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- http://digitalriffs.blogspot.ca/2012/01/electric-current-of-imagination-what.html?showComment=1334169799982


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.

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.

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

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.

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.

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.

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.

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…

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.

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.

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!




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.


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.

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.

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.

TAPoR vs Teresa: Round 2

From my first foray into TAPoR, I was left feeling extremely discouraged and very frustrated. Being the only group member without yielding any results besides, finding a few capital letters, made me feel a bit heartbroken. I do, however, have to announce that this second go with TAPoR has been showing me positive results. I still cannot say, that TAPoR and I are on great terms but we have definitely made progress in our relationship. Instead of only getting error messages 100% of the time, I now get them about 50%. I mark that as a huge step in the right direction.

The very aesthetically pleasing word cloud and I have become fast friends. It always works without error and I can manipulate it by taking out words like: “the”, “and” and “but”. The word cloud tool does exactly what it sounds. It makes a pretty colorful cloud with different sized words. The words that are most commonly used in the text are bigger then the words who were not used. This tool is definitely a tool to use as a jumping off spot at the beginning of your research. I was able to pull important words from this and then using the same words to look at a deeper meaning within the text.


This, unfortunately, is where my progress stopped since the other tools still refuse to succumb to my persistence. As I was working through my problems with the program, I have found some interesting facts of the good parts of the program and its limitations. The most important piece of information I have gathered is that TAPoR is a program that you need to use more then one of its many tools. By just looking at a word cloud, the research and information you gather is unfortunately useless, unless you utilize the other tools. Concordance, and collocates are tools (if they would cooperate) I would use next to continue on my research path. I have yet to get them to cooperate but I am sure that they will cave eventually.

From working within my group another piece of information I have gathered. That is, no matter who, when and how, it is hard to get the same results as your team member. Matt and I noticed that we had different findings using the caps finder. Even though we both used the same version of Hamlet (the URL from the Hamlet blog) we ended up having different results. Being curious, we decided to do a group caps finder. We used the same tool, at the same time, with the same URL, to see what results we will gather. Not only did our computers lag but, only 2 out of 5 group members gathered the same results. Thus being said, I only found this a small frustration then my initial run of the program last week.

Besides the caps finder giving us different results, I find TAPoR starting to work well with digitally analyzing text for us, beginner digital humanist. This as a good method to quickly pull out quantitative results without having to slave over an act; saving us time without the need of our trusty highlighter, highlighting the all common themes and words. Who knew a computer program can do that for you in a blink of an eye? However, this tool, to me, is still only a supplement that can help your research NOT the substitute to the actual text.

For now, I believe I am on the right track and I am finding some results. Questions are definitely being answered and work is moving in the right direction. Feeling more confident then before, I see the light at the end of a very long dark tunnel.

Some comedic relief for the computer discouraged, here are some error messages I have received since my last post. Enjoy 🙂

Using the Find Collocates Tool in TAPoR

This week, TAPoR has been working a lot better for nearly everyone. After playing around with this tool for a while, we were able to learn the strengths and weaknesses of TAPoR. Deciding that my favorite tool was the collocates tool, I decided to play around this with it, and to see if I could master it. With the taporware find collocates tool, you can look up a word that you might believe is significant, and see what words are used with that word most often. Fortunately, this tool was one that actually worked, and the results that it came up with were actually quite helpful. After playing around with this tool, tossing in random words to see different results that I would get, I decided to try to look for something a little more specific. While talking about Act three Scene four of Hamlet, my group and I discussed how there were many references to different senses, and uses of the words eyes and ears. So, branching out on this development, I used other tools first, like the word cloud and the list word tools, to decide which word would be best to look at. The word “sense” was used 7 times in this scene, compared to the word eyes that was used almost as often with six mentions. Deciding that these two words were very important, I looked up both words using the find collocates tool. To use the find collocates, the only thing you really have to do is type in the word you want to study, and pray that it works. These pictures show where you input the information, and the results I got from using the word “sense“, and then using the word “eyes“. As you can see, the word that has been used with the word “sense” the most often is the word “sure”, and the word “feeling” is the most common word connected to “eyes“. This information is a helpful start point, but unfortunately, it doesn’t help you to find meaning behind the words used together. The find collocates tool also, unfortunately, does not show us where these words are used within the act. To find them, we either have to guess the exact context, or find the use of these to words together some other way. Another thing that I wish this tool did, was tell me how many times the word “sense” and the word “eyes” were used. Although I know how many times in the scene it was mentioned from other tools, it would be nice to have that specific information included in the tool. Despite these few flaws, I do really enjoy using this tool. It is simplistic enough that a technologically incompetent person like me, can figure it out, considering all you really have to do is enter a word and press the submit button. However, as simplistic as it is to use, I also found it very helpful while trying to find themes within this act. Its definitely one of my favourite tools.

Using the List Words Tool to Begin Anlyzing Act 3.4

TAPoR has a wide variety of tools that perform various functions, though not all of them are helpful in analyzing Act 3.4.  As a result, our group decided to each pick one tool in TAPoR that we found particularly interesting or useful, and use it to examine Act 3.4.  The tool that I choose is List Words.  It does exactly as the name implies, it takes all the words in a document and lists them according to frequency.  I thought that this would be a useful way to examine the speeches of Gertrude and Hamlet separately before comparing them.

In Jennifer\’s blog post last week, she made note that WordHoard is a hypothesis-testing machine due to the specific way in which it functions.  For opposite reasons, the List Words tool in TAPoR is a hypothesis-generating tool. It is a good place to begin on an examination of the act because it takes into account the entirety of the document and displays results in a linear, easy to read format.  However, you are not able to identify the context of the words.  To do that you would have to then input specific words in to the “Collocates tool.”

One of the strengths of the list words tool is that it easily eliminates words like “it,” “as,” “a,” which are referred to as “Glasgow” stop words, making the results a lot more manageable to look at.

Tool Broker Window for List Words

A weakness is that it does not eliminate speaker indications and stage directions.  To ensure that those words did not turn up in my results I had to manually create a special document that included only the lines of speech.  I did this my simply copy and pasting results of the XML extractor in a word document, manually deleting the parts I didn’t want, and then saving the document in a plain text format. This process worked successfully and gave me the following results when used with the tool:\

Gertrude's lines on the left, Hamlet's lines on the right.

From these results I started to make conclusions in regards to the relationship between Hamlet and Gertrude.  The first thing I noticed was that Gertrude references Hamlet by using “thou,” “thy” and “Hamlet” a total of 17 times, as opposed to “you” which is used only 8 times.  (I got the results for “you” by changing the search parameters on the “Words limited to” space to “All words” because “you” is one of the Glasgow stop words omitted by my first search).  On the other hand, Hamlet addresses his mother using “you” a total of 37 times and “mother” 7 times.  These results suggest that Gertrude is a lot more formal towards her son, while Hamlet is a lot more familiar.  As such, Hamlets continuous addresses of “good mother” and “you” are used as a sign of disrespect, displaying his shame at her recent marriage to Claudius.

Another thing I noticed was the use of verbs by the two characters.  For instance, the verbs that Gertrude uses multiple times include “speak” and “come,” while Hamlet uses verbs like “make” and “look” the most.  I believe that this quantitative examination of word usage is indicative of the characters motives in the scene.  While Gertrude’s motive is to convince Hamlet to disclose the reason for his strange behavior, Hamlet’s intention is to make Gertrude feel guilty by forcing her to reflect on her actions over the past few months.

Overall, List Words is a fairly useful tool.  It has shown me the difference of tone and motive in the two characters, but to gain further understanding of the scene I would have to use List Words in conjunction with the other tools that TAPoR offers.

A Slight Success With TAPoR

*Edited to correct a mistake in interpreting the use of ‘thou’ and ‘you’. My apologies, and thanks to jenniferbist for pointing out my flaws.*

In my last post, I did a bit of complaining on the subject of how I find TAPoR restricting and limited in its use of word lists. I’ve tried to move past my initial frustration and to proceed with an analysis of Act 3 scene 4 of Hamlet in an attempt to find what I have decided to set out to do, mainly:

  • What is the theme/ mood of this scene?
  • What is the relationship between Hamlet and Gertrude?

To find answers, I launched right into entering the scene into the list word tool to isolate and sort through the words used and their frequency. From my own reading of the scene, it became apparent that the main focus is based on a confrontation. The list of words gives me a result that lives up to this idea:

As is shown, the word ‘thou’ (and its related ‘thy’) is the most used. I find this relevant because the usage of ‘thou’ is one with a sort of personal note, with a sense of being involved in closer relations than ‘you’ gives. This use of ‘thou’ is something that already gives me a feel for a mood- it is a serious conversation where there is an attempt to be personal in pleas.

A frequent word which points me to a possible theme is the use of the word good:

What I first notice is its distribution: not only is Hamlet the only character to use it, but it is used in higher frequency near the end of the scene.

Another interesting thing I found is that Hamlet’s primary use of ’good’ is to refer to the night:

Now, these discoveries bring up new questions for me about the scene: why is the adjective used frequently near the end of the scene? Why is Hamlet the only character to use it? What is the purpose of this repetition of ‘good night’. I don’t have an answer to this from the tool alone, but it has allowed me to find these details which I had not previously noticed. With these results in mind, I may go back to the text in a hope to find more there.

For the analysis of the relationship between Hamlet and Gertrude, I resort to comparing how these two characters address one another.

In looking at how Hamlet addresses his mother, he never refers to her directly by her name, but rather by her titles of ‘Mother’ and ‘Lady’:

An interesting thing I notice (again) is Hamlet’s use of the word ‘good’; he uses it twice to refer to Gertrude:

These results show me that Hamlet is communicating to his mother in a formal way.

Gertrude is informal in her adressing Hamlet at the start, using ‘thou’:

She is the character who uses the lemma ‘thou’ the most, being the personal character in the scene. The distribution drops off and it seems she becomes much less informal, communicating to her son in pleas and using his name personally. Gertrude’s use of adjectives towards Hamlet are few, using ‘sweet’ and ‘gentle’:

Also shown is that Gertrude does refer to Hamlet in addressing him with an “Oh!”, in a voice which reminds me of plea. What she communicates in those lines shows that indeed, she is making a plea:

The results I pull from the scene are lovely to find. They are limited, yes, but the word lists provided allow me to focus on specific words and results I will look at again in another close reading of the scene, allowing my mind to be enlightened a little more than it was before. I can see that the scene does start out rather formal in the relationship between the two characters, shifting slowly to a more personal tone.

Hamlet’s madness via TAPoR

The shift in tone and demeanor of Hamlet within Act 3 scene 4 is fairly easy to notice. In the opening stages of the scene he is forceful and confidently lecturing his mother. By the scenes end he seems disoriented, and intensely trying to defend his sanity to his mother and get out as soon as possible. This shift occurs directly after the ghost has exited and Hamlet is coming to the realization that only he was able to see the king’s ghost (unlike the first time the apparition appeared). The timing of Hamlet’s shift in demeanor indicates a crucial moment for conclusions (for or against) regarding his madness – as the ghost is definitely a central figure to this argument.

The short questions Hamlet directs at his mother seem to be a sobering moment for him: “Do you see nothing there?” (3.4.133) “Nor did you nothing hear?” (3.4.135).  Is he questioning his own sanity here? Sparknotes, in the 3.4 summary, suggests Hamlet is desperately trying to convince his mother that his madness is an act. They go on to state that this is a “point in the play where audiences and readers have felt that there is more going on in Hamlet’s brain than we can quite put our fingers on”. TAPoR directed me to this desperate speech of Hamlet’s while using the highlighter tool to search for “madness” – he states it 3 times within only a few lines; This repetition indeed comes off as “desperate” – and desperate perhaps because it is not just Gertrude he is trying to convince, but also himself.

Following this, Hamlet is flustered, as if his thoughts are somewhere else. His mother asks about her divided heart, and Hamlet seems to respond in a rather uninterested way: “Oh, throw away the worser part of it, / and live the purer with the other half. / Good night.” (3.4.160-162). This response is a far cry from the Hamlet of just a few moments ago who was vehemently trying to force his mother to notice the godlike features in Hamlet Sr. that Claudius lacks.

Hamlet then (he seems to forget that he just stated “good night”, as if to leave) goes into a rant asking his mother to stay out of Claudius’ bed. He then utters “good night” 3 more times before actually exiting the scene, each with haphazard thoughts thrown in between. In the latter half of this scene we see Hamlets lines are far different from the forceful, and confident ones he uttered when he first entered. While he is still at times passionate, and definitely just as shocking as his earlier lines had been, there is something different. He has become introverted, and, as the several utterances of “good night” indicate, he is urgently trying to leave. This is a pivotal moment with the play in which we see Hamlet himself seriously questioning his sanity.

I have intentionally left out any mentions of TAPoR (besides the highlighter tool) up until this point for two reasons:

  • As my fellow TAPoR colleague, Kira, pointed out in her first blog post, “the tool is pulling my focus away from the text I am analyzing”. Upon finishing my first blog, I realized that I had barely read from the text itself. I wanted (and felt it necessary) to come to conclusions with a healthy amount of quotations directly pulled from the text. This leads to my next point.
  • The second reason TAPoR hasn’t been mentioned that much, is because I didn’t use it to directly come up with any of the thoughts I have mentioned.

As contradictory as it may sound with the above statement, TAPoR was still a crucial piece of engaging with the text as much as I have. This stream of thought would not have played out had it not been for my intrigue upon first seeing the distribution of the word “good” in the List Words tool as pictured below.

The reason “good” occurs so much in the latter stages of this scene is, of course, because of Hamlets consistent (and disheveled) stating of “good night” before jumping right back into a rant.

To paraphrase something Professor Ullyot mentioned*, the way TAPoR worked most effectively for me in this analysis, was simply as a new platform to produce thought provoking ideas. The quantitative analysis produced from TAPoR may have not been very in depth (I am only a beginner after all) but it did produce some extensive close reading and qualitative thought. TAPoR may not have been present the whole way through my working out of Hamlet’s madness within this act, but it definitely helped stir my interest and come up with an argument.

After this analysis I would conclude, based solely on the evidence gathered from Act 3 Scene 4, that Hamlet is slipping/has slipped into madness and is not just acting.


* I think he stated something along these lines. I thought it was in a blog post, but I could not find it anywhere… maybe a class discussion? If anyone can remember let me know, if not, Professor Ullyot, sorry for putting words in your mouth!

About the Developers

A few people have asked about the contact information for the developers of our various tools. As I said in class, remember a few things before you contact people for help:

  1. Describe your problem in detail, and ask clear and focused questions. Tell them what steps you have taken to try to resolve it yourself.
  2. Be polite and deferential. They are not customer service agents, but professors and experts who have devoted a lot of time to developing these tools and making them freely available to us.
  3. Give them at least 48 hours to respond; if you have nothing by then, take that as your answer or just keep waiting. Don’t send a follow-up for at least a week.
  4. Thank them for their time.
  5. Link to the course blog in your e-mail.

The Developers

Feel free to add other names of helpful people you’ve contacted in the comments; just make sure you tell us which program they were helpful about.


  • Geoffrey Rockwell has a contact page on his blog. He is also on Twitter.
  • Stéfan Sinclair also has a contact page with a form, and here is his Twitter profile.
  • Martin Mueller is the contact person; you can e-mail him directly from the home page.
  • Rockwell, above, is listed as their main/only contact.
  • Kamal Ranaweera <kamal.ranaweera {at} ualberta.ca> manages user accounts.
  • Aditi Muralidharan’s blog has her e-mail and Twitter details.

Trials and tribulations of Tapor: Teresa Vs Tapor

Going into this project I am filled with anxiety and a little bit of trepidation. Not only because it is a huge chunk of my final grade but also, because I am completely computer illiterate. Knowing that I have been taking out of my comfort zone made for some short nights and restless sleep.

TAPor is the program I was assigned to work with to analyze Hamlet Act 3.4. As I am the type of person whom needs the most user friendly program to work with, and Tapor is definitely not one of them. My initial goal was to use the program to figure out if Hamlet can see the ghost of King Hamlet or, if in Act 3.4, he had a psychotic break and is on a downward spiral. My initial goal was quickly switched to, “ how to use this program?”

My group and I had sat down to get acquitted with TAPor and play around to see how it all worked. I am sure TAPor could smell my fear because while everyone in my group were getting results, all I kept getting was error messages. It was funny at first until I did not have a positive result during this stage, then humor turned into frustration. The main thing I did realize during this play around stage is that TAPor has a ridiculous assortment of error messages and it is very rare to get the same one more then once. I banged my head against the desk and wished that the developers put more time into making their program user friendly, then devising a wide array of error messages.

I am not one to give up so I took a day’s break to clear my head and start fresh. Thinking that if I were not afraid of it, it would play nice and give me results. Boy, was I ever wrong. I continued with my original question of, is Hamlet actually crazy in the scene with a small hope that a days break TAPor will work. I enlisted my fellow group members to help me isolate words and themes to find patterns and yet again, all I seem to get was an error messages. From the dozens I have received I have compiled a few of my favorites that are worth noting.


With my lack of computer skills crushed and my large part of my final grade on the line I refuse to cower to a computer program. I stopped trying to isolate certain words to help me figure out my problem and started to see if any of the many tools would work. After what seems like days, TAPor cooperated with me! It gave me a list of words that have capital letters.


How will this help me, or anyone else, trying to analyze Shakespeare? I do not know, but it was a start on the right path. This was a small victory against a computer program that wants to make me sweat about a subjected that I have always loved and enjoyed.

Once I got my list of capitalized words, I could not help but notice that, while some people would think the interface was dull and lacking color, I liked the simplicity. It may have only been my reaction after days of struggling to get the program to work or if I genuinely liked the look. It is definitely way too early for me to decide at this point.  But as I continue the daunting task of working with/against TAPor, I hope my progress improves and that I can proudly say I have mastered TAPor by the end of term.

Thoughts on TAPoR analysis of Hamlet 3.4

The most noticeable thing about TAPoR is its seemingly infinite amount of unique error messages, and lack of user-friendly design. When analyzing a text, if I use more than one tool per session, the error message: “Sorry, you are trying to access a private text. Please login or contact the owner of the text for permission” is shown. TAPoR also helpfully supplies an analysis of the text within this error message with whatever tool I was trying to use.

Besides this interesting quirk, another issue is using TAPoR on such a small part of Hamlet (Act 3 scene 4) as opposed to the full text. This renders the most visual tool, Fixed Phrase, useless. “Visual”, on a side note, is a very generous word to describe this tool. Below is an example of using Fixed Phrase to search the word “look” through all of Hamlet vs just act 3 scene 4.

 One positive use of TAPoR is the CAPs finder tool – a tool that finds all capital letters, excluding those at the beginning of the sentence. It allows you to easily find the allusions made to Mercury, Jove, and Mars (3.4.57-59).  It is not without its flaws though. Due to the tool excluding the beginning of sentences, it misses the allusion to “Hyperion’s curl” made in line 57.

 The most useful tool on a small space of analysis is the List Words tool. This tool, when sorted from highest frequency to lowest, shows the most common words found within 3.4. Excluding character names, the most common words are “thou”, “look”, and “good”. What is most intriguing about this list is the distribution of the world “good” within 3.4. Of the ten times it is said – and mostly by Hamlet – it is almost entirely after the ghost has come and gone.

You’ll notice that the distribution graph mysteriously ends after the first 5 words. It is the same when analyzing the full text, and unfortunately the word “good”, although said a lot throughout Hamlet, does not get a distribution graph. This makes any comparisons between words in 3.4 and the rest of the text a little discouraging.

From conversations within the TAPoR group, we decided the two most important themes for this scene are Hamlet’s madness, and his relationship with his mother. The distribution of the word “good” – being that it mostly occurs after the ghost advises Hamlet to calm his mother – along with the fact that it is Hamlet saying the word to his mother 9/10 times, hints that there is something to gain from this analysis for both themes. The theme I feel it most strongly says something about is Hamlet’s madness, or his false madness.  Whether or not the word is used as a simple pleasantry (as it often is with “good night”), doesn’t affect the importance of this analysis. His repetition of the word after the ghost’s appearance suggests that he is either trying to convince his mother, himself, or both that all is “good”.  My first tentative conclusion is that Hamlet is questioning his own sanity due to the fact that his mother was unable to see or hear the apparition he believed was in front of both of them. His reaction is to hastily bumble several “good nights”, as well as several other mentions of being “good” and calmly drag Polonius’ corpse from the room as if nothing is wrong.

More quantitative research will be needed to confidently assert this. Searches, frequency, and distribution of synonyms (such as “fair”, “well” or “fine”) could help prove or disprove this conclusion. Close reading, and more qualitative analysis outside of TAPoR (before trying to work with this information within TAPoR) will help form my next post.



My experiences of what TAPoR can do, and what it can’t

TAPoR, although filled with gadgets and gizmos, is unfortunately, not very user friendly. Trying to work with the different tools, just to get used to the system and the layout of the program, was quite an adventure. With all the tools available, it is very intimidating trying to find data. That, mixed with the fact that this system is extremely temperamental, and that only certain tools work with the format, makes for a very difficult investigation. Through multiple attempts, and almost just as many failures, I learned that the only tools that will not come up with some sort of “error” message, are tools that end with (html). As well as that, I cannot seem to use my saved texts in the tools, and I have to resort to using a url. This is fine, except for the fact that some words that are not included in Hamlet are included when using these tools. For example, when using the tool TAPoRware List Words(html), words that Shakespeare definitely did not use, such as “email” and “cite” ,were included in the results. Another issue with this specific tool is that only the first five most common words used were shown what their distribution was. This is really quite pointless, considering the first two words are the names of the speakers, and the others are common words that don’t give us very much insight into the text. It would be a lot more useful to show the distribution of all of the commonly used words so that you can compare when they are used.
Besides the fact that this program has many issues and an arsenal of error messages, it is really not that exciting. After using different TAPoR tools for a long length of time, I find myself having to go to the bottom of the tools, and use the word cloud from Voyeur just to add some color to my life. As well as aesthetically pleasing, the word cloud tells me all of the information the List Words does, minus the dispersion of the first five words. Why can’t an actual TAPoR program be like this? Instead of listing words in monochrome colors and boring fonts, they should maybe try to focus on making the program a bit more fun to use. After they fix the program so that an error message doesn’t pop up every second attempt, of source. That should be their main priority.
Although the system has its flaws, and it lacks excitement, there is one thing I do really like about TAPoR. I think it was a really good idea of the creators to exlcude all of the stop words in their tools. The TAPoR tools do this automatically, and it does make it easier to find themes and connections without all of the words that we really don’t need to look at. With the Voyeur Cloud, words like “and” and “the” show up as the most used words, which we really don’t care about. You can change the format of this tool around so that it does exclude all of the stop words, but without help finding it, I would have never known that option was available.Hopefully, next week will be more about the text, and less about the program.

Initial Frustrations and the Hopeful Search for Results with TAPoR

For the analysis of Hamlet 3.4, I have been tasked to work with the tool TAPoR in order to pull out some results. To be perfectly honest, I am not happy with this tool so far (as you may have guessed from the title…). I suppose I should start by explaining that I am not a computer person; I prefer doing a close reading of a text with my own mind rather than with a tool. But then again it is nice to try new things, so I figure I may as well try. Granted, not all new things go over well. This is one of them. The limitations I am finding in the tool far outweigh the things it allows you to do. So far, the limitations I am noticing are:

  • The obvious lack of the human imagination. It’s all data, data, data when it comes to a machine, meaning you will miss out on a sort of open minded analysis. I am noticing that the tool is pulling my focus away from the text I am analysing. I am focusing on the results I pull rather than pulling out my own ideas from the text. This makes me feel as if I have blinders on and I’m only able to view the text in this narrow frame of view, unable to grasp everything that is being said by the play.
  • This is a tool which is very user unfriendly, making it a very frustrating thing to work with. I am not saying this simply because the layout is a tad bit dated, but it is sometimes incapable of processing the analysis you want, and instead gives you many error messages.
  • When I am able to have results produced I am unable to save them. I know saving is possible to do because there is a space on the work bench for saved results, but I can’t find anyway of saving my results. What I’ve had to do so far is copy and paste the results into a document and save it like that.

The tools you are able to work with have their own problems, in that they do not do much in the way of analysis results.

  • The tools I have been fiddling with are the word cloud as well as a listing of words, both of which are useful in pulling out key words and themes, but that their extent. I am given a list of words and I am left sitting here thinking “okay now what do I do with these?” I would find it better to go through my text with a highlighter, where I could pull out the same results.
  • The number and distribution with the list of words is lovely, but unfortunately it only shows a distribution chart for the first few terms listed.
  • Searching words is a tedious task, as it does not search through lemmas. Rather, I have to search related words individually. Which, needless to say, is a pain. But I’ll say it anyway.

In general, TAPoR is very much a qualitative tool. It can analyse a text with various tools which produce a list and number of words. With these words I am tasked to sort through the list and find similarities in usage. In the end, I must go to the text and pull out quantitative thoughts with what the text is saying. The one obstacle I have to overcome is that of shifting my mindset away from my own close reading, and letting the tool pull out the key terms for me. From there, I suppose I would go to the text with those results in mind and attempt to pull out a deeper meaning.

It is my plan in analysing scene 3.4 to use my tool to answer two queries:
1. What is the mood and theme of this scene?
2. What is the relationship between Hamlet and Gertrude?

It is my task to figure out how I will go about answering these questions using my tool and hopefully it will produce results that are less frustrating than the tool itself. Wish me luck!


The Frustrations in the Process of Discovering TAPoR

Admittedly, I was not thrilled to be using TAPoR for the first phase of this project.  From our work in the workshops, I was mainly interested in the potential to turn text into visual graphs and tables.  Sadly, TAPoR’s strengths do not lie in this area.  For example, TApoR’s List Words tool allows you to find the number of times a word appears in a text.  However, the results do not come in a pretty diagram or table, just a boring table:

List Words Results

In a way, TAPoR reminds me the first version of Widows Vista, it has lots of buttons and useful features, but it is not very user friendly, particularly to a person like myself, who didn’t even know the difference between XML and HTML until a couple of weeks ago.  Safe to say, finding a place to start was a bit of a daunting task, but the group and I decided to start within the physical text to find a question to focus on.  In my case, I decided to explore the relationship shared between Hamlet and Gertrude.  I believe that Hamlet’s feelings for his mother differ from Gertrude’s feelings for her son, and I want to explore the ways in which TAPoR can help me further examine and prove this theory.  However, before I begun to tackle this obstacle I wanted to isolate Gertrude’s lines from Hamlet’s to examine each individually, a task that has become my central problem over the last few days.

The problem with TAPoR is that it has many available tools, but to a person just becoming familiar with analysing texts in the digital humanities, reading the titles and descriptions of the tools is a bit like reading a foreign language.  For instance while going through the tools I came across the Tokenizer Tool:

After reading the description I was still slightly unsure as to what the tool did, but it sounded like it might help with my task and I decided to try it.  When I did, I was confronted with a screen that asked me to fill in attributes such as the “Tags,” “Token type,” and “Token type option,” the only problem was that I had (and still have) no idea what any of those mean.

After reading the help icons, I put in some information (above) that I assumed correct and was presented with 0 results.  It was slightly disheartening, but I continued spending the next 15 minutes trying different variations of words and googling unfamiliar computer terms.  Unfortunately, I still achieved nothing and was left feeling very frustrated.

It was only after going through my notes that I remembered Professor Ullyot mentioning the “Extract Text (XML)” tool.  After putting in the information as follows:

I finally got a result that isolates only Gertrude’s lines in Act 3.4.

It was at this point that I came across another problem: how to save results.  The Rockwell video mentions saving results to the data bench via the research log, but I have been unable to find the research log function he referenced.  Instead, I have been copying and pasting results into a Word document to keep track of my results.

My experience continues with various setbacks and frustrations, but I am hoping to continue exploring Gertrude’s and Hamlet’s relationship by looking at the distribution of words in their individual lines as well as the shared words and collocates between the two of them.  Hopefully I will come up with some rewarding results.