Monday, June 08, 2009

Would Shakespeare have used a Mac or a PC?

My return to blogging is with a question. At Platt Fields yesterday, the humorous jazz-punk combo Mundo Jazz, posed it: "We never ask if Shakespeare used a Mac or a PC." I think it's time we did. Or, it's at least a useful starting point, for a discussion of our greatest writer. Of course, Shakespeare never used either, but neither did the fabled million monkeys with their typewriters. (As Cheeta pointed out in his autobiography, there's been billions of humans, and we still only produced one Shakespeare.)

Shakespeare is both poet, and playwright. His work is for page and stage, and somehow, despite the distance of years, retains an ability to be renewed in a way that even the best of his contemporaries can't. It's remarkable to think that he was writing before the Civil War, perhaps a Catholic under a Protestant Queen. For all his insight into the human condition, it is politics not love, that is his true forte in his plays. The sonnets are wonderful, but elusive, and not the wonder of literature that the plays are. (There are better love poets, in other words.)

Yet Shakespeare was not just genius but collaborator. We know he collaborated on some of the plays, but even when the words are all his, he was an actor's writer, working for and with a particular company, on a punishing timescale.

How would you describe a Mac user? Creative, individualistic, design-focussed? Yes, all of those, and Shakespeare could have used a Mac; but look what else he was, networked, collaborative, an artisan as well as an artist, substance, not style. His work is the work of a man using tools to get the job done, but needing others to be able to quickly read it, change it, amend it, share it. I'm going for Shakespeare as a PC user. An unglamorous tool, it may be, but it's what you do with the tool that matters. (Though I'm betting he's still using Word 2003!)

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