Infinite Monkey Syndrome

Date: 2012
Posted by: James R. Ford
Cast: Not given
Credits: Produced by James R. Ford
Duration: 1.30

A few months ago it was reported that US programmer Jesse Anderson had set up a virtual set of some millions of monkeys (using Hadoop), all of them tying at random on virtual typewriters, and had managed produce something that was 99.99% Shakespeare – the first text to be achieved in this way being ‘A Lover’s Complaint’. Anderson had cut corners however, because every time the random typing came up with words that roughly matched something from the Shakespeare canon then they would be retained, if not then discarded. With this and other constraints, Anderson could achieve his goal. The purely random production of Shakespeare by an infinite number of monkeys remains something for the philosophers and theoretical mathematicians.

Or for a videomaker. This droll piece, made by British artist James R. Ford, is an extract from a 9 minutes 8 second loop (therefore designed in principle to run forever). It shows us a woman in a monkey suit, typing Shakespeare, as the tags to the video tell us, because otherwise we would not know (a photograph of the typewriter on the artist’s website indicates that only gibberish has been produced – so far). Is is a Shakespeare video? I say that it is – and so it is (and just to make the point this post has been tagged with all of the plays and poems). A video to watch, infinitely.

Jesse Anderson explains more about his project on this video:

Vimeo page
BBC online news item on Jesse Anderson’s project
Jesse Anderson’s Million Monkeys Project
James R. Ford’s personal website

Cymbeline Lane

Date: 2008
Posted by: mcshnee
Credits: Created by Caitlin Boulter, Daniel Fry, Tristan Schumacher and Alex Tinker, music by David Evans
Cast: Alex Tinker (Imogen), Daniel Fry (Cloten)
Duration: 6.16

This intriguing and stylish Australian short film is decribed as “drawing upon characters and ideas from Shakespeare’s Cymbeline“, its subject being “the destructive nature of greed”. It is probably a work better experienced than explained, but it features an unhappy couple (Imogen and Cloten), dividing up the belongings of a deceased woman, which include a copy of Shakespeare’s works, hidden within which (at Cymbeline) are some banknotes. It ends with the reading of a will, at which the complete works is bequeathed “to my cherished granddaughter Imogen Cymbeline”. It is well acted, very competently shot (the sound recording is less clear) and all together it is most pleasingly mysterious. One to watch and then watch again.

YouTube page


Date: 2007
Posted by: lostfoxx
Credits: Created by lostfoxx
Cast: Dominic Kelly (Posthumus)
Duration: 4.12

This is a particularly strong Shakespeare video. Actor Dominic Kelly has produced this rendition of Posthumus’ bitter speech, “Is there no way for men to be but women / Must be half-workers? We are all bastards” from Cymbeline (Act 2 Scene 5) as a showcase for his talents, but he has made a proper film of it. Kelly/Posthumus is cycling through London streets, addressing the camera, which cuts between speech, shots of the bicycle and shots of the street (strictly speaking, when Posthumus speaks he is pushing his bicycle; when pedalling he is silent). The speech is therefore broken up by the mundanity of the urban scene, while the speech comes out as ragged mental notes that occur to Posthumus as he proceeds, an effect accentuated by close shots taken either side of him, and his repetition of the vices in man that woman causes: ambitions, covetings, change of prides, disdain, nice longing, slanders, mutability – as though he were arguing with himself.

As much care has gone into the creativity of the filming as the performance (which is good enough in itself). The actor works with the camera, which frames and ironically counterparts the character’s thoughts. The editing is sharp (with just a touch of the jump-cut Godard of A bout de souffle), and the city itself provides the background ‘music’. A fine piece of work.

YouTube page
Dominic Kelly’s personal site

Fear no more the heat o’ the sun

Date: 2008
Posted by: poetryanimations
Credits: Created by Jim Clark
Cast: Robert Donat (voice)
Duration: 1.34

A slightly unsettling animation in which a portrait of William Shakespeare is seen to deliver the ‘Fear no more the heat o’ the sun’ speech from Cymbeline (Act 4 Scene 2). The animation was created Jim Clark, who has made a speciality of creating similar animations of portraits of poets ‘reading’ their work (Wilfred Owen, John Keats, T.S. Eliot etc). In this instance, Shakespeare’s words are provided by a recording of the British actor Robert Donat. The image is protected at various points with a spoiler.

Jim Clark has also produced a similar animation of Shakespeare reciting ‘All the world’s a stage’ from As You Like It and Hamlet’s advice to the players, animated to a c.1919 Edison sound recording by Harry E. Humphrey.

YouTube page
Dailymotion page.

Cymbeline Etrailer

Date: 2007
Posted by: CheekbyJowl
Credits: Director of stage production Declan Donnellan
Cast (stage production): Gwendoline Christie (Queen), Tom Hiddleston (Posthumus/Cloten), Jodie McNee (Imogen), David Collings (Cymbeline), Richard Cant (Pisanio), Guy Flanagan (Iachimo)
Duration: 0.57

eTrailer for the Cheek by Jowl production of Cymbeline, which played at the Barbican, London, 24 May-23 June 2007. In form the short trailer comes across almost like a silent film, with dialogue-less glimpses of highspots of the action, interspersed with titles giving lines from the play, and then critics’ comments.

YouTube page