Explore Shakespeare

The definitive guide to Shakespeare's plays, in partnership with Cambridge University Press.

The challenge

Cambridge University Press approached us to bring their definitive Shakespeare texts to iPad in a new and innovative way. Central to this was the desire to unlock the Bard's best-known plays for students of all levels. We worked in partnership with subject experts at Cambridge to bring these plays to life for iPad.

The approach

Our starting point was the play itself, for which we created a beautifully-typeset rendition of the Cambridge text. To this we added inline glossaries, synopses, activities and photographs, drawn from Cambridge's popular range of Shakespeare study books.

But we didn't stop there. We wanted to open up the play in ways that are only possible on a touch-based device such as an iPad. After prototyping several possible visualisations, we created three new ways to explore and visualise the play. The first are circles, which illustrate the relationships between different characters, to give context to their interaction within the play. Secondly, we created themelines, to show how different themes ebb and flow throughout the play. And thirdly, we created our own word clouds, to visualise how language is used per play, per scene and per character.

Each of these visualisations gives a clearer picture of the play, especially for those who are new to Shakespeare. They also act as navigation into the play – to view the play from the point of view of a particular character, or to use language as a way of navigating the text itself.

As part of the project, we defined a complete content workflow for converting Cambridge's existing content into an app-friendly format. We also synchronized each play with a complete audio performance of the text, using a custom synchronization tool. This approach enables us to adapt further plays into additional apps with minimum effort in the future. This principle – creating a flexible app engine, separated from each app's specific content – has proved a perfect fit for adapting Shakespeare's plays.

The end result is Explore Shakespeare – the best way to study Shakespeare's works on any device.

You can try out the plays for free in our Explore Shakespeare app, available on the iTunes Store from Cambridge University Press:

- Explore Shakespeare

In addition, there are six stand-alone play apps, each priced at £4.99:

- Romeo & Juliet: Explore Shakespeare
- Macbeth: Explore Shakespeare
- A Midsummer Night's Dream: Explore Shakespeare
- Twelfth Night: Explore Shakespeare
- Hamlet: Explore Shakespeare
- Othello: Explore Shakespeare


  • Listen to a full audio performance of each play, including performances by Michael Sheen, Kate Beckinsale and Fiona Shaw
  • See the action with over 100 photographs of professional productions, including stars like Leonardo di Caprio, Claire Danes and David Tennant
  • Understand Shakespeare’s language with clear glossary definitions throughout the play
  • Get an overview of the action with plot summaries inside the play
  • Explore the language of each scene and character through interactive word clouds
  • Pick a character and see their sections of the play clearly separated – perfect for learning your lines, or for studying a particular character’s story
  • Understand the relationships between the characters with Circles for each scene
  • See how the play’s themes ebb and flow over time with our unique Themelines
  • Get involved in the play through hundreds of tried-and-tested activities, for individuals, pairs and groups
  • Search the entire text, with highlighting and filtering
  • Use detailed notes alongside the text to examine the literary inspirations and history of interpretation of the play
  • Delve deeper into the context, key themes and history of the play with a series of accessible articles by authoritative Cambridge sources