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PC Guide to A Midsummer Night's Dream
Courtesy of: Donald L. Stoneman
New Version Available: February 16, 1998

Download the Program!

This self-extracting zip file (sgdist.exe) is 1,442,854 bytes. When unzipping this file, first create a directory "sg" into which the files are placed...

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 grandchildren.

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 satisfaction.

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.


Unless otherwise noted, all original content 1994-1998 Amy Ulen. All rights reserved.
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