Shakespeare Pro for iPhone

I’ve been reading Shakespeare since my high school English teacher first shoved a copy of Julius Caesar into my hands two-plus decades ago. And while I enjoy a good comedy, tragedy, or history as much as the next guy, I willingly make the following confession: There are passages where I have a hard time making heads or tails of what the Bard of Stratford-Upon-Avon is going on about.

It’s not because I’m particularly dim—honest—but rather because Shakespeare wrote his plays in the language of his era. And as evocative as words and phrases like “Jack-a-Lent,” “canker-blossom,” and “kickshaw” might have been around the turn of the century—the 17th century, that is—they don’t tend to come up in conversation these days. And that can make it hard to follow along when Mark Antony is giving Brutus, Claudius, and the rest of the gang what-for.

In fact, when I reviewed Readdle’s free Shakespeare, one of my criticisms of this otherwise solid app was that it didn’t contain any footnotes in its collection of Shakespeare’s plays, poems, and sonnets. So if you wanted to squeeze in some Twelfth Night in between your Twittering or check in on Macbeth after checking your mail, you had to do so without any help in navigating the occasionally obscure turn of phrase.

Readdle’s follow-up app, Shakespeare Pro, tries to make the works Shakespeare as accessible as they are mobile. (It's also available for the iPad, priced at £11.99).

With 154 sonnets, six poems, and every play Shakespeare wrote (plus a few he likely didn’t), this is an app for people who love the Bard and want everything he ever wrote accessible from their iPhone or iPod touch. The pro version of Readdle’s app offers all the virtues of the free Shakespeare offering, while correcting many of its vices.

For instance, in my review of the original Shakespeare, I complained that the app didn’t offer line numbers—you can turn those on and off in the Pro release. I griped that character names were shortened into often confusing abbreviations; again, a preference lets you see the full name. The names of characters are also better set apart from lines of dialogue in Shakespeare Pro, making for a better overall reading experience.

But the app’s stand-out feature is a glossary that you can turn on and off from within each play. With the glossary enabled, certain words are underlined within the text of play; tap on the word, and a pop-up definition appears, so you can decipher what every bodkin, barricado, and bawcock means. The glossary isn’t perfect—the definitions can be a little broad, and it’s too easy to inadvertently tap on a word when all you’re trying to do is navigate from one scene to the next. Also, the app’s glossary tab could stand an A-to-Z navigation bar to save you from unnecessary scrolling. Still, Shakespeare Pro’s glossary is a valuable component to an impressive app.

OUR VERDICT

Readdle’s Shakespeare Pro allows you to really enjoy the entirety of Shakespeare from the comfort of your mobile device.

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