Screen capture from the To Quote or Not to Quote project

Derek Miller’s project To Quote or Not to Quote features all of the Bard’s plays, but actors won’t be using it to memorize their lines. The professor of theater history at Harvard University has created a clear–yet blurry–visualization of how we cite the works of William Shakespeare. Using an API built by JSTOR Labs to calculate the number of times every line from every play has been cited in JSTOR, Miller makes the text look fuzzier the less often it is mentioned.

Years of scholarship on certain lines has brought them into focus, but there’s still much of the plays waiting for that clarity. Miller writes, “I hope this project helps us to see (a) how much Shakespeare we don’t cite (or, at least, don’t cite very often); and (b) that our unequal citational practices are fractal. By this I mean that, no matter how you slice the text, we cite some subset of the text with far more frequency than other sections.”

As you strain to read the lesser-known lines you might be reminded of Romeo’s words (fairly blurry in this instance) from Scene I, Act I of Romeo and Juliet: “He that is strucken blind can not forget the precious treasure of his eyesight lost.”