Introduction to Digital Humanities

RELI/ENGL 39, Fall 2015, University of the Pacific

Shakespeare—Voyant discoveries

Voyant allowed me to kind of discover what themes or what aspects were more prominent in a specific story versus several others. For example, when we used Voyant in regards to Shakespeare. It was the most fascinating when we took the example of narrowing the search down to “love” the amount of times that the word came up most, compared to other pieces from Shakespeare was in The Merchant of Venice. This was actually the most shocking because I really assumed that Romeo and Juliet would be number one in regards to the most times the word “love” appeared.
Aside from finding it shocking, I realized that maybe narrowing the search to just Romeo and Juliet and The Merchant of Venice I would be able to identify where in the plays the words peaked at the most in terms of identifying why The Merchant of Venice had more versus Romeo and Juliet. Narrowing my search was probably the most useful tool because I was not very familiar with the Merchant of Venice play compared to Romeo and Juliet. Right away, after looking at the results from the two I noticed that, for example in Romeo and Juliet although the theme of “love” is very apparent to us as readers, it does not necessarily mean that the word itself is going to show up in the play as often.
Overall Voyant is very helpful and can tell you about common words and even common concepts re-occurring throughout a piece of work. I learned that it’s better to compare two to three pieces but always start with one and identify the work in that single piece first so it’s easier.

—The graph below compares both plays, The Merchant of Venice and Romeo and Juliet. You can tell that they both have peak moments but not around the same time within the play. Romeo and Juliet’s peak moment is towards the middle and end of the play compared to The Merchant of Venice where it’s towards the beginning middle of the play.


  1. I agree that looking too closely at the vocabulary content of a text means missing out on certain concepts. I think that’s most evident in Shakespeare, where his plays don’t often explicitly say what they mean. I think it’s pretty neat that you compared just two of the plays, and was therefore able to see when the word “love” appeared. However, you seem to be missing the graph that you indicated in your post! Also, mentioning a few other tools of Voyant might be helpful in providing an overall picture of what this literary tool is all about.

  2. I also agree that even though the main theme is often very clear in the story, it does not mean that it will use the word very often. This was interesting the way you used Voyant in order to see how the word is utilized for both of Shakespeare’s plays.

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