WordSeer: “love” in Shakespeare’s tragedies and comedies

When scholars try to make sense out of large collections of text, they frequently do two things: compare, and collect. They collect samples of “interesting” things, and compare them with each other along various relevant dimensions.

In this post, I demonstrate the collection and comparison features of WordSeer by using it to compare the usage of the word “love” in Shakespeares comedies and tragedies. You can watch the screencast, or simply read on.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DPhQQExQjZ4]

Figure 1. Creating a new collection called "tragedies"

The first thing to do is collect the comedies and tragedies into separate lists.  To do this, I created a new collection called “tragedies” using the new “collections” feature.

Figure 2. The list of plays in WordSeer, sorted by title.

Next, I had to collect all of Shakespeare’s tragedies into that collection.  Figure 2 shows WordSeer’s list of plays.  I walked down this list and clicked the checkboxes next to the tragedies, using Wikipedia as an authoritative source of tragedies.

Figure 3. The Add Items button

Once I’d selected all the tragedies, I  clicked  the “Add Items” button to add them to a collection.  I selected the “tragedies” collection and added the plays.

Figure 4. Adding some of the tragedies to the collection

This populated the collection with the plays. I did the same for the comedies, ending up with two collections

Figure 5. The two collections. The "comedies" collection is currently open.

I was now ready to compare my collections. I opened up two windows to the heat map view. One was going to visualize the tragedies, and one the comedies.

Figure 6. Setting up the heat maps. One window visualized the "tragedies" collection, and the other window visualized "comedies".

Finally, I was ready to compare the two. I was interested in the word “love”, and whether there would be any differences in how frequently it was used in the comedies and the tragedies. To that end, I typed in “love” into the comedies window and got the heat map in Figure 7.

FIgure 7. The occurrences of "love" in Shakespeare's comedies. Each column is a play, each highlighted block represents that the word "love" occurred there.

Not surprisingly, “love” is everywhere. But what about the tragedies? In the other window, typing in “love” yielded the results in Figure 8.

Figure 8. The occurrences of "love" in Shakespeare's tragedies.

To my surprise, the tragedies were equally full of “love”. Which, among other things, reveals my poor knowledge of Shakespeare.

Still, the hope is that  our Shakespeare scholar, Michael Ullyot, (@ullyot) will use collections and heat maps to discover something truly interesting.

Posted in Information Seeking, Text Mining, Visualization, WordSeer
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