They are some of the most famous lines of poetry in the English language: ‘Shall I compare thee to an iPhone 4? / Thou art more lovely and less breakable.’ Yes, as that startlingly prophetic piece of poesy makes abundantly clear (I will accept my prize either as a cheque or in coupon form, Costa), this week brings word via The Bookseller that Faber is preparing to release a complete digital edition of Shakespeare’s sonnets.
Following the model of its previous digital release of T.S. Eliot’s The Waste Land – which, having made back its production costs in six weeks rather than the previously projected year and met with great acclaim, can reasonably be said to have done ‘quite well’ – Faber is releasing the sonnets as an iPad app.
Like any good sequel, the app promises the same basic thing as before, only more of it: where The Waste Land was supplemented by video footage of Fiona Shaw reading the poem in its entirety, the sonnets will be taken on by several actors, including David Tennant, Patrick Stewart and the returning/sole surviving original cast member Shaw, very much the Ellen Ripley of this particular franchise, apparently. Anyone care to put money on former Time Lord Tennant being assigned Sonnet 57?
On top of these filmed readings, the app will also include the complete notes from the Arden edition of the sonnets, filmed commentary from Shakespearean authorities including Arden’s general editor Katherine Duncan-Jones (taking time out from her acclaimed comedy partnership with Iain Duncan Smith, alas) and a facsimile of the Quarto edition of the sonnets dating from 1609.
It’s a hefty investment for Faber, all told – word is the project’s total collaborative costs are in “the low six figures”, with five of said figures put up by Faber itself – but all signs point to it paying off down the line. And if this be error and upon me proved, / I never writ, nor Amazon ever killed.