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To download, or not to download: Ian McKellen’s new app teaches you Shakespeare

Shakespeare may be one of the most revered playwrights of all time, but some of his work sure is hard to read. Even Sir Ian McKellen thinks so. In fact, he suggests that reading Shakespeare is a task as meant for actors as reading music is for musicians.

That’s why he’s put together a new app, called Heuristic Shakespeare, which brings a number of famous British actors together to help you understand Shakespeare’s work a little better.

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Currently, the only work available is The Tempest, but McKellen and Richard Loncraine, McKellen’s business partner, eventually hope to get all 37 of Shakespeare’s works up and running. Each play will be available as a standalone app. The Tempest costs $5.99. While it’s not certain that they’ll all cost that much, it would be a safe assumption to make.

The app is perfect for those studying Shakespeare’s work, and sits somewhere between seeing the play and reading it. The actors in the app look at the camera and say their lines, and as they do, text scrolls across the bottom of the screen. You can even take notes and highlight particular passages as you go.

If you want to go beyond simply learning the play itself, you can get additional information about the play, including previous productions, videos discussing the play’s themes, and so on. This additional content is offered in three levels, depending on how advanced you want to go.

McKellen has always been quick to adopt new trends — he launched his own blog way back in 1999, before blogging gained the popularity it has now.

You can get The Tempest from the App Store, and it currently seems as though the app is only available for iOS. There’s no word on an Android version. If you’re waiting for other Shakespeare plays, keep an eye on the Heuristic Shakespeare App Store page.

Check out this video for a look at what the app is all about.