Sir Ian McKellen Releases New Apps to Make Shakespeare’s Plays More Enjoyable & Accessible

tempest app

FYI: Ian McKellen, who first made his reputation performing at the Royal Shakespeare Company in the 1970s and 80s, has just released the first of a series of iPad apps meant to make Shakespeare’s plays more accessible, especially for high school and college students.

As McKellen explains above, Shakespeare’s plays were originally meant to be seen performed live in a theatre, not read as books. And so these apps feature actors performing dramatic scenes from the plays, while text scrolls by. They’ve just launched the first of 37 apps. It’s devoted to The Tempest, runs $5.99 on iTunes, and frankly seems well worth the price. Benedict Cumberbatch likes it. See below.

The app also includes these features:

  • The full text of The Tempest as published in the First Folio.
  • A full digital version of Arden Shakespeare The Tempest.
  • The ability to switch between three different levels of notes depending on the level of reader’s needs.
  • A full breakdown and explanation of every character and all of their lines across every scene.
  • A linked historical time line of Shakespeare’s life, his plays, his theatres, and contemporary context to put it all into perspective.
  • Video explanations and discussions by both Sir Ian McKellen and Professor Sir Jonathan Bate on characters, themes, and the meaning of the play.
  • A full “play at a glance” with illustrations and summaries to explain the play’s plot with key quotes and events.
  • A history of all the major productions of The Tempest from the 17th century to the present day.
  • The option to make notes, copy and highlight text that can be collected, correlated and exported for later use.
  • The option to search the play’s full text and essays.

Keep your eye on Heuristic Shakespeare’s iTunes site for new Shakespeare apps down the line.

Related Content:

Ian McKellen Stars in King Lear

Sir Ian McKellen Puts on a Dazzling One-Man Shakespeare Show

A 68 Hour Playlist of Shakespeare’s Plays Being Performed by Great Actors: Gielgud, McKellen & More

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Comments (19)
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  • Cheryl says:

    Wonderful teaching tool, but not open or free. Wouldn’t it be great if it were openly licensed, CC-BY?

  • Ayun says:

    This could not come at a better time! #homeschooling

  • Cristina says:

    I’m sorry, why for iPad only? 😕

  • binMonkey says:

    Please, please, please let there be one for the Sonnets!!!!!

  • Andrew says:

    As Cheryl stated above, this is not free. It should not have a place on this site!

  • Caitlin says:

    This sounds amazing and I love McKellan even more for doing it, but the price is going to be a huge factor for a lot of people. $6 doesn’t sound like much, but, considering that you can find a lot of this information via research, YouTube, the library, online courses like Coursera and more, I have a feeling a lot of people, especially the younger people it’s directer towards, aren’t going to pay. Also, this is the first of 37 apps- that’s a total of $222, which is a pretty significant expense, not to mention a huge amount of memory and storage on any device. (And I do realize that most people are only going to select a few plays, or at least only a few at a time, but I still feel like this is important.)

  • Lawrence O'Connor says:

    A wonderful idea and I could really use it in earnest for my current work on The Tempest but, sadly, my device is too old to install the minimum requirement of iOS 8.

  • tammi says:

    please make it for android as well ^_^

  • Federica Chalota says:

    Good Afternoon! I would like to have this app because I’m a Shakespeare’s fan!!!! It doesn’t mean I’m expert but still….

  • Federica Chalota says:

    I’m interested in your application. Is it free or not? Thnaks!!

  • Vassy says:

    Yes i would love this app as im a drama/english teacher who loves Shakespeare 😄

  • Matt says:

    There IS an app for the sonnets, though not McKellen’s. It IS amazing though. It’s by “illuminations and touchpress.” It was expensive as far as apps go ($14 maybe?) – but worth every penny.

  • Matt says:

    There IS one for the Sonnets – though it’s not McKellen. It’s also expensive but worth every penny. Goads of information on every one! It’s by illuminations/touchpress (I think they have one for Da Vinci as well).

  • David Parry says:

    Only for ipad? Nothing for other platforms?

  • Nancy Nelson says:

    Oh how I wish android users could benefit!

  • Kathy MacInnis says:

    This sounds so exciting and yet so disappointing that it’s only available through apple. We android users are also Shakespeare lovers.

  • Natalie says:

    This would be great for my kids, if you would only make it for Android also …

  • elizabeth treweeke says:

    Brilliant idea. Is there an order of the 36 works you will be covering and expected date available?

    Many thanks.

  • Kenneth Lee says:

    How may I be informed when each Heuristic Shakespeare app is available ?

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