|PC Guide to A Midsummer Night's Dream
Courtesy of: Donald L. Stoneman
New Version Available: February
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About the Author
Mr. Stoneman has programmed computers for the last
thirty years -- twenty-five of those as a consultant and contract programmer. Over the
past three decades he has developed and marketed more than a dozen large scale system
products for IBM mainframe computers, mainly in the area of automated operations, and
written many hundreds of business application programs. This is his first and, to date,
only venture into the brave new world of PCs.
In the tradition of many Shakespearean editors and commentators, his study of Shakespeare
is an avocation. Except for a typical introduction to Shakespeare in secondary school and
some further study at Greensboro College in Greensboro, N.C., his education is, for the
most part, self-inflicted.
He and his wife, Ann, live in the mountains outside Roanoke, Va., where they are currently
working to complete the house they began in 1990. They have three children and four
The following is his version of how Quarto Software's guide to A Midsummer Night's
Dream came to be:
I began this "flight of fancy" in February of 1993 as a learning exercise
in PC programming. Determined to produce something unique in the process, I hit upon the
idea of integrating a life-long appreciation for the works of William Shakespeare into the
project. The result, to my knowledge, was the first edition of a Shakespeare play
specifically designed for an electronic medium.
A Midsummer Night's Dream has always been a particular favorite of mine -- at first
because of Mendelssohn's music, but later because of an acquired appreciation for the
play's own music. So, armed with nothing more than someone's discarded 1.0 version of the
MASM (macro assembler) and a book on PC programming, and encouraged by the thought that
"never anything can be amiss when simpleness and duty tender it," I forged
headlong into the project.
Many long hours were spent designing, coding and debugging the program (I went through the
entire "Ring Cycle" on Saturday afternoons on the Texaco Met broadcasts and
listened to an untold number of "Prairie Home Companion" episodes during this
period). The major difficulty came, not in coding the internal machine instructions, but
in understanding how the VGA monitor is programmed -- a concept I never truly mastered.
The programming effort occurred concurrently with the research: I read everything
attainable on the subject, compared the folio and quarto texts, evaluated different
lexicographers definitions for the glossary and located and scanned graphic material (I
had drawn the portrait of Shakespeare on the title panel pixel by pixel using
"Paintbrush" when I first began the project, and after three attempts to obtain
an acceptable likeness -- the first resembled Charles Manson in a ruff! -- I could not
discard it, even after I had the capability of scanning in the original).
Once the programming and research were done, there followed a period of countless hours
putting it all together: the frustration of staring at a blank screen when the writing
began, and the satisfaction when thoughts began to form paragraphs, the tedium of entering
data, and the monotony of proofreading.
In August of that year the project finally came together, and the first edition was
released. "It pleased not the million" would be a fair assessment of its
reception. Undaunted, I set about to improve the program and its contents. This entailed
more coding, testing, reading, keying, and proofing. What began as a simple exercise
became an obsession. There was more to learn, more to include -- as anyone who has ever
done research knows: "way leads on to way".
Finally, after a grand total of nearly three million keystrokes and another six months of
impetus and ennui, I reached my goal and released the program basically as it exists
today. Encouraged by the correspondence I received from some renowned Shakespeareans
afterward, I began work on a number of other, similar guides: The Tempest, Richard II,
Hamlet, and Macbeth. Much work was done toward that goal (the variant readings for Hamlet
alone took weeks), but the demands of other projects prevented those from every becoming a
reality. This, it seems, will be my only trek into this realm.
Oh, I continue to make minor improvements to the guide when the mood strikes, and there's
much more I'd like to include in the program: a "further reading" section
containing summaries of recent criticism, for example; but the project is completed to my
It was indeed a labor of love. My hope now is that it will find its way into the hands of
as many persons as possible -- that through it some will be awakened to the enormous
pleasure to be found in Shakespeare's poetry; that those who now see A Midsummer Night's
Dream "with parted eye, / when every thing seems double," will see more clearly
because of my effort. Only then will I feel that my love's labor's not lost.