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Word by Word Channels the Twitterverse to Rewrite the Complete Works of Shakespeare

The infinite monkey cage theory posits that if you place a monkey at a typewriter, and then send him hurtling around a temporal möbius strip, he will eventually hit enough random keys in the right order to produce the entire complete works of Shakespeare. Thankfully for monkeys and theoretical physicists everywhere, the only person to have ever actually tested this theory was Mr. Burns, and he isn't a real person.

There are, of course, other ways to dip a quill into a swirling pool of chaos in the hopes of reproducing Shakespeare which don't involve animal cruelty or the manipulation of time. Now, just in time for the Bard of Avon's 400th birthday, one has surfaced. It still involves a typewriter, but instead of a monkey, it employs an even more volatile, unpredictable poop thrower - Twitter.

The Word by Word project was set up by Twitter and Shakespeare's Globe Theatre in London. On Thursday May 5th, a very special typewriter was installed in the historic theatre's foyer. This typewriter doesn't use fingers to type, it uses tweets. In this instance, it scans the entire Twitterverse in search of the words it needs to rebuild the complete works from start to finish. That's all 37 plays and all 154 sonnets.

It's difficult to pinpoint exactly how long it's going to take, but the sheer volume of inane chatter on Twitter means that as long as the word is still in common parlance, the typewriter can track it down almost instantaneously. It's when it's not that problems arise.

Shakespeare is credited with bringing more than 400 words into the English language, but many of the terms he used are now far too archaic to commonly appear anywhere other than, well, a Shakespeare recital. The workaround? Well, it's still Twitter, so you can still get involved. Any time the typewriter hits a snag, tweeters are encouraged to post something with the next necessary word nestled somewhere within its 140-character bosom, and affixing the #TheCompleteTweets hashtag so that it's easy to find. Cheating? Sort of, but the Globe do want this experiment to actually end at some point in the next decade.

Visitors to the Globe can see the typewriter's progress in real time, including the percentage of work complete, title of the play currently being rewritten, the word count and the next word required. It started with Two Gentleman of Verona, and the smart money would suggest that at time of writing it hasn't quite finished it yet. Reportedly, character names are already tripping it up.

Callum is a film school graduate who is now making a name for himself as a journalist and content writer. His vices include flat whites and 90s hip-hop. Follow him @Songbird_Callum

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Word by Word Channels the Twitterverse to Rewrite the Complete Works of Shakespeare Reviewed by Unknown on Saturday, May 07, 2016 Rating: 5

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