A post on the blog for the “knowledge engine” Wolfram Alpha alerted us to an intriguing use of its search functionality. Wolfram Alpha is now capable of quickly providing a broad set of information about famous literary texts, including the complete works of Shakespeare.
You can try it yourself by typing the title of a play into Wolfram Alpha’s search box. A search for The Tempest, for example, tells us that the play contains 16,222 words, 3,113 of them unique, that the longest words in the play are “disproportioned” and “notwithstanding,” and that its most frequent speaker is Prospero. Also available is a “Dialog Timeline” – a useful graphical representation of characters’ speeches during the course of the play – and information on the play’s most frequently used words. All of this information is also available for individual acts and scenes within the plays (e.g. search for “The Tempest, Act 5, Scene 1”).