Today we celebrate William Shakespeare's 450th birthday, commemorating the life and work of a man whose 36 plays have stood the test of time.
Well, he really wrote 38 plays -- 2 of them were left out of the first edition of his collected work. Actually, make that 40 plays, but we've lost 2 of them. Of course, some of those were collaborations -- and there are a few others we think he might have helped with. And some people think all of his plays were written by someone else
All that confusion just goes to show you how different publishing was in Shakespeare's day. Shakespeare wrote by hand and worked hard to keep the texts of his plays a secret, so that other theatrical groups couldn't steal them.
Some of the earliest published versions of his plays were unauthorised knock-offs, written by people trying to copy down his work from memory. When you think about it, it's a miracle we have any of Shakespeare's writing at all.
It's easy to laugh at the publishing practices of Shakespeare's time. A lot has changed since then. Of course, a lot has changed since the advent of the Web in the 1990s, with more changes coming in the past decade and even the past year. When the Shakespeare of the 21st century creates their masterpiece -- what will their process look like?
Here's how the next Shakespeare might work:
Creates in the cloud - Scholars think Shakespeare wrote at least 2 plays that are now lost to us -- Cardenio and Love's Labour's Won. It's not hard to see why -- ink and parchment isn't exactly the most durable of mediums. The next Shakespeare won't have that problem. Writers working in Office 365 have their work saved to the cloud automatically, so they never need to worry about creating a backup copy. Of course, maybe the next Shakespeare isn't a writer. Maybe they're a visual artist or a filmmaker. They're covered too. You can back up all kinds of media files using OneDrive.
Works when inspiration strikes - Creative people have always struggled with the fleeting nature of inspiration. You can have the most amazing idea while you're sitting on a train, but by the time you get home to record it, it's gone. But the next Shakespeare will always be able to create in the moment. It's easy to jot down a note on a Windows tablet device using Office 365 -- or to take gorgeous photos or videos with Windows Phone. You can capture inspiration on the go and then finish it up at home -- or pick up a Surface with its full keyboard and just start creating right there.
Collaborates easily - Shakespeare's collaborators never get any respect. That's partly because Shakespeare has a way of soaking up all the glory, but it's also because those collaborations were never very smooth. Shakespeare and his partner would each work on different scenes and then put their work together to make a whole play. Shakespeare's collaborators did their best to mimic his style, but the resulting work still tends to be disjointed. Today's Shakespeare doesn't have to go it alone. They can work seamlessly with anyone in the world, even tinkering with the same sentence at the same time, using Office 365.
The 21st century will give rise to its own Shakespeare, who will create cannon a work that will echo down the ages. Technology will empower that person in ways that even Shakespeare's wild imagination could never have conceived. Maybe that person is out there, right now. Maybe they're just starting on their breakthrough work. Maybe it's you.
What are you creating today?