Remediating Shakespeare

The effect of the writing,sound,and video on the message


My project focuses around the three words Text, Audio, and Video and how the message of a text piece can be affected by being remediated into audio and video. The piece I am focusing on is William Shakespeare’s Sonnet 18, one of his most well known poems. Because of its popularity there are hundreds of readings of it online both in audio and visual form each with their own unique take on the piece. In this project I hope to illustrate specifically can change the focus of a message when it is remediated and in doing so better understand how to stick as true to the original message as possible when transferring it to another medium.


Before the advent of the alphabet and writing, knowledge and stories were passed down through oral tradition. A person could only receive specific knowledge by being in the same place and time as the teacher who possessed that knowledge. Writing allowed for knowledge to be recorded and for the knowledge to be accessed repeatedly after it was recorded. However before the creation of the printing press books and texts had to be copied by hand leading to a shortage of accessibility to books. But with the invention of the printing press in 1440 texts were able to be published and distributed for mass consumption. History’s most famous playwright knew several printers in his lifetime and in 1609 the book “Shakespeare’s Sonnets: Never before Imprinted” was published for the public to enjoy. Sonnet 18, one of his most famous poems, is able to be enjoyed in text the same way today as it would be enjoyed in 1609.

Shakespeare's Sonnet 18

Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?
Thou art more lovely and more temperate.
Rough winds do shake the darling buds of May,
And summer’s lease hath all too short a date.
Sometime too hot the eye of heaven shines,
And often is his gold complexion dimmed;
And every fair from fair sometime declines,
By chance, or nature’s changing course, untrimmed;
But thy eternal summer shall not fade,
Nor lose possession of that fair thou ow’st,
Nor shall death brag thou wand’rest in his shade,
When in eternal lines to Time thou grow’st.
So long as men can breathe, or eyes can see,
So long lives this, and this gives life to thee.


The first sound recording device was invented by Thomas Edison in 1877. The phonograph cylinder was the first device able to record and reproduce sound by engraving the sound in grooves on the exterior of a wax cylinder. While these cylinders were only able to be played a few times before breaking today’s technology is able to digitally reproduce songs and speeches limitless amounts of times. A popular attraction for owners of mp3 players, and other music playback devices, is the audiobook which allows for books to be heard spoken with emotion and clarity while their eyes may be demanded elsewhere.

According to Marshall McLuhan, in his book Understanding Media, "the content of any medium is another medium". Interestly enough in this case, speech is the content of both the text and the audio examples of Sonnet 18. The difference between the ext and audio mediums is who the "speaker" of the poem is. By reading the poem themselves the reader is reading in their own voice. But when being read to, the listener is subjected to the Interpretation of the reader. The ability to reproduce sound allows for the pauses in the poem to be better experienced and gives the listener the sense of being read to rather than reading the poem themselves.In this example Sonnet 18 is being read aloud by two seperate readers with two very difference accents. The examples also differ in timing and level of emotion. Along with these two examples there are multitudes of different readings of this poem online by people who read in their own unique voice and tempo. The voice and personality of the speaker become part of the message.

A reading by famous british actor Tom Hiddleston

A reading by my less famous friend Shane


The kinetoscope was the first form of technology that would allow for moving pictures to be watched by one person at a time. It was built by the Edison company in 1891. The first people to show a film for an audience was the Lumiere brothers in Paris in 1895. Their film reel were 70 meters long which when cranked through the projectors only amounted to about 50 seconds. Films of that day did not possess synchronized audio and were often accompanied by live music while any dialogue was shown on screen. The first film with synchronized dialogue was the Jazz Singer in 1927 with the audio be played on a record on an invention called the vitaphone. Today consumer devices like cameras and phone cameras are able to both sound and video at the same time. With or without editing software people are then able to take their videos and post them on sharing sites like Youtube or Vimeo for anyone to see.

In this case, a video must rely on text or audio to reproduce the message without risking misinterpretation. Trying to reproduce the poem through visuals alone would switch the focus of the piece to interpreting the visuals for their meaning rather than the meaning of the poem itself. Even with audio or text present the reproducer still has a great amount of creative leeway in what visuals and extra layers of audio they use to accompany them. In this specific example I chose to associate the poem with iconography from a summers day, particulary flowers, but I have seen interpretations that have background focusing on the romantic themes of the poems and some that have no background visual at all. In my video I tried to use music that was not distracting from the text on screen. To further go along with the summer's day theme i placed the sound of birds chirping in the background. Unintentionally the video now appears to be more about the appearance of flowers than then Shakespeare's sonnet. Because video is a visual medium it is difficult to remediate a text peice with out distorting the meaning of the text or even changing the subject. The layers of audio in video further complicate this by inserting more oppurtunity for creative differences between seperate remediation.

this is a secret

Concluding Thoughts

In order for consistency of the message of an object to be maintained through remediation it is important to consider the content of the new medium as well as the level of complexity. In this case the content of the text and audio is speech which allows for better the original message to be better maintained. Video, while having to rely on text or audio or both, is a multi layered medium that has much more potential for personal interpretations to be interjected into the message.


Sonnet 18 from "Shakespeare's Poems Never Before Imprinted"