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.

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