Behold Illustrations of Every Shakespeare Play Created by Artificial Intelligence

William Shake­speare’s plays have endured not just because of their inher­ent dra­mat­ic and lin­guis­tic qual­i­ties, but also because each era has found its own way of envi­sion­ing and re-envi­sion­ing them. The tech­nol­o­gy involved in stage pro­duc­tions has changed over the past four cen­turies, of course, but so has the tech­nol­o­gy involved in art itself. A few years ago, we fea­tured here on Open Cul­ture an archive of 3,000 illus­tra­tions of Shake­speare’s com­plete works going back to the mid-nine­teenth cen­tu­ry. That site was the PhD project of Cardiff Uni­ver­si­ty’s Michael Good­man, who has recent­ly com­plet­ed anoth­er dig­i­tal Shake­speare project, this time using arti­fi­cial intel­li­gence: Paint the Pic­ture to the Word.

“Every image col­lect­ed here has been gen­er­at­ed by Sta­ble Dif­fu­sion, a pow­er­ful text-to-image AI,” writes Good­man on this new pro­jec­t’s About page. “To cre­ate an image using this tech­nol­o­gy a user sim­ply types a descrip­tion of what they want to see into a text box and the AI will then pro­duce sev­er­al images cor­re­spond­ing to that ini­tial tex­tu­al prompt,” much as with the also-new AI-based art gen­er­a­tor DALL‑E.

Each of the many images Good­man cre­at­ed is inspired by a Shake­speare play. “Some of the illus­tra­tions are expres­sion­is­tic (King John, Julius Cae­sar), while some are more lit­er­al (Mer­ry Wives of Wind­sor).” All “offer a visu­al idea or a gloss on the plays: Hen­ry VIII, with the cen­tral char­ac­ters rep­re­sent­ed in fuzzy felt, is grim­ly iron­ic, while in Per­i­cles both Mar­i­ana and her father are seen through a watery prism, echo­ing that play’s con­cern with sea imagery.”

Select­ing one of his many gen­er­at­ed images per play, Good­man has cre­at­ed an entire dig­i­tal exhi­bi­tion whose works nev­er repeat a style or a sen­si­bil­i­ty, whether with a dog-cen­tric nine­teen-eight­ies col­lage rep­re­sent­ing Two Gen­tle­men of Verona, a stark­ly near-abstract vision of Mac­beth’s Weird Sis­ters or Much Ado About Noth­ing ren­dered as a mod­ern-day rom-com. The­ater com­pa­nies could hard­ly fail to take notice of these images’ poten­tial as pro­mo­tion­al posters, but Paint the Pic­ture to the Word also demon­strates some­thing larg­er: Shake­speare’s plays have long stim­u­lat­ed human intel­li­gence, but they turn out to work on arti­fi­cial intel­li­gence as well. Vis­it Paint the Pic­ture to the Word here.

Relat­ed con­tent:

3,000 Illus­tra­tions of Shakespeare’s Com­plete Works from Vic­to­ri­an Eng­land, Neat­ly Pre­sent­ed in a New Dig­i­tal Archive

John Austen’s Haunt­ing Illus­tra­tions of Shakespeare’s Ham­let: A Mas­ter­piece of the Aes­thet­ic Move­ment (1922)

Fol­ger Shake­speare Library Puts 80,000 Images of Lit­er­ary Art Online, and They’re All Free to Use

Arti­fi­cial Intel­li­gence Brings to Life Fig­ures from 7 Famous Paint­ings: The Mona Lisa, Birth of Venus & More

DALL‑E, the New AI Art Gen­er­a­tor, Is Now Open for Every­one to Use

An AI-Gen­er­at­ed Paint­ing Won First Prize at a State Fair & Sparked a Debate About the Essence of Art

Based in Seoul, Col­in Mar­shall writes and broad­casts on cities, lan­guage, and cul­ture. His projects include the Sub­stack newslet­ter Books on Cities, the book The State­less City: a Walk through 21st-Cen­tu­ry Los Ange­les and the video series The City in Cin­e­ma. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall or on Face­book.

by | Permalink | Comments (1) |

Sup­port Open Cul­ture

We’re hop­ing to rely on our loy­al read­ers rather than errat­ic ads. To sup­port Open Cul­ture’s edu­ca­tion­al mis­sion, please con­sid­er mak­ing a dona­tion. We accept Pay­Pal, Ven­mo (@openculture), Patre­on and Cryp­to! Please find all options here. We thank you!

Leave a Reply

Open Culture was founded by Dan Colman.