I have Shakespeare tattooed on my forearms. On my right arm is the first line from Hamlet in binary code. On my left arm is the latter half of the second line of Hamlet in hexadecimal code.
The first line of the play, “Who’s there?,” does several things: quite literally, the speaker asks the listener on stage to identify herself; when performed, the line is also spoken to the off-stage or off-screen audience, calling attention to their simultaneous presence both within and outside the world of Shakespeare’s play; finally, it is a deeper question from Shakespeare about the nature of being. The question takes on a new and different set of potential meanings when it is read on the screen of a computer, iPad, Kindle, or smart phone, forcing contemporary readers of Shakespeare to question the nature of their own humanity in the face of rapid technological changes. Just as who we are as humans could be contained and expressed in the language of a theatrical play, now we must also consider who we become when our selves are reduced to the flurry of 1s and 0s that constitute us in our Facebook profiles, Tweets, and text messages. No matter which medium or device we use to encounter a play like Hamlet, no matter what self we bring to the encounter, Shakespeare continues to ask these questions of us, continues to ask who we are, what we see, and how we know.