the ideology surrounding technology.” Computers can do incredible things, but they cannot be compared to the human mind.

Again, I do not want to come across as cheesy when discussing my new-found interest in the digital humanities world, but I genuinely believe I learned a lot this semester in English 203.  I was exposed to a whole new aspect of studying literature that I previously had no clue existed, and I am leaving this course hoping to continue my use of digital humanities as an aid my future literary studies.  As my group learned first hand, I am aware that one cannot solely depend on these new digital humanities tools to get you through a course about Shakespeare, or any other text for that matter, but I am 100% certain that collaborating my base knowledge of the original text with these online tools helped me understand way more about Hamlet than I ever would have by only doing a close-reading of the text.

Works Cited

Shakespeare, William. Hamlet. The Norton Shakespeare Essential Plays and Sonnets. Ed. Stephen Greenblatt. New York: W.W. Norton & Company. 2009. Print.

Final Post

Ready, Set, GO

As a traditional reader, one is able to certainty pick up on thematic clusters, interactions, structure and so on, but it isn’t until you start using digital tools, where you are absolutely able to see both qualitative and quantitative occurrences, such as repetition of words and or various references to God for example. Digital tools take the best of both worlds, and slot them together.  So to summarize my argument, I strongly conclude that digital tools are the future, providing aspects of traditional readings whether it be through creating a hypothesis or by gaining qualitative and or quantitative information. However, the combination between digital tools and traditional reading is the most complete way to analyze a text.

The Beginning

Thinking back to the beginning of the semester in January seems like it was forever ago, but it was the beginning of my digital humanities journey. Coming from the lands of computers, blogging, and the creation of internet pages, I could not have ever imagined all the possibilities such tools could offer to enhance my understanding of Hamlet. My initial thoughts were “Professor Ullyot, how could you combine Shakespeare, who literally has a language of his own, with digital tools?”  Was this possibly the most awkward/ complicated combination ever? No it wasn’t, if anything it was a genius move. One thing I learned about reading Hamlet in two different semesters, as I mentioned in my other blog was that reading Hamlet isn’t as straight forward as picking up Harry Potter, and connecting the dots as the story unravels.  Hamlet is a text that one must actively read, while physically connecting the dots via notes in the margins. I did do this in the fall semester; however, I did not dive into the text and ask questions that were deeper than the surface. Or in other words, my interest didn’t lie in creating a hypothesis and making conclusions with solid evidence. While reading traditionally, repetition occurred, God references were used, and various tones were apparent throughout the text, but my questions were: “who cares and why does this matter?”. Through the use of digital tools, I learned that in fact these questions, references, and instances of repetition Shakespeare uses, are important to the text. If anything, they are the most interesting aspects of the text.

For example, although these are not the most interesting results, this tool from TAPoR pulls out names (or capital letters to be more correct) like Mars, Mercury and God. The way that this tool is capable of doing this, may for some reiterate important ideas or references, perhaps like Christianity for example.

Traditional Reading Benefits

  1. You can always trust the book as a correct source
  2. Structure is easily identified i.e.) line, sentence structure, interruptions
  3. Thematic clusters can be determined i.e.) body parts: head, heart
  4. Interactions can be determined i.e.) statements, questions, and answers
  5. Tone and performance is evident i.e.) is a character giving advice? Or is he angry?
  6. Figures of speech: metaphors, similes, double meanings


Flaws of the Tools

In order to use digital tools, you need to be smarter than the computer. Yes, the computer is a fast worker, but its brains do not equal the power of its user. Therefore, you must know what you are looking for, and at times you may need to question your results.  During phase 2, it was not until I compared my findings with other results from different tools (Monk, WordHoard, TAPoR, and WordSeer), that I really learned the downfalls to Voyeur. Quite often, Voyeur could not find words that certainly did appear in the text and in other tools.  The most frustrating example I had of this was found when searching for the word tongue in phase two in act 3. Voyeur told me 0 results, BUT I physically saw the word tongue with my own eyes in the text, and other tools were showing results of these occurrences. Here are three occurrences within act 3, where voyeur apparently was not recognizing any of them. Cool.


The work of Monk

More downfalls…

  1. Error messages are common
  2. Different versions of the text(s) can change your results
  3. Shakespeare’s language versus modern language = problem
  4. Tools search exactly what you type



Warwick writes “the digital medium allows for a more inclusive approach to academic research, whereby users …become part of the process of discovery and interpretation”. Warwick’s words are exactly right, when your chosen tool is willing to work with its user and provide its user with correct results. Digital tools do not give you answers without work, it gives you data. Digital tools, Voyeur in particular, works as a hypothesis generator as a beginning step towards success. This is the beginning of your process of discovery. Right away by just looking at the visual word cloud you are able to see the words that occur most often: HMLT, Lord, love, play, and make. Or if you are a person who is more number orientated like I am, you could use the frequency chart, where numbers are listed by the most frequent used words.

While looking at the frequency chart for act 3, I’ve been given quantitative evidence: love is a word that occurs most (23 times) in act 3.  Although this is an evident theme a traditional reader could have easily pulled out after reading Hamlet, we must remember that we are only in the stage of constructing a hypothesis, where Warwick writes “users of digital resources do know what they need and if they don’t find it they will not use things that are unfit for their needs”.  In other words, digital users will keep looking until they are able to collect the evidence, whether it is qualitative or quantitative data, to make a conclusion. By keep looking, I mean these tools are not capable of pulling out the differences between how the word love is used. Hamlet states, “I did love you once” (3.1. 114) when speaking to Ophelia as way to express an emotion that was once there. In the play put on by the Players, you read “you shall see anon how the murderer gets the love of Gonzago’s wife” (3.2.256). Yes, love is mentioned, but it is not really used in the context of an individual expressing love as an emotion to another individual.  Depending on what a user of digital tools was looking for, the quantitative data could distract you from coming to a correct assumption about love in the play. There are many other occurrences where this issue was present.  Hamlet/ Shakespeare uses the words honest and fair to question Ophelia, when in modern day, these terms are used very differently.  See my blog post for a further explanation and dictionary definitions.

Traditional Questions

With traditional reading though, what would one do with the theme love? We could use qualitative evidence to compare the different types of love? Or analyze how Hamlet uses the word love? Is he really in love with Ophelia? Regardless of the direction one may choose, I feel like a conclusion can be reached, but the so what factor is missing. Why not take your hypothesis to the next level and use frequencies, visuals and chart comparisons to deepen your analysis?

Making Progress

Since we were using digital tools, I decided that it wouldn’t make sense to go to the text we used in class to look for information, and then put it into my program. I tried to stay dedicated to digital tools. Luckily, my tool Voyeur allowed for me to maintain my dedication. Voyeur provides a corpus reader, which is practically the text itself. For some tools, this is where there was some disconnect.  Most other tool users could not a) read an entire act, scene, or play b) modify their text and or c) take their data, and achieve visual results. I believe most students will agree that tools are great for quantitative data, but Voyeur is much different. It combines the best of both worlds like mentioned above. (To be honest, the second half of the semester my text book of Hamlet sat collecting dust). Voyeur was, however, beneficial in the way that I could modify Hamlet to either include, or exclude things that were tainting my data. For example, one of the biggest downfalls to Voyeur was the fact that speakers could not be separated from their names being mentioned. In other words, this was ruining my quantitative data, by making it seem like Hamlet was mentioned 100 times, when over 75% of the Hamlet occurrences was when he was speaking.  TAPoR, however, was the tool which was responsible for gathering when characters spoke.  By separating character’s lines via TAPoR, then putting my information into Voyeur, it was much easier to analyze each character’s word choices, emotions (qualitative) and frequencies (quantitative) and or information.

Voyeur- Results are tainted because the file has not been edited


Because Voyeur offered the ability to read the text through the corpus reader, I was able to gain both qualitative and quantitative occurrences, which I don’t think was something I could have necessarily gained through traditional reading on its own.  Although I wasn’t able to “make notes on a piece of paper, doodle, fold it up and carry” Voyeur with me, like Warwick states when she compares traditional texts with digital humanities, the information I was able to drag out of Voyeur was something beyond any traditional reader could gain alone.

Corpus Reader - Just like a book ...


The conclusions I came to, as seen in my blog, was a combination of reading through the corpus gaining qualitative and quantitative information, then submitting it into the program to further analyze the qualitative data. Even though I was randomly typing in words, checking their frequencies and looking for connections, this would have been completely impossible through traditional reading. Again, I know this because the first time around reading Hamlet, these themes were overlooked, probably due to the complexity the story line or language.  First I noticed that Shakespeare makes references to body parts, for example “go, go, you question with a wicked tongue” (3.4.10), or compares words to daggers, “I will speak daggers to her but use none” (3.2.386).  By slowly typing in each word in search bar that was a part of the body, my phase two group was able to make the theme of our presentation based on senses (eyes, hearing, and speaking/ tongue). Finding this information was new to me. I never would have been able to make the connection between all of the senses, if I did not break down act three, and draw connections through the frequency occurrences.  I think by slotting information into a program allows you to slow down and analyze it in a way you never would. Like mentioned above, without the use of numbers or data to prove your point, the so what factor occurs. I strongly believe that with the help of digital tools, you are able to fill the so what void. It is like science. You make a hypothesis, but until you prove your hypothesis with data and results, it is invalid and useless.

Traditional vs. Digital

I believe that a reader could easily create a hypothesis, compare themes, words and references without the use of digital tools.  However, I strongly believe that with the help of digital tools, their speed, frequency lists, and visuals, can provide that extra bit of information that can take understanding and learning to entire new level. A computer or a digital tool, as we know, is smart, but not as smart as its user. Tools are full of flaws that can often taint our understanding if further investigation is not taken. In Warwick’s blog, she quotes Helen Chatergee who does work at UCL Museums and “suggests that when we handle real objects, different parts of our brains respond than when we see a digital surrogate”. It does not specify how the brain responds differently, but the fact that this quote states that it does, demonstrates that both digital tools and traditional reading used together could provide the most useful results. At least this way, our brains are responding differently to each method to gain a complete picture.


Works Cited

Shakespeare, William. Hamlet. Ed. Ann Thompson and Neil Taylor. London: Arden Shakespeare, 2006. Print.

Warwick, Claire


Concluding on My Introductory Experience in the Digital Humanities

Introductory Conclusions

As an english major, a lover of the literary, historical, and symbolic, I walked away with a celebratory slide, from anything that involved numbers in any shape or form. I suppose in my mind it was a celebratory slide, however to my math, physics, and chemistry teachers, it must have resembled something of a frantic scrambling flee for the door. This is, I think, something that the majority of my fellow classmates in ENGL203 can attest to; The mistrust of anything that would take a piece of literature and suggest, ” sometimes, a river is just a river.The river moves with this speed, this velocity, because the water demonstrates this amount of viscosity, and it moves in this direction.” As students of the literary,  I suppose in response we would go on our rants and tangents of the river representing a winding and continuous process of life. My point here, is that there has been an innate and inherent hatred for some of us, if not most of us, towards the mathematical and statistical aspects of the world, and how those aspects take away from the symbolic values that have been metaphorically scattered throughout the universe.

Throughout the course of ENGL203 however, in the midst of my introduction into the world of the Digital Humanities, my understandings of the statistical, quantitative aspects of the literary text such as Hamlet, has consequently enriched my qualitative findings of the text. Digital Humanities, in my mind was the best example of an oxymoron, if I had ever heard a good one. I began this course with the question, “what could I possibly gain from knowing how many times a word shows up in a text?” I have concluded the course with the question, “in what different ways could these statistics and probabilities be applied to this text, or a wide array of texts, to provide me with the best kind of data to answer a series of research questions?”

Working with MONK throughout the semester in analyzing Hamlet, I have acquired a new appreciation for the mathematical aspects of the world. I say ‘appreciation’ without the implication that I have begun to appreciate mathematics, but to mean that I can see the value that it can provide in analyzing a text such as Hamlet, as I continue to have a lingering suspicion toward mathematics. Ben Schmidt’s article Treating Texts as Individuals vs. Lumping Them Together has provided me with additional insight into my perspectives of the tools that can be used to analyze texts, such as Hamlet, in the Digital Humanities.

It is my perspective, and argument, that although the traditional close-reading that we have been taught throughout the years as lovers of the literary has much to offer us in an analysis of literary texts such as Hamlet, the tools that are available in the Digital Humanities that provide us with statistical data and probabilities complete our understandings of the qualitative with the quantitative aspects. I believe that the precedence we place of the qualitative, though understandable, is misguided. The numerical values that we are provided with in our tools, though frightening and confusing for us english majors, complete our analysis in such a way that makes the digital a valuable and effective method in text analysis.



The Quantitative

MONK, despite its glitches and imperfections, did not fail to teach me a lesson about the Digital Humanities and the value of statistical data. In the beginning, I suppose I did not feel very different from the way Queen Gertrude did when she responded to Polonius’ melodramatic ramblings by saying, “More matter with less art (2.2.95).” I found MONK to be spewing at me numbers, statistics, probabilities, that provided me with nothing valuable whatsoever.

The images below, provide a pretty clear picture of what I was ‘fleeing’ from the rise of my university career:

THIS, after the entire course, is still lost to me:

I initially believed that I was going to understand nothing about these tools and flunk out of the course, however, it was comforting to find that I was wrong.

An aspect of MONK that I found particularly interesting in the way it contributed to my analysis of Hamlet, was the classification tool and its Naive Bayes analytics and Decision tree as methods of analysis. By using work frequencies of a variety of texts, MONK is able to classify texts into categories.

My immediate understanding of Hamlet, just by reading it, is that it is particularly tragic in its subject matter. Hamlet mopes around the entire text, quips like a madman with incredible mood swings, while everyone around him is scheming against one another, only to have it so everyone dies eventually. This plot, as ridiculous as I have made it seem in my summary of it, can be read as nothing but tragic. However, from the classification tool that MONK provides, I discovered that Hamlet‘s word frequencies, were more comedic than tragic. By comparing it to a wide array of different texts, I was able to discover that Hamlet, like other texts such as Othello, are anomalous to the tragic genre of Shakespeare’s texts. The question to be considered here is, would I have met these conclusions from just a traditional reading of the text? I doubt it.

The emphasis here, is not on my lack of abilities in close-reading texts…but on the acute abilities of the text mining strategies of tools such as MONK. From word frequencies, or the quantitative values of Hamlet, I was able to discern the qualitative aspect of it as being less tragic than the classic tragedy in Shakespearean texts.

The Qualitative

In his article Treating Texts as Individuals vs. Lumping Them Together, Ben Schmidt explores and describes the strengths and weaknesses of various methods of analytics, and their use in answering question in text analysis. He states that the key importance in using tools that employ these methods of analytics is “how to treat the two corpuses we want to compare. Are they a single long text? Or are they a collection of shorter texts, which have common elements we wish to uncover?” Interested in analyzing hundred of texts, Schmidt is aware if the imperfections that arise from any division of this large number of texts. He poses the question, ” how far can we ignore traditional limits between texts and create what are, essentially new documents to be analyzed?” At the end of the article, he provides lists of the appropriate uses of Dunnings log-likelihood, Mann-Whitney, and TF-IDF comparisons in texts.

From working with TF-IDF as well as Dunnings log-likelihood in MONK, it was interesting to find that I reached the same conclusions that Ben Schmidt reaches in his article with his analysis of the tools. Attempting to use these analytics in MONK just to analyze Hamlet alone, was a difficult and arduous task, as the text being analyzed was simply to small. Hamlet as an individual text, in comparison to the huge array of texts available in the MONK program, hardly returned information that could provide useful in a text-mining analysis of Hamlet. As many of the MONK users have noted, Hamlet on its own, was too narrow a data set to find any meaningful data using a broad and wide-scale analysis method such as MONK. As suggested in Schmidt’s article:


Each tool that uses and provides quantitative data has individual strengths and weaknesses. The valuable lesson to be taken away from Ben Schmidt’s article, is the suggestion that there must be a certain amount of care put into using tools such as Dunnings Log- likelihood and IF-IDF comparisons, and even with that care, sometimes these tools cannot be applied in the line of inquiry being pursued. In short, these tools cannot alway be relied on, and should not be the absolute basis of argumentation when it comes to text analysis. That mistrust that all of us share toward the numeric values that can pervade the literary, though extreme at times, is not unfounded. There is value in the qualitative meaning that we gather from traditional readings of texts, when the quantitative just simply does not make sense.


I have learned that, in a sense, neither the traditional reading nor the digital statistics of texts are completely trustworthy.

With the traditional reading, I concluded without being absolutely correct, that Hamlet was completely a tragedy, and that there was simply no other type of text that it could be.

With the digital statistics, I discovered that, although I was returned with data, the methods that I was attempting to use were very picky in the type of data I was inputting, and could return me with skewed conclusions if I did not use them with the utmost care. (Which I don’t believe I did all the time.)

However, in both circumstances, I was able to use the digital to correct my traditional reading, and use the traditional reading to double-check my digital findings.

My purpose in writing all of the above is, therefore, to show that there is much value that can be gained from both methods of analysis. Each method on its own, is in some sense, incomplete. The Digital Humanities, in all of the tools it offers to provide a statistical analysis of probabilities in texts, through methods such as word frequencies, has provided not only a valuable, but legitimate method of analyzing literary texts such as Hamlet. Our fear of the numbers in statistics and probabilities and the automatic assumption that they will not be useful in a literary analysis of a text, though understandable, is misguided. As Hamlet begs of his friends, ” Nay then, I have an eye of you. If you love me, hold not off (2.2.255-257).” A request that many would beg of their endeavours using the digital tools, that they would not hesitate to reveal the value that they have uncovered beneath the text. The trick is in recognizing, to begin with, that there is in fact value, it just simply must be uncovered and laid in plain view for analysts to use.

However, once it is found…there is a great amount of valuable knowledge to be gained that can be contributed to our analyses as a whole.

For example,

The river does indeed represent the continuous winding and progression of life, and the numerical values of its speed, direction, and viscosity, tell me that this metaphorical river of life, flows at a rapid pace, in one direction decided by destiny, at a speed determined by the hardships and challenges innate to its path. Thus, providing me with a well-rounded, complete analysis, with the symbolic qualitative meaning and the numerical quantitative data, of the way of life.



Works Cited

Shakespeare, William. Hamlet. Ed. Ann Thompson and Neil Taylor. London: Arden Shakespeare, 2006. Print.

This is Not About Conformity

They say the definition of insanity can be defined as doing the same thing over and over again, while expecting different results.  If this is true, can literary scholars/analysts be classified as insane? Surly not! However, resisting the Digital Humanities efforts to analyze old texts in new ways is most certainly, insane.  The Digital Humanities encompasses a truly revolutionary method of textual analysis by, to put it simply, using computers to study books.  This is an initially intimidating but ultimately fascinating idea.

As a self-professed book-lover, I was, admittedly, skeptical of using a computer to analyze a text.  However, knowing our class would be studying such a historic text (Shakespeare’s Hamlet) I was interested to see how two seemingly opposite worlds could be fused together. Are books and computers even remotely compatible?

The Beginning: A Little Background

As it turns out, books and computers are most certainly compatible! Throughout the past four months, the Digital Humanities has proven itself by providing an array of highly enriching insight as a reward to having an open mind.  As a preliminary example supporting my theory, I would like to draw on a comment made by a classmate of mine, Ruby. In the closing discussions of the English 203 seminar, Ruby mentioned she had previously studied Hamlet four times, in an academic setting. However, it was not until her most recent analysis of the text, integrated with the Digital Humanities, that she discovered new elements. This is because Digital Humanities tools search text in a different way. They conduct searches too time consuming and, frankly, too boring, to do by hand.  Thus, revealing new insights traditional analysis simply cannot, sanely, begin to explore.

That being said, there is a balance to strike.  Digital Humanities tools are useless without a thorough understanding of the text you wish to analyze. To quote Dr. Michael Ullyot, it is about “taking a stupid computer, and telling it to do smart things”.  If you haven’t read the text, you simply won’t have anything smart to tell it to do, ultimately rendering the analysis tool useless and you, well…lazy.

This, I now understand, is precisely why the first portion of the term was dedicated to studying Hamlet “un-plugged” No computers allowed.  After being presented with a steady Hamlet platform, Digital Humanities became less intimidating and increasingly intriguing.

The Middle: Phase One

For Phase One of the Digital Humanities aspect of this class, we were divided into groups of five and designated the “experts” or rather “soon-to-be” experts of one of five tools:

  1. Wordseer
  2. Wordhoard
  3. Ta POR
  4. Monk
  5. Voyeur

As a member of the Wordseer group, I was excited, but perhaps a little nervous, still. What kind of things would we be able to find? Would any of it mean anything?

After a couple hours of acquainting myself with this new-to-me tool I discovered a number of helpful searches available to me via, Wordseer. With fuctions such as “Read and Annotate”, “Heat Maps”, “Word Frequencies”, and “Word Trees” the
results you pull are truly, endless.

This portion of the term enabled me to become comfortable with my tool, and ready to sink my teeth into Hamlet – the text we had already studied “un-plugged”. For more on Phase One, you can read about it from my point of view on my blog

The Middle: Phase Two

After scrambling the students in our class perfectly, five new groups were created -holding an “expert” from each tool and assigned a specific act to focus analysis on.  I was assigned a member of the “Act One” group. In my first Phase Two blog, I wrote about how I was concerned and possibly a little bit jealous of other students with seemingly  juicer acts to tackle. Ultimately, I decided to view my act as a challenge – a “Literary Where’s Waldo” if you will.

We, as a group, decided to focus on character development as a central theme of Act One analysis. In a previous post of mine, I discussed the division of characters and exactly how we set out our “Plan of Attack” (P.O.A). I worked on the
character, Horatio. An interesting aspect I chose to focus on is his friendship with Hamlet. This is where the Digital Humanities really came into play for me. For example, examine this quote:


          Hail to your lordship. I am glad to see you well


          Horatio, or do I forget myself.


          The same, my lord, and your poor servant ever.


          Sir, my good friend, I’ll change that name with you.

This excerpt strikes me a highly interesting. It seems that for someone who is portrayed throughout the play to be Hamlet’s only trusted friend, they have not known each other for long. Hamlet actually checks to make sure he has remembered Horatio’s name. Intrigued by this idea, I decided to dip into the tool, Voyeur, with the help of my group’s Voyeur expert, Ruby.

After conducting a few simple searches, we uncovered something I found significant. Throughout the plays entirety, Hamlet only uses the word “friend” fifteen times. Eleven times, the word is used in a sarcastic, facetious tone while speaking to or of the characters Rosencrantz, Guildenstern, and Polonius. The remaining four times (all occurring in Act One) it is used while speaking to or of Horatio, all in a genuine tone.

Voyeur Charts



Why is this important or significant? Because for someone so unfamiliar to Hamlet (having to check his name), Horatio is proving himself, subtly, to be an important element of the play, all before act two begins.

If it is true that everything a writer writes is intentional, is it possible that Shakespeare was, subtly, very subtly, setting Horatio up as the character to “win” in the end? Despite his lack-of-presence throughout the middle of the play (as displayed/compared with Hamlet in the above graph) Horatio ultimately come out on top, fooling, I assume, most readers/viewers.


The End New Beginning: The Digital and the Humanities

As I have come to find, The Digital and The Humanities can more than co-exist in our world. Together they can thrive.  In the true interest of knowledge, in the true interest of academia, is there anything wrong with expanding the traditional methods we have so comfortably subscribed to? I would have to answer: no. In the interest of learning more, how can utilizing every resource available be wrong?

With an entire community of Digital Humanists out there, The Digital Humanities is an exciting and fresh element of out over-technologically-dependent society.  You know what they say, “If you can’t beat em’, join them!” however, this is not about conformity – rather it is about a sort of unity.  In a previous post of mine, I wrote about how shocked I was to learn the creator of Wordseer, Adidti Muralidharan, was actually reading our blogs!

Holy Crap Squared

I understand that when I click “publish” I am putting my work out there for anyone to view; however, the impact was lost on me. This is, until messages from Berkley, California started surfacing in response to blogs posted on the
topic of Wordseer. Unity.

The World of Digital Humanities is so much larger than it may first appear. Initially, I was under the impression that Digital Humanities covered only the study of literary works for purposes similar to mine – expanding a text, digging deeper into a story, etc. Upon further research, however, I have discovered that Digital Humanities encompasses a much larger scope of research and analysis. It reaches into other fields of the humanities such as Psychology, Sociology, and even History.

Skeptics of the Digital Humanities offer that online sources cannot be trusted. As Anita Guerrini, the author of the article,“Analyzing Culture with Google Books: is it a Social Science? writes “I was immediately struck by what seems to me to be a fundamental flaw in its methodology: its reliance on Google Books for its sample.” I have to admit, I disagree with this statement entirely. I do not understand how using a tool as universal as Google, can be described as a “fundamental flaw”. The word has become a verb due its popularity! (Example: “What is Google? Oh I’ll just Google it!”)

While, admittedly, the Digital Humanities is still in its up-and-coming phase, it is through using tools such as Google Books, (capable of housing a limitless amount of analysis material) that Digital Humanists will be able to continue forward. Expanding, and ultimately uniting academics and scholars with common interests and goals across the globe.

Anita continues “The authors equate size with representativeness and quantity of data with rigor. I am not sure that is true… But some of the results are simply banal”. I have to agree with her…partially. Some of the results I personally came across were boring, pointless, or even misleading all together. This is where the quantitative, scientific values of the Digital meet the qualitative, intuitive values of the Humanities.

Part of using the tools provided by the Digital Humanities is determining what is important, what is new, what is exciting! Users sift through results much the same way texts are analyzed with red pen, stick-notes, and highlighters. This is why I strongly believe the future of Digital Humanities involves a balance both. Books and computers, together.

Further into her article, Anita comments “Perhaps most disturbing to me is the underlying assumptions of such work about the humanities and about what scholars in the humanities do. One assumption is that the humanities need to be more like science and that we need to be more like scientists — that quantitative knowledge is the only legitimate knowledge and that humanities scholars are therefore not “rigorous.” I understand her point of view in terms of the pressures
surrounding the “legitimacy” of the humanities; however, I do not feel as though this is the time to be territorial.

We live in a world where our cars talk to us and where people can carry 2000+ songs around in the pocket of their jeans. We live in a technical world. Is it possible the whispers…or screams, calling the humanities pretentious is related to the social science’s unwillingness to change? For the sake of academia, or research, or simply for the sake of curiosity, why not give the Digital Humanities a try?

The trick to hacking the Digital Humanities lies in the approach. As I mentioned earlier, without a thorough understanding of the material you are analyzing, the digital can offer you nothing. Is it possible that books are not better than computers and that computer are similarly no better than books in regards to yielding the most insightful results? I think so. Perhaps, the ultimate method lies in a combination of the two, a mixture of the traditional and the modern.

When the Humanities can learn to play nice, the resources available to them will be, virtually, inconceivable.


English 203 as a Macro-system for Measuring the Impact of Digital Humanities


In order to gain the most from any piece of literature when using digital tools, a balance needs to be reached. The reader needs to present both the quantitative results given from a digital tool, and the qualitative thoughts from personal readings in a balanced argument.


In the past we’ve seen several distinct disciplinary fields as a critical or central point of study within the humanities. New-historicism, post-structuralism, political theory, feminine and identity-based theories have all had moments in which each respective discipline has been the main focus at a post-secondary institution. This is especially true when considering canonical texts such as Shakespeare’s works. While it is common now for Humanities departments to focus on inter-disciplinary studies, should the digital humanities become a prioritized discipline, critical reading skills may become a thing of the past. The likelihood of this isn’t all that surprising, considering the Digital Humanities does not, itself, offer any new area of critique, but rather is supplementary to other critiques.  Simon Tanner is interested in measuring the impact that digitized resources can have on particular applications. He questions, “How has the digital resource delivered a positive change in a defined group of people’s lives or life opportunities?” Negative impact is important to consider as well, although it is a cynical view on the digital humanities. In this blog, I’m presenting my personal results from the English 203 course as a measurement of the impact of digitized resources on the humanities – specifically, on literary studies and analysis. I feel that my experience will outline that although the digital tools have a place in literary studies, they need to be carefully introduced and regulated to ensure critical reading and deep thought are maintained within the humanities.


Important Considerations:

  • TaPOR – there are strengths and weaknesses of the tool I personally used. While it may not be the best tool to produce a blanket statement on the digital humanties, it was nonetheless what I became most familiar with during the semester so my post will focus on it.
  • Focus on Hamlet – the depth of study that has already gone into a canonical text such as Hamlet certainly affects how much unique analysis digital tools can pull out of the text.


Initial hesitation with the Digital Humanities:

Like many of my fellow students in English 203, the first few weeks during phase 1, I had a certain stubbornness that led to hesitancy in embracing digital tools to analyze Hamlet. My fellow TaPOR ‘expert’ Kira summed up how I was feeling perfectly in her first blog post: “the tool is pulling my focus away from the text I am analyzing.” With this in mind, I made a concerted effort to use TaPOR sparingly and combine it with actual deep reading of Hamlet. The result was that during phase 2, I found a much healthier relationship between digital tools and the text itself.


Act 2 as an area of focus for Hamlet:

            One of the most fortunate aspects of having this digital humanities class in the winter semester was that I was able to study Hamlet in the English 205 class during the fall semester. The result was the ability to connect themes/ideas discussed and brought out by close-reading and critical thought from English 205, with the quantitative results that are given anytime a digital tool is used.

I discussed in my first blog post for phase 2, the word “know” caught my attention when I first uploaded Act 2 into TaPOR and ran the go-to List Words tool:

The connection of the pursuit for knowledge with “know” lead not only myself, but other group members in phase 2 (all of which focusing on their distinct digital tool of expertise) to narrow our analysis to the theme of surveillance. The theme of surveillance was, in this case, illuminated by quantitative results given by digital tools: the fact that “know” was written 14 times within act 2. Yet these quantitative results, on their own, are nothing but numbers. It was the human connection of “know” to the theme of surveillance that was most engaging and fruitful. Throughout phase 2 I found myself returning to knowledge I had gained in English 205. Whether it was re-reading notes and papers I had written from the previous semester or re-watching a clip of David Tennant as Hamlet, essentially I was going back to knowledge presented through lectures or close reading of physical, un-digitized text and re-envisioning it to fit with results TaPOR had given.  I felt most inspired in phase 2 during the moments I was connecting the vague results TaPOR gave, to my prior knowledge of the text itself.  Reflecting upon this implicates a question: was TaPOR providing me with useful quantitative analysis of the text, or was I just stretching information TaPOR gave me to fit with my prior knowledge of the text?


Qualitative vs Quantitative Results:

Consider the following results TaPOR gave on the lines in which “know” is uttered in Act 2:

While I posted this image in my second blog for phase 2 I did not notice certain options the TaPOR results gave me until I had looked at them for a second time. If we look in particular when Hamlet states to Rosencrantz and Guildenstern: “I know the good / king and queen have sent for you,” (Hamlet 2.2.244-45) we see a resulting question that TaPOR is unable to answer: Why does Hamlet use the word “good” to describe the king? Sarcasm is the most likely answer, but there are a few ways to approach it:

  • Hamlet is sarcastic, and his friends are aware of and understand his sarcasm.
  • Hamlet is sarcastic but his friends are oblivious to it
  • Hamlet is simply using a respectful term to mention both Claudius and Gertrude, and it says nothing about either his relationship with Claudius or Rosencrantz and Guildenstern.

Whichever answer is chosen, it is important to address because it says something about a relationship between characters. It is through small moments like this that TaPOR was able to direct me into a spot in the text I may have glossed over before.

            Another example of this occurred when I used the CAPS finder tool in TaPOR on act 2:

With the theme of surveillance in my mind, TaPOR was able to direct me to the allusion to Pyrrhus at Priam found near the Acts end when the players are reciting: “Unequal matched, / Pyrrus at Priam drives, in rage and strikes wide” (Hamlet 2.2.395-96). Using the quantitative result TaPOR provided of the allusion, I could qualitatively connect the reference to the Trojan horse with the deception that occurs within Hamlet.

There were moments, such as those mentioned above, in which I had reached an effective balance between the digital tool and critical/deep human reading. These balances seemed to always occur when the quantitative results (the digital results given in unarguable quantities) were then qualitatively (tone, qualities, and connections based on personal readings) linked to a theme, character, or opinion. It is in this manner that I found textual analysis with digital tools to be most beneficial.


Measuring Impact for Digitized Resources:

Simon Tanner discusses in his blog the need to measure the impact digital resources have. He defines “impact” as: “the measurable outcomes arising from the existence of a digital resource that demonstrate a change in the life or life opportunities of the community for which the resource is intended.” From the use of digital tools in English 203, I found a change in the way I engaged with the text. Although it didn’t always feel like a positive engagement – in the academic sense – once a balance of digital humanities and, for lack of a better word, ‘old fashioned’ reading was met, the change (from humanities to digital humanities) became productive.

But how can this impact be measured?

This class itself is a way to measure the impact of digital resources on the humanities. Tanner discusses social impact assessment as an assessment that “looks more closely at individuals, organisations and social macro-systems.” The individual blog posts, and the academic community that followed from class/group discussion and online discussion in English 203 is itself a “social macro-system” for the digital humanities as a whole. In order to measure this particular social impact assessment, a simple reading of all the blog posts (in particular the final blog posts in phase 3) would suffice. The blogs could be categorized into positive and negative reactions to ultimately measure how positive or negative the impact of digital tools was on literary analysis, and ultimately on the humanities.


The impact of digitized resources on the humanities based on my interaction during this course was, overall, positive. Again, this is due to the balance of qualitative, close reading and analysis of the text itself with the quantitative digital results of TaPOR.

Although close/deep reading and critical analysis was still a part of my experience in the digital humanities, I mentioned in the introduction my concern for the potential elimination of these skills. I’ll end this post with a point for reflection:

As mentioned above, it is important to consider TaPOR itself. Technology will undoubtedly improve (or perhaps in other tools, it already has) beyond the limitations I sometimes found when applying TaPOR to Hamlet. In the future canonical texts, such as Hamlet, may have been extensively incorporated into digital tools to such an extent that those tools have the ability to produce qualitative results. For example, the tool could have suggestions for why the word “know” is said as many times as it is in Act 2, or that Hamlet is, perhaps, sarcastic in mentioning Claudius as a “good” king.  If this is the case, those using the tool may not question the qualitative results and simply accept them. I personally never questioned the quantitative results given from TaPOR, yet still incorporated them into my analysis. If qualitative results can be given through a digital tool, where is the need to do any close reading? The text will, through the digital tool, have a defined reason or answer within it, and no further analysis will be needed. The relationship between the reader and the text would become hollow and unengaged, and the digital tool will have entirely pulled the reader away from the physical text being analyzed. All answers will, in a sense, be coming from outside the text itself.

It is because of this that I am most hesitant to proclaim the digital humanities should be a discipline that can be central to literary studies. If the balance between digital and personal interaction with the text can be maintained, as I was able to do during this course, then it is certainly a positive impact on the humanities. Considering technologies constant and constantly accelerating improvement, it seems unrealistic that future students in English 203 will be able to reach this balance as easily as I did.

Through a personal impact assessment of my interaction with digital tools and Hamlet in English 203, I was able to take a positive stance on the digital humanities because I found a balance between the digital results and my own readings. With the constant improvement of the tools being used in the digital humanities, will this balance be attainable in the future?



Works Cited:

Shakespeare, William. Hamlet. A Norton Critical Edition. Ed. Robert S. Miola. New York: W.W. Norton & Company. 2011. Print.

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A Brave New (Digital) World

Anyone who knows me well enough knows that I am a purist at heart: Old school Rock ‘N’ Roll/ Punk rather than the mainstream music of today, records rather than digital downloads, and books; old, dusty, classic read-with-a-cup-of-tea-while-it-rains-outside books. But we are becoming (or rather, we have become) a digital society. I currently write this ‘blog’ on a computer while connected to the internet and listening to my ipod. My household holds a television for practically every room with DVD players and Blu-ray players as their companions, along with a multitude of game systems, laptops, tablets, and, of course, cell phones that everyone refuses to part with. Communication has shifted from face-to-face time to social media and online profiles accessible by anyone with access to the internet. If everything else has gone digital, moving up to the ‘next best thing’, why wouldn’t literature?  E-readers are becoming common, replacing the feel and smell of actual books (mine sits unloved while I pay attention to a print copy of ‘Fahrenheit 451’.) Our campus library isn’t simply a library: it is a digital library. And now it seems the study of books has moved to the digital. Copy and paste your text into a program and you are instantly handed an analysis on a silver platter (supposedly), rejecting the old close reading method of reading, re-reading, and then re-re-reading with a yellow highlighter and pen while surrounded by a storm of loose leaf paper on which lay your scribbled notes and questions to explore.

Is this the way forward for literary analysis? Are English classes going to be taught by the click of a mouse rather than with the group discussions? In all honesty, I hope not. And to be realistic, I don’t believe so. But you can’t deny it is happening.

I find my thoughts summed up nice and simply in the title of a blog by Michael Kramer: The Fetishation of Data. In reading the blog, my attention is caught by his discussion of the problem of data vs. reality. As Kramer rightly points out, data is not reality, and accepting it as such (this ‘fetishation’) is dangerous. He reminds us that data is not 100% true; it holds inadequacies and faults (after all, machines, much like their creators, make mistakes. Need a reminder? You need only look back at the phase one blogs of my TAPoR group, where frustration with the program was palpable.) Kramer suggests that we have to bring ourselves into the equation and interpret the data we pull. If we simply take the data and present it as fact we are not only misusing it, but we are taken out of the process, allowing the purely qualitative data composed of pretty graphs (or word lists in the case of TAPoR)  to ‘dehumanize’ us. As Kramer rightly states, there are no “bodies, minds, desires, dispositions, and other extraordinarily concrete qualitative realities” captured in that given data, essentially rendering it moot. What is the point of reading and understanding a text when you are not going to look at what the author himself is expressing?

With digital analysis, it is all data, data, data. Everything is concrete and there is no room to break out of bounds. But the human mind is not to be contained. Shakespeare was a genius. His mind was (I can only assume) constantly flickering with ideas that shifted and evolved and begged to be heard. Ideas shift not only in the mind of the creator, but once it is the public’s to interpret once it is in their hands. What Hamlet says to one generation will not be the same as to the next; what he says to one person will not be the same to another. What it being said is the same, yes, but how we interpret it and how we process its meaning is constantly changing. The possibilities in what you can pull from the text are limitless, and the ideas discussed are far to complex for a machine running on 0’s and 1’s to comprehend. This is something I have discussed, briefly, in a previous blog: simply using digital data restrains my mind and forces me to view a text in a narrow frame of view. I find my focus being pulled away, causing me to miss things and unable to grasp the whole of what is being said. To understand the human imagination, a human mind is needed.

And so, going by what Kramer discussed with the need to interpret data, I turn to Hamlet to see what I can pull from the text, and what a machine (and its data I am to interpret) can say.

New Age Digital Analysis vs. Good ‘Ol Fashioned Human Interpretation

 Every time I come back to Hamlet I find myself coming away with new interpretations. In each new reading I find new meanings; I notice more themes; and I discover more layers to the characters. I can finish the play with the inception of new ideas, or the expansion of older ones. When I enter the text into my TAPoR program, however, it will always come out the same. The data I receive will be the same, time and time again. When I ask for a list of the frequent words used in the play (in a hope to find theme or mood, ETC), it will always come out looking like this:

On the surface, this says nothing to me. To pull anything out of the data received, I have to interpret it; I have to pull out what I consider key and relate that to what I already know of the text.

For instance, the most frequent word in Hamlet appears to be ‘Lord’. You would think with so many uses it would be the most important word, but really it is not. The word of focus for many studying the play is ‘madness’, which comes in with only 22 uses (not including lemmas, unfortunately.) Why is madness such an argued topic when discussing the play, when it is lightly touched upon as a frequent word? Because in reading the data, ‘madness’ is a word that may be thought of as having more depth due to the fact that while reading the play, you are able to notice the theme in characters or situations. In the case of Hamlet, you are able to think either ‘yes, he is mad’ or ‘no, he is not, he is playing an act’ based on what you see him say and do.

I personally do not think that Hamlet is mad. I came to this conclusion in my reading of the play and after a comparison between Hamlet’s ‘madness’ and Ophelia’s (which I have discussed in this post.) I compare the madness of the two in act IV because it is this moment in the play where the two instances of madness occur.

In my digital analysis, it does seem Hamlet is mad; I find more references in act IV to him being mad than I do for Ophelia:

Both uses of ‘mad’ are in reference to Hamlet, as are two of the three ‘madness’:

However, in my reading, I find much more references and key phrases of madness used towards Ophelia: Gertrude is told how “She is importunate – indeed, distract”(4.5.2) and how she “says she hears/There’s tricks i’th’ world, and hems and beats her heart,/Spurns enviously at straws, speaks things in doubt/That carry but half sense. Her speech is nothing.”(4.5.4-8) Claudius also refers to madness as he says she is “Divided from herself and her fair judgement” (4.5.85). Her description of madness is not so blunt as simply being called ‘mad’ like Hamlet, but it is still clear that she is indeed mad.

From what I read in the play, the reason Hamlet is thought of as mad is from other characters referencing him as such. The other characters are entitled to say such a thing. Around them (especially Claudius or Polonius), Hamlet certainly does appear mad as he talks about vague nonsense. This ‘nonsense’ talk is itself a hint to his sanity: while no one may understand completely what he is saying, his ‘nonsense’ is true and makes sense. It especially denies his madness when you think back on his declaration “to put an antic disposition on” (1.5.170) So while around others, Hamlet does appear to be insane. But alone, he is thoughtful. When Hamlet is alone on stage he delivers many soliloquies on his thoughts. His most famous speech, “To be or not to be” (3.1.55) is where he is at his most thoughtful, contemplating life and death. Can someone ‘mad’ be that thoughtful? Ophelia does concern herself with life and death in her madness, but nowhere near the sort of depth Hamlet has.

In my readings I find much to interpret and build up new ideas. My digital analysis, however, does not do such a good job. It may be due to my program’s limit to simply list and look for words, but any data I find seems to lack what I find when I read. And of course, I have to interpret the data I find by myself, meaning I am left to look at a fraction of what I am analysing.

My Time Down the Digital Rabbit Hole

What ENGL 203 has done, if anything, is thrown me down the rabbit hole, so to speak. In signing up for the course, I was drawn to take it based on the work to study. I didn’t understand what the ‘digital humanities’ portion of the course meant, but I was excited to find out and excited to try something new. And my excitement has not faded away. While I still don’t have a full grasp of what the digital humanities are or know the full extent of what it can do for my studies, its unique approach holds my interest. I have been thrown into a world of studies I was unfamiliar with, and who held more possibilities than I knew existed. I have seen that there are other methods of analysing a text apart from my chosen method of close reading. With a click of a button you can chart character speaking frequencies and word distribution; you can break lines down into common words and see what characters concern themselves with in their speech and thoughts, allowing more insight into who they are and what they do. What I find absolutely lovely about the use of digital tools is how fast they act to produce results which may point out details which I may overlook in my initial readings. For instance, I was aware of the references to nature throughout Hamlet, but I never noticed how many times the body or mind was referenced until after I sorted through the word lists my program compiled.

However, no matter what sort of bells and whistles and shiny gadgets the digital analysis offers, the data they offer is somewhat empty. Data is purely qualitative; it means nothing if you do not look at it and think and interpret what it is saying. A graph will be a squiggly line unless you say ‘this means this’. A word frequency list is just a list of words, unless you sort through and pick out key words. Not only this, but the data is stagnant. Machines will pull the same results time and time again, where as new thoughts are incepted and old ideas may be expanded further with the human imagination.

I believe that while others are more suited for a digital analysis of text and the interpretation of data, I am more content and comfortable with a traditional close reading. I would rather form my own ideas than have a machine point it out for me. I would rather wear out a book than wear down my keyboard. And I would rather read a text and experience what was written and expressed so carefully by the author. But to each his own. It’s been fun experiencing a new world.

Works Cited
Shakespeare, William. Hamlet. Eds. Ann Thompson, and Neil Taylor. London: Arden Shakespeare, 2006. Print. Third Series.

The Darker Secrets of the Digital Humanities

Another semester comes to an end, and for the first time ever I’ve spent more quality time with my computer than with a good old fashioned book in order to complete my English class. Twitter, WordPress, and WordHoard have consumed my life and have completely flipped the world of Shakespeare around for me. I’ve never been a huge fan of the bard and I’m still not super interested investigating him any further than I’m required too. Having the internet there and the various digital tools to aid me definitely made this semester a lot more enjoyable than the fall semester where it was strictly reading Shakespeare’s works (with a hint of twitter).

The way we chose to investigate Hamlet this semester was by strictly looking for answers to our own questions. The problem with this is that we eliminated anything that we found that doesn’t necessarily fit with our hypothesis; we also tended to eliminate things that we didn’t find interesting. Scott B. Weingart (the scottbot irregular), mentioned in his blog entry entitled, Avoiding Traps, the ideas of sampling bias, selection bias, data dredging, cherry picking, confirmation bias, p-values, positive results bias, file drawer problem, and HARKing. I believe that all of the above are crucial to understanding the digital humanities fully and also, so we don’t make broad or incorrect assumptions about Shakespeare’s literature.



(Original Image from

Beware of Biases

Weingart defines a selection bias as “an error in choosing the individuals or groups to take part in a scientific study”, and a sampling bias is “that it undermined the external validity of a test (the ability of its results to be generalized to the rest of the population)”. So, for both of those to make sense in our classroom we would use our digital tools (WordHoard, WordSeer, Monk, TAPoR, and Voyeur) as the individuals taking part in our study and the sampling bias would simply be the results we garner from them. As we learnt throughout the semester some tools are simply not designed to work and analyze specific portions of the text. Some are better at looking at a specific scene and act (Phase 1), others are better at looking at whole scenes (Phase 2), and there are still some, that I get the sense, that are not great at doing work at either phase and would be better suited comparing the whole text to other works.

I worked with WordHoard for the entirety of the course and personally I felt like it was able to work well during both phases. I was able to gain information that I need relatively quickly; however, I did notice that when I presented my findings to other users who were not using WordHoard they were confused with my findings and screenshots (I even tried kicking it old school and presenting my findings on sticky notes, as seen in my fourth blog post, with no avail). My findings fit perfectly into the concept of sampling bias since it’s unreadable to non-users of WordHoard, making it hard for my finding to reach a wide audience.


To use all the Information, or to not use all the information, that is the question

The Internet is filled with more information than one person will ever need. With our work with the digital humanities we’re just expanding the information that is out there and for me this is a terrifying idea. When I first started elementary school, which was only in 1997, we still did all our research with books, the Internet was still considered “new”. Now, we live in a digital age where anything we want or need to know can be typed into nearly any device and we’ll receive an answer in seconds or less. We must be weary of the answers we receive from the Internet, as a good portion of it is misleading or false. The Internet is full of “trolls” (which Urban Dictionary users define as “Someone who is purposefully posting on a forum/message board/site with the sole aim to irritate the regular members”); in a sense Hamlet could be considered the troll of his day.

(Image from

So what do we do with all this information? Are we just adding fuel to the fire without even realizing it? Are our assumptions and conclusions trolling the digital humanities community and Shakespearean aficionados?

Weingart’s concern about data dredging resonates with me a great deal. For me, this was the most terrifying part of the process. Data dredging is the idea that with all the information out there for us it’s “tempting to find correlations between absolutely everything”. I fell victim to data dredging when I trusted Monk’s findings (HA, why did I ever trust Monk?). In my most recent blog post I talked about using April’s results and testing them in mine. I guess Monk scoured its database and came up with the results below but when I tested them in my tool it came up with zero results.

(April’s Results) 
(My Results)

Weingart was talking about human data dredging but in the case of Monk versus WordHoard, I fell victim the data dredging of Monk and it giving me false-positives. Monk trolled me.


Information Everywhere!

We all want to come off as intelligent individuals who know what they’re talking about so we tend to only share are solid and most interesting information. We are all victims of being a cherry picker (cherry picking isn’t just for sports anymore); we continuously cut away information until we get the strong hypothesis or conclusion that we were searching for.

For example, I looked up the word “love” in WordHoard and it told me that it appeared 65 times in the play. Great! Now I could make the general assumption that love was used in the Oxford English Dictionary definition of “a feeling or disposition of deep affection or fondness for someone” in all 65 occurrences if that would strengthen my argument, cherry picking. However, looking further into the results I see it’s not always used in that context:

Hamlet: As love between them like the palm might flourish, (5.2.40) ✔

Gertrude: For love of God, forbear him. (5.1.276) ✖

Hamlet uses the word love in the proper context of the OED definition, but Gertrude simply uses it as an expression with no significance behind it.

After you’re done cherry picking and data dredging you’re left with about 5% of all the information you’ve collect because that is al you’ve deemed worthy enough to be presented and shared. This is called the positive results bias. All the other information that is left over from your research is discarded, creating the file drawer problem.

The file drawer problem is an issue because without sharing our failures, or inconclusive results, we’re leaving other people to go down the same path. If we worked together as a community and published all our results, the good and the bad, we’d be able to see what works and what doesn’t and be able to provide better feedback and support.


Going Forward

Going forward, new and old digital humanists need to be aware of what their work is doing and how it’s helping or not helping others. Acknowledging the biases that are being formed when we do our research and being conscious to try and strop them is important. If we can stop only publishing our positive results and start sharing our other trials too, which the majority of English 203 did this semester in their blog posts due to all the frustrations and headaches our tools created, we can help and foster one another’s learning.

Data dredging and cherry picking is harder to stop doing because we’re drawn to those results. They’re the ones that bring us closer to our goal and our purpose of research. Sometimes other alleys and opportunities should be looked into before sticking simply to those first positive results.

Weingart also mentioned confirmation bias, p-values and HARKing, which I did not touch on either because I don’t have enough knowledge on the subject (p-values), or I felt that they didn’t quite fit into our classroom (confirmation bias and HARKing). However, from what I read, I do believe they are still important and vital to sustaining and fostering the growing digital humanities. As an individual who is addicted to her computer and the Internet, I hope they’re here to stay and get worked into more of the University’s courses.

The Digital Humanities: 01 Tangent: 00

With email and text abbreviations lowering our I.Q.s more than smoking, the possibility of Google turning the world into a 1984 disaster, and our luxury CO2 emissions causing the planet into becoming a Day After Tomorrow catastrophic mess, it is no wonder that we future English majors and current humanists of the world want to keep our traditional methods.  Science versus nature: a situational archetype we are all too common with is becoming an ever growing concern in our world today.  Fearing change and the possibility of technology getting into the wrong hands is a common fear that we all have.  On that note, have any of you heard of the brain cells that can communicate with a computer chip?  Check out this video here.  Terminator, anyone?

And just when we [art students] thought we were safe with our ratty Shakespeare books and old fashioned book-in-one-hand-pencil-in-the-other-staring-squinty-eyed-at-unreadable-text-under-awful-lighting method, in comes the Digital Humanities.  And we think to ourselves, “No! This is the exact reason I chose this department! So I would never have to look at numerical concepts again”!  Personally, it wasn’t a lack of familiarity with technology but rather a certain stubbornness that comes with the study of literature which is to stick with our traditional and – let’s face it – pretentious methods.  My assumption, from reading the other blog posts in Phase 1, is that most of us had this notion at the beginning of the semester in one way or another.  I learned two major things after my semester of digitalized humanities: the first being that digital tools do not make analyzing a text easier to comprehend (connections are not magically revealed to you) but instead gives the student every possible angle (depending on the tool; sorry Monk…Kate says you’re not invited) to analyze the text from.  And the second is that I will never doubt my own abilities to tackle traditional methods with digital methods ever again.  Thinking back to the debate we tackled in class (The Digital Humanities: The future or a tangent?) the Digital Humanities is too fragile at the moment to be divided evenly into two such categories.  There were frustrations with tools such as Monk yet I luckily had many great results with my tool, Voyeur.  Martin Mueller, professor of English and Classics at Northwestern University writes “they have so far put the digital into a ghetto – a mutually convenient practise for those inside and outside, but probably harmful in the long run”. But what does that mean really?  Are we, as humanists, too stubborn or too scared to approach digital methods?  Or that “the analysis of canonical texts by highly skilled readers with decades of experience…not likely that machines will add much insight”? Aditi, the creator of WordSeer, made changes to the tool as the Phase 1 group tackled problems with the program.  The Digital Humanities is still evolving and this evolution luckily took place right within our classroom as we got to see Aditi make changes to the program.  Referring back to the debate in our last lecture, the “tangent” side brought up the argument that the Digital Humanities takes away from the “art” of reading and analyzing text that we English Majors pride ourselves on.  This is apparently what separates us from everyone else.  I disagree with this.  What separates us is one, our common interest in wanting to pursue the study of humanities, and secondly, the dissecting and re-sculpting of ideas and literature introduced centuries prior and incorporating them in the world that we live in now.  And this world is one of technology. Therefore, how we go about this is not the art of the study of humanities but how we regenerate it, is.  I have studied Hamlet several times prior to this semester, seen various film adaptations, and stage productions, yet the Digital Humanities helped me discover new tidbits of the play on my own.  I could have easily read someone else’s ideas on Hamlet and gone through countless essays of people with decades of experience on analyzing text to discover these tidbits.  But discovering it on my own is part of the art.  As students and enquirers of English, we deserve to use these tools to help give us a better foundation of analyzing texts rather than being overshadowed by others who have already been there and done so.

My Personal Experiences with Voyeur

I have very little experience with the other tools other than my own and only have the Phase 1 presentations to guide me on the benefits and struggles of the other four tools.  My journey with Voyeur was an amazing one.  Once I figured out the ease of using Voyeur, it became informative and visually appealing.  As I previously said, my tool did not magically reveal Hamlet to me so I tried to approach the text as if I was reading it for the first time.  The Word Cloud instantly revealed the words most used within Hamlet and this way I was able to pinpoint the common themes and look into the significance of the repetition of the words.  Voyeur revealed quotes and passages within the play by clicking on a single word that I wanted to find out more about.  Another benefit that my tool provided was what wasn’t revealed to me.  For example, if I was examining terms that occurred most frequently, I began to take note of things that were missing.  This is what helped me discover the ‘tidbits’ of the text that I was talking about earlier.  For instance, in Phase 1 when we examined 3.4, I read the scene several times and concluded that it was a significant character development scene for Gertrude and the relationship that she and Hamlet share.  After I put the text into Voyeur, the tool confirmed my analysis.  However, after sorting through the words most commonly used and the characters speaking, I realized how there was nearly no mention of Polonius.  And I thought this was odd because this is the scene where he dies.  However, after sorting through the text, I saw that Gertrude and Hamlet instantly go back to their private issues after Polonius is stabbed.  There is no further mention of his death until he is dragged off stage.  And now you might be thinking, “so what”?  Well, this was a revelation for a couple reasons: one, I hadn’t noticed this before because I was so consumed with the bigger things going on within the scene with Gertrude, Hamlet, and the Ghost (and this has happened every time I have read Hamlet).  And secondly, once I realized Gertrude’s lack of concern for a murder that occurred right in front of her, along with how what the Ghost says about Gertrude, “O, step between her and her fighting soul: conceit in weakest bodies strongest works” (3.4.110-110), this revealed more to me about her character than I had ever thought before.  If I was writing a paper on 3.4, this could be a strong argument that I could use to analyze Gertrude’s character, with my argument being that she [Gertrude] is too frail to acknowledge death, deceit, and murder.  Hamlet’s disregard for Polonius’s death also reveals his sanity at this point within the play and how he can kill without remorse compared to the previous acts.  Small tidbit + big discoveries = analytical power.  I was led to this discovery by Voyeur and I wouldn’t have noticed this or even thought it was important before.  Because, like I said, it’s so easy to get caught up in the bigger things going on within the play or to feel overwhelmed by the text as a whole.  Now I was curious to see what Voyeur would do for me when it came to a text I hadn’t read before.  In English 205, one of the plays we were focusing on was Othello, which I had never read or seen prior to the course.  Once I had read the play, I uploaded a word file of Othello into Voyeur and made minor notes like how Iago speaks far more than any of the other characters, how “handkerchief” was mentioned more than any other object within the play, and how the words “good” and “honest” were often used in correlation to “Iago”.


When we had our weekly tutorial and discussed the play, the minor points I had discovered through Voyeur were very significant to the play overall.  What Voyeur gave me was a foundation to work with and make bigger connections later on as I did in my tutorial.

In conclusion, the works of Da Vinci and Van Gogh were not tossed aside with the invention of acrylic cubism, poetry was not lost in modern free verse, and the essence of literature will not be forgotten in the Digital Humanities!


Works Cited

Shakespeare, William. Hamlet.  Ann Thompson and Neil Taylor: London, 2006. Print. The Arden Shakespeare Third Series.

Martin Mueller,

The End of a Beginning

I am writing on something that before this class I never knew about let alone expected to ever find myself writing about.  I have taken a class this past semester that teaches about the digital humanities as a method for literary analysis, but my reasoning for taking that class should be made clear, it is a requirement for an English degree that I must have before I am allowed to go into the field of education.  Because of my degree requirements, I have found myself taking a literary analysis class that was much more than I ever expected it to be.  I am writing about my first experience with something that is new to me and also happens to be useful and enjoyable, that is, the digital humanities.  In this post, I will be analyzing the feasibility of an idea that involves mixing together both the digital approach to the humanities and the traditional approach to the humanities for the sake of education.

Mixed Motives and Mixed Results

I have many motives for writing this extensive blog post, the fact that it is a requirement for English 203 is not the least of those motives but this is the only mention which that particular motive will receive.  First among my motives listed here is the fact that I intend to go into the field of education upon completion of my university education, so I must ask myself, how would the digital humanities affect or be affected by education.  My second motive listed is the fact that I was influenced at one time by an English professor to believe that, remaining realistic, there is no definite right or wrong way to analyze a text and therefore there is no definite right or wrong analysis of a text; so believing this has also allowed me to have an open mind concerning the humanities.  Therefore, I felt that the subject must be mentioned.  My third and final motive listed here, is the fact that I just wanted to compare the traditional aspects of the humanities to the more modern aspects of the digital humanities.  All of these motives together are why I picked the blog post from the Digital Humanities Now website that I did.  That particular blog post is one written about interdisciplinarity and curricular incursion that can be seen if you go to the following link,

My thoughts were that I wouldn’t find a better blog post to compare both aspects of the humanities as well as the effects that they have had on education and vice versa.


I intend to go into the field of education, because of this I feel that it would be good to know some of the proper approaches to the Digital Humanities in case I ever end up teaching something about them or having to introduce a course on the digital humanities to a school board or committee.  The idea of interdisciplinary actions in the curricular aspect of the humanities is essentially, new revolutions in the humanities and how they affect or are affected by pedagogy and that is what I am interested in.  The digital humanities are a new and different method of teaching English that may be viewed more receptively by students than the traditional approach to the humanities because it can be easier for some people to acquire an analysis of a text through some of the tools available.  The Digital Humanities may also be more appealing to a number of students because of the more relaxed writing style that is available through them.

Right and Wrong

I have the personal belief that there is no definite right or wrong approach to textual analysis which extends to the idea that there is no definite right or wrong approach to the humanities.  That particular belief is supported by the idea that each and every person analyzes a text differently.  Therefore, there are as many perspectives of texts as there are people.  Each person gains a different perspective of a text just by reading it and the tools available through the digital humanities have the capability to verify, expand and build upon those various perspectives.  Finally, I feel that the line between right and wrong analyses of a text is really blurry, therefore, who am I to judge whether or not a new method of analysis is definitively right or wrong.


I would like to compare what I have learned of the digital humanities to the information that is available to the world at large and to what I have learned about the traditional approach to the humanities.  Before starting the literary analysis course with Dr. Ullyot, I knew very little about the digital humanities, in fact, I went into the class thinking that it would be based on the classical literary analysis class where the students read the text, come up with a quantitative analysis of the text, write a paper on that analysis, and then when they are done with that, they proceed to rinse and repeat.  It is a good thing that my assumption was way off base, because a class that I expected to be dull was actually highly interesting as well as informative.  In the past, I have only ever approached the humanities in the classical manner and I have always been comfortable with the traditional method of textual analysis where a person reads the text and attempts to draw conclusions from it and prove those conclusions by writing an essay.  I was only a fan of this, however, because I am a relatively strong reader and it has always been easy for me to read a text and draw a decent quantitative analysis from it.  For me, the only problem with the traditional approach to the humanities lay in the aspect of having to write an essay, something that I am not very good at doing.  The Digital Humanities are really quite new to me; in fact, at the beginning of this past semester was the first time that I had ever heard of them, let alone studied them.  At first I was really skeptical of the idea of using technology to analyze texts as well as the idea of posting my findings on Twitter or a blog.  The reason for this was because of the fact that the only examples of either one that I had ever come across were pointless wastes of time with the people who wrote on them badly abusing the use of the English language.  After I realized that both Twitter and blogging could be extremely useful, I came to accept the idea of textual analysis using computers, to be honest, for me it was a journey of small steps.  I am still not entirely comfortable with the methods of textual analysis available through the digital humanities, but I will say that they are an amazing way to verify or prove my own quantitative analyses and make them qualitative.  I am also much more comfortable with the more relaxed writing style that is afforded to me through writing on blogs rather than a formal essay.  I feel that if the best of both aspects of the humanities could be mixed together, then there would be a truly excellent dynamo in place for the study of literature.

How it Was Done

Throughout the course of the semester, the people in English 203 learned about different tools available through the digital humanities and what those tools are capable of using a base text of Shakespeare’s Hamlet.  First we learned how to operate one of five different tools, and second, we got together in groups with four other people who all used different tools and worked together to analyze a portion of Hamlet.  This exercise taught me much about one tool, a little bit about the other four, and a great deal about how the digital humanities work.  The idea or concept of having four other people working in concert with me on the same project being able to converse with them via email or blog really made things easy.  I learned through the use of the blog posts that we are required to do, that the digital humanities are entirely collaborative.  Any one person with access to the blog was able to comment on or contribute to anything that I chose to write about.  Because of this, anything written on a blog in the digital humanities is constantly exposed to public scrutiny, as well as any new developments in technology, which are constantly occurring.  The concept of putting your findings in a blog post is a new and highly effective way to keep your writing and information perpetually up to date.

Phase I

            I was given the Voyeur or Voyant tool developed by Stefan Sinclair and Geoffrey Rockwell to learn how to operate in order to analyze the text of Shakespeare’s Hamlet in the first phase of our class programme.

By learning how to use it, I discovered that the Voyeur/Voyant tool is very easy to use, especially for someone like me who is not very technologically adept.  I also learned that Voyeur/Voyant has a very open user interface which makes it very easy to start out using, just input your text and go to town basically.

Between the Phases

I used the tool that I learned about earlier in order to study Hamlet and verify qualitatively my own quantitative analysis of the text.  As I mentioned before, I have very little trouble with reading a text and coming up with a quantitative analysis of it.  Therefore, I thought that it would be easier to use my tool in order to verify my own analyses and make them qualitative rather than use it to come up with entirely new analyses.  Because of this I used the Voyeur/Voyant tool as a hypothesis testing machine and achieved what I believe to be excellent results.  I am not saying that it is not a hypothesis or conclusion generating machine, because I believe that it can be used as such; what I am saying is it was more practical for me to use Voyeur/Voyant in the former capacity.

Phase II

Once I had a firm grasp of how to use Voyeur/Voyant, I was pooled into a group with four other people who had used different tools than my own in order to see how well our tools would interact; this was the second phase of the class programme.  Most of the members of my group agreed that their tools were extremely viable in the capacity of testing hypotheses.  In fact, we made a quantitative analysis of Act II of Hamlet regarding surveillance, and between the five of us and our tools we successfully proved our analysis.  Throughout the course of the second section of the class, I came to the conclusion that no matter how good my tool was on its own, it could always be boosted up or helped out by another tool’s unique functions.  In my case, the tool that helped my own out the most was the Wordhoard tool developed by Northwestern University, .  I found that Voyeur/Voyant wouldn’t actually count how many words a person said, only how often they spoke, where Wordhoard would do exactly what I needed in that respect.

The Rewards

            After taking Dr. Ullyot’s English 203 class as well as reading Ryan Cordell’s blog on interdisciplinarity I have come to the conclusion that there is a place in the humanities for technology, I am not saying that it will completely overtake the traditional approaches to the humanities, but that there is a place for it.  I feel that the opinion stated in Ryan Cordell’s blog that “for digital humanists to make a real incursion into the field of literary studies, we have to start presenting in non-DH panels” (  Even though not all people agree on the concept of the digital humanities, and not all of them communicate in the same way, in the words of Ryan Cordell, “we have to start actively seeking out colleagues who don’t know what we do—perhaps even those who don’t like what we do. We have to talk with colleagues who don’t tweet” (

My Experiences and Responses

I have been introduced to the digital humanities and learned about them through trial and error in Dr. Ullyot’s class.  Now that I have done that, I am far more comfortable with the digital humanities now than I was upon first hearing about them and I am far more receptive to the idea of using technology for the purpose of textual analysis.


Throughout the course of the semester, I have learned how to operate the Voyeur/Voyant program in concert with four other members of the English 203 class.  I have studied Act II with four other people who have all learned how to use different tools available through the digital humanities.  We discovered that the different tools in the digital humanities work better together than they do on their own.  When my Phase II group and I agreed that our tools worked better for them to verify their own findings rather than discover new things, I came to the conclusion that like the different tools in the humanities, maybe the two aspects of the humanities would also be able to work together in order to be much more useful and adaptable.

My Own Conclusions

My conclusions on the whole are that I accept the digital humanities as a new and improved method of testing hypotheses even though I am more comfortable with the traditional version of the humanities.  From my experience in both the traditional humanities and the digital humanities, I have come to the conclusion that both aspects of the humanities would greatly benefit from interaction with each other.

Text Analysis Tools and their Silences


*Note throughout this Blog I will be associating Text Analysis Tools and their ability or lack of to connect with text with comparison to Monk. Since I worked with Monk for the year I feel the most comfortable associating this post and assumptions towards it. No assumptions are made about any other tools since I have not worked in depth with them and am not as familiar with them*

Well this is the final blog post, the last and final one of Hamlet in the Digital Humanities. Since the final blog post is a “biggie” I figured I should write on something that I have been constantly thinking about since the beginning of the course: quantitative and qualitative analysis. The digital Humanities is all about looking at things from a computer data based perspective to find more ways we can locate information or otherwise known as quantitative information. Which is a different perspective than what people are used to which is qualitative analysis. This year we analyzed Hamlet qualitatively and quantitatively and looked at how the two relate or compare to one another. It seems to be an upcoming trend to look at text through computers and I was wondering what this effect may lead to the original qualitative analysis of texts and how the two differ all together. I believe that with new technology in the digital humanities arising this may create “silences” in meaning and understanding of a text and relation to it similarly on how digital texts have created “archival silences” in that the more digital we become with text analysis the less involved we seem to get with the text and understanding it from its original roots.

Lost Voice

“Archival Silences”. Where do I begin to explain the tricky term of Archival Silences… I guess that depends on which definition you are looking at. In Kate Theimer’s Blog on “The Two Meanings of Archival Silences and Their Implications”  she describes archival silences many different ways

1. Gaps or “silences” in a body of original records

2. reference to materials that are not represented in the digital collections that have been marked up in ways that make them useful for research

3. ways in which voices from the past are silenced

4. those materials that have been digitized and made available online

After looking at these definitions and looking at my blog and what I wish to write about I decided that in terms of this paper the silences which I refer to would be the gaps or voices that are lost in the Digital Humanities Text Analysis tools, and the implications digitizing has had on our bodies of work.

Overall I felt that with the Digital Humanities and the text analysis tools there seemed to be a lack of absence or silence within the association to the original text. I felt that even though in our class we spent time looking at Hamlet on paper and looking at Hamlet through a text analysis tool I still had a lot of difficulty connecting the two together. Even so after phase two I was able to relate the two together, however I found that each part could stand on its own.  What I mean by this is when you read Hamlet on paper you are able to understand it and pick up on certain themes and ideas and don’t need the digital version of Hamlet to grasp at it. I also found this the same with the digital version in that even though with text analysis tools it takes the text and picks it apart it looks at it a completely different way than a human does, in that it looks at things from a quantitative measure as in numbers, language and how often something may appear.

Even though the digitized version of the text looks at the text through a different aspect than what a person would do it looks at the text from a different level and thus the original story and themes that we pick up can be silenced. In that the digitized version of the text only looks at the text with aspects of words and numbers not a thought provoking questioning or understanding that we get from reading it. Thus we can say if you follow this logic that Digital Text Analysis tools themselves have created their own silences in that they are unable to pick up the human perception.

Hamlet and Text

To further test my question about archival silences that are created within text analysis tools I decided to look at the text that we have looked at throughout the whole year: Hamlet. I decided to do something basic and look at a common theme found throughout Hamlet which is “madness”. I wanted to see the ways in which human interpretation or qualitative analysis found this theme.

The theme of madness can be easily seen through one of Shakespeare’s best attributes: Language. Shakespeare has a very rich language which is layered with meaning on top of meaning. The ability to look at language, associate it and read into its many different meanings can be seen as a humanistic qualitative feature in that it human emotion and understanding is able to look at this language and see its many layered meanings as well as the association and feelings behind it. An example of madness can be seen when Ophelia has lost herself in Act 4 and the king states:”Poor Ophelia/Divided from herself and her fair judgment, /Without the which we are pictures or mere beasts”  (4.5.80-81). This quote shows how the madness has “divided” Ophelia, meaning that she is split off into two separate parts, her body as well as “her fair judgment”. We can see that her “fair judgment” indicates her senses in that she is no longer associated towards it. In turn it has turned her into a “beast” meaning that she is considered nothing more than an animal and that without her judgment Ophelia is seen as animalistic. This also gives reference to the idea of humanity and what makes us a person. Here King Claudius suggests that Ophelia’s reason and “judgment” make her human and without them she is nothing more than an animal. We must also consider the word “lost” in that it associates that she had it and now it is gone. It also gives light to the idea that she may find herself again, and there is hope that Ophelia may return to the girl she was and that she will no longer be considered animalistic this may also convey a sense of remorse in King Claudius’s choice of words in that he is hopeful that Ophelia will get better and he feels sorry for what has happened to her and the condition that she is now in. This can also be seen by how King Claudius used the word “Poor” as he associated a sense of sorrow towards her and apathy for what has come to her in that the madness has turned her into something she is not. Overall this quote shows how “madness” is not only found but is also described and related to in that day and age.

We can see through this brief analysis of text that there are many layers within Hamlet and by going through and taking apart the language bit by bit we can sense a greater understanding of not only the character Ophelia but as well as associations with how people were viewed if they were seen as mentally unstable as well as character feelings and associations towards one another. This two lined sentence in Shakespeare speaks volumes in references and meaning. It also gives the reader an association of feeling, understanding and a sense of emotion tied towards his words. On the other hand a computer would have no way of analyzing text through this deep of a method.

Gaps Created Because of the Digital Humanities

                For this past semester I have been looking at Hamlet within a text analysis towards Monk. If you have read any of my previous Blogs you probably realize that Monk is a frustrating tool which doesn’t tend to cooperate often but it is still a text analysis tool.

Text Analysis tools are used to gather a greater strength or grasp of ideas within a text. Text analysis tools basically do what the name says, they analyze text. Within each tool it took the text of Hamlet and analyzed it in its own specific way and found out some interesting things associated with it. This is where I think the silences begin. For me working with Monk it was difficult associating the text with the findings. This can be seen with the concordances in that it shows you the word that you are looking for but it does not pertain where in the text it was said, as well as who said it.

Here you see I have looked up the word “madness” in that Monk displays how often the word madness appears in the text. Although this may show that madness appears 22 times in the play. It also shows the phrase that madness was found in.

To me this is a big problem since as a class we were relying on these tools to give us information about the text. When it did give information I found that it had little association or connection to the text itself. I could see where Monk had found it, but since I had no idea of the origin I had no concept of its meaning and thus I had not gained a greater strength nor grasp of the text itself. Even though you are able to look at the words and see the context which they fit in you can’t relate it back to Hamlet because you don’t know its origin or its speaker. This shows the silences in that there is a gap of information that is not being received or understood, but it just gives you data. I know to try and fully understand what Monk is trying to say about Madness I will have to go back to the text and sift through it myself to know who said it where it was said in the play.

This is also shown with Monks unique tool Naye Bayes in the decision tree which picks up the theme that you have chosen and sees how confident it can be found throughout the text.

Once again I am shown data and information, but I have no idea why these words are associated with it or the context that they are spoken in. Even though Naye Bayes does show you the common words associated with it, it does not show you the ways in which the tool picked up the certain idea or theme. This shows me a lack of proof of what Monk actually found and how it can be useful. It leads once more to a silence which just shows data and information but lacks an actual connection towards the text and thus the reader.

In phase two my group and I decided to try and make a connection with the text towards the theme of spy and surveillance which we found extremely prevalent in act two by reading. This was a way for us to try and bridge this connection between qualitative and quantitative text while focusing on the idea of erasing the association of silences that some tools created. I found this to be an extremely helpful way of bridging the gap between human and computer association. I did feel that for the use of our presentation was for the main concept of trying to strengthen the theme we have picked up on and have found. I believe with the combination of all 5 tools we still would have picked up the theme of spying and surveillance if none of us had ever read Hamlet or understood the theme found within the text. However I am unsure of how well we would have been able o understand and grasp the strong concept of rich language that Shakespeare uses. As mentioned in one of my previous Blogs some words which we convey as strong themes throughout the play don’t even show up. The language used in a specific context seems to hold importance in the human understanding where a computer may lack or add “silences” to.

                                Overall I felt that the text analysis tools did create “silences” that were not included to or pertained to the text. When looking at both text and tool I did feel like there was still some aspects that were not being fully understood even though the computer gave me an answer. The best way I can describe it is solving a math problem by hand and understanding all the parts and particulars to it where as if I picked up a calculator I would have the answer starring straight at me in the face and I have no idea or concept of how it got there. This makes me wonder of our future and understanding of books and novels. Will there be a “calculator phase” that will just show us the answers but we have no idea or concept of how they got there? Can we really consider this diving deeper into a text when it just shows us the answer or tells us how often something appears?

The In-Between

A main point I saw throughout the whole experience was the point and validity to quantitative analysis. Yes it is interesting to see things broken down in a numbers based only perspective but I still felt that you had to rely heavily on the text itself to fill in the “gaps” or “silences” that were created because of the fact that it is taking a text that we understand qualitatively and putting it into a quantitative format.

Now don’t get me wrong about the tools in that they are all useless and evil, that is definitely not the case. I am merely suggesting that in looking into this new era of digitizing we still need our original texts to fill in the blanks that we don’t really understand. In that text analysis tools become a help towards our understanding but not a dependence. I am a strong believer in the original form of understanding text. I think it is important to go through a text and pick it out the old fashion way similarly to how you won’t understand someone until you have walked in their shoes. To me the text is the shoes and for me to fully understand and comprehend something you need that text. Without it you may have grasped a concept or idea that is being presented but there will be gaps.

What the future Holds

Kate writes on how these archival silences have had implications on ourselves and how eventually one day “that which is not available digitally with become equated with that which does not exist” . I guess you can say we have similar fears in that one day there may be a time when text analysis tools have taken over the concept of reading and understanding a book the old fashion way.

This can also relate to the technology today in that there are so many different ways that people communicate with one another but don’t at the same time. If you look at texting, Facebook chat, or even talking on the phone (which seems old fashion now a days) they all convey the idea of finding and passing information to one another fast while missing the human connection of emotion. There are countless times when someone will get mad over some computerized message because the human connection and emotion behind it is lost similarly to the silences found within text analysis in that the deeper meaning and context is essentially lost due to this phase of understanding and processing at a fast pace.

I can’t help but wonder if this will happen to our books and if they will “be or not to be” (3.1.58) meaning if they will be able to survive in an ever expanding digital world. I hope we don’t lose sight of the text and what it has to offer us because without it there will be a million unheard, unrecognized voices that eventually will go silent forevermore one day.



Works Cited List

Shakespeare, William. Hamlet. Stephen Greenblat, Walter Cohen, Jean E. Howard and Kathrine Eisaman Maus: Oxford University Press, 2009. Print. The Second Norton Edition.

Digital Scholarship Seminar: Undergraduates Collaborating in Digital Humanities

One of the key appeals for digital humanities at small liberal arts colleges has been as an avenue for undergraduate research in the humanities. NITLE’s next Digital Scholarship Seminar offers the opportunity to talk with undergrads from four different institutions about the benefits and challenges of engaging in digital humanities research.

This seminar will take place online in NITLE’s Virtual Auditorium.  To find out more or register visit the event website:

Please register online by Wednesday, April 25. Registration is free, however space is limited.

All the Best,

Rebecca Davis

Rebecca Frost Davis, Ph.D.

Program Officer for the Humanities

National Institute for Technology in Liberal Education (NITLE)

1001 East University Avenue | Georgetown, Texas 78626 | tel. 512 863-1734 | fax 512 819-7684

Delicious: rebeccadavis | Twitter: @FrostDavis

Diigo: rebeccadavis

The Digital Humanities and the Humanities: An Integrated Force?

With the accumulating significance of the digital humanities, comes the potential for an integrated, more effective approach to critical text analysis. The potential process arising from this rapidly developing field may be viewed as the following: traditional closed reading will provide the question, and the digital humanities will provide the answer, which may then be formed into a conclusion, following critical qualitative analysis to ensure the credibility of quantitative values. In other words, so long as human intellect is applied to evaluating  the validity of data, the quantitative approaches and results inherent to the digital humanities demonstrate the potential to illustrate new conclusions and questions regarding a text, through identifying patterns and trends which may not have been considered before. Throughout the duration of this account, it is my intent to convey how the implements of the digital humanities may be considered an equal part of the humanities, as opposed to simply an instrument to the broader field—so long as data and quantitative results are applied properly (with sufficient awareness of the potential sources of error in what is being represented). I will demonstrate this level of potential linkage, through first discussing a case study of Shakespeare’s Hamlet and how quantitative and qualitative text analysis may integrate with one another, before proceeding, in the second section, to convey the potential of the digital tool word seer to collectivize subjective and objective material into one unit, before later exploring the question posed by Michael J. Kramer in the blog post Reinventing the Wheel(which may be accessed using this link: ) that I have based my argument on, which is: to what
extent are the digital humanities one with the traditional humanities?
I will then proceed to highlight my reflections, in the final section, on
engaging with the digital humanities throughout the English 203 research-based course, commenting on what I have learned throughout the process.

Hamlet case study- A demonstration of how quantitative and qualitative approaches to a critical question may be applied in cohesion to form a conclusion

Upon evaluating the iconic text of Hamlet, two approaches may be pursued—an application of knowledge acquired through critically reading the text, or an alternative approach, in the case, being the use of a digital humanities tool to suggest trends and patterns that could serve as indications of plot, motifs, and character distinctions through speech patterns. In considering these two potential avenues for evaluating Hamlet, I have considered a question that is often debated, regarding the text: Can Hamlet’s perplexing behaviour be attributed to insanity(or “madness”) or to calculated deliberation? Qualitatively, Hamlet himself offers insight into his motivations for his later behaviour earlier on in the text in stating to Horatio, “Here as before: never—so help you mercy,/ How strange or odd some’er I bear myself/(As I perchance here after
shall think meet/ To put an antic disposition on)…”(Hamlet.1.5.166-70) before instructing his friend not to concern over his behaviour. Additionally, Hamlet also offers another indication that he is well aware of what he is engaging in, and how is conducting himself, when he subtly implies to Rozencrantz and Guildenstern: “I am but mad north-north west. When the/ wind is southerly I know a hawk from a handsaw”(Hamlet.2.2.315-16). How does this information relate to the question I posed? Critically analyzing Hamlet’s remarks for indications of deliberation exemplifies the qualitative approach to answering the question. The quantitative approach, which well supplements the qualitative
approach, may be conducted with a variety of digital tools—I am most familiar with Berkeley’s word seer(, and have therefore implemented it in my investigation.

While it is relatively simple to superficially label Hamlet’s term disposition as a façade or contrived attitude, there is little that can be verified about the statement, in the absence of knowing how the word is applied throughout the text. In order to find out exactly what “disposition” refers to, I found it suited to input the word into word seer’s word frequency heat map function( feature=endscreen&NR=1&v=DPhQQExQjZ4) which enables one to visualize the frequency of a word throughout a text, and identify when exactly it occurred(I will elaborate further on the potential of this feature in the next section) in order to observe the different meanings it represents, and how often it is used. In conducting this assessment with the entire text, I received the following results:

Incidentally, the word “disposition” sparsely occurs throughout the text.  However, in the usage of the word pictured in the above heat map, it appears once again to represent either personality traits, or characteristic tendencies—aspects that could feasibly be manipulated, or otherwise “forced”, as Hamlet is described as doing. This is an effective example of how quantitative figures may reinforce or reaffirm hypotheses or qualitative speculations. While this data is intriguing, I decided to consult another feature of word seer, the word tree function, to see if I could identify the context surrounding the word “disposition”, each time it is used throughout the text. The results I received are as follows:

What I found interesting was that the word truant appeared in the context of one of the uses of “disposition”, another apparent indicator of disposition derived from a tendency. Therefore, a potential answer to the question I posed, harnessing ammunition from both qualitative speculation and quantitative results, could be that Hamlet is well aware of the way in which he is prepared to conduct himself, and is thus entirely sane, and is concocting a ruse to mislead his uncle from his intentions—a deliberative, conscious act. While this assertion is open to re-evaluation, and is not necessarily correct, it provides an optimal example of how the qualitative and quantitative can intermingle to produce new conclusions, or otherwise reaffirm them—a product of the digital humanities and the larger field of humanities integrating.

Word seer- An efficient companion to my research

Berkeley’s word seer, a relatively simple to use instrument, is most useful in its capacity to transform raw data into new questions. What I mean by this is that the tool demonstrates  the potential to reinforce or generate qualitative hypotheses, based on quantitative data returned—as, when one employs word seer in their research, they are often not sure as to what they will find. In a previous blog post( I discussed how word seer is both interesting(through its visual qualities) and insightful(in its potential to produce new interpretations, or disregard obsolete preconceptions), and how superficial suppositions(such as Hamlet being considered about “death” or “revenge” alone) may be discredited based on the actual word frequencies of such words, as revealed by word seer. For instance, in regards to the qualitative value of the tool, my initial observation(expanded upon in my blog post cited above) was that “…a constantly recurring word can be inferred to represent a central theme within a text, as a word such as ‘lust’—one carrying thematic implications—may recur in one of Shakespeare’s other texts…”. However, the perils of accepting these words as themes without critical analysis and the application of human
intellect is illuminated in Michael J. Kramer’s admonishment that “…even as we find ourselves experiencing the new, it’s just as worthwhile to locate Digital Humanities in relation to the old.” In this case, the “old” is traditional text analysis, which must not be neglected, even though word seer and its aesthetic visual qualities(such as heat maps and word trees) offer an intriguing alternative. This is yet another example of how the quantitative and qualitative must work in cohesion—in this case, mutually offering insights towards one another, as data may prompt new questions, which may then be viewed through a closed reading lens, considering specific thematic and plot aspects of a text.

In responding to my assertions of the methods that must underlie the tool word seer, one might contemplate this question: What evidence is there that word seer can aid in disregarding obsolete or superficial qualitative conclusions or hypotheses, surrounding a text? My rebuttal is illustrated in this search of the frequency of the words “revenge”, “murder”, “death” and “kill” in Hamlet, using word seer’s heat map function, with the results depicted below:

Needless to say, Hamlet’s earned legacy, coined by popular culture, as the revenge tragedy is supported by the frequency of the words I selected, as they appear abundantly throughout the text. However, perhaps Hamlet isn’t exclusive to the characterization of “revenge”, as a conducted search of the same words in Coriolanus uncovers somewhat similar results:

These word frequency similarities may serve as a prompt for a qualitative investigation, based on this quantitative data, into what plot elements of each text establish Hamlet and Coriolanus as similar—another testament to what kinds of questions and approaches can be provoked by synergy between quantitative and qualitative methods.

In another of my previous blog posts(, I evaluated, in great detail, the extent to which word seer may aid in determining whether or not Hamlet as a character fits the profile of a tragic hero(compared with the flawed characters of Shakespeare’s other texts, such as the ambitious Macbeth)through the use of its described as function, which enables one to view the words used to describe certain characters by those around them. In inputting Hamlet described as “blank” I received support for my hypothesis that Hamlet is not as well
defined as other tragic heroes featured in Shakespearean texts
—if a tragic hero at all. Qualitatively, he lacks the tragic flaw that causes him to pay with his life for a mistaken act(while Hamlet dies, it is not directly the result of something he has done based on a flawed character trait, as opposed to say, Othello, who commits the mistaken act of murdering his wife Desdemona as a result of his tragic flaw of envy, and then ends up taking his own life as a consequence), while quantitatively, the data of word seer reveals that he is described as the following(which are hardly terms indicative of a tragic flaw, or character weakness):

In essence, these correlations between a character and how they are described are valuable in indicating not only how they are perceived, but perhaps how they act as well. Therefore, in light of word seer’s ability to perform such searches, along with heat map and word tree visual representations of word frequencies throughout entire plays(or even more compact fragments of acts and scenes),   deems it a formidable and useful implement of the digital humanities. Not only has this tool allowed me to engage substantively with the text of Hamlet , examining details that are often largely overlooked or obscured in the process of traditional closed reading, but also, it has provided me with a medium to blend critical qualitative text analysis with valuable trends and patterns identified by quantitative data. Thus, not only is word seer an effective tool for viewing word frequencies and conducting word comparisons using the simple search feature, it is also an agent of blending the subjective with the objective, in order to aid in establishing new avenues for research. It supports the claim that the digital humanities and the humanities can, and should be(with careful attention being directed towards the quality of data received) a unified force, as opposed to one “serving” the other.

Further exploring the question: Are the digital humanities and the humanities one?

An integral consideration has been articulated throughout this account: that the digital humanities and the traditional humanities are an integrated force—not a superior and subordinate. However, I have also advocated that there are potential hazards to relying too much on data, without stopping to consider its implications, or its possible errors or misleading aspects. I have based this argument largely off of Michael J. Kramer’s Reinventing the Wheel, in which he effectively conveys the responsibilities that are inherent on behalf of the searcher when consulting data results, in his admonishment that “The danger here is that we are not thinking carefully about the framework in which Digital Humanities
might thrive and contribute to society beyond assumptions about technology solving all problems…” This is a highly impactful statement, as it highlights the tendencies, when the digital humanities and their associated tools are enlisted, for users to either uncritically accept data as the truth, or otherwise, dismiss the value of data to the humanities, altogether. An excessive faith in technology, as in other fields, such as science and environmental politics, may often lead to overconfidence in its ability, causing critical concerns and issues requiring intellect to be largely
overlooked. An example, in terms of the English 203 research course, would be accepting the data of word seer and its word frequencies extracted from Hamlet to represent the theme of the text, and the overall message, without closed reading to identify the integral context of the play. While word seer, in revealing words such as “death” to be frequently occurring throughout the text, may allow one to develop the opinion that the play largely circulates around death and murder, without the context achieved through reading the play, these artificial suppositions are virtually meaningless, as these words could conceivably occur frequently in a comedy about love, as well. In other words, data without a context is merely an assumption, even if it closely represents details that are consistent with the theme of a literary work.

“We can be critically self-reflective and move forward,” are Michael J. Kramer’s optimistic words, regarding the digital humanities. This belief conforms to the idea expressed throughout this post, that, with a sufficient amount of critical guidance and thought, data and context or qualitative textual elements can be intimately joined with one another. Kramer consistently articulates the importance of retaining the methods
of critical thinking in traditional textual analysis, well exemplified through his observation that “…there’s nothing wrong with being excited about the fresh, unprecedented, and surprising places that the digital takes us, so long as those are not placed in direct opposition to the rich past of humanities scholarship that we can draw upon…”. In other words, the digital humanities and the broader spectrum of the humanities may be joined, and data has inherent value, so long as it is evaluated through the critical lens of traditional textual analysis methods, such as careful and
rigorous rereading of texts.

Reflection on the English 203 Course and Conclusion

The fundamental concept that I learned throughout the English 203 course was that nothing is complete at face value—different interpretations exist, and new approaches, such as the use of digital tools, are necessary to furthering understandings of texts, in this case, Hamlet. Critical thinking has been a staple aspect to this course, as, when one is consulting data, they must be aware of what it implies, and how it can be applied to form conclusions. This course has also been instrumental in improving my digital literacy, as I am now able to more readily apply word seer to my research, for near instant results. Additionally, the course has encouraged me to consider the impact of qualitative details within texts more
carefully—ironically, the incorporation of data into my studies of textual analysis has helped me to better understand the importance of words, and how they are dispersed throughout a text(such as the potential significance of the word “disposition” to Hamlet’s behaviour, discussed earlier.) I am now more open-minded in regards to the potential for digital tools and data to supplement closed reading, so long as the two approaches are applied in unison with one another.

To briefly reiterate my argument, based upon the blog post of Michael J. Kramer, and my experiences and work throughout the course, I have concluded that the digital humanities and the humanities, and the quantitative and the qualitative  may blend with one another
to form a cohesive unit, so long as critical thinking is applied to addressing quantitative data that is retrieved using digital humanities approaches.
I then aimed to reaffirm this assertion with a Hamlet case study, a description of word seer’s  potential as a digital tool and its capacity to join the quantitative and the qualitative, and the prospects of the digital humanities and the traditional humanities being
considered as one—similar to the view of Michael J. Kramer, who effectively depicts the relationship as “…not a revolution away from the humanities, but a turn more fully into the humanities.”


Works Cited

Shakespeare, William. Hamlet.  Ann Thompson and Neil Taylor: London, 2006. Print. The Arden Shakespeare Third Series.



Voyant Tools analyze Voyeur blog posts

Phase 3 of English 203 is partly about reflecting on the process from January to now, so I thought I would initiate them with a bit of meta-analysis.

I was wondering what Voyant Tools could reveal about the blog posts in English 203, so I pasted the URL for the Voyeur category into the “Add Texts” search box and clicked the “Reveal” button. Here’s what came out:

What it shows is that those 33 posts there are 18,380 words (or ‘tokens’) and 2,789 unique words (or ‘types’). After eliminating the stop words I found that the most common words were voyeur, hamlet, act, words, and tools.

Here’s a longer list, so you can see relative frequencies. What’s interesting here is that voyeur outnumbers voyant by 186 to 30. A lot of the words relate to the mechanics of the course: posted, group, phase, blog. Love and death — those eternal themes! — are present, and characters.

So I hope this brief post has piqued your curiosity about the kinds of results you can get when you use the same tools on the texts you’ve generated yourselves.




Research Project Explanation

I plan to write a research project on English 203 after the course is finished.

The purpose of my study is to evaluate the learning outcomes and levels of engagement in the course between January 2012 and April 2012. Specifically, I am interested in your experience with both the text analysis tools and the collaborative writing platform (the course blog) that we are using in the course.

The results of this study will help me to make informed decisions about changing elements of the course, and improve the ways I teach all courses in the future.

As a participant in this study you will be asked to consent to your course assignments (completed as part of the ENGL203 course requirements) and written feedback being used, after the course is finished, to help describe, evaluate, and report the learning progression. The feedback will consist of a written survey in April 2012.

I will also use aggregate Universal Student Rating of Instruction (USRI) scores, which measure student satisfaction with the course. Your completion of the USRI is optional.

Participation in this study is completely voluntary and confidential. You are free to discontinue participation at any time. If you chose at any time not to participate in the study, none of your information would be used.

Your participation in this research will in no way affect your grade in this course. I (the course instructor) will only know who has consented to participate after final grades are posted.

Phase 3 Instructions

In Phase 3 you will write an extended blog post, between 1500 and 2500 words. This final post is your opportunity to reflect on wider issues than we have addressed in English 203, but also to reflect on what you have learned since the course began. Worth 30%, it is officially due on the last day of classes (April 13th), but I am giving you a twelve-day extension to midnight on Wednesday, April 25th. Continue reading

Google Doc. God Send

Margaret Meade Said: “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed people can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.” Obviously she was referring to Digital Humanities! The Second Phase of this project has brought together five “experts” with a common goal: Act one Hamlet…and world domination.






But seriously, through my research of Act 1 Hamlet, I have come across some interesting results.  As mentioned in a previous post of mine, we (my group) decided to focus on
character development and foreshadow in Act 1.  From there we divided up the characters we viewed to be the most significant.  Through my own research of Horatio’s role in Hamlet (exclusively using Wordseer), I came up with some interesting results.  However my findings were only compounded and made even more insightful by incorporating other Digital Humanities tools in the search process. Using Wordseer, I had previously discovered that one of the words commonly used/associated with Horatio is “overlooked”. This is fascinating to me because of how quite literally, Horatio is absent throughout the middle of the play (with the exception of a few line)

Taking the discovery further, I discussed my findings and plans for future investigation with my phase two teammates (Ruby, Kate, Dayna and Amy).  We call this part of phase two “filling in the holes” When we had reached the limit of our own tools capabilities, but still had questions, we referred to each others tools in search of answers.

To accommodate this element of our research, we (or Dayna) decided to create a Google Doc. where each of us would list our tools, and their available functions.  THIS WAS AWESOME! When I hit a road block with Wordseer all I had to do was pull up the Google Doc. and scan through the other tools capabilities. From there I contacted the “expert” according to what specific search I needed.

This is where the Screen shot should
be…but I had some technical difficulties logging on…

Despite our regular and productive lab/group meetings, having the Google Doc. available 24 hours a day made any independent research easy!Up until this point in our Act 1 Hamlet project, most of the research had been onour own. Individual searches on individual characters. Easy. Moving forward to the collaborative stage of phase 2, I found the searches not only easier but much more effective! Let the filling in begin!

Intrigued by my results of Horatio and the word “overlooked” I decided I had to pursue this idea further. After checking the Google Doc. I knew Monk was something I would NEVER need…sorry Kate! I did, however, notice that the tool Voyeur had some interesting searches to offer me.  After picking Ruby’s brain and forcing her (to the point of slave labor) to conduct searches for me I/we came away with some interesting visuals which reinforce my theory of Horatio’s “overlook-ed-ness” (neologism?) Anyway…check it out!


After taking a look at the shot to the left, you might understand where I am coming from. You can see that Horatio’s largest part in Act 1, then declines rapidly only to return slightly at the end. Does this look like the chart of the “last man standing”? Maybe not. Does this look like the chart of a perhaps “overlooked” character? Maybe.  With this visual, I am trying to prove that as one of, arguably, the most important character in the entire play, his actual presence is minimal.

After gathering this new information, I decided to try to look even further into this idea – look for something even more concrete. Enter TaPor….JUST KIDDING! (I could not find any use for TaPor…relevant to my search…or otherwise. Sorry Amy!) Enter WordHoard! After once again referring to the Google Doc. I knew Dayna was the one to contact next! She explained to me exactly what Wordhoard could do for me and this is the result….

This is also were the screen shot should be…but due to some techincal difficulties it is not…I will be sure to have it by Friday for the presentation!

Everyone knows that charts/graphs can sometimes be misleading in the way information is presented. Between scale(s) and the data itself, it can be difficult to determine the meaning. This is where WordHoard really came through for me! In the above shot, you can see exactly how many words Horatio uses in exactly which scenes/acts!  This is significant to my research because it is concrete and cannot be skewed by scale.

Using Wordseer, WordHoard, and Voyeur, my theory of Horatio’s absence throughout the play is verified how intentional was this choice on Shakespeare’s part? Was he trying to trick his readers/viewers? Think of the first time you read Hamlet. Were you tricked?

On Friday, March, 30, 2012, we, as the Phase 2 Act 1 group will present out individual and collective findings. As mentioned by Dayna in a previous group meeting, the difference between phase one and two is the collaborative effort. In phase one, the class attempted to analyze 3.4 Hamlet, however, could only take their research as far as their tools permitted.  In phase two, we have an expert from each tool to lean on, to cooperate with and to explore Hamlet with. With five extensive Digital Humanities tools at our fingertips, all the searches and all the answers are available to any willing person…or team!

Study Break

In light of upcoming exams, I humbly present to you my fellow classmates, a Hamlet inspired study break:

An e-greeting from Polonius

Polonius is offline... Ophelia is offline... Laertes is offline. Gertrude is offline. Claudius is offline. Hamlet is offline. The rest... is silence.

Solid Essay

Simba? Hamlet? MacBeth? You decide.

Director intended. Legit.

Hamlet...what a nut.

Take THAT Claudius

We can all relate to this one


Happy studying, and good luck on exams everyone!

Meanings and Searches

So, I thought that I would be brilliant with this blog post and try to do something cool like look up the meaning of the word voyeur on the Oxford English Dictionary website.  In hindsight, it really wasn’t that smart, apparently voyeur doesn’t have a very flattering definition.

I knew about the existence of this less than flattering definition of voyeur before, but I really hoped that there would be a definition that was related more to viewing and less to sexual tendencies.  Seeing as there really isn’t one though, perhaps that is why the makers changed the name to Voyant, which when looked up on the Oxford English Dictionary website you get the following.

This is a name for this program that actually could have meaning, rather than making the user feel like a Peeping Tom.

Using the Voyeur/Voyant program, I have found that you really can see a lot of things about a piece of written material when utilising it, however, I find that the voyeur program is more capable of taking a qualitative analysis of a text and making it quantitative than it is capable of developing new ideas about the text.  Take for example the idea that love and madness could be related, that is a qualitative analysis of Act Two and actually one of the themes to that particular act of Hamlet.  Punching the words, Love and Mad into the word frequency tool on Voyeur, a researcher would see something like the picture below.

However, I have also discovered throughout Phase II that all of these programs do not work nearly as well on their own as they do in the company of others, particularly the WordHoard Program.  I can find out who says what, where they say it, what they say around it, and when they say it; but I cannot find out how much they say, for that I need to rely on a program like WordHoard and my counterpart in the Act Two group, Jennifer, to tell me things such as, if Polonius talks more about madness to Ophelia, the King, or Hamlet.

Singing With the Gravedigger

The song alluded to in Act 5, scene 1 is ‘I Lothe That I Did Loue.’  An excerpt from the song suggests it is a formal song, most likely sung by jesters in court.  The fact that it is sung informally by a commoner/gravedigger (“ah”, “oh”) serves as a parallel to how the rich and the poor become equal in the grave.  This particularly grave (pun intended) scene  emphasizes a key theme in Hamlet: the nature and physicality of mortality.  Hamlet’s soliloquy when speaking of his dear friend Yorick as well as his conversation with Horatio, plays well with the gravedigger’s song. The pairing in this particular scene draws out the meaning in what the other (between Hamlet and the song) is saying.  Evidence in the text suggests it is very likely that while Hamlet was performing both his soliloquy and speaking to Horatio, the gravedigger continued to sing his song in the background.  A performance available on youtube demonstrates how this may have been performed at The Globe; listen closely to the gravedigger in the background as he continues to sing.  This juxtaposition would cement to audiences, of varying backgrounds, the truth in Shakespeare’s tragedy by having it both sung informally atop Hamlet’s formal speech. So too, does this layering balance comedy and tragedy at once, further complicating the mystery surrounding whether Hamlet is a tragedy or a comedy.

Evidence supporting the theory that the gravedigger does in fact continue to sing is the undeniable fact that the song presented in act five of Hamlet is an excerpt from ‘I Lothe That I Did Loue.’ otherwise known as ‘I Loathe that I Did Love.’  That approached, there are obvious huge gaps in verses which, presumably, would have been sung while Hamlet was speaking.  Although the subject matter Hamlet elaborates upon does not mirror the absent verses (from the text) both the voided paragraphs as well as the highlighted paragraphs present enlightening characteristics towards the play’s whole.  For time’s sake, I too shall exclude the verses that were not present in Hamlet – however, their relevance should not be slighted.

Hamlet/Gravedigger’s version:
” In youth, when I did love, did love,
 Methought it was very sweet,
 To contract, O, the time, for, ah, my behove,
 O, methought, there was nothing meet.”
‘I Lothe That I Did Loue’ Original:
“I loathe that I did love,
In youth that I thought sweet;
As time requires for my behove,
Me thinks they are not meet.”

Quick View of Similarities:
thought sweet
time for my behove
methought/thinks not meet

Presented above are the first verses of the two songs discussed, back to back, giving way to many mysteries.  Evidently, there is a repetition of love as well as an informal jaunty-like verse used by the gravedigger: “o, the time, for ah, my behove.”  Both deviations from the original song are perhaps to properly fill the Shakespearean meter.  A further mystery of the changes present in Shakespeare’s edit of the song is a questionable changing of “me thinks” to “methought” to which I can give no proper reasoning for.  Another curious change: from “youth” to “loathe” to only later resubmit “youth” in the preceding line. What can be salvaged from this chain of mysteries, and especially from the concordances between the two different songs, is the combination of “youth,” “sweet” and “love.” In my view, these three words are presented in a fashion that dictate the incapability of sweet young love having any accordance with time – being that, young love is doomed to fail. This reflects almost certainly on Hamlet and his dearly departed Ophelia.

In the screenshot above, I have outlined the basic comparison of both the original and the Hamlet version of the song.  The first stop in examining the songs through Voyeur was to sort the word count from highest frequency to lowest.  This, squared off in green, reflected the above (underlined) key words in the corpus: i, did, love, behove, for… The highest frequencies interestingly begin to form a phrase of their own to describe the raw meaning of the submitted verses.  Surprisingly, “love” squared off in blue in Cirrus, ranks high in usage however, “i” typically has no place in songs about love. Not getting ahead of ourselves (“i” will be further examined later) “love” also plays as strong of a role as “youth” and “sweet” whereas “loathe” (squared off in a teeny-tiny little orange box) plays a barely significant role in the songs.   This fact alone is interesting given “loathe” is found in the title.  As a side note, it may be interesting to note that out of 52 words, 33 are unique in placement.  Simply decoded: over half of the words present in the songs submitted back-to-back into Voyeur, are inconsistent with one another.

Putting these findings aside, I pursued the use of “i” within and between the two songs…

I submitted the two songs separately into Links, a tool in Voyeur that provides a visual stimulus of the links between words within a literary corpus, and received almost identical results – an example shown above.  The results, identical to one another, were also similar to the earlier Cirrus and Word Count results: “i” is undoubtedly the focus.  These tools being simple and similar in function, I finally decided to brave… Mandala.

Yeah, it’s intimidating.

I hoped for the best when selecting the option to remove all magnets and “surprise me!”  There is no room for internet memes and vernacular (word of the day: that one’s for you Act 5 group,) however in this case my reaction was no less than an internet blog appropriate: “LOL.”  I proceeded to “remove all magnets” sans-surprise.  Lo-and-behold, Mandala became my favourite and potentially most useful tool (move over Word Frequency Chart) as I slowly developed what you see before you.  Allow me to explain:

The aim: “i” – squared off in orange and bubbled in pink.  I added “magnets” for each key term (the biggest bubbles mapped around the circle) and “i” attracted the most ‘mini-bubbles’ – staggeringly so.  The fact that it produced a total of 23 matches in both songs and 17 unique matches is not even the most impressive part.  All of the sectioned magnets with multiple colours are the matches “i” produced with the other key word magnets.  Translation: “i” found a match within the songs with every key word with the exception of “death” (I put in the full version of both songs for Mandala when the singular verses produced uninspiring results.)  After this find, I added the opposing magnets “you,” “thou” and “thee.”  “Thee” produced nothing, so I removed the magnet, while “thou” produced one match and “you” produced 7… not even half of the attractions “i” produced.  Both added to the total matches of “i.”  What this all potentially means is that the personal affect of “i” is a very intentional use of the song for Shakespeare in writing Hamlet, and especially in writing this scene.

I decided to dig deeper… Could this perhaps be a very personal scene or act for Hamlet and perhaps Shakespeare, the man? Can the overpowering use of “i” over “you” in the context of these two songs have a similar impact on act five and the entirety of the play?

Well now, isn’t that interesting…

Moving on.

There are a couple more verses also taken from ‘I Lothe That I Did Loue,’ as the gravedigger continues to sing:
“But age, with his stealing steps,
 Hath claw’d me in his clutch,
 And hath shipped me into the land,
 As if I had never been such.”
(HUGE gap in song)
“A pick-axe, and a spade, a spade, (symbol of cosmic tree: life and death)
 For and a shrouding sheet:
 O, a pit of clay for to be made
 For such a guest is meet.”
           [Throws up another skull.]
“O, a pit of clay for to be made
For such a guest is meet.”
*The full song for the original is available here for comparison.
Here too, is an example of repetition: “O, a pit of clay for to be made/For such a guest is meet.”  These lines, to me, reflect the opening verse “me thinks they are not meet.”  Coming full circle, at least within the scope of Hamlet, from ‘not meeting’ to “meet”.  What perhaps allows this and also gives reasoning to why Shakespeare may have cut off the original song at this point is the suggestion of passing time.  In the first line “but age, with his stealing steps” suggests that the youthfulness of the love first discussed has dissipated and age has overcome the initial problem of youth breaking sweet love.  Unfortunately, what seems to replace “youth” as love’s antagonist is it’s cure: age.  What appears to be implied is age grabbing the lovers and sending them to their grave (“a pit of clay for to be made/For such a guest is meet.”)  The emphasis on the last pair of lines in the gravedigger’s song is undoubtedly a foreshadowing of Ophelia’s funeral and the irony of Hamlet’s ignorance of his lover’s death as he laments over “poor Yorick.”  The evidence of the song’s relevance to the play’s whole is provided in the screenshots below.  Using Voyeur I separated the play into 5 segments and submitted both youth and age into the word trends chart.  Clearly visible is the sharp incline of the usage of “age” nearing the play’s end and the sharp decline of the use of “youth.”  As reader’s of Hamlet all know, the love between Ophelia and Hamlet is exaggerated nearer to the beginning of the play, and death envelopes the end.

As a final thought towards these verses and their singer, the inserted stage direction to throw up another skull perhaps alludes to the circle of death.  The gravedigger had earlier mentioned in his riddle that he builds the most permanent houses as his are for the dead and last until judgement day.  However, while he sings he is clearly unearthing bodies to make way for new ones: rendering his houses impermanent.  For Hamlet’s part, he too circulates dead bodies but within his heart.  As he laments the death of beloved uncovered Yorick, he soon will be grieving heavily over the death of the body of Ophelia – soon to be replacing Yorick in the same grave.  All of these events, irony intact, insulate Hamlet’s soliloquy in act five.

Eyes, Madness and Soul- TAPoR

For my last and final blog post, I cannot seem to hide my excitement about breaking my relationship with TAPoR. Our Hamlet and Ophelia type relationship is not a healthy one; it is filled with a lot of anger and resentment. It is really for the best that we part ways so we can live out our literary careers in peace and happiness. It is a good day. J

As it is my last blog, my team and I have decided to dissect Hamlet’s mental state. I have stated previously that Act 3 is where all the action happens and where most of the “is he crazy or not” debate occurs. In Act 1 Hamlet says he intends to put on an “antic disposition” but as the play progresses, the debate I struggle with is, “has he gone mad?”

This debate is a very iconic and most studied while reading Hamlet. That being said, I put TAPoR to work to see if we can pin point his madness and is downward spiral. When I ran searches for “madness” and “mad” in my concordance tool the words that surrounded the word were mainly questions about his madness. The main point I have picked out from my searches is that not only the reader is stumped by Hamlet’s madness but the characters are as well.

Another point of interest for me was that “madness” and “mad” was also fallowed by the word “soul”. This is my second step into the process, looking up “soul”, “heaven” and “devil” or any words of the like. This is search made me do a happy dance while my results were something completely unexpected. I found (or I’ll let TAPoR get the credit for this one) that madness and mad is fallowed by soul. A HUGE point of interest for me since, mental health or any type of health care, came after Shakespeare’s time. Madness is linked to soul, which is linked to devil or heaven, which is linked back to madness. Yes, I know… a lot of links to fallow but once you are on a roll, you just, well, roll.

Since I am on a roll now I keep pulling at the treads and it is going somewhere fantastic!!! (This needs a second happy dance). From what I already know from my previously taken history classes, is that mental health was seen as a foreign entity that possessed the body. It was not commonly believed that a person had problems with his head or was sick, it was another entity disrupting ones body. The line that doesn’t speak it clearer is, “…madness. There is something in his soul…”

Another link between soul and madness is eyes. This word is used 7 times within the act and for me that is significant. Most of us hear the saying that the “eyes are the window to the soul” and by my research I think Shakespeare was playing with that saying. I found it extremely fascinating that “eyes” came up during Act 3 scene 4. This part of the act is when I actually think Hamlet breaks into real madness, and the eyes are used over and over while he is talking to Gertrude.

After weeks of work, blood, sweat and tears I can say I did learn a lot from this experience. Going into a class where computers play a main role was terrifying to say the lease but on the other hand extremely rewarding after my nerves have calmed down. My last search did show me that it is a lot easier and quicker doing these searches by a computer then by hand. That being said, I still am working on at least getting on a friends status with TAPoR. Enjoy

To be or not to be Insane?

The concept for our Phase 2 Presentation has been finalized!

Our game plan for the group meetings was to come up with themes within Act 3 which we could use our individual tools to analyze; from these themes, we would choose the one major subject which all of our tools would be able to analyze effectively. During our first few group meetings we came up with different themes that occurred throughout Act 3 of Hamlet; amongst these were: the relationship Hamlet has with Ophelia, Hamlet’s mannerisms towards the female characters: Gertrude and Ophelia, and Hamlet’s madness. Being a self-proclaimed relationship analyst (credentials still pending), I was hoping to do an analysis of the relationship between Ophelia and Hamlet. After some work with our tools, we felt that it would be best to work with Hamlet’s madness. Luckily, we did spend some time analyzing the relationship between Ophelia and Hamlet, which I will be using for my final blog post in Phase Three.

Madness is a thought-provoking concept because how can one truly categorize who is actually insane and who’s not? At some point in our lives have we not acted insane in some way? One could say that everyone is insane when it comes to a certain aspect in their life, the only difference is that we all vary in our insanity; some insane quirks are accepted, others aren’t. Our objective is to find out whether Hamlet is truly mad, or if his “insanity” is just quirk in his personality that he intensifies for his own purposes. To find the answer, I asked myself the following questions:

  • What is insanity?
  • How does Hamlet behave which makes others believe he is mad? Are there certain parts of his speech that indicate he is insane?
  • What are some of the factors that can be attributed to his insanity?
  • Can his behavior just be a cause of his anger/sadness of everything that has occurred in his life so far?
  • What role does the ghost play in Hamlet’s insanity?

Through our group projects and this class in general, I have learned that you cannot possibly do an analysis, a decent analysis that does justice to the author’s writing, with just the tools. The questions listed above cannot easily be found by just using WordHoard; it would only be a complete analysis if I used other methods as well as WordHoard to make a solid conclusion on Hamlet’s madness. For my analysis I combined WordHoard, a close reading analysis of the text and my favorite site of all time, YouTube. I won’t share my final conclusion yet for I’ll save it for our presentation! Instead I will share some of my results which I found quite intriguing.

Through the use of YouTube, I found countless clips of Act 3; some made by professionals and others made by high school students for their English projects. After watching a couple of videos I found that this clip of act 3.4, showed the point that I was working towards. In the video, Hamlet (I found it funny that he is blonde in this clip as I have always imagined him to have black hair!) is agitated and angry, irrational when he kills Polonius and overall in a fit of passion. If you were to remove the seed of doubt already placed in our head that questions Hamlet’s sanity, you could easily compare this to when any sane rational person has a fit of passion and acts deranged; does this mean that the person is insane because they had a moment of madness? It might be that Hamlet is suffering from a moment of madness; albeit the moment becomes a series of ‘moments’ in the play. Can ones sanity be judged by their behavior when they feel like they are in a whirlwind of emotions?

This idea helped me think of what I wanted to uncover through the use of my tool. Using WordHoard, I decided to search for words used in Hamlet, specifically Act 3, which would explain what madness is. Obviously my first search word would be madness itself. The following are some of my findings:

  • The word madness is said eight times by Hamlet, most of which were spoken in Act 3. Compared to all of Shakespeare’s plays, this is the most times any character has ever used the word.
  • In line 144, Hamlet says “That not your trespass, but my madness speaks” but then in line 185 he contradicts himself and says “That I essentially am not in madness, but mad in craft”. Both lines, said in scene 4, portray this dual persona of Hamlet; one that is mad, and one that isn’t.

This isn’t enough evidence to declare whether Hamlet is indeed insane, but it gives us a starting point to develop the idea that maybe Hamlet isn’t mad. Our group’s conclusion on the matter will be discussed during our presentation which we look forward to. For now I wish you the reader all the best of luck in your search of Hamlet.

“All are lunatics, but he who can analyze his delusions is called a philosopher.”
Ambrose Bierce

Hamlet & Monk (and my brain) in Hibernation

I’ve decided to start this blog off on a completely negative note (something completely unusual for me, I know) by stating that this will probably be my worst entry to date and that it may lack in all things relating to making sense. I’ve gotten lots of really positive feedback concerning my last post, which has been awesome. However, I honestly feel like there is nothing intelligent left in my head to put down on ‘paper’ today. An overload of essays and papers and presentations has simply put my brain in a state of hibernation. As much as I am trying to focus, I am consistently finding myself looking at the wall with a blank stare on my face. That being said, I will try my absolute best to give everyone an update on the wonderful world of Monk and its progress with Act 4 and phase 2 as a whole!

Like I said in my last blog post, I had a rough idea as to what I, and the rest of my group, had planned on doing in regards to incorporating Monk into a hopefully helpful position for this new phase. After a little more research, it seems as though this may be achievable! Although I am still having problems with getting Monk and it’s workset comparisons tool to work. I find it positively frustrating that unlike other analysis programs that we learned about in class, we have no way of communicating our issues or concerns with the creators of Monk. They truly did abandon ship on this project. Tis quite saddening. But, there is really nothing we can do about that, especially at this stage of the game. At least from all of this I have become an expert on finding ways around issues! Or in other words, completely disregarding the original idea and moving on to something that is actually accomplishable.

My trusty phase 2 group has decided that it will work best to result to a nice ol’ reliable flow chart. Everyone’s programs were strategically placed so that it may do its part and then give its findings to the next in line so that more results will be produced. We begin the chart with Tapor. This program is able to define its own ‘worksets’ (pardon the Monk lingo) by specifically stating what it exactly wants to examine, whether it be a full act or simply a speech. Kira than hands these documents off to Katy who is able to grab hold of word frequencies for specific characters. Finally, Wordhoard, Wordseer, and Monk (Allison, Ayesha, and myself) are all able to take these word frequencies and see the context in which they arise in regards to particular characters that we are taking closer looks at. More specifically, we will compare the commonly used language between characters in different plays. I displayed an example of this in my last blog, but just for a refresher, we will be comparing the relationship and the language used between the pair Gertrude and Claudius in Act 4, scene 1 and Emilia and Iago in Act 5, scene 2.

If only we could make all difficult tasks and challenges in life into nice little flowcharts! Hopefully our chart in regards to our research and eventually our presentation works just as smoothly…

I realize this is still a very rough draft but I do feel like we have made a decent amount of progress. Everything is sort of at a stand off while we continue to figure things out individually. We at least know the direction we are heading in and what we are looking to eventually accomplish. I also know that as we use our programs more to get these first initial goals, I feel like we will be able to discover other things or tools that may deem themselves useful for our final presentation. Am I trying to hard to end this all on a positive note? That is for me to know, and you to ponder…

Digimon and Divination?

It is a grey day. Warm with snowflakes like glitter. Someone down the hall seems to be having a workroom party, which they are all quite content with; you can just tell by the laughter. But we are instead lost in a different world; a digital world, if you will. One with so much information compiled and cross-linked that it encompasses the realm of human experience, and encodes the most significant events, works, and experiences as data. It is a place where you can indulge in the works of a man who lived in the 1600’s, and divine new secrets 400 years later. When you really think about it, it is fantastic; unbelievable almost.
Yet, at the same time it is another new day in the Humanities, and a lot of planning done. Today was devoted to pre-project-planning (say that three times fast). Although there were not too many new discoveries, there was the exploration and expansion of the old ones. Monk; of course, is a mining tool, meaning that the more you work the more you will discover. As is, I have been finding more uses for the NaiveBayes and decision tree tools. They might be unconventional, and a little hit-or-miss, but the results are pretty exciting!
In the classification tool you can find NaiveBayes. Under which you load your worksets and rate them. I found that rating each scene with a theme will give me the words that make the predicted theme true or false. Thus, searching for confirmation of the theme “madness,” elicits words that have some cryptic connection with that theme. Such as the word “armour,” which has to do with the armour of the mind… From there, you have to make some good old fashion English major connections and argue your findings; something that we are all experts at. My idea is that the armour of the mind refers to its sanity.. which is slowly broken down by lies. Etc.
Anyway, you get the point. This is what my program is best at in comparison to the other programs. They have the frequency, concordance, and description tools, but this seems to be a unique feature of Monk. The biggest question now is if it can be useful enough to present. That is the question for next time.

The words are supposed to be suggestive in conjunction to "madness"

It is not the most succinct method of analysis, but there is still time to work with it, and it does prove to be interesting every time. For example, “black” appears five times in Act 3, and it is always in a very negative context:

Results for "Black"

In case you were wondering about the title and the bit of writing at the beginning, it just occurred to me that the premise of one of my absolute favourite childhood shows has an abstract relation to the Digital Humanities. That show was Digimon (I know, I know), where an alternate dimension that housed a world made in the image of the earth, with fictional-type-monster inhabitants existed. If you know the show you might remember that the digital world was created by the compilation of data that is stored in computers and over the internet. First the foundations were laid, and “Over the ensuing years, through the continued growth of the electronic communications network on Earth, the Digital World continued to expand and grow,” ( It’s a little bit silly, but it is an accurate depiction of not only the information amassed on the internet, but of the Digital Humanities itself, which must hold significant portions of the literature that shapes the world we live in. Literature is made in the image of the earth and of human experience, and the characters that inhabit it are in the image of its creatures. The depth that it reaches to is too far to count. It is too far a stretch to say that the universe of data is alternate to the universe of reality?
Just a thought.

Where does the world end and data begins?

Frustration and An Abundance of Claudius

Well we have reached the end. It feels strange to think that this is the last blog post. It feels like only yesterday when we were starting out in this course and already we are nearly finished it. Can you believe that I had never even heard of the digital humanities before January? Okay, musing over.

Let us jump into the project.

Looking past the ‘code names’ here, are the most frequently used words within Act 3 Scene 4 (which has approximately 1,789 words taking into account the ‘code names’):

We can see in this scene that Hamlet wants his mother to see what Claudius truly is as emphasized by the frequency of the words of ‘eyes’ ‘sense’, ‘look’, ‘come’ and ‘mother’. Now Kira, (the wonderful TaPOR member of my group) and I have been collaborating on examining the words of specific characters speeches throughout Act 4. Using the ‘Extract Text’ Tool in TaPOR she has been able to isolate several characters speeches throughout the Act including Claudius, Hamlet, Gertrude, Laertes and Ophelia. Now Claudius speaks the most in this Act by far, speaking just over 2,000 words total with Hamlet coming in second with 716 words and Gertrude speaking the least speaking time of all of the main characters, coming in at a mere 332 words. Now if I take all of Claudius’ words in the Act and stick them into Voyeur this is the result that comes out…

Claudius is very concerned about every other character in this scene. The fact that he is concerned about Hamlet is made obvious by the scene where Claudius is interrogating Hamlet over where he hid Polonius’ body and he both comforts Gertrude after her encounter with Hamlet and successfully talks Laertes down from the rage he felt by the fact that his Father had not been given a proper burial. In fact Claudius appears in every single scene in this Act minus the scene where Hamlet meets up with Fortinbras’ army. In first reading this Act my first impressions were of Hamlet’s wit when asked what he done with Polonius’ body (“At supper”) or of Ophelia’s descent into madness and her subsequent death. I had never before realized just how much Claudius appears in this Act until examining it with my digital tool.

Speaking of digital tool. Guess what I got today…

My first digital bug! Yeah! That sign kept showing up for ten minutes while I was trying to write this blog post. Just as I was about to start panicking the site came up again, however I was reminded of my group meeting this morning. In the meeting there were complaints about their tools not opening or giving error messages. Now Voyeur has been very picky about what kind of browser that I use with it and I do get error messages sometimes but they were easily dealt with. This, however made me get a glimpse of some of the frustration that my other group members have gone through in trying to access their tools. This for me exposes a major downside of the digital humanities. What is the point of having a tool to analyze text with, if the tool that you wish to use can not even be accessed easily and when you need to use it rather then when the server decides you need it.

Fingers crossed for the presentation everyone!


TAPoR in Act One: The Final Struggle

It has been quite the process, and it seems surreal that we are almost done with the digital humanities for this term, but it is time to conclude with our Phase 2 blogs. My group met in the TFDL this morning, and after our talking about/ obsessing over the Hunger Games, like we do every meeting, we eventually got back on topic and started to discuss our next move. We decided that, keeping the characters we had previously looked at in Act One, we would t use each other for help and use the different tools that we are each experts in to look further into Hamlet. Rearing to go for this new blog, I began by just going back to TAPoR, so that I could look at the results that I had found last week. Unfortunately, as seems to be the curse of TAPoR, it failed to work. The site refused to load, and I was unable to view what I had done last week, and I was unable to do anything new with it as well. I even tried to use a different browser, Mozilla Firefox instead of Google Chrome, but it did not change the disappointing result. Later, I learned that it was not just my computer, but the TAPoR site had refused to work for at least one group member from phase one as well. Although I am thankful that there is nothing wrong with my computer, I cannot help but feel anger towards this tool. Brushing off this slight nuisance to my plan of action, I decided to start taking a look at the other tools, and how they could help me look further into the characters of Laertes and Ophelia in Act one. However, I encountered another problem with technology while trying to view the Google doc that is our main form of communication. I tried several times and several different ways to log onto this tool, but no matter what I did, I received the same message: telling me that I cannot access the document because it would be in violation with the Terms and Services of it. After talking to a team mate from Phase Two this time, I learned that it was not just TAPoR that was giving other people problems, but the Google doc as well. The Google doc that my team has been using as a form of communication for this phase has been giving at least two other people in my group issues. As the feeling of frustration and discouragement settled in, I wondered to myself if any of these problems facing the technological aspect of the project will ever be resolved. I can sense a kind of déjà vu with these issues, where, once again, I am busy trying to figure out the system errors of my computer rather than focusing on important aspects that I am supposed to be finding within the play. It seems that rather than trying to collaborate with the other tools, and learn what I can do with them from the Google doc, I have spent much less time learning about Laertes and Ophelia, and more time trying to fix something that I cannot fix.

Tediously Gaining Results

Since my last post, where I blindly searched words that I thought resembled those most likely found in Shakespeare’s comedies and tragedies, I’ve done some further investigation thanks to my lovely group members. They provided me some words that their programs deemed tragic or that they noticed in their past readings of Shakespeare’s tragedies. This was exactly what I needed to help me investigate further because WordHoard requires you to know exactly what you’re looking for.


I used April’s previous blog post to start off with. Monk generated her a list of words that were most often seen in tragedies and with her investigation of the word ‘justify’ I had high hopes for the results I would get in return. My hopes began to dwindle around search number ten where I still had zero results in my lemma search and search number twenty-five crushed me, as I still had no results. I painstakingly built thirty-four searches in total to find lemmas that were associated with April’s results, they were all returned to me stating that there were zero results.

Lovely. How come with Monk it showed that it was super confident that the word ‘justify’ appeared more in Hamlet than all of Shakespeare’s other tragedies, but yet when I searched lemmas or just the simple spelling of it in WordHoard it yielded zero results? This caused me to bring up the entire Hamlet text on different sites on the Internet to just do a simple ctrl+f, or ⌘+f in my case, to look for the word ‘justify’ but still no results…strange.


Next, I moved onto the comment that Dane had left me in my previous blog post about words that he though resembled the tone of a tragedy. Thank goodness some of his words garnered me results or may have gone mad just like Hamlet. I searched for twenty-three different lemmas from the words Dane had provided me; from those I got seven that had matches, 9 total appearance in act five.

Beast(n), duty(n), fall(n), fall(v), revenge(n), slay(v), and wretched(j) were the golden tickets I need to start making my conclusions.

All but one of them appear in 5.2, which leads me to assume that the first part of the act is more light, or comedic than the second scene which is dark and tragic (but I could assume this already since everyone dies in this scene….). But if I had not read Hamlet before and was simply going off WordHoard’s answers to my queries that’s what I would assume.


This led me into thinking about how unique these words were to act five, turns out only fall(n) is unique. The other six words appear more frequently. These “tragic” words appear seventeen times in act 4, fifteen times in acts one and two and nine times in act 3. So if I were not accounting for the amount of words and the actual context they were used in I would assume that act 4 was the most tragic, acts one and two were in the middle making it possibly a tragic comedy and acts three and five were the least tragic possibly even comedic. Strange isn’t it?

To have or not to have cheesy blog titles ; that is the question

Part 3: Filling in the Gaps

Continuing on from my last blog post, Words, words, words: Finding a Clear Focus, I’m still keeping my focus on Hamlet, the theme of madness, and foreshadowing within the play.  So far, I haven’t delved that far into using the other tools to help me further analyze Act 1.  Voyeur has been very handy in helping me discover most of my inquiries.  However, because Voyeur doesn’t separate speakers, I’ve been attempting to use Wordhoard to do this.  I don’t know if it’s Java or if it’s me but I seem to be having difficulties playing around with Wordhoard.  I have been using Wordhoard to find lemmas though which has been really useful.  Because I am focusing on Hamlet’s potential madness and foreshadowing within the play I decided to search “madness” and found the following results on Wordhoard:

So I know I am not using Wordhoard to it’s full advantage but it did help me find some useful quotes (which is sad considering the number of times I have read Hamlet ) that I had completely overlooked otherwise.  I searched “madness” and found the following quote: (Horatio) “which might deprive your sovereignty of reason and draw you into madness?” (1.4).  This quote demonstrates foreshadowing seen later in the play of how Hamlet uses insanity to deceive others around him and how Hamlet’s drive to seek revenge begins to make him act more insane, confirming Gertrude’s belief that he is mad in 3.4.  Even though this is a question for Hamlet, this is actually a question for the audience; his insanity becomes questionable within the play as it progresses making the audience wonder whether he is acting or not.  This quote is strong evidence (specifically if your focusing on act 1) on how the idea of madness develops throughout Hamlet and why it is such an important theme within the play.  According to Wordhoard, “mad” is used 22 times (only as an adjective and never as a noun) and “madness” is also used 22 times.  “Madness” appears the most within Hamlet compared to any of the other plays.

Even though I used Wordhoard to find this, I’m not going to lie, I could have just as easily used Voyeur to find this also.  For me, this is the hardest part of Phase 2, because I feel like Voyeur is such an easy and brilliant tool to use that I don’t know  how to fill in the missing holes with other tools.  So far, I don’t really feel like I have any specific gaps that need filling.  I was worried because I thought my old stubborn and lazy ways were kicking in similar to how I felt when first learning that we would be using Digital Humanities tools to analyze text but I really think Voyeur is one of the best!  Seeing the Phase 1 group presentations I realized some of the difficulties that the other tools brought which I haven’t had with Voyeur.  However, I have been using the collaborative method of Phase 2 by helping my group members with Voyeur.  Haha, do I sound like a Voyeur snob?  Feel free to call me out on it.

TAPoR or Me?

I awoke this morning to find the TAPoR server not responding on any of my browsers:

I wanted to go into the final blog post for phase two by comparing the findings of surveillance as a major theme in act 2 with the rest of the play. In my first blog I mentioned the correlation between the word ‘know’ and the surveillance going on in act 2. Some early research (before the TAPoR server gave me error messages) found the word ‘know’ occurring throughout “Hamlet” 74 times. If I remember correctly, it occurred relatively close to the top the List Words tool, organized by frequency. While this lends proof that ‘knowledge’ and ‘knowing’ are important aspects within all of “Hamlet”, just as they are in act 2, I don’t think I would have noticed the word had I not been actively looking for it. With this in mind, I couldn’t help but question: how much did TAPoR do to aid in proving/supporting the theme of surveillance? Are the results from certain tools actually quantitatively answering questions, or am I just bending the results?
My fellow colleague Madelyn pointed out in her blog a common thought we (the act 2 group) have had regarding digital tools: “[it’s] important to know the themes within the play before trying to search for specific words”. I don’t think results from any digital tool are always consciously bended to support claims, but being vaguely aware of what you’re trying to support (whether it be themes, character traits, or something else) certainly must effect how you look at the results.
Before using TAPoR to analyze act 2, there were already so many different readings of it planted in my brain. Whether it be the first time I read “Hamlet” in high school, the different footnotes within the two editions I’ve read, the lectures Dr Ullyot gave in English 205, the modern adaptations Sparknotes provides (or it’s analysis and summaries), or even from other sources online, I already had so many ideas and views surrounding act 2 of “Hamlet”. With all this analysis that I had already done, the act of pressing a button in TAPoR and matching the word “know” to an overarching theme of surveillance just seemed rather trivial. Sure, I enjoyed getting past the frustrating parts of TAPoR and actually finding results, but after using it to analyze first act 3 scene 4, and now all of act 2, I still find my analysis feeling less academic, and more hollow.
I still think there is a place for digital analysis of literature, however, and feel that my discouragement may have come from trying to analyze a text I was already deeply familiar with, and not from TAPoR itself. While there are certainly drawbacks to using TAPoR, and any digital tool for that matter, I can definitely see a use for them to aid in beginning to analyze a text that is still rather unfamiliar.

Simple is Best- Well… at least for Monk it is…

Looking back on phase two I find it neat to look at the text and analyze it through different tools and methods of analyzing. The use of combination of tools I thought was very helpful in that it was able to look at things from a different perspective similarly to how a different person looks at a text.  I decided for my final blog post to go simple, and look at the words and themes found in act 2.

I decided to go back to the old fashion way of analyzing and read! I re-read the text to try and find some other themes and a common one I found throughout the text would be public and private actions. The act is about how individuals try to come in on these private moments and actions to reveal to be public. This also seems to be centered around one character: Polonius.

Polonius seems to be that annoyingly pompous guy that always has to know what is going on, and you know when Polonius is around trouble is going to happen. Why does Polonius have this insistent need to be a know it all. The desire for him to know it all and be in the middle of everything can be seen as the thing that brings him down and kills them. The is seen since he is killed behind a curtain, spying.  However his outward appearance is seems opposite with the idea that the king describes him as “a man of faith and honorable”.

From here we can see Polonius’s outward appearance to the King is one of a high and noble status. This makes me think that Polonius cares about how other perceive him and that maybe to make himself feel better.

I also looked at “truth” and I found that it is mentioned 3 times within Act 2. I found that truth was used as 3 times with relation to finding the truth, seeking the truth. It always came back to the idea of knowing the truth and being aware of what was real and what was not.

This relates to Polonius in his constant need to find the truth and seeking in truth. It also relates to the ways he uses to find this truth out which can be seen mostly by sneaking around and having spies. The aspect of truth also relates to the King and Queen and how they feel like they must know the truth to Hamlet with his current state of being, if he is mad or not and his relation with Ophelia. I also looked at the word “hid” and found that it relates closely with the word “truth” in that it was used to cover up the truth and keep it secret and hidden. This once again touches on the idea of things being kept public and private in that everyone wants to keep their personal views private and everyone else’s views public.

It seems like within Hamlet it is a constant power struggle of knowledge and who knows the most and how they can use this information to their gain and knowledge while keeping their views private and away from what everyone else thinks. Act 2 seems to revolve around this idea of knowledge and power, who has it and how can it be used to your personal advantage.

Even though Monk isn’t that fancy or considered a great tool sometimes simple is better and with Monk it is either simple or really complicated and complex. However in either situation I find that you have to be able to know and relate to the text thoroughly. Having Monk as a tool seems to really show me how to not fully rely on a tool for pure information, and I find that it seems to be equal parts of Monk and self knowledge.

Tragedy, Comedy, Comedy, Tragedy

For my final blog post in phase two, I have broken down Act 5 into four parts.  In keeping with my exploration of the tragic and comedic factors in this act (see my last blog post), I hypothesised that each of these parts is either more tragic or more comedic, and I wanted to figure out if the word frequencies supported my hypothesis.

Part 1 Word Frequencies

The first part I looked at included Hamlet and Horatio’s conversation with the gravediggers from the beginning of scene 1 up to the point where the King enters.  Though there are many puns and jokes exchanged between the characters, I believe that the overall thematic elements concerning this scene are indicative of a tragedy.  My results support this opinion.  Tapor cannot identify the comedic play on language that Shakespeare uses, but based on the word frequency one will assume that the overall tone of the dialogue is very morbid.  The central theme is death and even though the word itself is not said very often, there are many allusions to it (highlighted in black boxes) through the use of words such as “drown,” “skull” and “spade.”  The many occurrences of these words sum up to 46 references to death in this one section alone! I think it is safe to say the the word usage in this part is consistent with a tragedy.

Part 2 Word Frequencies

Part 2, spanning from the point that the nobles enter until the end of scene 1, is very different when compared to part 1.  Though the theme of death is still present, it is no longer as frequently alluded to because it is now accompanied by “love.”  My interpretation of this part is that particularly comedic like.  Even though it can be considered a tense moment in the play, it largely consists of Hamlet and Laertes arguing as to who loved Ophelia more, an situation that is also seen in comedies such as A Midsummer Nights Dream.  Due to the difference in word frequencies between part 1 and 2, TAPoR’s results also support this conclusion.  Both the presence of love as a topic, and the plethora of verbs such as “make” and “come,” indicate a lighter tone when compared to the proceeding events.

Part 3 Word Frequencies

Part 3 includes the beginning of scene 2 up to the point where the King enters.  This part is one that I also consider comedic due to Osric’s ridiculous speech patterns and the use of repetition by Hamlet to mock him.  As a result, the word frequencies for part three are not that interesting, but they do suggest the lighter tone that is similarly prevailant through part 2.  For instance, there are many positive adjectives like “good” and “great” used to describe the characters.  However, as if in reminder of events to come, there are also 3 mentions of both nature and faith, which link to the fate of Hamlet and his realitives.

Part 4 Word Frequencies

The fourth and final part contrasts to part 2 and 3, but resemble the first part in that it frequently uses lemmas of “death” and alludes to the phrase through the words such as “drink,” “poison,” “hit” and “shot.”  I also found it interesting that the words “speak” and “tell” are mentioned five times each, making me think as to the theme of regret.  Tragedies usually contain one character who, in the end, regrets his/her decisions and wishes to “speak” in order to explain themselves or apologize.  Though in the case of Hamlet, the usage of these two words is concentrated near the end of the scene where Hamlet wishes Horatio to stay alive and recount his tale, perhaps to avoid this mayhem in future circumstances.

Overall this exploration had been interesting.  It seems that Act 5 begins and ends with diction that suggests tragic elements, while comedic word usage prevails throughout the middle to break the tension.

The Consequences and Reactions to Death

For the overall analysis of act IV my group has narrowed down our sights to one central question: what are the actions and consequences in relation to life and death demonstrated by the characters? I am quite satisfied with this question, as it acts as a sort of progression from my last post and the inquiries I was making in regards to the actions undertaken by the characters. In the process of answering this question, it is my program of TAPoR which works as a starting point, giving me room to have an open mind with my results. I start by looking at the speaking frequency of each character, to then go and list out their common words.

I start with Claudius because he is very central in this act and holds the most lines. The results I pull from him are very enlightening towards what I am looking for. From his words, I see very a formal and careful way of speaking:

These words give off a sense of careful manipulating and a sort of plotting. Claudius is also familiar in what he says such as the reference of ‘friends’, the personal use of ‘thou’ and the use of ‘good’:

Finally, a common reference he makes is towards such themes as truth and knowledge, leading me back to the actions of manipulation and lying he undertakes:

The word usage of Claudius suggests to me that his reaction to the death of Polonius is that of becoming manipulative and plotting towards the other characters, all in order to regain control of the situation.

Laertes’ use of words is similar to that of Claudius; his speech is very action related, mainly in regards to revenge:

Laertes’ words show that he is spurred to take vengeance, and his references to ‘father’ and ‘sister’ highlights the reason for this action.

Hamlet, as opposed to Laertes, uses his speech to convey a focus on thoughts:

However, as is seen in his meeting with Fortinbras, he stumbles onto the idea of death, which in the end provokes him to become inspired (finally!) to take his revenge.

Gertrude is a bit odd in her usage of words, with her focus differing from the usual focus of revenge:

As seen, she ends up focusing on other characters and their situations, seen in her defense of Claudius, Hamlet’s murder of polonius, and Ophelia’s drowning. Mainly, her usage of words is very emotional, using words such as ‘cry’ and ‘weep’.

Finally, there is Ophelia, who I focused on in my last post. It is seen in her word list that she is focused on life and death as seen in her use of ‘come’ and ‘gone’. As opposed to the other characters in the act, Ophelia does not act as a demonstration of the actions in regards to life and death. Rather, her focus is on the consequences of these things, seen clearly in her development of madness, and subsequent death.

In looking at the frequency of words of the characters in the whole of the act, I pull out two general answers:

  • The main action (or reaction) to life and death is that of plotting, lying, or vowing to take revenge.
  • The main consequence of life and death is madness and death itself.

WAIT! We still have so much more to learn!

I started making some process, which was oddly enough not prompted by my tool. I became frustrated yet again with Voyeur because as I have been experiencing and learning about my team mate’s tools, I feel like Voyeur doesn’t really have anything new or special to add to the table (or at least that is how I see it through my eyes).  I was amazed by Jesse’s tool, WordSeer, and its ability to search for a person “described as”.  This prompted me to use Voyeur in a different way than I ever had. Instead of randomly searching words in Voyeur and or looking in the cloud for words appearing often, I decided to start reading the text in the corpus from Act three, scene 1 to the end of scene 3. I began to analyze and suddenly picked up on important words on my own.

As a starting point, we came up with a general theme.  Madness in Hamlet is portrayed in his actions or thoughts, conversation with Ophelia, the famous to be or not to be speech, and the play the mousetrap.  While reading the text I started to recognize certain words reoccurring under the idea of deceit, and the power of words (which i am saving for later 😀 ). 

Believe, hear and know don’t sound like special words at first, but the use of them are important. While reading the context of these words, I was immediately reminded of Shakespeare’s Othello and Iago’s lines, “I’ll pour this pestilence into his ear” (II.iii.330). The concept of pouring these deadly lies in Othello’s ear is directly reflected in Hamlet, both literally and metaphorically.  Claudius poisons Hamlet’s father in the ear, and uses words metaphorically to manipulate people and fill their ears full of lies (poison).

In our scene 1-3, know appears a total of 10 times, hear 8, heard 4, hearing once and believe 5 times.

While referring to the context of these words, believe was often used in terms of lies and deception by believing. For example Hamlet says: “you should not have believed me” and “believe none of us” at two different times.  In order to believe or know, one must HEAR or learn of it in some way. We all know that quote “seeing is believing”, well in Hamlet seeing and hearing apparently allows one to believe as well. Sadly, what they believe to be the truth is nothing but poison (more often than not at least anyways). Some of you may or may not find this interesting, but I thought these specific words were very important because characters relied so heavily on convincing characters of things, or fooling them with words.  Believe, hear and know are all closely related enough for me to make a connection individually, together, and in comparison to Othello.  Put aside Hamlet and Othello for a moment, it is interesting to think about how heavily we allow words, true or not (by hearing) to suddenly become something we quickly know or believe.

With this being said, I thought it might be interesting to take some of the words gathered from Hamlet and also submit a file in Voyeur of Othello to compare them.

Full Othello vs. Act 3 Hamlet

While inserting Othello into Voyeur, i learned more about my own tool. Apparently if you submit/ upload an entire play into the program, the results are a million more times interesting. Unfortunately, I kept getting error messages with Hamlet, but I thought some of you may be interested in what more Voyeur could offer.

Full Othello

Look at the pretty colors in the corpus reader! It also splits the play into scenes, shows the longest documents, lists distinctive words and shows the highest vocabulary density (ex, scene 2).

Back to work… although the characters within in the act of Hamlet rely on hearing or seeing to prove things, Othello the play relies heavily on characters not seeing things. This lead me to concentrate on the power of Hamlet’s words and language choice which help to drive his thoughts. While piecing together hear/know/believe with the power of words, I was also interested in looking into the connection between actions and words.

I guess presentations begin on Friday, and I can honestly say that Voyeur and our tools have so much more to offer than what we have already explored! I cant wait to share our findings with the rest of the class.


Action Words in Relation to Relationships

Alright, last blog post, but still a couple more group meetings until the presentation. This is probably good, considering the amount of work my group has yet to do. Now that we’ve solidified what each member is doing, it’s up to us to do it. This stage is very interconnected for us, as we’ve decided to work very collaboratively. No that Katy’s given me, Hannah and Ayesha her findings of most frequent words spoken by each character, we are finding which of them are most relevant. Hannah and I are both working on finding the most useful in context words each character speaks, and comparing them to characters in other Shakespeare tragedies. Ayesha is going to to then look at the words as they are used in each scene for act 4 and see the correlation between mine and Hannah’s findings and her own. Hannah and I are dividing up the work because it was a lot for me to do, but there will be some small discrepancies because WordHoard finds lemmas, not exactly specific words. This gives WordHoard a slight advantage when finding how relevant certain words are.

To start my portion of the assignment, I took the list of most frequent words (provided by Katy and Kira’s collaboration) and searched on the most active words. I chose to look up words such as: death, revenge, I’ll, come, stand, gone, shall, away, etc. I omitted words like: lord, father, blood, sister, daughter, saint, king, etc. By searching mostly verbs or words associated with actions and leaving out relationship describing words, I not only narrowed down my search, but also was able to get a better idea of relationships through context. After searching the action words and clicking to view context, I could better see how characters act in relation to others.

So far, I have investigated Laertes and Ophelia. For Laertes, I searched: death, revenge, I’ll, come, stand. Apparently WordHoard doesn’t like contractions, because it refused to find “I’ll”. When I searched the other words, I noticed an interesting trend. The four words I searched (come, stand, revenge, death) were all said by Laertes to the king at least once. Two of the words were said exclusively to the king:

Of the other two words, Laertes used the word “revenge” when talking to Ophelia and “stand” when talking to the Danes. The other times he said these words, it was to the king.

From this evidence, I can draw the conclusion that Laertes and the king have a very close relationship, almost like a substitute father-son relationship. I’m going to be exploring this relationship more in depth once I have searched up Claudius’ action words to see if there is a similar correlation and what conclusions can be drawn.

In regard to Ophelia, I searched: gone, pray, rue. Well, WordHoard doesn’t like the word “gone”. First, When I clicked “complete” after lemma, it changed my word “gone” into “Goneril” (who is a character from “Twelfth Night”).

After retyping in “gone” and adding “(v)” after it to mimic what the complete function usually does, I got this message:

This was mildly frustrating, as I knew the word “gone” did appear. Then I remembered the WordHoard searches lemmas, and tried the word “go” instead.

There we go, much better. The rest of the searches were easy, and I got the following results:

When I look at these results, I notice two things. First, while I identified “pray” as an action word, every time Ophelia says it, her context is not really active or helpful. Second, all Ophelia’s actions words are spoken in act 4, scene 5, and not later when she talks to her brother, who does use an action word when speaking with her. This strikes me because, going back to her suicide again, she does not appear to be particularly active right before dying, an interesting detail when committing suicide is an action.

Anyway, that’s all I have for now, but it’s a pretty good place to start. From here I will look up Claudius’ most frequent action words and then compare the three characters to each other and to outside characters. I’m especially interested to see how Ophelia and Lady Macbeth compare, given they both “commit suicide” right before the end and off stage. Also, I think comparing Laertes and Claudius’ relationship to the one between Iago and Othello will also produce something of note.



time to wrap this thing up!

It’s hard to believe we are already at our last blog post for Phase 2! The fact that we’ve all had access to 5 different tools for the digital analysis of Hamlet makes me feel like we’ve only just scratched the surface.  There are so many intricacies to these tools we are using (more than any of us can really understand with the limited amount of time we’ve been able to work with them) and it’s difficult to try and reach real in-depth results when we are simply familiar with the tools, not full-out experts.

It has been extremely helpful, however, to have 4 other teammates who can quickly answer the random questions that I throw up in the air just hoping someone will have a solution to.  Because each of us has extra practice with our own tool, we have found that we can help fill in each other’s tools where they seem to be lacking.  For example, Kate will ask, “can anyone search all the lemmas of this word?” and I can eagerly tell her that yes, indeed, WordHoard IS useful for something and that YES, it can search up lemmas!

It has been pretty cool to see where some of our tools align, and where some of them overlap.  We used a GoogleDoc to write down all of the things our individual tools are able to do, so that when we come across a specific need in our research we can check out the GoogleDoc and find out if any of the other tools can help us with our problem.  We have found this to be a pretty helpful way of going about things because without these lists of functions, I would have no idea what to even ask or who to ask about anything, and then we’d be getting nowhere.

So the subject I have been using the tools to study over the past week was how the aspects of the Ghost’s character may have changed from Act 1 to the rest of the play.  Because the Ghost only speaks in 2 scenes total (I figured that out nice and quick thanks to WordHoard) I realized I would need to branch out into the other tools to get some kind of information from these few appearances.  Turns out that Richelle’s tool, WordSeer, and Ruby’s tool, Voyeur, seemed to be of most use to me in addition to my own tool, WordHoard.

To start off, I used WordHoard to see how many times Hamlet talked about/talked to the Ghost.  I got six matches total.

From there, I decided to get help using WordSeer to get some visuals going for myself.  Richelle helped me create a Heat Map for the word “ghost” to see how many times the word even came up in Hamlet.  I got the following result:

As you can see, not only does the Ghost not appear in the last third of the play, but it is not even mentioned.  I got a sense of this from my WordHoard findings, but this visual helped me grasp the effect it had on the rest of the play.  I think the Ghost’s heavy involvement in the first Act really shows what kind of role it played in the story.  The Ghost comes in initially to give Hamlet a mission, lots of conversation is had about the Ghost between Hamlet and his friends, and the Ghost pops back in to check up on Hamlet, reminding him what it was he was supposed to be doing.  After that, the Ghost basically disappears.  Hamlet becomes consumed with what he needs to do, not for the Ghost, but for himself.  The Ghost almost seems to be irrelevant to his thoughts or topic of conversation after that.

Voyeur also gave me a similar result as the Heat Map, further enforcing my inference.  The Word trends function shows that all conversation had about the Ghost completely subside near the end of the play.

As far as the content of conversation surrounding the Ghost is concerned, WordSeer gave me lists of words of nouns, adjectives, and verbs that often occurred nearby the word “ghost”.

As you can see, words such as “life” and “death” occur most often out of any.  “Dead” and “blood” also seem to appear often.  By using this function that WordSeer possesses, it allows readers to find trends through the subjects that would be near impossible to discover without the tool!

Examples such as this have really helped me see what a fresh and important spin digital humanities has on the world of literature.  Tools such as WordHoard, WordSeer, Voyeur, TapOr, and Monk really do open so many doors in terms of research possibilities., things that close reading couldn’t ever really do. I realize this is a fairly new and ever-evolving concept, but I’m excited to see what else can be discovered in years to come in the digital humanities world.

Collaboration Time! — Monk, You’re Not Invited

We decided in our meeting today that we would try to combine our tools in order to discover more about our characters and how they develop throughout Hamlet.  After we re-familiarized ourselves with each others tools, we began our collaboration.  Monk unfortunately didn’t seem to be of much help (sorry guys…), so I spent my time trying to figure out how everyone else’s tools can help me.

I began with Richelle’s tool Wordseer, and was intrigued by her visualization tool, the Heat Map.  Since I’m studying Claudius and Gertrude’s development, I thought a good place to start would be to search up when the words Queen, Gertrude, King and Claudius are used.

As I understand this only shows me when these words are said, it does not include the speakers.  Nonetheless I found it to be interesting.

An issue that I have with Monk (well, one of the issues) is that when I look up a lemma or a concordance, it doesn’t tell me the speaker, or where the word is used within the play.  It only gives me this:

I wanted to find out who in the play uses the word brother,  I was hoping it would be Claudius speaking about his brother, but Monk won’t show me that.

So I asked my group members if any of their tools could do that, and Dayna said that WordHoard can. Excellent! Another tool that I can use.  So I decided to look up the same word (brother) as I had in Monk, so I could get more accurate results.

I filled in the criteria in WordHoard:

And got my results!

I guessed correctly! The only time the word brother is used in Act 1 Scene 2 is when Claudius is making his first speech.  I’m definitely planning on using this function when I look deeper into my characters development.

In sticking to my ‘brother’ theme, I moved on over to Voyeur, to see what it could do for me.  I remembered from the Voyeur presentation that this tool could compare word frequencies, and I knew I wanted to use this feature.  I asked Ruby, the voyeur expert, how I could do this.  After she gave me a rundown of the tool I was able to work on my own and search words that I felt were relevant to my characters.  I decided to look up brother and guilt, in relation to Claudius’ guilt about killing his brother:

I am pleased with these results, but I would like to be able to find the moments in the text where these two words overlap.  Which actually I think I might be able to do, but I’m going to have to ask Ruby to help me out on that.

Finally, I decided to give Monk another try, and see what it would give me.  The two scenes that I wanted to focus in terms of Claudius’ development were Act 1 Scene 2, and Act 3 Scene 3.  The first being his opening speech, when he talks about his brother’s death, the latter being when he confesses to murdering his brother.  I created a workset of both these acts, and rated them as love or tragedy.  The reason being was that I wanted to see if Monk classified my two scenes as tragedies, in comparison to the other acts.

Based on the words used in these scenes, Monk is more confident that Act 3 Scene 3 is a tragedy then Act 1 Scene 2, but Act 1 Scene 2 is still considered to be more of a tragedy than other scenes in these acts.  Well done Monk, you’ve actually given me results that can help me.

I feel that now that I have a better understanding of everyone else’s tools (well except for Tapor…although I feel it might be as unhelpful as Monk, no offense Tapor experts) I will be able to become even more focused on my individual characters.  I hope to be able to learn more about Claudius and Gertrude, crossing my fingers that these tools will let me do that.

Marry, this’ miching malicho; it means mischief.

This is easily one of my favourite lines in any Shakespeare play. Why? Because the words befit the meaning in a style that is all their own. And I cannot hlp but thinking that is Shakespeare himself knew that twenty-five young adults were set free with the power of technology to analyze his plays, he might think that a mischief all its own.
In our own little sect of madness we got off to a bumpy start. We were all “masters” of our respective programs, but how do we compare them? How can we link each advantage and rate the,. How many of the tools overlap in use? And what becomes overshadowed by a newer, better tool?
Most of all, how can we find out?
We needed a common ground. Something inside Hamlet that every person can indentify. Which is of course madness, something every hard-working university student has met with at least once, but besides all that it is a theme within Hamlet that everyone will decipher differently. Is he sane and acting? Is he crazy from the start? Is he driven mad by his own efforts? Hamlet will always be a mystery so long as space-time continues.

Where we are now:
Since we had a goal in mind, we were able to find the means. Within different programs frequency searches, Naive Bayes, concordance searches, “described as” searches have all proved useful. We are able to track down suggestive words through Naive Bayes, and then put them into other searches to divine meanings. The other cool thing that we have been finding is the ability to compare Hamlet to other Shakespeare tragedies. “Madness” appears in Hamlet 22 times! The next most frequent is probably Romeo and Juliet at 11 times. That is a huge jump. So we know that Hamlet is focused on madness, now we just need to find subtle hints, recurring themes and general meanings that can help to indicate the true madness of Hamlet, or the play he puts on for everyone.

The uniqueness of our Act has been comig out slowly as well. We know (not necessarily because of the digital humanities) that our Act contains much of the most important action in the play. The “To Be or Not To Be,” speach appears, as well as “Get thee to a nunnery,” the play performed for Claudius, the confrontation of Gertrude, the murder of Polonius, etc! There is simply a ton of stuff to research and a lot to discover.
Most importantly for next time we must study:
The use of “poison in the ear” as a metaphor.
Any reference to the mind such as:

Every instance that describes a character as “mad.”
And really anything else we can think of.
So that is about it for past 1 of Phase 2. We have a strong Act 3 team, with only a few hiccups,and some illness 🙁 and hopefully there will be more success to report on the next post. Right now there are just to many questions! It’s pretty amazing what we can do though. What has taken minutes on MONK or voyeur, etc, would have taken months in the traditional way. Could you imagine going through every Shakespeare tragedy and noting the use of the words: “mad” or “madness?” It sounds crazy, and yet that is what the creators of these programs have done for us. We are grateful 🙂

Reading Versus Analyzing

Over the past few months of this course I have been thinking how examining Hamlet through multiple text analysis programs compares to actually sitting down and reading Hamlet. There are definitely some major differences. First of all, a general background of Hamlet—and of Shakespeare’s writing style—is extremely helpful. Knowing and understanding the characters feelings and attitudes becomes quite helpful when generating lists of words each character uses. For example, in the 21st century someone might describe Hamlet as crazy or mentally unstable, yet neither of those words is ever used throughout the entire play. Whereas madness is used a total of fifty times throughout the play, along with words such as: falsehood, jealousy, or likeness. Definitely not something you would know from just reading the play.

My group has also found it important to know the themes within the play before trying to search for specific words. Reading the play allows you to establish themes, whereas the tools just reinforce these themes. In Hamlet, some general themes are uncertainty, madness, and revenge. WordSeer is great at finding occurrences of words and when you already have a general theme these word frequencies become very valuable to analyze a character or specific line.

As mentioned in my previous blog post, I have a new-found respect for the word tree visualization in WordSeer. I have come to notice its informative values, especially relating to context. Using the word revenge and searching throughout Hamlet, the word tree generated a visual containing the word revenge and all of its occurrences in the play. Clicking on any of the surrounding words connects the sentence to which it belongs to and highlighting it pink/red. I find this visual helpful because instead of just writing out a sentence containing revenge, it shows you what form it is used and can easily be compared to others by following the lines.

The main difference I noted when thinking about this course was the different ways in which a play—like Hamlet—can be interpreted. When I read Hamlet for the first time, I found I imagined the characters, settings, and story in my mind, creating a visual to go by. This is completely different when using these tools. Everything is a calculated answer to a specific question, with the visuals consisting of numbers and frequencies. At times I thought I was in a math class (gasp!). Similar in a way to how each side of the brain functions.

From Mercedes Benz

In regards to our Phase Two projects, my group has began to answer some of the questions previously asked, such as common themes and words associated with those themes. We have picked out specific parts of Act Two, and categorized them into the main themes of the act. Our tools have become useful for finding connections between programs and have begun to overlap and collaborate as one main tool with endless functions. Overall, this phase has brought together everything we have worked on over the course, while creating new ideas about Hamlet.

MONK’s “Tragic” Words: A continuation

As a continuation of my last post

In my attempt to discover words that may participate in MONK’s classification of Act V as more tragic, I found myself being led in another direction of attempting to figure out why MONK insisted on classifying Hamlet as a ‘half-tragedy’ in comparison to the other words. My discoveries in individual word frequencies were interesting, as it would seem that they would contradict the ‘half-tragedy’ classification that MONK previously made. In other words, MONK seems to have contradicted itself.

In comparing the tragedies to all of Shakespeare’s plays, MONK has returned me with the following data:


The first verb that MONK provided on the list as appear most frequent in the tragedies in comparison to the rest of Shakespeare’s plays, was “swear.”

Upon selecting the word to see the break down of frequencies, I was provided with the following information:

“Swear,” as it appears in all of Shakespeare’s tragedies, appears most frequently in Hamlet.



To satisfy my own curiosity, I scrolled further down the list and selected a word that seemed less likely to appear in a tragedy, but still one I did not remember reading that frequently when I did my own reading of the Hamlet text. Selecting ‘smile,’ I was provided with the following chart:

In terms of the number of times the word “smile” appears in the tragedies, it appears most frequently in Hamlet.


I assure you, this pattern remains consistent throughout the list of frequencies that MONK has provided me.

I remain uncertain of if these results are being affected by the glitches and malfunctions that MONK has been experiencing as of late, but this does raise an interesting question:

If MONK’s data hasn’t been affected by its recent problems, where does this leave us with understanding Hamlet as being classified as a tragedy? 

If the words being provided by MONK as most frequently occurring in Shakespeare’s tragedies in comparison to the rest of his plays all appear most frequent in Hamlet, why is it then, that Hamlet is the play that is most frequently classified only as a ‘half-tragedy?’

This is a question that is beyond MONK or my own understanding to fully grasp, and so, it is my hope that the tools of my group members can take this information and further analyze it to bring us closer to an understanding of what this all means for Hamlet as a whole.

Perhaps it is not these tragic words that can be the basis for our classification of Hamlet as a tragedy. Perhaps we must take the comedic words used in Hamlet to understand why MONK refuses to accept it fully as a tragedy?

These are all questions I hope to have answered in my next blog post, as I believe that these answers will guide me to an interesting discovery about Act V in relation to Hamlet as a whole.




MONK: To be, or not to be?

In all of the discoveries that I have almost made, it seems that MONK has made its decision to ‘not be.’

Unable to create worksets that could be compared for word frequencies, which my group discussed as a good initial focus today, I have found myself at a loss of anything useful to blog about other than how this program has refused to co-operate with me. However, it occurred to me today, that perhaps for the sake of my group I shall force MONK to hand me something useful.

Yes, I do mean force.

In the interest of figuring out what classifies Act V as ‘more tragic’ than Hamlet, I began to use the preset corpus and genre worksets in order to determine which words were frequently used by Shakespeare in his tragedies. The following is what I learned in this endeavour.

It is worth mentioning, I think, for those of you that are familiar with MONK, you know that it has this irritating stubborn thing where it just refuses to remember the options that you have selected to search with when you hit previous, so this process was a long and arduous one.


To begin, I chose the preset worksets to be compared would be all of Shakespeare’s plays with his tragedies, in order to determine which words were unique to his tragedies. I was returned with these:

The words provided in this list are those words that appear most frequently in the comparison between all of Shakespeare’s plays and all of the tragedies.

When I select the word “justify” I am provided with a graph of the frequency of that word across te time span of Shakespeare’s writings:

I found it interesting that the year the word “justify” peaked was roughly around the time when Hamlet was written, and so I hit ‘continue’ in order to see the plays in which this word occurs and in which play in occurred most frequently.

The circulation period I was most interested in was between the year 1600-1610. Finding that time frame on the list, this is what I discovered:

The word ‘justify’ occurs more in Hamlet than it does in any other play in this time period.

It also appears more in Hamlet than it does in any other play, and all the plays on this list in all the time periods, were tragedies.

Going through the list, I found similar words of interest to tragedies (not just in Hamlet). For example, the word ‘rehearse’ appears only, or most frequently in this comparison, in tragedies.

Using words like this, I think it will be of interest to our group in analyzing Act V.


I believe that because Act V was classified by MONK as more tragic that the rest of the play, these words will be helpful in assessing why MONK has made this classification and it will provide a starting point for the other frequency analyzing tools in gathering further interesting analysis about Act V.

Sound of Mind

I have struggled an incredible amount with my personal direction and how I wished to attack act five of Hamlet given the “endless possibilities” I have previously mentioned in blog posts, that Voyeur offers. That being said, it is surprisingly difficult to come to any concrete resolution about the fifth act of Hamlet because of Shakespeare’s wide vernacular and thus hard to draw comparisons with my tool. What I’ve decided to focus on for this blog post, lest I go insane with “endless possibilities,” is the questionable ambiguity surrounding Ophelia’s so-called suicide. I would also like to lead into the relationship of Ophelia’s death to Hamlet’s and how Ophelia’s death laid the groundwork for Hamlet’s final speech.
The rhetoric surrounding Ophelia’s death is very passive. Heavy usage of words that give way to her surrender to death, such as “incapable of her own distress” and “creature native…unto that element,” (4.7.2) suggest a far more unintentional death rather than suicide. The proceeding line “heavy with their drink” allude to act five when heavy is used only once more in the rest of the play when addressing the duel between Laertes and Hamlet.

Although this hypothesis is highly subjective, the intentional use of “heavy” in conjunction to “drink” when a multiplicity of words could have been used, can be regarded as an element of foreshadowing as “drink” is mentioned 10 times so closely to “heavy” and envelopes the death of the cast. Shakespeare may have intentionally threaded these words together so the connotation when the words presented themselves again would provide the same feeling of inescapable fate when they are each “pull’d…to muddy death.” (4.7.2)

Although Laertes and Hamlet exchange forgiveness and understanding and meet one another’s demise by poison tipped sword, Claudius’ intention of getting Hamlet to drink the poison as a backup plan is evidence once more of the inescapable design of his demise for even if he survived the duel he would be forced to be swallowed up by the drink. So too, does Gertrude meet her demise by said poison-filled cup and Hamlet’s insistence for Claudius to drink. Although each of these deaths can be viewed as murder, it is due to the play’s progression that it may just as well be viewed as each a suicide because of each character’s inability to move passed their pursuit of revenge. As a result, the deaths of surrounding characters that have no desire to revenge are mere casualties in male driven inertia to a damned fate. Ophelia’s death, although similar in vernacular to Hamlet’s death scene, is unjust and unintentional due to her secondary status and distance from the play’s central theme.
However, Hamlet cannot just be viewed as strictly evil in his blind rage towards revenge of his father’s death. He too, in many ways, surrenders himself to death just as Ophelia does as both are complacent in light of potential knowledge of their fate. Hamlet knows he will die if he were to but look at the circumstance in which he falls, much like Ophelia when she “fell in the weeping brook.” It is evident, however, that their misery was more inescapable than their death and so death is sweet because of it’s “silence.” The connection here becomes clearer in the table below.

“The rest is silence” finishes Hamlet’s life. King Hamlet dies with poison dropped into his ear. Ophelia continues to sing while she is drowning right up until she reaches her death…
In the image presented above, one can see that the final point in which Ophelia is mentioned in the play is also at the precise point in which “silence” is mentioned in conjunction to her name as well as with “good,” but not with “bad” nor with “music” or “sound.” Although this may seem loosely connected, the few times “silence” is mentioned throughout the play (5 times) it is mentioned always within the larger circle of “good.” This could prove the importance of Hamlet’s final speech as his life (from the start of the play) is filled with the ghost and the overwhelming flow of Hamlet’s contemplation being constant “noise” in his mind. Although he claims his madness is feigned, his contemplative nature suggests his mind is never quiet especially in times of distress, which would play heavily on even the most sound of mind. When Hamlet says “the rest is silence,” (5.2.370) there is a peace that he seems to embrace – King Claudius is dead, the man who poisoned the ear’s of men in more ways than one. In connection with his significant last words, Ophelia’s death is harolded with her singing melodious tunes and is finally silenced by death. Her singing, especially at a point when she is drowning and singing is clearly inappropriate, is perhaps metaphorical of her innocence which is in essence who she is and what she represents to each character in their affiliation with her. In hanging on to singing right up until the bitter end, she is defined mad. much the same as Hamlet’s defining characteristic is easily his contemplative nature which in displaying throughout the play has played a key in revealing to others his madness. He too, is contemplative right up until his death: until silence. the silence of death after so many words used to describe the chaos of noise is perhaps what makes this a comedy in the end term because everyone ironically is put to peace with silence. “Silence” although a selectively used word, is the key in this play.

The building similarities of Ophelia and I.

Apparently you can run from the problems that arise with Monk, but you most certainly can’t
hide. My old enemy ‘frustration’ was presented to me once again after I began
looking for ways in which my program could prove itself to be useful in the
final stages of researching our text analysis programs. Of course when I expect
things to go slightly better than they previously have, they never do. Last night
I settled in at my desk to do some exploring of my program. I wanted to find
even an ounce of value from Monk that I could present before my group the
following morning. I knew this may be a difficult task, but I never expected it
to be as excruciating as it was. I came across a problem that was brand new to
me. I had never experienced this before, although I have since then discovered
that others in my Phase 1 group had.

It began with me trying to define a few new worksets that I could take a closer look
at, and eventually be able to compare different acts from Hamlet in hopes that
this would perhaps come in use for Phase 2. But shockingly (note my sarcasm)
Monk has decided it is no longer allowing me to have the ability of defining my
own worksets. More specifically, I am able to create a workset labelled “Act
One” but when I go into the compare worksets option, it tells me that I haven’t
created anything new. I honestly tried doing it about 100 times before I gave
up all hope. I called in for reinforcement, and my old trusty phase 1 friend,
Hayley, was there with a helping hand. Unfortunately our combined brain power
was not enough to make it work. We tried everything we could think of, but
regardless after downloading a new browser and countless different log-in
attempts, we sadly hung our heads in shame. Ok, not quite. But it was exasperating
to say the least! In the end, I decided I will give it a try on my grandpa’s
computer in the morning. If this doesn’t work, you’ll probably never see me
again as I will probably result to the same fate as Ophelia. Hey non nonny

With the help of my group I was able to construct some fairly useful ideas of what
my stubbornly difficult program Monk can do. Well, at least I am hoping it will
be able to do. But for the time being I can still talk about what I PLAN on
doing. Since Monk’s main original purpose was comparisons, we figure that it
may be able to help us compare relationships between characters in separate tragedies.
To name an example, we can try and relate Hamlet to a fellow revenge-filled
character in Othello; Iago. Both are plotting murderous acts upon someone who
they feel has done them wrong. What I am thinking I might be able to do is
examine a specific speech of one of the charcters, take note of words that
represent what I would assume could appear in the other play, and use the concordances
option in Monk to see if my assumptions were right and see if my list of words
appear in the other characters speech. I should also be able to use the Naive
Bayes tool and see if the overall tone of Act 4 compared to an act with Iago in
it (in Othello) has similar results.

What was done in the above screen shot would then be repeated in a specific act in Othello, and the scenes in which Iago is most prominent would be the one that is analyzed; same goes for whatever scene Hamlet appears in.

I have this quiet nagging feeling in the back of my head that is telling me that
none of this will actually work, but I figure I should at least give it a shot.
I mean, it sounds like a decent idea, right? I can at least pretend like I have
some hope left in me.

WordHoard’s Take On the Ghost

Our Plan of Action is lifting off!  Since our last meeting, our team has further developed our POA and it now feels a lot more streamlined and purposeful. I’m excited to see where it leads us!  To fill everyone in, we had originally decided to use our individual tools to analyze one main subject (you can find that in my first post), and slowly begin to collaborate with our tools to be more effective.  Today, we decided to expand on that idea.  We are now each going to use our tools to study the growth of a specific character in Act 1. From there, we will share with each other our struggles and shortcomings that our own tool caused and then use each other’s tools to help us achieve better results.  I’m so happy to have Ruby, Richelle, Kate, and Amy in my group for Act 1! Each one of them brings so much insight to our project and I completely trust all of them to help me through in the coming days when WordHoard’s limitations begin to be a bigger issue!

So now, on to my responsibilities in the group.  I am studying the change in character of the Ghost throughout the play by using WordHoard.  I am now going to spend the next few paragraphs sharing with you a bit of what WordHoard has taught me about the development of the Ghost’s character and some things I wish I could have found!

First, I needed to see how many times the Ghost even speaks in the play.  I ran a search through WordHoard of just the speaker “Ghost”, without specifying any lemmas or any extra requirements.  I got this result:

So WordHoard automatically tells me that the Ghost speaks in two scenes in the entire play: Act 1, Scene 5 and Act 3, Scene 4.  Evidently, the Ghost speaks a great deal more in its first appearance than its second.  I could already infer from this simple finding that the Ghost’s character was very instrumental in its first appearance seeing as it spoke 641 words in this scene.  We all know that Act 1, Scene 5 is where the Ghost and Hamlet have their first meeting.  I wondered what it was that caused the Ghost to speak so much at the beginning and begin to be less vocal later on.

Because WordHoard only allows me to search all of the words spoken by the ghost, I had to manually go through the text and locate how many “speeches” the Ghost has.  I found there to be three, one of them being very large.  WordHoard can’t exactly tell you how many lines a character speaks either, it just locates the words spoken for you and then you have to go and look at it for yourself to obtain anything further.  Later on in Act 3, Scene 4 the Ghost basically has one line.  This is a very big contrast to the powerful demeanor the Ghost relayed earlier on in the play.

I often just find myself at a loss of what to search when it comes to lemmas with WordHoard.  I scan the text and look for words that seem to pop out or seem to be an underlying trend and then search those, but the fact that I can’t use related words almost defeats the purpose of that.  I think by pairing up with tools such as Voyeur could really help me expand my horizons when learning about the development the Ghost has made as a character, because at the moment there isn’t a whole lot to go on.

I thought I’d  search how many times the Ghost refers to the word “mother” in both scenes, yielding only two results:

The word was said once in each scene.  This evidently does not tell me very much about the Ghost’s character.  What I am taking away from this little experience is definitely the fact that WordHoard is not an effective stand alone tool.  I Could definitely make use of things such as word clouds and heat maps to see the trends in the Ghost’s words and then draw further conclusions from there.  So once we do bring all of our tools together, I believe I will grasp a better understanding of the Ghost!

Flushing Out a Thesis and Scalar Searches: Part 1

I’ve been wondering recently how I’m going to approach my final blog post, or final paper, for this class. I’m not sure what kind of questions I could be asking that would be important enough that it could make up an essay of up to 2500 words. It’s a daunting enough task to come up with a paper this big, but it also counts for a huge chunk of my grade, a chunk of a size I care not to see.

Thinking on what subject I could come up with I thought to simply build on the work I’ve done so far. This idea seemed simple enough, so I went on to look at the blog site and look back at and read my blogs again. Now, for those who’ve not seen my blog posts I’ve written a blog on the relations search in Wordseer, a blog describing the problems wordseer faces and things that can remedie them, and a blog describing the limiting aspects of in which contexts you look at a tool and how that affects the results you get.

Now, the idea behind this last blog post really interests me as a possible starting point for finding an argument to make in my last blog post. So now, through all the rest of my posts I’ll flesh this idea out a little bit more so that I can be prepared for my final paper / post / phase 3.

In Hamlet I’ve begun to experiment with this idea. I’ve searched the word ‘die’ in two different collections of documents of varying sizes. I start in the context of Act 3, Scene 1, which includes Hamlet’s “to be, or not to be” speech.

 Searching Hamlet 3.1 with Wordseer

In this scene I found 4 results, which does not offer a very wide opinion of how death and dying is viewed by Hamlet. Instead, this offers a result very specific to the point in time that Hamlet is saying these things. In this case, the results for death show that they are used with the word sleep twice. This is very useful for generating hypotheses or finding points to inspect heavily within Hamlet, but that is not the point here. For now it’s enough to know that these two uses of ‘sleep’ are used in Hamlet’s ‘to be, or not to be’ speech and give a clue as to how Hamlet is viewing death at the time he is giving the speech.

Now, I’ve searched this same word in the larger context of Hamlet, the play, as a whole, and I’ve come up with 17 results.


It is important to note that besides the fact that there are more results, and therefore more views on the word itself, there are far more varied results. These results can be used effectively to flesh out the views of death that Hamlet, the play, portrays with ease and with more accuracy. These varied results show more of a varied view of the play. Showing more aspects of the particular personality of the play allows someone to better and more easily come to understand the play.

Now, I’ve done more searches on the play than this, but I’ve run out of time to analyze them, instead I intend to come back to this subject in my next blog and I’ll better explain some of the differences that I’ve found while looking at different scales of a search.

Hamlet: A Misunderstood Tragedy?

In the past few days, our group has talked a lot about the lack of traditional tragic elements in Hamlet.  Though there is a lot of death in this final scene, there are also elements of comedy in conversations with the gravediggers and Oseric, as well as an unexpected resolution between Laertes and Hamlet.  Additionally, Hamlet lacks the fundamental fatal mistake that many tragic heroes have.  (See here for further information about elements of tragedies.)  However, all of these are qualitative assumptions.  The major question is, how can the tools at our disposal help us to better understand the classification of Hamlet? Monk was the obvious choice to aid in this question, but as April suggests, Monk is equally confused about the “tragediness” of Hamlet, and none of us are 100% certain why this is.

I’m not sure exactly how to clarify the question, but I attempted to take a stab at it using my tool.  I started by choosing words from my previous List Word result that I thought were particularly indicative of a tragedy.  In this process, I came up with a list of 12 words: know, dead, grave, death, die, life, purpose, nature, cause, soul, blame and fault.  I then ran these words through the Concordance Tool to see what limited context TAPoR could supply.

Result of chosen words in the Concordance Tool for Hamlet.

I also ran these words with the fifth Act from Macbeth.  Everybody in the group agreed that this play displayed the most definite signs of a tragedy, so I used it as a control with which to compare my results with.

Result of chosen words in Concordance Tool for Macbeth.

The goal was to identify how these words are used differently or similarly in Hamlet and Macbeth (I apologize that the screenshots cannot show the entirety of my results),  though I am not sure that they are good representations.  I immediately concluded that that this job is perhaps best suited for Wordseer or Wordhoard, because then the context and speaker are identified with more ease.  However, there were a few surprising results.  For instance, I did not expect the words “cause” and “blame” to be common in both of these final acts.  Moreover, they seem to both be used in reference to the King (though it has been a long time since I read Macbeth so I can’t exactly be sure).  It made me think of the similarities between Macbeth and Claudius.  Even though Claudius is not the protagonist of the play, he resembles a tragic hero like Macbeth more than Hamlet does.  Both are spurred by ambition and die because of it.  So the question is, do elements of a tragedy need to belong solely to the protagonist?

Overall, my results at this point are not very conclusive.  I think in the coming days I will dabble a bit in the other tools while consulting with my peers,  Hopefully this will yield further evidence regarding the lack or abundance of tragedy in Hamlet.  I am particularly interested to discover how Hamlet’s word usage indicates him as the tragic hero and not just a victim of circumstance.  I’m not sure how to best approach this problem yet, but hopefully my peers will have some ideas.

Welcome to our POA/ An Initial Discovery!

My Phase 2 group and I have devised a POA (pronounced poh-ah), this is our Plan of Attack! If you read my most recent post, you know that I had a few concerns about what exactly to analyze in Act One of Hamlet.  After a couple productive group meetings I am feeling good. Ladies and Gentlemen – our POA has been determined.  Ready? Character Development! We decided to tackle this aspect of the play because as Act One analysts, we get to delve into who the characters are presented as in the beginning. Taking this piece of knowledge, we can then compare it to the characters throughout/at the end of the play.  We want to know if the personalities portrayed in the first act of hamlet are a truthful reflection of the characters throughout the play. If not, does something significant happen to change them? What was Shakespeare trying to prove by withholding particular traits of particular characters while exposing others completely? This is exactly what we hope to discover. This is step one of our POA.

To subdivide the extensive research involved in character development, we decided to pick the five characters, or in some cases pairs of characters, we felt serve the most significant roles in the play.  After individually selecting characters to examine in our own expert tools, we are now ready to roll up our sleeves and uncover the dirt (look out Waldo, I am on to you!)

I will be analyzing Horatio, Kate will be analyzing the King and Queen, Ruby has Hamlet (Glare), Amy is looking after Ophellia and Laertes and finally Dayna has The Ghost! With our assigned characters, we are each planning to discover as much as possible under the umbrella of character development in specific regards to Act One.

Although I am still in the preliminary stages of my Horatio-development-act one research, I have already uncovered something pretty cool! So if you just go into your basic search on Wordseer, and type in “horatio” all by itself, when the search results are found, a box will appear at the top of the page with the most commonly used words while referring to your searched word (in my case “Horatio”)


Neat - O


This is really cool because I view Horatio as the level-headed and perhaps the only sane characters in the entire play. This makes it interesting to see the results. If you look at the screen shot, you will see the results reflect my interpretations of Horatio pretty well.  With words such as “good”, “Heaven”, “see” and “Lord” listed it is hard to not think about the end of the play. How does it all turn out? Well, in a nut shell, he is alive and pretty much everyone else…is not.  Is this coincidence? Or is this something a little amazing that has been delivered through digital humanities. Maybe it’s a little of both.

Another interesting point I found was in the word “overlooked” provided by the list in the above screen shot.  I think this is a little crazy and pretty darn cool…Horatio and overlooked. Are you seeing the connection?! The fact that Horatio is really only in the first and final Acts of the play AND is what we can call “the last guy standing” is a fair observation. Keeping this in mind, the fact that “overlooked” is so common while searching his name is knock-your-socks-off incredible/interesting/awesome! This is shocking because in the play Horatio really is overlooked. WOW.

This is only a peek into the information I know wordseer is holding and I can’t wait to run Horatio/act one through the rest of the functions available with this tool. This is a pretty incredible/exciting way of analyzing. Still not convinced? Think of the first time you read Hamlet, did you know Horatio would be “the last guy standing”? Probably not…but Wordseer did.

Moving Forward

As this project progresses I find that it is changing the way that I view text and how it can be interpreted. By reading through Act 4 on my own and taking notes on it, I discovered that while the digital tools offer some assistance in breaking down the text into pieces and analyzing them as such, I still much prefer simply taking out the literature by itself and reading it on its own. Referring back to the forest and the trees metaphor I used in my last blog, by using the digital tools I find that you are staring so closely at the text that all you can see is the cells that make up the tree and the singular tree itself. However, by moving back and examining the entire forest you can look at how the different trees make up an ecosystem and look at other factors of the environment that have shaped the development of the forest and the individuals trees. Which view you prefer is an entirely personal choice, and it certainly exists on a sliding scale. My main experience that I am going to take out of this course is one of balance and appreciation that I have been introduced to these new tools.  I will use the traditional method to examine text and if I feel that digital tools could be used to further examine the text I am certainly not adverse to any additional context they could provide to the whole.

Now moving on to the project itself. The TaPOR member of my group  and myself have begun to collaborate using out tools to examine Act 4. Using the ‘Extract Text’ tool in TaPOR she will be able to extract only the speech of the characters using a much her program. This expedites the process quite nicely as the last time I edited a text it took far longer then it should have and I shudder to think how long it would have taken me to repeat the process on an entire Act as opposed to a singular scene. Once she has completed that, then I will be able to examine characters separate speeches and differentiate between the speaker and the spoken of. I have thought of examining the differences and similarities between Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, the way that Hamlet and Laertes act as foils to one another, (both lose their father under mysterious circumstances etc.) and examining Gertrude’s speech when Hamlet is with her and when Hamlet is not present within the same room. Hamlet’s back and forth with Claudius after he has hidden Polonius’ body is another interesting piece of the text to examine. Hamlet uses quite a lot of symbolism and metaphor in this scene and some have taken his patterns of speech to mean he is mad. When I originally read the speech I merely thought he was being witty and did not detect madness unit brought up to me by my then English teacher. At this point in this project myself and my group members are still feeling out one anthers tools and working on collaborating with one another. Hopefully we can comprehensively analyze Act 4 without becoming too lost in the trees and loose sight of the larger picture.

Honest and Virtue, That is the Question- TAPoR

I may have spoken too soon when I have say TAPoR and I were friends. It obviously did not cherish our relationship as much as I have because since last post it is making my life miserable again. I am starting to feel like TAPoR and I have a Hamlet Ophelia type relationship. It works well when it is one on one, but when I need results for my group work, it plays hard to get. Therefore, by the end of term I may be singing odd songs and handing out flowers as well.

This week, and for this blog post, my group and I have decided to look at Hamlet’s and Ophelia’s relationship and what their relationship means to them. Their relationship has always been of interest to me because of how Ophelia is a pawn within a scheme set out by her father and Claudius. My first step is not by using the program, I am old school and I need to read the act with a pen in one hand and sticky notes in the other. I think that will be a hard habit for me to break, and it may take years to break it, if at all. After entirely reading Act 3, I pulled out the thematic cluster’s I saw and wanted to have a closer look at them. That’s where good ol’ TAPoR came in to play.

When reading the act, I came across that honest/honesty was used interchangeably with virtue/virtuous. That being said, I also noticed that Shakespeare used honest and virtue as a connotation to virginity. So TAPoR played a huge role in listing how many times and when honest and honesty was used. Yes, TAPoR worked at that time, but unfortunately, I did not receive the same results on each tool I used.

Highlighter tool gave me this for honest…

And this for honesty….

Concordance gave me these results..

So the results are not even close to being the same, which makes me frustrated and itching to go through the entire act with a highlighter and my own eyes again. After taking deep breaths and deciding that I will look at the different word and hope my results are more consistent, I looked at virtue, virtues, and virtuous. That just wanted to make me chuck my lap top at a wall or just sit and cry in a corner. My results were more inconsistent then when I looked at honest.

Highlighter gave me….

Concordance gave me this…

Yes, that is a blank page and an error message. I truly thought TAPoR were passed the error message stage but on the happy note, that’s an error message I have not received before. So I guess TAPoR is still keeping me on my toes on what results or error messages I will get.

After my miniature melt down, I asked my group members to use there tools and send me the results for virtue, virtues, and virtuous. Again, none of the results are the same.

Between the other tools we got these results…

With the second post of phase 2 almost done I am glad that I am getting results. On the other hand, I am extremely frustrated that using TAPoR my results that I am getting are not consistent. I am even more frustrated that none of the other tools gave me the same results. At can just hope that these programs will convince me that a pen and highlighter is old school, and this is the new way. That is still to be seen…

Defining Hamlet as a Tragedy, or Lack of One: A Quantitative and Qualitative Endeavour(Phase Two, Blog Post Three)

*Note: Due to time constraints, this is my third blog post due for Monday, March.26, submitted early.

As the basis of my research, regarding the fifth act of Hamlet, I have fixated my efforts around one fundamental underlying question: What is the significance of act five of Hamlet, alone, and how does it define this iconic play as a tragedy? I explored this question in my previous blog posts, however, I will now, through this account, elaborate on how I have further employed my digital tool word seer to pursue a tangible answer to this question. As I continue to familiarize myself with the vast array of possibilities and enticing functions offered by the digital tool word seer, my confidence in digital humanities approaches formulating new conclusions and raising new observations regarding familiar texts is increasing
as well. For instance, now that I am able to segregate just the fifth act of Hamlet,  I am able to isolate it as its own distinct and significant entity, and thus, I am able to produce conclusions and hypotheses regarding the single act alone, as opposed to the entire text—a process not as easily accomplished with traditional text analysis and closed reading. Therefore, in my last post I explained my preliminary trials of inputting words from the fifth act of Hamlet into word seer and observing the returned usage frequency results on the heat map function—results I was highly surprised at—and will, in this post, explore how word seer and its comparative features may be implemented to suggest provocative details about the text, such as sudden escalations of the frequency of a given word at a given instance.

One of my primary considerations, regarding Hamlet, an assertion that I have implied in several of my blog posts, is that the play does not appear to confirm to the superficial niche that tragedies are often classified under, in terms of words used. In my last post, I discussed how words such as “death” “loyalty” and “fall” appear remarkably less frequently than I had initially anticipated, prior to conducting the search of act five in word seer. To exemplify, in terms of word frequencies, that the fifth act of Hamlet is relatively sparse in words that one might expect to pertain to a tragedy, I have included results from a test that I conducted using some of the words that I have previously inputted in a search of the entire play, as well as some new words such as “beast” and “wretch”. Upon viewing the results, one will quickly conclude that Hamlet is lacking in these words, leaving room for qualitative speculation as to why this might be.

The same search conducted, this time using the entire play, returns a greater frequency of the same words, yet, not to an overwhelming extent (the results are featured below). Additionally, in carrying out this test, I have satisfied the aim of my previous blog post, which was to apply word seer to compare the frequency of the same words between the fifth act of Hamlet, and the entire text.

Therefore, one is left to infer that in terms of language, Hamlet is variable from other Shakespearean tragedies. Seeing as to this quality, I am
armed with a more quantitatively geared set of evidence in my argument that the so called “revenge tragedy” isn’t much of a tragedy, after all. Of course, when I refer to the term “tragedy”, my evaluation adheres to Aristotle’s classic conception of the genre: I do acknowledge that I have largely concentrated on this definition of tragedy throughout the entire research process of this course, however, I believe that I am well justified in having done so, as Macbeth and Othello—tragically flawed heroes in possession of Hamlet’s lacking “cue for action”—pay dearly for their mistaken acts, acts of which, unless one considers Hamlet’s accidental slaying of Polonius, are largely missing from the play, and not only that, Hamlet is not the only character to pay the price in the end of play. I have highlighted these details so not as to embark on a subjective tangent about the play’s qualities, but rather, to uncover what details digital tools and word frequencies may aid in identifying. Therefore, in conducting the word frequency tests that I have(using word seer) I have searched for meaningful trends, such as repeatedly recurring words, that could potentially suggest the theme of the text, and thus, I could compare these supposed themes with my own standards of what defines a tragedy in order to assess how well Hamlet conforms to the profile of the genre.

However, despite all of these possibilities, I still have, as of yet, to uncover the significance of  act five, itself. Still, I have employed some new methods, using different features of word seer to establish whether Hamlet himself fits the profile of the tragic hero, especially in the final act of the play. In order to do this, I aimed to see how he was defined by other characters in act five, through inputting Hamlet described as “blank” in the related words feature of word seer, and received the results pictured below:

If I were to evaluate Hamlet’s overall level of compatibility with the conventional tragic hero( such as, for instance, Titus or Macbeth) I would certainly consider these results to deviate from the profile. I would have expected words more in accordance with “vengeful”, “wretched” or “rash”, or perhaps synonyms to these terms. Yet, Hamlet is referred to as “young”, which in itself, is not a sufficient tragic flaw. Therefore, on this very subjective, qualitative basis (as an interpretation of quantitative data) I will conclude that Hamlet is, at the very least, not a well-defined
tragic hero. How does this relate to my original posed question? In actuality, searches such as these have led me a somewhat different direction, however, I do find myself armed with an adequate conclusion to answer my underlying question, which has guided me through this phase of research. How is act five significant from the rest of the play, and how does it define the play as a tragedy? Using evidence from my closed reading I will advocate that the fundamental action and exhilaration of the play culminates into act five, serving to establish it as significant on its own, while I will argue that act five defines the play as a tragedy only through its outcome, and not its other plot elements, or word frequencies. Therefore, once again, I have found that my conclusion formulating process has largely compiled both quantitative and qualitative features, and both data and interpretation, using both my personal perspective regarding my experience with the text, and the numerical patterns achieved through my digital tool to render both generalizations and specific statements about the significance of act five of Hamlet as its own unit.


Why, Why, WHY??!!! Wordseer- give me a break will ya!

I found going through Wordseer this time to be frustrating once again! I would say shocker out of sarcasm because it would be something expected (and roll my eyes at the same time)…only this time I wasn’t expecting it. So I’m going to say it was a shocker because I honestly was shocked out of my mind! And that’s NO sarcasm, really! Although I know how to use it, it just so happened that everything I clicked gave me blank pages or no results. I’ve been trying to configure this program for more than an hour and it pains me to say it…I had zero outcomes! It was working so well for me during my phase 1 project that I can’t understand why now I can’t find anything I had found before. I’m still able to make snippets, and find related words or a heat map on one particular word. But I feel like I’m back at square one because it’s not simplifying my results. What I mean is that I can’t figure out how to separate the act, and more specifically- each scene in that act- giving me GENERAL information on the whole play which completely sets me further away from my main objective. I would leave it be, but I know Aditi fixed this issue so I’m determined to use it to my advantage, EVEN IF IT KILLS ME… which it totally is. My objective is to figure out the significance of act 4 giving me clues on words in each scene telling me more about each character and their means and objectives. My whole purpose for this blog was to figure out the relationships of the characters in this part of the play and what words give me that source of information. I’m sorry professor, but I find myself hating computers more and more, and going back to my Hamlet text to find something that Wordseer should have been doing for me.

Aditi, the developer has been great throughout, but I don’t get why it works for me sometimes and leaves me hanging other times. I know what it can do, that’s the thing! Wordseer helps me find amazing things.  For some reason however, the simplest things on Wordseer are causing delays, taking too long to load to find anything because the page has come across an “error.” I’m sure though once I figure out how to fix these little bugs that I will find more of what I’m looking for. It would help if my computer was fast enough and allowed me to visualize just act 4 from the rest of the play.

I know Madelyn, a member from my phase 1 group was able to find helpful insight from Wordseer on a word tree and heat map when it showed a scene in her act alone. I’m hoping she’ll be able to show me (or whoever in my previous group) what I’m missing, whether it’s a step or if I’m clicking the wrong things. Once they show me, I know it will be so much better where I can use all of Wordseer’s capabilities for my act and see how Shakespeare differentiates act 4 from the rest of the play. As mentioned before in my last blog, I wanted to find specific words that each character says and find related words to know what they really mean (going to the “backstairs world”) and seeing if I was right in knowing their fake and honest relationships.

I guess the most frustrated part for me is knowing that I am getting behind the rest of my group. They have information on what their programs have offered on act 4, where I’m still trying to figure out why I can only seem to read Hamlet from the corpus and that’s it. The funny thing is that this time, it didn’t even allow me to create a collection, and when the box appeared to let me add act 4 to it, I checked the collection box to find it empty. Aaargh! I need to figure out what’s going on with Wordseer so that I can properly include my input with the rest of my group and determine how we’ll organize our presentation on act 4 depending on what each program offers us. How am I supposed to give feedback on a certain character when I can’t even find the significance of act 4- making me unable to find anything useful for that character in act 4. This is so messed up! Phase 1 Wordseer group- I desperately need your help! Phase 2 group, please be patient with me.

Hamlet: Tragic or Comical?

Is Hamlet truly a tragedy or can it be considered more of a comedy? We’ve noticed, as a group, that when we ask Monk to predict the classification of Hamlet in either Comedy or Tragedy it continually deems it comedic.

But why is this? To further investigate this we’ve decided to compare Hamlet to Macbeth, Titus Andronicus, Merchant of Venice and As You Like It.   Macbeth is a tragedy through and through, while Titus Andronicus was Shakespeare’s first tragedy making them two good candidates to be comparative texts. Comedy on the other hand, we chose As You Like It because it’s a classic comedy and very well known, the choice of Mechant of Venice provided us with a bridge between comedy and tragedy since it is commonly known as a tragic comedy…maybe Hamlet can be a tragic comedy too?

I’m not really a huge reader of Shakespeare so the only thing  that I knew that differentiate a tragedy from a comedy was that a tragedy ended in death, normally numerous deaths, while a comedy normally ended in marriage or marriages. I looked on Wikipedia….which I know it’s not the most reputable source but I just need a quick reference on the differences between the two. They describe a tragedy as linked to “Aristotle’s precept[ion] about tragedy: that the protagonist must be an admirable but flawed character, with the audience able to understand and sympathize with the character.” A comedy has a “happy ending, usually involving marriages between the unmarried characters, and a tone and style that is more light-hearted than Shakespeare’s other plays”. Worhoard isn’t capable of showing me a relationship or qualities in a person to help me un-code a tragedy, however I can look at key words, adjectives and the use of the negative to gain the tone of a comedy.

Knowing the limitations of my tool I turned back to my last analysis where I searched the lemmas of love and death, as well as the use of the negative. I used this method in the 4 additional plays, as well as Hamlet as a whole and just Act 5. I soon realized that the results I received could be misleading because I just got the number of results back and not a percentage. Since not all the plays are the same length if the word love appears 200 times in play X and play Y it will not be the same percentage or concentration. So I also had to get Wordhoard to calculate the total number of words in each play.

These are the results I got (organized on paper so it’s easy to understand and follow):

The results weren’t overly surprising; “love” had a higher appearance in comedies, while “death” had a higher concentration in tragedies. The negative seems to appear more often in comedies than tragedies and this may be a linguistic choice of Shakespeare, but I’m not sure.

My findings that as a whole play, Hamlet, as a whole, falls in the middle between tragedy and comedy when it comes to the lemma “love”, it’s right in-line with tragedy with the lemma “death”, but when you look at the negative it appears to be a comedy. Making it as a whole play a confusing mix of tragedy and comedy, a tragic comedy…

When you single out just Act 5 I can see that it lends itself more to tragedy in both lemmas categories and is in between the two categories when we look at the negative. Since tragedy appears twice, I can label Act 5 as a tragedy.

I think some help from my other group members about synonyms or other words that are comedic or tragic will help me utilize my tool further in uncovering this mystery. Maybe different scenes are more comedic and others are more tragic?



POA Part 2: the development of the…character…..development…..

After meeting with my group today, I’ve gotten a better sense of how I can personally contribute to the group.  As I mentioned in my last blog post we decided to focus on character development.  Today we came up with the idea for each of us to focus on an individual character(s) with our tool.  Once we’ve come up with some results we hope to collaborate with each others tools in order to get a more well rounded sense of how our characters developed in Hamlet.  I got lucky and am focusing on the characters that I was originally interested in: Claudius and Gertrude.

I knew right off the bat that this wasn’t going to be the easiest task.  If I had trouble trying to get some results by looking a small workset like Act 3 Scene 4, then how the heck am I going to get results by looking at individual characters?  Especially since Monk doesn’t show me the speaker or line numbers when I search up lemmas.  It seems that my best bet at this point is to try and be more creative in my searches, in hopes that Monk will give me something.

First off, I tried to look up Claudius’ moments of speech.  In the classification tool I’m able to look at the text of an individual scene (thanks Kelsey!), which can help me isolate concordances that I might find interesting or relevant.  I thought I’d try to outsmart Monk, and searched up the concordance ‘King’ hoping that it would isolate his moments of speech:

Well, that doesn’t work.  Monk does not recognize the speaker King as a concordance, but only when it is used by another character.

Alright, next.

During our meeting today I decided that in order to figure out how a character has developed, I’m going to need to focus on significant moments in the play that have a direct effect on my characters.  For Claudius, I decided that I wanted to compare his opening speech in Act 1, Scene 2.  And his speech in Act 3, Scene 3 where he admits to murdering his brother.  For Gertrude, I wanted to do a more general comparison of the words that she uses when she speaks to Hamlet in Act 1(specifically Act 1, Scene 2) compared to the words that she uses when she speaks to him again in Act 3, Scene 4.  To do this I created a workset for each scene and used my compare worksets toolset:

Huh, so I created my worksets and tried to use my compare worksets toolset, and this is what I got:

In the main menu I had selected the compare worksets toolset and my workset that was Act 1, Scene 2.  Instead of this workset appearing in the First workset selection box, I got this error message.

Monk teammates, help? Have you guys gotten this error message before?

My interpretation is that the workset is so small that Monk is unable to recognize it as usable data.  I really hope this isn’t the case because I felt that this would’ve been a really good way of trying to figure out how Claudius and Gertrude develop as characters.

Well, I’m hoping that my next blog post will contain more results and success, as opposed to brick walls and frustration.  For now I shall go back to the drawing board and try to figure out how else I can use tool to my advantage.

Who will win?! Will it be Monk: the visually appealing text-analysis tool with too many limitations and pointless help buttons? Or will it be Kate: the angered but determined student who REFUSES TO BACK DOWN.  Find out in her next blog post!



Act 2 & TAPoR: Round 2

I concluded my last post assuming that my tool (TAPoR) wouldn’t be able to take me much further in analysis of act 2. After some reflection on that, I’ve decided that there really can’t be just one useful tool in TAPoR – that being the List Words tool. So in this post I’m going to bring the tools I’ve previously cast aside to the forefront, in the hopes that they can further push this analysis of act 2.

I have noticed in Phase 2, that having a decided theme to look for before using most of the tools within TAPoR is helpful. In Phase 1, perhaps because of the shorter text to analyze, most of the times this still seemed fruitless. All group members found the themes of surveillance, and spying as a central theme within act 2. In my last post I discussed the frequency in which the word “know” is used, and connected this to the overall theme of surveillance.

Below is a list of all utterances of “know”, and the line surrounding each utterance, generated by the Find Collocates tool:

– Above being scene 1, and below being scene 2

What struck me as interesting about this list is that “I know” is the most common phrase surrounding know. Sure enough, using the Word Pairs tool, “I know” comes up 5 times within act 2:

I’d be willing to bet that Polonius is the one who states most of these “I know”s. In my previous post I’d proposed that he is involved in so much surveillance as a means to stay relevant in the court. Going around and stating you know lots of stuff is certainly a way to stay relevant. Is there any program that has a tool that can quickly find who says what? Perhaps a fellow group member with a tool better adapted to this can respond.

While it may just be two new tools I’ve used alongside the theme of knowledge, these tools did effectively save some time. I’m not sure I would have even noticed the “I” connected to “know” on so many occasions using old fashioned close reading.

I believe it was due to working out this act with others that used different programs that inspired me to try and look passed the difficulties TAPoR can present, and just pull all I could out of tools. Fellow group member Kassidy noted in his last post that Polonius speaks on 68 different occasions in act 2. It was through this insight that I was able to use another tool in a way I hadn’t thought of before.

Below is the always popular list words tool:

‘Plns’ and ‘Hmlt’, are of course Polonius and Hamlet, but when written outside of conversation such as a speaker cue or stage cue. In the past I thought the inclusion of “plns” and “hmlt” was useless, but while the number is slightly off for Polonius’ moments of speaking (65 TaPOR shows), it is still getting the same information that Kassidy got from Voyeur. We discussed the fact that this ’65’ or ‘68’ would include stage directions such as “enter plns”, but nonetheless this allows the conclusion that Polonius is involved in this act a lot. This is information also helps the theory that it is Polonius who utters the most “I knows” within this act, and is therefore most concerned with the pursuit of knowledge through surveillance.

Also, I finally remembered where my knowledge on the theme of surveillance came from: a Dr. Ullyot lecture! Those of you from the 205 class last semester will remember this “Hamlet”  adaptation:

Hamlet Act 2 Scene 2

This clip from act 2 has Claudius and Polonius standing behind a one-way mirror while they spy on Hamlet’s interaction with Ophelia. Hamlet also becomes aware of being watched and asks Ophelia where her father is as he looks up into a surveillance camera. It’s Perfect visualization for the themes going on in this act.

Using TAPoR with Laertes and Ophelia

After discussing our Plan of Action further this morning, my team of Act one decided that we would each look at individual characters, and use our tools to separately analyze our people, and then collaborate our findings on Friday. As you can see from this link to our google doc, I was chosen to take a look at Ophelia and Laertes. The first thing I decided that I needed to do, was to isolate the lines of both Ophelia and Laertes, because if there is one thing that I know about TAPoR, it is that it does not like to tell you what character is saying the words that it finds. After I found a website with act one of Hamlet, I copied it onto a word document and began to tinker with it. I started with changing all of the speakers to abbreviations of their names, so that I would be able to tell when a person is speaking, and when somebody is saying their name. I saved it to my texts in my TAPoR account, and then decided to separate Ophelia and Laertes’ lines. Though Laertes has a few lines in Scene one, I only used the lines he speaks in Scene three, because my study is based more upon Laertes and Ophelia’s relationship rather than the one Laertes has with the Royal Court. The first thing I noticed immediately after separating their lines, is that it looked like Laertes was saying a lot more words and had longer lines than Ophelia did. So, using the find words tool, I investigated this hunch and sure enough, I was right. This tool showed me that even though Ophelia is in the scene for nearly twice as long and has more speeches than Laertes, he says nearly three times as many words. With the List Words tool, I also noticed that the most frequent word that Ophelia uses is the word “Lord”. She uses this title six times, once referring to Hamlet, and the other five times she uses the phrase, she is talking to her father and is referring to him as “my lord”. The over-use of this one word in a mere one hundred fifty two words shows us how obedient and how much respect Ophelia has for the men around her. Even with almost three times as many words, Laertes does not utter the word “Lord” nearly as often as Ophelia does. The only time Laertes does say the word “lord” is when, like Ophelia, he is talking to his father and calling him “my Lord”. It is interesting when you compare how these siblings refer to their parent, in such a formal, respectful way, to the way Hamlet so informally refers to his mother as simply his mother. You can see just how much they respect their father’s authority, whereas Hamlet has seemed to lose all the respect he had for his mother. This is honestly something that I never really noticed or thought of, and (I did not think that I would ever say this, but) I am really happy that TAPoR was able to enlighten me.

Knowledge and Knowing

Knowledge, in both its past and its present tense is a big topic in act two of Hamlet. Polonius is obsessed with the acquisition of knowledge about others, particularly Hamlet; on the other hand, Hamlet throughout a large portion of the play is seeking knowledge as to his uncle’s guilt relating to the death of his father, in fact his last soliloquy in act two ends with a plan that is intended towards the finding out of that same guilt. On this whole idea of knowledge and the gaining of it, the King and Queen also want to know something, what they want to know, is what exactly ails the young Hamlet.  The presence of surveillance and observation in Act II has been discussed a lot in my group and what after all is surveillance, but the gathering of information or knowledge.  Using voyeur’s Bubble Line tool I compared the words: Know, Known, and Knowledge; in doing this, I found out that the word know appears a lot more often than the other two do, it also appears in conjunction with itself in two points and in conjunction with knowledge in one point, whereas it is never in conjunction with known.  This leads me to believe that what is already known is not of the same importance as the desire to know things in Act II of Hamlet.

Above is the comparison of Know, Known and Knowledge using the Bubble Lines.

I also compared the same three words with the addition of the word, Unknown, using the word frequency chart, which in conjunction with the concordances tool on Voyeur is by far my favorite aspect of the program.  When I compared these four words I found that Known and Knowledge actually appear very close together near the beginning of the act.  I also found out the part of the act where the word Unknown is mentioned, none of the other three words that I searched for were mentioned.

Above is the Word frequency chart featuring the words: Know, Known, Unknown, and Knowledge.

From both the Bubble Line and the Word Frequency Chart, I have been able to glean that the word Know is used throughout the whole corpus of act II, showing that is definitely an important theme throughout the act and by its connection to the idea of surveillance and observation, I am fairly sure that it connects to my groups ideas regarding act II as well.

I Get By With A Little Help From My Friends- and Monk…

Today was the second meeting with my group on Act 2 and we spent our time trying to figure out ways in which our tool can be helpful to others and ourselves. I am pretty sure that Monk won’t be very helpful with picking up the slack compared to other tools, but I find myself at a large advantage in that every other tool will be helpful to me. Thus I will learn new things about all the other tools, and I can teach my group my frustrations.

I am having difficulty once again just comparing or looking at Act 2 effectively. So I have decided to branch out further and look at Act 2 with much larger parts of Shakespeare mostly focusing on the tragedies.  I have found that common words associated with Act 2 and tragedies such as Richard III, Macbeth and Hamlet as a whole in comparison to Act 2 and its different parts. I have looked at Richard III Macbeth and Hamlet while sifting Hamlet act 2 words throughout it. I can also see where these words are mentioned in comparison to other plays.



The findings show up as the most common seen throughout Shakespeare and then the other two plays as followed. I found that Hamlet is a noun that shows up most often, which does seem obvious since you are comparing words in Hamlet 2.1 to Hamlet itself, these words show up in black. The words which are more commonly seen in other plays than that compared to Hamlet would be seen as an under use in grey.



Some words which I found interesting would be the under use ones. Words such as God and grace appear in such high numbers, but when you look at the comparison between other plays it occurs much more often however, the word heaven can be seen as an overuse word. This is odd because these three words seem connected but yet there is such a strong disconnect between them as an overuse and an underuse. This makes me think once again of what the context of these words could be used, in this case I would like to ask someone in my group who is able to look at these particular words and see who is speaking them, when they are spoken and the context that they are said in. Once again Monk has done a good job at showing you something interesting but it has left it up to you to decide how to handle the information.


I then wondered if these overuse words or underuse words could have been noted in Naye Bayes discussion tree. I decided to look up the underuse words and see if the language could have interpreted it as something with a strong confidence or a weak confidence. At first I looked at God, grace and brother looking at Hamlet, 2.2, and 2.1 as follows. I was surprised to find that a strong confidence showed up for the word Grace in 2.2. I believe this means that the language used in 2.2 can be seen as language which strongly refers grace and other words associated with it. There was also a soft pink shade which with relation to brother and looking at 2.1 which means the language used could be found as a relation to the word brother.



Afterwards I switched to the more common words seen throughout the text and I decided to look at matter, passion and heaven. I found that heaven has a very strong confidence towards 2.1 and matter has a weak relation and passion has no relation.


I find it very odd that some words that were seen as an overuse had such a strong relation to it with words in the text such as grace. As well as words that were commonly found throughout the text shown up as weak, and a common word found such as passion had no reference to the words related within the text.


After my group meeting I meet with my fellow Monk friend Hannah. We compared the ways in which we are trying to be helpful to look at the tool and some issues that have suddenly come up. I know I can speak for the both of us that sometimes the saved worksets that you make won’t let you compare them with other worksets that you have made, it just shows up as a blank. We have tried switching computers, logging off and on, switching internet browsers, making a new project but nothing seems to fix this issue. Although I am happy that it isn’t just me that is having this issue but other Monk individuals as well.


I hope my relation to words within the text will be helpful in my group. I know I will still be dependent on my fellow Monk individuals to help overcome my struggles and see if I am the only ones having these issues or if it others as well. I am very thankful that I am not the only one using Monk and I am not the only one analyzing Act 2. I think for anyone to be effective we have to rely on one another and help others to understand our findings and help push others forward.

I had an epiphany :)

I have finally gained some greater insight to the benefits of text analysis tools. While referring to my first blog post from phase two last week, it was evident that I was struggling with the XML file. I tried again to figure out how Tapor works, but no such luck. So, after devoting hours and developing what feels like carpal tunnel, act 3 is completely hand edited.  Thank God Voyeur can do the rest of my work for me.

Let me say before I begin, that while being in English 205 last semester with professor Ullyot, I read Hamlet for the first time. I gained a surface level understanding. In attempt to analyze the text, In September, we flipped page by page, act by act while attempting to determine if Hamlet really was mad. Talk about old school. It wasn’t until this semester in 203, when I began to deeply analyze Hamlet with the help of Voyeur, that I gained all these great insights into the text. I just think it is amazing how a program is capable of analyzing the text, while bringing words, and other thought provoking ideas to the table. Sorry for the rant, but I am just amazed at my process of learning that these tools have evoked.

Now to be begin..

Act 3 is huge. We have the “to be or not to be” speech, Hamlet and Ophelia explore their relationship, some Guildenstern, Rosencrantz, Claudius, Gertrude, the players and the Mousetrap. In other words a lot of changes are made and a lot of drama begins. My first thought was revenge. Where does revenge appear in act 3? Well apparently not much. A total of 6 different times (revenge, revenged, revengeful). Not all that useful at this point. Today was a day in our meeting, where none of our programs could agree on the amount of times ANY word showed up.  In order to stay consistent, I put my faith in Voyeur.

Moving on, to begin the group focused on analyzing Hamlet and Ophelia’s relationship. There were two reasons for that:

  1. To define their relationship
  2. So we could determine on the same level, what each tool really could add to the analysis

Love was a word that was used 23 times between all of the characters appearing in act three. While concentrating on the scene where Hamlet tells Ophelia to go to a nunnery, Voyeur also picked up on the words honest and fair. However, Hamlet uses these worlds much differently than we do today.

Oxford Dictionary DefinitionÂ

I took the instances where honest and fair appeared and compared them while looking at their context. Since the box inside Voyeur is so tiny, i moved my information to word.

Copy and pasted honesty and fair side by side to compare

It was not until I looked further into Hamlet’s word choices, that I realized how often Hamlet used honest and fair. I have found recently that Hamlet constantly reiterates words as a way to either get answers from someone or to prove a point. Mad/madness is another instance in 3.4, where he keeps hanging on to this idea in order to prove to both his mother and himself that he is not mad. Hamlet’s unwillingness to stop hanging off ideas seems to be one of the biggest give aways to his ‘madness’.

Prior to analyzing Hamlet with the tools, I believed Hamlet had many reasons to act the way he acted. I never wanted to connect his actions to the assumption that he was mad. Again, with the help of the tools, by simply just analyzing Hamlet’s word choices and crazy tangents, its has become more clear than ever that Hamlet is mad. He is always scheming, and diverting his emotions off on to other characters.

Although Hamlet continues to treat Ophelia in a way less than what one would expect, it is interesting to see that Ophelia maintains her respect for him. After Hamlet makes a scene with the honest and fair ordeal, he starts up again and tells Ophelia “I did love you once”. Through the majority of the scene, Ophelia maintains her cool while using God and “sweet heaven” as external powers to ‘help’ Hamlet. Although she is concerned by his actions and words, she never turns on Hamlet or begins to treat him of a lesser value.

In order to further analyze Ophelia and Hamlet’s relationship, the extractor tool from Tapor would be very useful in separating these relationships from the rest of the play.


I’ve always wondered whether we over analysis texts; so much that we make premises and conclusions which maybe the author had no conscious thought of evoking in the minds of his or her readers. Take for example the meme above (Yes, I am a shameless follower of the University of Calgary memes on Facebook!). Could we possibly be reading too much into Hamlet’s speech or the color of Gertrude’s dress when Hamlet verbally abuses her in Act 3.4? Maybe Hamlet saying “to be or not to be” simply meant to be or not to be.

As I start off my analysis in the second phase of our group projects, this thought reoccurs in my head once more. What if Shakespeare, who is considered an undisputed genius of his time, had no deeper meaning to his works but wrote his lines solely for the sake of giving a voice to his characters? Is he lounging on a lazyboy in some other world, laughing at our struggle to analyze his plays?

This brings me to my second thought; would any text be worth reading if you didn’t have to use at least half of your brain to analyze the plot, characters, moods and settings? Maybe the author didn’t have a specific reason to make her protagonist wear blue all the time; but does this really matter? I feel that analyzing allows us to give life to the characters we are reading about; we feel connected to them because we have tried to understand them. Without analysis, words would just be words; insignificant and not worth remembering. I’ve read Pride and Prejudice so many times that now I can start reading from any part in the book and still feel comfortable with my knowledge of the plot. This wouldn’t be possible if I didn’t analysis Mr. Darcy’s reactions to Elizabeth’s remarks or Elizabeth’s conversations with Jane. Analyzing is the reason you feel engaged enough to finish a book, play or poem and in turn enjoy the experience.

Coming back to the realm of Hamlet, I have been assigned Act 3, which in my opinion is the trigger of the action that proceeds after Hamlet confronts his mother in scene 4. I find that from all of the characters in Hamlet, Ophelia is the one that I would like to better understand. This statement might sound odd for why would someone choose to do an analysis on Ophelia’s submissive and mostly predictable character when the analysis of Hamlet, good old crazy Hamlet, or the mercenary Claudius would prove to be more interesting? It’s because Ophelia is that submissive woman character that usually has a part in most of Shakespeare’s plays; it makes one wonder what the reason is for her to be that way. For my final Blog post in phase 3, I plan to do a character analysis of Ophelia using WordHoard.

Oh WordHoard, my old friend. Once again I find myself having to use WordHoard but this time it is to analyze all of Act 3 and I must say, this time around it is much easier than I expected. Maybe it’s because I’ve (1) suddenly acquired a talent which enables me to understand WordHoard, (2) have such low expectations of the program that even the slightest successes are magnified or (3) it’s just easier to analyze a whole Act rather than just a scene (I’m hoping for number 1!). My group members and I have decided to start off with a general theme which all of us will analyze using our individual tools. Seeing as I had to dissect Gertrude’s and Hamlets relationship in Phase 1, I was quite happy that this time we would look at Hamlet’s behavior and feelings towards Ophelia. As I plan to do a character study of Ophelia I find that this will be a great starting point for starting my research. As for our progress in Phase 2, we are still working on achieving the same results from all of the tools; a task which isn’t going too well. I had written in my older blog posts that the use of all five tools to analyze a text will be more beneficial because the shortcomings that one tool has can be filled in by another tool. I still hold true to this statement and hope (cross my fingers) that our research is indeed more insightful than that of Phase 1.

Words, words, words: Finding a Clear Focus

PART 2: Continuing on with the Plan of Action at hand and specific character findings

Continuing on from my previous post (check it out here!),  we decided as a group to focus on character development and foreshadowing.  I began to experiment with Hamlet and Horatio’s characters.  I broadened my experiment by comparing the specific words Hamlet would say and compare that to the context of what other characters were saying.  I was beginning to get frustrated because this was not giving me any specific results.  Today, during our group meeting, we decided to each pick a character and to focus on that character with our tool specifically ; discussing the pros and cons of the tools as well and how we could collaborate on Friday to fill in the gaps.  I decided to focus on Hamlet, Richelle will focus on Horatio, Dayna  – the ghost, Kate – Claudius and Gertrude, and Amy will focus on Laertes and Ophelia.  Similar to what I did with Act 1, I created another document of only Hamlet’s speeches, cutting out all of the other characters so that it looks something like this :

This way I was able to focus on what Hamlet was saying specifically.  Once I uploaded this onto Voyeur, I focused on the Word Cloud tool which gave me these results:

I noticed that sensory terms such as “eye”, “seen”, and “hear” are important terms as well as “reason”.  This is significant to the play because Hamlet is confirming what his senses feel in comparison to what he is seeing which relates to  deception – a larger theme within the play.  This ties in with the argument of whether Hamlet has actually gone mad or not in 3.4 when he can see the ghost yet Gertrude cannot.  Much of the first act gives us an insight into Hamlet’s reasoning and intellect.  In 1.2, Hamlet also foreshadows his father’s murder by Claudius when he says, “Foul deeds will rise, though all the earth o’erwhelm them, to men’s eyes.”  I found this quote when I searched the context that ‘eyes’ was being used in.  This line signifies a basis for the play because it also reflects Polonius’s actions when he creates lies to spy on Laertes and attempts to hide behind the curtains in 3.4.  I’m beginning to feel confident in this moment of Phase 2 because now my focus has become more clear and I am able to use Voyeur to my advantage.  In terms of the disadvantages I was going to say that the user cannot add words to the “Stop List”.  The ‘Stop List’ is a default list that takes away punctuation, conjunctions, numbers, etc., from the text that you upload so that you can have clearer results.  And like I was saying, I cannot add a word or remove a word from the ‘Stop List’.  But I was really shocked to find out that none of the other tools had anything similar to this so now I don’t see this as a disadvantage anymore.  I gotta say Voyeur has been pretty good to me – I just can’t look up lemmas.

Coming Together for the Sake of Madness

Group meeting number two has passed, and now I have a better direction of where to go. Unfortunately, I will not be able to follow up on my thoughts written in my last blog post ( )  because it was too specific to incorporate all my groups’ tools to explore. But that’s okay, hopefully I can use it for the final project.

Luckily, I figured out I had gone slightly too far in one direction after reading my group members’ blog posts and did look for more general information. After a ridiculous fight with WordHoard-in which I experienced several error messages and ended up moving the program into the recycle bin on my desktop, deleting said recycle bin and also going in to my control panel and deleting WordHoard from my computer’s hard drive only to re-install it- I was able to find something. Two somethings.

First, I randomly clicked something and found out I can separate speakers with WrodHoard and so search specific words specific characters use. This will be helpful for the group project. Also, I found that Claudius talks a lot. I searched- in three separate windows- thoughts, words, whispers. Claudius was the only character to use all three words, while Laertes, of the three words searched, only used “thoughts”.


This finding makes perfect sense. Throughout the act, Claudius is talking to everyone about what everyone else is doing/thinking and generally portraying people in a bad way, but being sneaky and manipulative about it. Laertes, on the other hand, is only worried about what people will think in relation to his family- his father’s death and rushed burial, his sister’s madness and death. But he also talks of action, doing something about what people think, while Claudius is changing what people think, but more subtly. This leads me to wonder what else of either/ both characters can be uncovered with the text analyst tools, which leads me back to our group work.

Like I said earlier, my group got together for our meeting and we hashed out a pretty good direction for our assignment to go. After discussing in our meeting general things we’ve found about act 4 using our tools, we set about figuring out how our tools can work together. As mentioned in my phase 1 presentation, WordHoard is better suited to be an intermediate step in an analysis process, so working with other tools is great. We’ve decided to use Tapor first, then Voyeur, which will generate words for my to search with WordHoard, and then Monk and Wordseer. This process means that all our work is intertwined with each others’ because it is also circular, linking back to Tapor again. And what, may you ask, is the point of this elaborate web of analysis? Well, we have decided to look closely at the relationship between action/consequence and life/death as experienced by individual characters. The characters we will be focusing on are: Hamlet, Ophelia, Claudius, and Laertes.

We will start by looking at how their own actions affect themselves, then how they affect those around them. (example: how does Ophelia’s drowning- assuming it is a suicide- affects her life, and how does it affect Laertes?). Once we have solid character traits and tendencies established, we will use Monk to compare these characters to ones in Macbeth and Othello just before the climaxes of those plays. We hope that this will shed some light on the theme of madness as a consequence to actions which affect life/ death. By comparing Hamlet to outside plays by Shakespeare, we can see not only if this theme in Hamlet is found in other texts, but also, if it is, if the characters in those plays are expressly defined as mad themselves.

Life Is Madness

As I do another read through of Act IV of the text of ‘Hamlet’ I find myself with a good couple of pages of notes broken down into what I find interesting or relevant. I know I don’t have everything the text has to offer and so I have produced a few questions in a hope to retrieve some more info.

The part of act IV that catches the most of my interest is the character of Ophelia. It is here where she goes off the deep end, losing herself in madness to go skipping around the castle while singing and passing around dead flowers. I really love this part of the scene because it is so poignant and poetic; I am immediately drawn to the visual and metaphorical niche she hold in regard to nature. In thinking of this I become curious if TAPoR itself is able to pull anything of depth out of what Ophelia does in the act.

At first, the results I pull are a bit disappointing. But then I see the first two frequent words: ‘come’ and ‘gone’. Looking at their context, I see Ophelia uses these words in reference to her father’s death. I think over the connection of the words and I can’t help but think about their reference to life and death. Reading the text, it is clear that Polonius’ death is the reason for Ophelia’s madness, but I come upon the impression that it is also caused by the thought on the futility of life…

Thinking back to 4.3 when Hamlet encounters Fortinbras’ army, I see that this is the answers my question as to why Hamlet is inspired at that moment: Fortinbras is invading Poland for nothing; he is sending his men to die for nothing. Hamlet sees the futility in this and is inspired to do something. TAPoR even demonstrates this answer  in Hamlet’s most frequent words:

Noticing the similarity between Ophelia and Hamlet questioning futility, could it be that ‘madness’ provokes this sort of existential questioning? This is something I may have to return to at a later time.

The main question I pull from Ophelia and her madness is its relation to the supposed madness of Hamlet. It is obvious that Ophelia is much more extreme in what she does. There are similarities I notice between the two, but I still wonder why she is more far gone than Hamlet when they both have the same trigger of death. This thought leads me to question weather Hamlet is genuine in madness, or is putting on an act. I resort to answering this query by searching the word madness and other related references. Here, I find that Ophelia is referred to as mad much more than Hamlet. The references to Ophelia being mad are more to do with her odd actions and speeches, as well as having lost her ‘wits’, where as the only references to Hamlet are in the use of the words ‘mad’ or ‘madness’, despite him having just killed a man…

In my exploration of some of the questions I found while reading, I have found that TAPoR has the ability to make me notice details I hadn’t seen before. In my results, I find a common connection having to do with the states the characters are in in regards to their situations, which just so happens to be the route my group is choosing to go down for our exploration of the act.

“Your search returned: 1345 results” Um, what?!

By now everyone knows that WordSeer has many useful functions, most of which have to do with word frequencies and finding words within a corpus. Now that we are able to isolate a single scene within Hamlet, my job has become significantly easier. Not only am I able to Read and Annotate one act, but I can apply it to either the Heat Map or Word Tree visual. Very effective!

In this example I used the word Hamlet and just looked at Act Two specifically. The heat map now shows where Hamlet appears in the entire act (in the first column) and scenes one and two (the second and third column).

This nifty little tool has been quite useful when comparing the scenes within the act. It is interesting to note the number of times Hamlet’s name is used within a scene—especially since his character does not even appear in scene one, but his name does.

Continuing on with the usage of Hamlet’s name within Act Two, I decided to take a look at the word tree—which, if you can remember from our Phase One presentation, did not prove to be very useful. Well, it took some time but I can know say I think I may have found a VERY interesting use for it after all. A word tree is automatically generated when a heat map is created and appears below. After typing in Hamlet into the search button and choosing Act Two, I scrolled down and saw this:

Now this may not look like much but let me explain. The word tree takes the word Hamlet and branches off with the most common words that are used before and after. This feature is great for looking at the context for which a word is used and I have found it most useful when using names, for example, Hamlet or Polonius.

Another part of WordSeer I have not written about previously is the collections feature. It is easily used and allows you to save your work in a collection folder—created by you—and keep all of your findings in one place. In terms of Act Two, I have created a folder that I can save all of my search results.

As mentioned in my group members previous blog posts, act two has a main theme of surveillance. When we had our group meeting today, we focused on what each tool could do when given a theme such as surveillance. Using synonyms, we generated a list of words that could be used—in Shakespeare’s vocabulary—to describe surveillance. Some of these words included: knowledge, know, see, spy, and listen. Using WordSeer, I decided to try searching the word knowledge; my results indicated that the word appeared one time. Somewhat helpful.

Next we tried searching know, instead. Our results all came back differently, depending on the tool used: 14, 35, and 26.

Either way, we are definitely making some progress; whether it is a tool suddenly creating somewhat useful graphics (TAPor), or a return result list of over 1345, at this point in our research any result is a positive one.

(I apologize for the ridiculous amount of screen shots in this post.)

New Beginnings and the Formation of POA

If you’ve been keeping up with Phase II Act I’s recent blog posts you will notice we have come across a new phenomenon called POA.  Thanks to my fellow group  member Richelle (check out her awesome blog post here!) we successfully came up with a focus for our group.  We will continue to discuss POA further on as we proceed with Phase II.  Now you might be asking yourself, what does POA mean?  POA is our plan of action.  POA is what will lead us to success within our second phase.

PLAN OF ACTION PART 1: The Obstacles

I used the xml file of Act 1 (click here to view!) and inserted it into Voyeur, my most valued tool.  Encoding words such as “xml”, “aker”, and “sp” were most used.  I went back into the xml file and, similar to what Katy did in the previous phase, removed all of the encoding so I could get clearer results.

However, I did not separate the speaker from when they are being the character is being spoken about. I discovered that Hamlet and Horatio speak the most throughout Act 1.  That seems obvious for Hamlet because he is the main character and also because he possesses the personality of an intellectual, constantly talking through each situation and calculating the outcomes, and also for Horatio because their [Hamlet and Horatio] relationship is established at the beginning. As a group we decided that the first act is where the characters are introduced and any foreshadowing for the play is revealed.  This seems easy, almost too easy.  And so we thought: what can we do with this exactly?  We decided the best thing to do would be to focus on character development in comparison to the rest of play.  Now that we have our plan of action in motion we can individually focus on our own tool and find our results from that.  In the next meeting we can then combine our findings and fill in the pieces with other tools that will narrow our findings.  For instance, Voyeur doesn’t allow me to separate the speaker from when they are actually speaking to when they are spoken about.  However, I can go to Dayna (the Wordhoard expert in my group) to do this.

What I decided to do with Voyeur was focus on one character, such as Hamlet for example, and focus on the specific words that they use and then compare the concept that the words are used in.  I think this will be a good way to show the character development when compared with the rest of the play.  So far, I focused on Hamlet and some themes that he is associated with such as “heaven” and “father”.  He uses the word ‘heaven’ often in vain compared the other characters such as Claudius and speaks of his father  the most within the first act.  Right now I’m trying to figure if I can compare more than three words at the same time from the Word Corpus tool.  The word corpus tool gives you all the words starting from most frequent to least.  I’ve noticed that if I flip to the next “page” of words that it gives me it erases the previous words I had highlighted on the frequency chart.  This is a little annoying but hopefully I can work it out with my group.

Word seer and the Final Act of Hamlet: Continuing to Narrow the Focus (Phase Two, Blog Post Two)

In continuing to research the text of Hamlet, while employing my tool of expertise, word seer, I have aimed to establish any potential discrepancies or factors that render the fifth act, my group’s act of study, as more “tragic” than the other acts of the play, or otherwise, the only
truly “tragic” act, alone. The focus of my previous post was to fixate on the distinction between my own interpretations, attained through critical closed reading text analysis, and those of word seer’s, while now it is my intent to narrow my scope even further, in concentrating my efforts towards what qualities—both  quantitative and qualitative—define the fifth act of Hamlet as significant as a single entity. In other words, my exploration of the text, both through traditional reading and digital assessment, will be geared towards uncovering clues or evidence to suggest how act five both differs from, and unifies the rest of the play, at the same time. Therefore, I will focus less on the digital tools and how they operate, and more so on the results they return, and how they may be implemented to suggest new conclusions and avenues for research.

My first objective was to segregate act five from the rest of the play, using word seer, and upon further learning how to do this, I will thus evaluate (using the functions of word seer) the comparison between act five, and the rest of the play. This will be my preliminary assessment, and I anticipate that I will have a sufficient indication of what words in act five will outweigh others used throughout the text, which could serve to exemplify certain trends worthy of further investigation, such as increased frequencies in one word that could potentially suggest the development of a motif that pertains to either the plot, theme, conflict, or tone of the text—all valuable quantitative fixtures with the
potential to support or discredit qualitative hypotheses. However, while I am still in the process of determining how to compare the whole play to act five alone, out of respect for the deadline of this post, I concentrated my efforts more towards seeing what I would be able to uncover from a word frequency analysis of the fifth act, alone. Therefore, my first order of business was to expand upon what I began in my last post, which was inputting the words, “soul”, “duty”, “life”, and “death”—words that I feel pertain to a revenge tragedy. last time, however, I was unable to isolate just the fifth act of Hamlet, and therefore was only able to observe how these words were concentrated throughout the entire play; now I am
able to determine their significance within my sphere of study—a large leap forward, in my estimation. The results of my search are featured below.

To my surprise, these words occurred in a relatively sparse concentration, thus, prompting me to consider alternatives in characterizing the theme of the text. I am pleased to comment, as a side note, that now that I am able to work with the fifth act, alone, I am more comfortable, and may be more efficiently discriminative in my research. Therefore, in response to my unexpected results, I felt obligated to try the same assessment once more, this time using the words “die”, “fall”, “revenge”, and “damned”, all words that may also be implemented to characterize both the theme and mood of Hamlet(this procedure is featured below).

Again, much to my surprise, these new inputted words demonstrated similar effects to the first set of words I worked with, although, to an even greater degree. What was most striking is the fact that the word “revenge” is only featured once throughout the entire final act of the play, which leads me to further infer that often the words most frequently associated with a text may not be the most appropriate or commonly recurring. Such changes in word frequencies, as my group colleague Stephanie explored in her blog post—in which she discovered that Hamlet’s motivation for revenge appears to wane towards the end of the text(as he refers to his father less and less)—may be used to raise new qualitative questions such as, “what is really is the number one thing on Hamlet’s mind as he nears his final confrontation with his uncle Claudius?” Stephanie’s work may be observed here:

Therefore, what I was able to obtain from these two assessments was a reaffirmation of my previous theory that, when considering text analysis, digital methods must be examined through a critical scope, while still serving as effective in shattering perhaps invalid preconceptions, such as how I initially believed that words such as the ones that I inputted were infallible in characterizing the themes of the text, whereas, I now recognize that I can employ word seer in a trial and error process of inputting new words that I think of in order to determine which ones could be implemented more effectively in describing the text as a whole, and more specifically, act five. Therefore, I will continue along with this inductive process, in aspiration of uncovering a new, insightful conclusion about both which words best define the fifth act, and what defines
the fifth act as a significant unit on its own, from a perspective of word frequency and usage. Essentially, I feel that the discovery of how to isolate
the act in word seer will greatly facilitate my research process, and I am quite pleased with it, to date, and will therefore continue to explore its
benefits as well as my new findings in my next blog post. In other words, I have narrowed the scope in this account more so than my previous post, and I attend to narrow it even further in using word seer, now that I am becoming more familiar with its functions.

Act 4 Thoughts…

The first official group meeting went rather splendid actually. I’m happy to say that I am in a group of keeners and we were all able to communicate our thoughts and expectations clearly. Saying that, the contract was easy to complete as we all wanted the same thing and the best part was that in order to keep everyone motivated on getting their tasks done on time- they would have to buy the rest of the group coffee if they didn’t do their work!


The great part about doing act four is that so much happens in this particular act in the sense that everything from the previous acts are finally tying together leading to the finale of the play. This is where I noticed a lot of character development. Going through the entire play, it’s evident that this happens earlier on, however, in this act you can see whose loyalties lie where and the secret backstairs world of the characters. It’s dirty, revengeful, and full of insanity!

Working with Wordseer, I know I shall have a lot of fun experimenting with what I can find in act four. There are many clues in the language that Shakespeare uses in giving the reader/ viewer an idea of what`s going on, but it will be interesting to see what Wordseer highlights as significant and if it differs from my thoughts or if it`s the same, helping me further analyse the act by certain words.

Something I`m hoping to focus on and find more about is Hamlet`s relationship with his mother, Gertrude. In parts of the play, the reader gets the hint of more than a mother- son relationship, where in this act it completely changes that thought when Gertrude is so eager to rat her son out to Claudius. I`m hoping Wordseer can better help me understand each characters relationship with other characters and who really are friends and foes. I already know this, but perhaps the program will lead me to other clues that might make me think differently.

In act four, scenes five to six, I find it highly amusing when Hamlet taunts Claudius of Polonius`s murder with word games, and saying that he(Polonius) was eaten by worms. This play on different words demonstrates different tones and tact of humor. This is something else that I`m hoping that Wordseer can put light on. The word tree will definitely come in handy as I can see related words which will give me the sense of what else Shakespeare could have meant when he wrote those words.

I`m looking forward to meeting up with my group again and seeing what other interesting things they find with their programs. Also, I`m excited to get in touch with my previous group again to see what Wordseer found for their acts.



Third Time the Charm

Going into the second phase, I feel more at ease then my first couple forays into the blogging universe/ the digital humanities world. I am excited to see how these tools will work together and how we can implement all our tools on our specified act of Hamlet. I was pleasantly surprised that my group was given Act Three of Hamlet, which, in all honesty is where all the “good stuff” happens. This act has the “get tee to a nunnery” scene, the play in which Claudius is called out for the murder of King Hamlet, and my favorite, the killing of Polonius(3.1.120). If it was up to me, he would be a goner a lot earlier but the “O, I am slain” makes up for the long awaited death(3.4.24).

The learning curve this semester has been immense, especially due to the fact that I have been thrown into a world I knew nothing about. Since my last post, I tried out running TAPoR on a different server, and the class was right, FireFox is WAY better then safari. My other newest finding is, that TAPoR is way friendlier when using XML. (Whatever that is).  For some reason I find that it is very picky when it comes to file type. I have been gaining a lot of new information about TAPoR, I had become friends with TAPoR. Being friends and working on our relationship together is going to help immensely when it comes to this phase. My mantra is now, “ I will be a fully functioning and capable member of my team”.

Going into this phase, I believe my tool will be the jumping off spot for the rest of the tools. I can do things like Highlighter, and CAPS finder that can help by pulling out certain themes easier then the rest. After talking to my group, I also realized that my extractor tool will come in VERY handy (that one tool still does not want to give in to my newly acquired computer skills). We also figured out that the extractor tool is the only tool that can break up the different speeches of different characters from all of the tools we have to our disposal.

There is not much I can say beside that; I am looking forward to working all our tools into Hamlet. I finally see the sun and feel that this go around is going to be much less frustrating and more rewarding. It might just be spring or end of semester or both but TAPoR and I can be friends.

My group and I have not had very much time in regards to figuring what new information we want to pull out of our act in Hamlet. So instead of me posting questions and queries I would like to research, I will post screen caps of TAPoR and I working together! YAY!




Naive and Decisive actually sums up a lot of MONK!

Phase 2, and a new light… hopefully.

Being the expert on MONK is a tough job. Luckily the bond that comes from quizzically hitting buttons and keys for 9 hours is not an easy one to break. My project screen looks well used and familiar-

The results go on and on. Do we know what all of them mean? Not really 🙂 but we like them.

Meeting the new group in person really revealed how much the other groups liked or disagreed with their tools as well, and the hope is that what one tool lacks, the others will fill. So far we have had an easy time agreeing on regulations and sharing stories, so things are looking good for acing this presentation in a different way than the first, (though my phase one group was completely amazing, and I will miss them).

As for MONK – let’s just say not much has changed, except – the Act! Act 3 is my personal favourite act. Insanity, insults, murder, confrontation, blood, more ghosts, and much more! Really though, it just always seems like the most action packed of all the Acts!
Monk is doing its best to help me support this idea. The word “madness” shows up nine times alone in this Act! Although I did discover a slight annoyance again. I could not get the program to look through a whole act, only through the scenes. So far this is only in “Edit Worksets,” so it could just be a glitch.

Other words that show up quite a bit? Time which shows up 10 times, and “Heaven” shows up 10 times! “Action” – 6. “Go” – 17. Death and murdrer show up quite a bit too, but or course the words pertaining to the future, and action-y words show up more often, which at the very least could tell us that this Act appears in the middle of the play.

I had a very cool discovery too! In the classification tool with NaiveBayes and Decision tree (which you either understand or you do not, there is not much in between) I was able to load my Act 3 workset, which features each scene of act 3 as a different document meaning I can compare them! This is perfect for this Phase!

I rated each act as either comedy or tragedy:

As you can see, scene 1 and 2 have slightly comedic tendencies, and scene 3, being of course about sending a man to heaven or hell, is not a comedy at all… and scene 4 is an absolutely confirmed tragedy, go figure. Anyway, I think this is brilliant! Let us continue…

Now all I have changed is scene 3 from comedy to tragedy:

This is amazing because it seems like Naive Bayes uses the document as points of comparison. Scene 1 is supposed to be less of a comedy than before if scene 3 is a strong tragedy. That makes sense! In conjunction with plotting the murder or the “King,” the word “King” in the first scene seems to be associated with much deeper, darker meanings… Intriguing…

I could honestly go on about this forever, but I doubt every one of my findings would be as interesting for everyone. In summary this just means that I have a way to directly look at all of the scenes together, and that is worth a lot! Anyway, our self assigned homework for the weekend was to read all of each other’s blog posts, and see what we deduce from them, what would work with each other’s programs, etc. The hope is that through self-education we will have a breakthrough in compatibility capabilities… if that makes any sense. I am looking forward to exploring more of my new discovery, and am really going to think about how it can help my group members; that is my self assigned homework for the week. At the very least I can show off my new discovery next time and hope that they think it is as cool as I do.

Until next time, Kelsey ^.^

Phase II: New Group and New Beginning

I am rather excited for Phase II, not only because of the awesome people in my group but also because we now have the ability to examine more text in a more in-depth way. I found in Phase I that while Voyeur is excellent at testing hypotheses, Voyeur is not a hypothesis-generating tool. It is difficult to come up with ideas about the play unless you go through and read it yourself. It is this method that our group is going to use first. By first reading and examining Act 4 without the use of digital tools we can, (at least briefly) divorce ourselves from our computers and focus on the text. I found while examining Act 3 Scene 4 that I often focused very heavily on the trees rather than the forest, losing myself in the details without the ability to focus on the larger context of the corpus. Hopefully by reading and taking notes on Act 4 before hand, myself and my group can find common themes with which to work and remind ourselves of the forest.

One advantage of now having an act to work with rather than merely a scene, is now Voyeur has more words to analyze and work with. I feel that every group will attest to this advantage. While Act 3 Scene 4 was an excellent testing ground for our various tools I think we can all agree that it is time to move onto bigger fish. Using my beloved Word Trends tool I examined Act 4 and was presented with this graph…

Plugging in the words “good”, “death” and “love” I am now able to analyze themes within the Act. As you can see, “good” and “death” seem to mirror each other. This revelation and others will be worth exploring in further detail as Phase II progresses. Simply because the two mirror each other does not necessarily mean that the two ideas are actually related to each other. It is also worth noting that “love” ascends in the latter part of the Act as “death” and “good” showcase a simultaneous descending trend and then suddenly rebounding back upward. What is responsible foe this trend? As I have not re-read the Act yet, I am unable to draw a connection between what is actually happening within the Act to understand why this occurs. Again, this is a trend worth investigating further into Phase II.

I am really excited to collaborate with the other digital tools after watching their presentations. I think that by working together we will achieve a more comprehensive and through view of the corpus then we ever would have been able to do on our own with our own respective tools. At the beginning of this course, I came out of the tutorials with a premature judgement of each of the tools already made up. I had decided which tools I liked and which tools I didn’t like and it wasn’t until each of the presentations that I achieved a grasp of what the digital humanities actually operated. The only way to really gain results in the digital humanities is to collaborate and cooperate. It is certainly possible to gain results using only one tool to examine the text however I would not advise it. My hope is that through Phase II we will each be able to use our tools best qualities as well as being able to rely on the other tools to make up for our own programs disadvantages.


A Start on Act 5

Out of all the acts in Hamlet, Act 5 is my favorite.  There is a great philosophical/humorous conversation with some gravediggers to start off the act.  Then, after Hamlet has his famous nostalgic conversation with a skull, there is a dramatic fight between Hamlet and Laertes in the grave of Hamlet’s supposed lover.  But the excitement doesn’t stop there! After an epic sword fight and a bit of poison, the entirety of the royal family ends up dead!!  I think my new button sums up the whole Act nicely.

"Fortinbras should arrive at any moment to turn this mayhem around."

Yet, as it always is with research, the most difficult part in analyzing this Act is figuring out where to start.  The group and I decided to begin by analyzing the Act individually with our respective tools.  The hope is that we will each discover some areas of interest worth collaborating on.

As the TAPoR expert in this group, I know one of the advantages I have is the ability to isolate certain speakers and areas of the play.  Keeping this advantage in mind, I began my analysis by using the List Words tool, as it always offers a good starting point.

List Words results for Act 5

The results of Act 5 did not offer much that I didn’t already know.  Obviously death is a major theme throughout this Act and the King, Hamlet, Laertes and Horatio all major characters associated with it.  The frequency of the word “know” was a bit surprising for me, but further examination with the Concordance tool informed me that it is used within the conversation of Osric, Hamlet and Horatio.  In this case, Hamlet and Horatio are repeating Oseric’s questions as a means to make fun of him.  However, I did notice that this List Words results were a lot different from my results in Act 3.4, where the focus is specifically on Hamlet, Gertrude, and her past relationships. This thought led me to inquire after Hamlet’s change in character throughout the play.  Wanting to explore this inquiry further, I decided to isolate just Hamlet’s lines and again use the List Words tool.  I also did the same with Hamlet’s lines in Act 1 to give myself a comparison point.

Results on Hamlet's lines in Act 5 (right) and his lines in Act 1 (left).

In these results, I was surprised particularly by the comparative frequencies of the word “father.”  In Act 1 it is mentioned 9 times by Hamlet, but in Act 5 in is only mentioned by him once.  I thought this result was interesting because Hamlet’s main motive throughout this act is to avenge his father, but he hardly mentions him in the moments leading up to, and immediately following Claudius’ death.  It seems as though Hamlet Sr. is no longer the main focus of Hamlet’s attentions towards the end of this play.  I do not think his desire for revenge has abated, but when I thought about Hamlet’s motives deeper, I realized that Hamlet kills his Uncle only after the death of Ophelia and his mother.  Perhaps it is this grief combined with Laertes’ confession that finally gives Hamlet the motive to kill Claudius.  This conclusion would then certainly indicate a change in Hamlet’s motive from the beginning to the end of the play.

As I work further with my group, I’m looking forward to seeing how we can expand on each other’s findings.  I believe the most difficult task will be narrowing all our findings into one conclusion, as there is a lot of information at our disposal and a large variety of tools.  It shall be an interesting process.


Let Us Commence!

I am planning on going into Phase 2 with a more optimistic mind set, instead of the angry frustrated version of myself.  Monk and I didn’t get off to the best start (and I do admit I’m still not the biggest fan of it), but it isn’t fair to me or my teammates if I just close off and don’t try to take advantage of what Monk does offer.  One of my teammates asked me today “what exactly does your tool do?”, “Nothing” was my immediate response.  Well we all know from my group’s presentation that that isn’t true!  It does do SOME things, and I shouldn’t disregard them.

For this phase, my teammates and I decided to focus on character development.  Since we were assigned Act 1, we thought this theme would work the best.  That being said we are unable to see how a character develops if we don’t look ahead to later acts in Hamlet, so it seems we’re going to have to dip in to other acts in order to help us get a better idea of how the characters that are introduced in our act will develop.

Hang on a second, this sounds familiar…..

If I wanted to analyze Act 1, and use other acts (or the rest of the play as a whole) as a reference….why yes! This sounds like my Compare Worksets Toolset!

These results actually look exactly like the ones I got when I compared Scene 3.4 to all of Hamlet, so it seems some tweaking may be in order.  In any case this is a decent jumping off point to begin Phase 2.  I plan on working hard to become even more of an expert of my tool, in order to make a good contribution to my group project.

And on that note, here is a list of questions that I would like to answer by the time Phase 2 is complete:

  • Figure out EXACTLY how the Decision Tree works (this will take multiple readings of April’s blog and many trials)
  • Answer the question, how can my tool contribute to my group’s project?
  • Answer another question, how can my tool work with other tools in order to get more in-depth results?  For this one I’m going to have to re-familiarize myself with the other tools in attempts to find a link between mine and another.
  • How to get the knot toolset to work (Come on Monk, at least allow me to use the visually appealing tool, is that too much to ask?).
  • Try and figure out if I can maybe focus on individual characters with my tool.  This will be especially challenging because not only would that be too small of a workset, but my tool is not accommodating to showing me who says what words.
    • The reason I would like to try this out is because that is my personal interest in Hamlet.  If I could focus on the character development of Gertrude in attempts to figure out if she actually knew if Claudius killed the King then I would be such a happy camper!

I think this a good start.  Throughout the rest of my posts for this phase I hope to answer or develop the questions and tasks that I have stated above, and perhaps come up with new ones.  Overall I’m looking forward to this phase.  I think that my team and I are going to be able to come up with some interesting results that we wouldn’t have been able to accomplish by simply reading the text (reading? What is this archaic method you speak of?).

In the Context of Things: How One Act May Be a Limited View

The third act of Shakespeare’s Hamlet is full of action, energy and great writing. It has strong character dilemmas, some death, powerful speeches and a play within a play. To most people with some interest and experience with Shakespeare’s works, this would seem like an excellent act and play to work with, but is it really enough to base writing on?

Until this point we’ve all been working with larger documents and even more diverse works, with work collections as big as the entirety of Shakespeare’s known works. I most often used the entire work of Hamlet as the basis of my searches on Wordseer, and with that I often got thorough and useful results, but when I started sizing down to searches focusing only on one act, even the incredibly diverse and action filled act that I and my group get to focus on, I’ve been getting less results than I care to admit and far fewer results than I would like.

One possibility is that this will be fixed when I can start to look at the collective tools working together where whatever small results that one tool can find will begin to raise questions for other tools to answer, and I think that this will happen, but even this approach limits the possibilities because no matter how effective a method you have for deriving information from data and no matter how intensely one scrutinizes their data, the results someone can attain are corrupt if their data is corrupt.

I say this because I think that looking at only one act might possibly corrupt the data that we recieve from doing so. For the uncaring this next part might be a bit technical so I’ll use point form to make it more clear.

  • A digital humanities tool is a survey tool that takes polls from texts to see if such and such a word fits under a certain description.

    • Imagine a text as a nation that we want to ask a question to, and all the words in that text as voting or polled individuals.

    • Every time I enter a search into Wordseer, I ask the individual words of the word population of the text nation “Hamlet” whether they apply to such and such a query. For example I would be asking them “do you describe the word “Ophelia”?” and, if they do, they show up in the results of the poll.

  • A survey tool has less accuracy with a smaller polled group.

    • So, if I don’t poll the entire nation of Hamlet, but rather, I ask the constituency “Act 3” or “Scene 1 of Act 5” I’ll get a less accurate result.
    • Within this constituency there are those that abdicate voting (a specific word is not used in that scene/act, but several synonyms appear in its stead) and those that are running for mayor are going to influence their friends and family into voting for them ( an artistic use of repetition over powers the results ) as well as many, many other small things that if the polling group were bigger would be less aparent and would skew the results less.
  • These same quirks and others like them occur all over the place in texts that make small changes which affect the interpretation of that text more as the text becomes smaller, and no one can anticipate or identify ally of those problems.

However, in the writing of this post, I have found that there are positives to polling a smaller sample size or to analyzing with a smaller text. For one, it clearly and effectively shows an opinion or result specific to that group or text, although that is clear in itself. For another, it clearly outlines the smaller, more specific quirks that I mentioned before, allowing for a clearer interpretation of literary methods.

Phase 2: The Beginning

Now that Phase two of our Hamlet in the Humanities Lab is officially done, it is time to start with the exciting, yet slightly terrifying phase two. Why so terrifying, you might ask? Well, it might be the fact that this phase of our project is worth so much more than the previous phase that may scare me. It could also be that we are expected to be an expert with our tools by now, and I feel as though Tapor is not the most useful tool to be an expert in. Fortunately this morning, my new group (those that are doing act one of Hamlet) officially started phase two together, and we discussed our ideas and concerns about this part of the study. We talked about phase 2, and what exactly this entails for all of us. After discussing our P.O.A., or plan of action as we decided to call it. We decided that using each of our individual tools, we would look at character development in Hamlet, and how the characters seem to change from the first act to the last. I am sure if you compared this act to a later one, you would not only be able to the change within the characters, but you will also see a difference in how the characters interact together. Although we are only supposed to be looking at act one, we all agreed that it would be really difficult to conclude anything about Hamlet without taking any other parts of the play into account. If we did only focus on the act we were given, we would not really be able to discuss any of the themes, the plot, the characters or really anything else that is present in the play. In the first scene, you really only find out the background story of the royal family of Denmark, and are only able to partially see everything this play has to offer. You could really learn all needed to know about the character relationships with this diagram. If we did only look at this first scene, we would maybe figure out the basic plot, and speculate on what would happen later on. This could potentially be useful, but it does not really go into enough depth that such a large part of the project requires us to. There is only so much the beginning of a story can tell you. That being said, there is one plus for being chosen to analyze the first act. Due to the fact that our scene not only introduces everybody to the play, but also introduces the plot and the complete background story of Hamlet’s family, it will be interesting to see what kind of foreshadowing Shakespeare included. I am sure that by using the word list or the find collocates tool that I will be able to find many interesting things that elude to the next acts of the play. I am not sure how exactly I will use Tapor to analyze the development of these characters, but I am sure that it will be an adventure none the less. It always is with Tapor.

MONK: Hilarious Hamlet

In the first stages of phase 2 of our group projects, I find I am more intrigued by MONK that I had been initially in phase 1, to say in earnest (but not unfounded) honesty. As promoted by the blog posts of the MONK group and throughout our presentation, MONK, as a text mining tool that focuses on statistical analysis and word frequencies, appears to be more cooperative in answering questions about a broader range of data. Though Act V is not as broad as MONK seems to wish it could be, I have found that I am indeed learning new information about Hamlet, Act V than I had known before.

My initial purpose in embarking on my analyzing journey was to discover what was unique about Act V, that I could not deduce from reading, but could learn from using the analytics of MONK.

In my blog posts from phase 1, I was left pondering the question of, “why does MONK, in comparison to all other tragedies, continuously notify me that it is only half confident that Hamlet is a tragedy?” With this question in mind, I endeavoured to determine if perhaps Act V participated in this strange inconsistency.

To begin, I defined my workset to contain As You Like it, The Rape of Lucrece, Hamlet, Julius Caesar, Much Ado About Nothing, and Act V.

Then, selecting my classification toolset and the newly created workset, I began to rate the the training and test sets. As can be seen in the image below, I rated As you Like it, and Much Ado About Nothing as the comedy training sets, and The Rape of Lucrece and Julius Caesar as the tragedy training sets. I left Hamlet and Act V with blank ratings, thus making them my test sets.

This is what I was returned with:


From this image it is easy to have the attention redirected to the fact that according to these queries, Julius Caesar is not a tragedy.

However, MONK’s lack of confidence in Julius Caesar being classified as a tragedy notwithstanding, where the attention must be drawn (as it took me a while to do so), is toward the fact that in a statistical analysis of the plays that are present, MONK has classified both Hamlet and Act V as comedies.

Feeling uneasy about my results, I went back to the user ratings, and removed those anomalies that MONK was picking up, and forced MONK to recognize Hamlet as a tragedy by rating it so.

These were the results I was returned with:

Both analyses were conducted on the basis of nouns.

In classifying Hamlet as a tragedy, and leaving Act V as the test set, MONK returned me with it’s classification that, with a 0% probability of error and 100% confidence, Hamlet is not a tragedy.

However, MONK does believe, that Act V is a tragedy.

The words I was most interested by in the data it used in determining its confidence in the ratings, however, was words like ‘blood.’

The first number displayed, 26.1241, represents the average frequency that the word appeared every 10000 features in the test set, Act V. The second number is the average frequency that the word occurred every 10000 features in the training sets.

From words such as ‘blood,’ MONK has determined that, based on average frequency, act V can be classified as a tragedy.


It was interesting for me to find that based on word frequencies and statistical analysis of noun features, in comparison to other works of Shakespeare, Act V can be classified as a tragedy and Hamlet cannot. Though it would be a worthwhile endeavour to attempt to figure out why MONK refuses to agree that Hamlet is definitely a tragedy, I find (it being my responsibility as a member of the Act V group for phase 2), I am led to research the cause of Act V being classified as more of a tragedy than Hamlet itself.

Because, to me, the subject matter and the words Shakespeare uses in telling the tale of Hamlet’s tragic story, it is difficult for me to understand its classification as anything but a tragedy. Therefore,  I have reached another understanding of MONK that I did not previously have in attempting to analyze 3.4. I wanted, so desperately, for MONK to see and understand Hamlet 3.4 the way I read it. I wanted to force it to read the words on the page in the order that they are in, and take the sentence for what it means.

However, it is this reading that we do as sensible, and feeling people, that leads to an analysis that is incomplete without tools such as MONK, and it is that reading that completes the pure numerical data, which is literally meaningless to any symbolic possibilities that exist in literature.

I digress.


MONK being a tool that uses pure data (and not emotion) in providing a classification, has yet to reveal to me the statistical reasoning for Act V being more tragic than Hamlet as a whole. Although my point here is not that MONK is unable to show me, it is that I have yet to fully understand the reasons it has provided me.

Reading the subject matter, it is rather simple for me to determine why Act V is tragic. The entire cast being wiped out is indeed, quite tragic. However, from reading that same subject matter in Hamlet, I cannot comprehend the reason why the play ISN’T tragic. From the interpretation of Hamlet losing his father, to have his mother marry his uncle, to find out that his uncle-father murdered his mother, and much more, is devastatingly tragic! My point here then, is that my reading and comprehension is not, and cannot always be correct. I would assume, as a university student living in Canada where all people have equal rights, that Othello is a tragedy. However, the audience that Shakespeare wrote for, not knowing a thing about racial equality would consider Othello a comedy.

The evidence of these are in the words, and in the probabilities that MONK discovers. It will classify Othello as a comedy on the basis of words, and in that same way it will classify Hamlet as a ‘half-tragedy.’

It is my hope that we, as the group analyzing Act V, can determine (undeterred by emotional bias) the true nature of Act V in relation to Hamlet by collaborating the various data we get from our digital tools.

I will from here, endeavour to determine why MONK tells me that Act V is so significantly more tragic than the entire text of Hamlet.




Phase 2 and still no light on the capabilities of WordHoard

So begins a new adventure in phase 2, trying to uncover a deeper meaning to Hamlet. I’m very interested to see how well the blending of tools will aid the understanding of the play and in specific if my tool will actually become useful.

To begin the process my group decided to each do our own general search of Act 5 so we have starting off points for an analysis. Playing around with WordHoard is always fun….ha! Not quite sure what to start looking for I played around with lemmas and decided that death and love are more than appropriate for this act as there is a funeral and well, everyone dies thanks to Shakespeare’s classic tragedies. Surprisingly ‘death’ is only seen eight times in both scenes and ‘love’ is seen ten times. One thing that was annoying when searching for the ‘love’ lemma was that I had to do two individual searches; once for it as a noun, and once for it as a verb. Nothing surprising came up when I searched these lemmas though, so that was a dead end for deeper exploration from my aspect

So I turned my searches towards looking at negatives and adjectives. I already knew the anger, sadness, and death that occurred so the fact that there were fifty-nine instances of the word not (or the negative) in the act was not surprising. What it did cause me to notice was that this program calls the gravediggers, clowns. Weird I know, they are given the description of clowns in the character list in our hardcopies but their role is of gravediggers. It would be interesting to see what play source this program pulled the text from because I’ve never read an edition with clowns in it. Anyways, Hamlet leads the way with his use of the negative by saying it 35 times, which just reiterates my analysis of him from act 3.4.

Adjectives on the other hand surprised me. Knowing that the act was a darker one I figured it would be hard to find good or positive adjectives but it was the contrary. The beginning was filled with positive adjectives and it was hard to find negative ones. In the middle there was a constant wave of positive and negative adjectives used amongst the characters. Finally at the end my initial thoughts were confirmed and the negative adjectives poured out during the final battle.

The last thing I looked into was the amount the speakers spoke in the act. Hamlet spoke 44% of the words, while the gravediggers (or clowns according to WordHoard) spoke an astounding 17% of the act. The other nine players spoke the remaining 39% of the act but none of them spoke more than 8% of those remaining words. I hope that makes sense and isn’t overly confusing….

Anyways, I still had the same annoying problems with WordHoard, having endless windows open, having to tediously build my searches because I’m not special enough to have an account. Hopefully my group members can help me find a use for my tool because my initial findings aren’t very helpful or deep.

(only half of the windows I had opened, scary)

The Game is Afoot…

Phase two, phase two! Yay! Alright, I’m already pretty excited about this. For one, my group is awesome! We all showed up for our first meeting, and are in agreement about how everything should be handled during this assignment. The only disappointing thing about this is it means that I don’t think anyone will be punished into buying coffee for everyone else. I am always up for free coffee. But it’s good that I’m confident everyone will be participating fully. Also, for this phase, I’m excited to finally get to use WordHoard in conjunction with other tools- this can only yeild better results.

What I’m not too happy about is that this blog post is due tonight. Because of work and school, I don’t have time tonight to really explore act 4 with WordHoard. (I am in fact writing this blog between school and work right now). What our group decided to do was to reread act 4 and try to draw some conclusions about it or a specific aspect of it on our own. With only our brains! And once we have these ideas formed, we are going to put them into our programs and see if they give us the same results or different. Everyone will have done this for our next group meeting so we can discuss how it’s going and share ideas about which tools should be used in which order to explore which aspect. It sounds a little complicated and roundabout, but this seems like the best idea to get us started- seeing as how we aren’t sure about the other tools yet.

Because- as I mentioned earlier- this post it due tonight and I’m pressed for time, I haven’t actually started exploring act 4 with WrodHoard. I’m really sorry about this, but during my break earlier today I was feverishly studying for a midterm this afternoon. But I have gone over act 4 with my brainpower and I have formed some conclusions.

There is a lot going on in act 4. I could tell you, but that would be rather redundant, as I’m sure you’ve read it before. Did you notice, however, that almost every character makes an appearance somewhere in act 4. except the ghost. This is curious, and I could explore this, except that I don’t really know where to go other than harp on about the question of how mad Hamlet is. No, I want to focus on something else. Ophelia. She’s rather interesting in act 4. She talks to Gertrude and her brother, but not Hamlet. She appears as mad, and then dies. Alright, this is something.

I don’t want to question whether she is mad- I want to see if I can determine if she alludes to committing suicide anywhere in the act, prior to dying. When she first comes in, she is singing a song about her father’s death, but then quickly switches to one about a girl spurned by a man she wanted to marry after she slept with him out of wedlock in an attempt to keep him. Did this happen between her and Hamlet? In any case, as soon as she’s done the song, she seems quite in control of herself and says “I hope all will be well.” (4, 5, 68), not implicating that she intends to kill herself, rather- so it seems to me- saying she will get over her father’s death with her brother’s help. At the end of the same scene (act 4, scene 5), Ophelia enters again, back to being upset at her father’s death. This time she ends with a “good buy you” (4, 5, 192), which could point to her saying a permanent goodbye to her brother, but doesn’t particularly feel like one as it lacks a certain emotion I would expect her to exhibit. After becoming so distraught with her father’s death, I would expect Ophelia to also be distraught at her own coming death and to have been more communicative with her brother. At this instance, she seems to flit into the scene, then flit out just as quickly. She never come again. We learn of her death through Gertrude, who tells us she has committed suicide, and who everyone takes at her word. This is suspicious to me because: a) if Gertrude witnessed what she said she did (Ophelia singing while drowning herself) why didn’t Gertrude try to save her or intervene in some way? and b) the king and Laertes both believe her without asking questions.

I think there may be something more happening behind the scenes here. After Ophelia leaves from her first appearance, the king and Gertrude discuss her, and it seems to me like the king is pretty much telling Gertrude it would be better for everyone if Ophelia wasn’t around anymore. This is quite interesting. I’ve rambled on quite a bit now, and I really have to get going, but I know where my searching is headed now. I’m going to use WordHoard to explore if there is sufficient evidence to assume Gertrude killed Ophelia under the king’s orders or not. I’m really hopeful about what my search can reveal- especially because the whole host of characters present will make the traits and tendencies of each character able to be compared to each other and more easily verified than if few were present. This will give me better evidence to suggest whether or not Ophelia was suicidal and whether or not the king wanted her dead.

New phase, new group, new perspective!

I’m feeling really positive about Phase 2.  I’m not sure if it’s just the excitement of actually being able to reap the rewards that the other tools offer or what, but I am feeling a lot less limited with our opportunities this time around and I’m ready to get down to business!

The main thing that was on my mind before our first group meeting was the act itself.  We have been assigned Act 1.  Everyone knows the standard outline for Plot Development.  You’ve got your exposition, initial incident, rising action, climax, etc. In my mind, it’s super difficult to analyze the first act because it’s kind of like the appetizer to the meat and potatoes of the play.  All the good stuff happens in the middle, so it would seem, and the first act is more about establishing the characters, the back-story, and the setting than giving us anything really juicy to actually analyze  (and now I’ve made myself hungry by talking about Shakespeare, great).

Sorry, I had to.

It was much to my relief that my fellow groups members had also been feeling skeptical about having Act 1 as our text to analyze, you can read Richelle’s post about it (written before we had our first team meeting) here.  As soon as we started discussing the situation as a group, we collectively came up with a solid game-plan by which we would tackle Phase 2. We like to call it our POA (plan of action). I know, we are pretty cool. There’s no need to be jealous of our POA.  I’m sure you have a great one too!

Basically our Plan of Action is this: we are going to focus on how the characters have developed throughout the play, but apply a comparison of these changes to our initial reactions to the characters in Act 1.  We are going to attempt to work our tools into a cohesive relationship in which they can all pick up each other’s slack, if you will.  By having this theme or question as an overall “umbrella” as Ruby described it, it really helps us narrow down what we will want to be searching for and determining as Phase 2 ensues.  We discussed as a team that staying strictly to Act 1 and nothing else makes it a bit impossible to analyze anything.  Concepts such as foreshadow and character motives can’t be pointed out if we do not know what happens later on in the play.  Since we obviously do know what happens later on, it’s not like we are going to just turn a blind eye and act oblivious to the rest of the play! If we take what we know about whom the characters develop into and compare it to Act 1, we can use our tools to analyze the journey from where they started and try to pinpoint the roots that lead to their fate later on in the play.

After seeing the groups in Phase 1 present all of the pros and cons of their tools, I’m really interested to see how everyone is able to make things work in Phase 2.  I wonder if all of the teams will use very similar tactics, or if the methods we all decide to use to combine our tools will be extremely varied.  I am crossing my fingers in hopes that we can find a happy medium between all of the tools so that each one finds its own role in our analysis. I think this way of approaching Act 1 by attempting to combine all of our tools will really set us up for success.  We are bound to run into some snags here and there, but hopefully putting our 5 minds together with knowledge of 5 different tools can really work to our advantage and help us analyze Hamlet to the best of our abilities.

Someone’s always watching

To begin analysis of Hamlet Act 2 using Tapor, I went to the one tool that offers the most information: List Words. Below is the list of words that came up, ordered from highest to lowest.

The word that caught my attention most was “know”. My first impression upon re-reading Act 2 was the same as anytime I’ve read Act 2. Polonius is a prize buffoon. How he managed to become a counselor to the king surely says something about Claudius… But back to “know”. Knowledge is something key within all of “Hamlet.” How this knowledge is obtained – or failing to be obtained – is very interesting.

Act 2 contains within it a lot of surveillance of characters upon characters. There seems to exist within “Hamlet” a constant pursuit of knowledge and truth in order to either justify actions, or to deceive for personal gain. Polonius, inflated windbag that he is, is certainly at the center of a lot of this surveillance, or spying.

Here is a list of examples of surveillance within act 2:

  •             Polonius on Laertes through Reynoaldo
  •             Polonius on Ophelia regarding Hamlets courting
  •             Claudius on Fortinbras through Voltemand regarding war with Norway – this is the only example that actually has any concrete reasoning behind it
  •             Polonius and Claudius and their original plan to hide behind the wall tapestry in an attempt to get Ophelia to bait Hamlet into admitting his madness-inducing love for her – this plan gets spoiled when Hamlet suddenly arrives, but still leads to:
  •             Polonius questioning Hamlet – and Polonius thinks he’s so clever with his snide little asides.
  •             Claudius on Hamlet (by sending Guildenstern and Rosencrantz – Hamlet doesn’t even have to twist Guildenstern’s arm to get admission of this)
  •             And finally, the arrival of the players at the Acts conclusion foreshadows Hamlets surveillance on the King during the play.

For a rather short act, I was very surprised to find as much spying as I did. What’s interesting about all these is that most of them involve either sending someone else in to spy for you, or of course Polonius’ go to plan: hide behind something! The curtain eventually does him in of course…

So why does so much deceitful spying occur? Considering that most of these are familial relationships, the amount of passive aggression and distrust is shocking. Did it ever occur to them to just ask each other about anything? Is this, perhaps, Shakespeare’s subtle way of addressing the politics at the time?

Using the surprisingly helpful tool “CapsFinder”, the allusion to Pyrrhus also comes up:

While the Trojan horse may not be as brilliant as hiding behind a curtain, or sending your servant (Reynaldo) to candidly ask strangers about your sons (Laertes) alleged gambling/sex addiction, it is still another example of deception being used to gain the upper hand.

So with my focus on the constant schemes to gain knowledge through secret surveillance, how can I use my digital tool, and fellow group member’s tools, to delve deeper? Within Tapor, beyond searching for words that occur around “know” or simply searching for synonyms, I feel it can’t take me much further. Lemmas would be a very useful tool – MONK or Wordseer? Voyeur/Voyant would definitely be helpful in producing distribution charts of where certain words (like “know”) show up. Also, if there’s any tool that can easily detect who says certain words, that would be helpful to. I have a feeling it’s mostly Polonius, being the delusory little blowhard that he is, who is mostly involved – Yet it is the surveillance between Hamlet and Claudius that is most central to the play as a whole.