Richard II

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


Date: 2008
Posted by: Christopher Merrill
Credits: Filmed by Christopher Merrill
Cast: Christopher Merrill (Bishop of Carlisle)
Duration: 1.11

Intense rendition in an unflinching close-up of the Bishop of Carlisle’s speech, “Worst in this royal presence may I speak, Yet best beseeming me to speak the truth …” from Richard II, Act 4 Scene 1. The performer is American Christopher Merrill, who has published several such recitations. The intimacy – or absence of restraint – that YouTube once again encourages the creation of a closeness between performer and screen unlike any other form of screen Shakespeare (but not perhaps a closeness between performer and audience?).

YouTube page