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.

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…

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!


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.

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.



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.

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.

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.

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.

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.



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.


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.

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.

Unto the Analysis Once Again…

I go into the second phase of the analysis of Hamlet with a tad more anxiety than the first. I had grown comfortable in my tool group, what with the support and shared understanding of the TAPoR tool. But now I am thrust into another group with new people, while being expected to be the authority in how my tool works. I have to say that this is the source of fear; I don’t know how useful TAPoR will be along side any of the other tools, and I don’t know how much info I will be able to pull out of the text. However, I must move past this anxiety and proceed in my analysis.

I have been tasked in this phase to pick apart Act IV, something to which I am excited to do. I find act IV to be one of the more interesting acts, as it is here where things begin to come together. The characters begin to come face to face with situations they must deal with, full of anger and pent up emotion, which will lead into the fall of act V. My group’s intended route of progress is to begin comparing our interpretation of the act as we read it for ourselves and then compare what we pull from that open minded close reading to what our tools may give us.

To begin, In re-reading the act, a thought passes through my mind: I think that act IV may be seen in itself as a small, condensed version of the play; there are situations of confrontation, declarations of revenge, plotting, with everything to be wrapped up with a profound instance of the relation between madness and death.

The themes presented seem to be common enough to notice: there is reference to nature- as seen in relation to Ophelia, and even in the questioning of where Polonius’s body is- as well as references of blood and revenge, life and death and, of course, madness.

With a rough idea of the scene in my mind, I go to TAPoR and see what it can pull out. To be honest, at this early stage, there isn’t much. The list words tool (with which I use as a starting point) doesn’t show much in the way of pointing out the themes and references I notice while reading. In fact, the three most frequent words are a bit dull and have nothing to do with the things I found while reading:

Although, these results do give me a mood: it seems this act is one with much confrontation and planning, both building up towards the end of the act. What the distribution shows me is that these moods begin especially around (as is shown in the distribution of the words ’come’, ’let’ and ’shall’) the centre of the scene, when Hamlet has his conversation with Fortinbras which motivates him to take action.

As with my analysis of Act III.iii, TAPoR leaves something more to be desired with the analysis of the act. So far, it only gives me a limited view, having me miss everything that is being said if I only were to analyse using the tool. The frequent words used do not really give me a good insight: the distribution visual of the common words is lacking after the first five which are listed, leaving me lost in the significance of the other words used through the act.

My next steps will be to play with other tool in TAPoR, after going again through the text to pull out some more things to compare. It is my plan to break the act down into scenes and analyse them individually so that in the end I may stitch the individual results together to find something more significant than the general results I have pulled as of now. I realize that this may also be achieved by working with the other members of my group; with all the results we pull individually, we will be able to fill in the gaps each of us encounters with our tools, hopefully allowing us to have a successful insight into the whole act.

New Hopes For New Beginnings!

As sad as I am to leave my previous group members, I was pleasantly surprised at how well my new group meshed together! I have nothing but high hopes for us, as we all seem to have the same ambitions and goals in regards to how we will do with this project. It was no surprise that upon reaching the question in the contract for our anticipated mark, we all said with big smiles, “A+!” I mean, who isn’t aiming for the best possible grade?
Organization seems to come easily to the other girls, which coming from someone who doesn’t naturally have that skill, I am very pleased to say the least. An agenda that we plan on making before each meeting time is sure to keep the ball rolling, and it will make sure we use our time together to the best of our abilities. Procrastination being my middle name, I am thankful to have the necessary pressure of a timeline to keep me focused. Ironically, after I wrote that sentence I focused my attention on “Ellen” for a solid ten minutes. Tsk tsk, will I ever learn?
After rereading Act 4, our designated area of study, I analyzed it more carefully and began to see sort of a pattern within the text. This act is all about anger and harsh tones spoken amongst the characters. Gertrude begins the first scene by explaining the murder of Polonius to Claudius, and how basically there is no hope left for Hamlet. The exasperated feel we get from Gertrude is passed on to Laertes when we see him learn about not only his father’s death but that his only sister has gone completely mad. Exasperation turns to anger, which is followed by the intense need to get revenge on Hamlet for what he has done to him and his family. Claudius participates in Laertes anger by expressing his suspicions against Hamlet who he feels is trying to take the throne from him. A murderous plan is developed between the two characters, and the scene ends with the same amount of anger and anxiety as it did begin with. After seeing the continuing displays of anger, I figured this may be a good start to using my good ol’ faithful (ha!) program Monk to analyze the act more deeply.
Potentially we could use our programs, more specifically we could use Monk, to compare the amount of negative and heated words that are found in act 4 and see if the same feeling is evident amongst other scenes. Although Monk is designated to be used for larger texts, I feel that since we will be comparing this specific act to another act, they will roughly be the same size which should help with producing useful results.

In regards to what my fellow group members may be able to do, I suppose it depends on the specialty that their programs revolve around. Either way I feel like we will be able to get a well rounded amount of results which will help us get right to the bottom of analyzing act 4.