A His/story Still under Construction

Life and times | Publications | Teaching | Conference papers

photograph of Michael Best

Life and times

  • Item: in Adelaide, South Australia, after the hottest summer on record (the temperature reached 47.5 degrees C, 117 degrees F), Michael, fourth of five children in the Best family, is born just a few months before the beginning of World War II.
  • Item: a local amateur theatre company decides to put on a rarely performed Shakespeare play, King John. The part of Prince Arthur (one big scene of pathos when his eyes are to be put out) is played by the twelve-year-old Michael Best, the chief anxiety being that his voice will break before rehearsals are complete.
  • Item: an interest in music (oboe) and literature leads the aforesaid Michael Best to choose a B.A. at the University of Adelaide; in due course he completes a Ph.D., writing a thesis on John Lyly, an early contemporary of Shakespeare.
  • Item: he goes to England to see where these people he has read so much about really lived. He teaches at the high school level and sees a vast number of plays better acted than King John.
  • Item: he accepts a position at the University of Victoria in Canada's centennial year. In due course he serves three terms as chair of the Department of English, and in 2004 becomes Professor Emeritus.


  • Item: his research interests focus on Shakespeare and the electronic medium in both theoretical and applied forms.
  • Item: in the print medium he has published in these areas:
    • Shakespeare's contemporaries (articles on John Lyly and John Webster)
    • Elizabethan attitudes to magic (edited The Book of Secrets of Albertus Magnus, Clarendon Press, 1973, 1974, 1991)
    • The role of woman in Elizabethan England (edited: Gervase Markham The English Housewife, [1615], McGill Queens University Press, 1985, 1994)
    • Elizabethan popular culture and technology (articles on Elizabethan cookery, wine-management, and medicine)
    • The Western Australian gold rush of the 1890s (book, A Lost Glitter, Wakefield Press, Adelaide, 1985).
  • Item: he has found that computers do many things better than he does, like remembering names, so uses them as tools both to do research and to teach.
  • Item: he is developing a major site for scholarly editions of Shakespeare on the Internet;
  • Item: in the electronic medium, he has published peer-reviewed research in these areas:
    • A CD ROM,Shakespeare's Life and Times, originally published in Macintosh format by Intellimation (Santa Barbara CA, 1993)
    • A program for the electronic marking of student papers, DynaMark (Intellimation: Santa Barbara CA, 1994), co-authored by Arnie Keller
    • Scenario: a cross-platform program that allows students to "block" scenes from selected plays by Shakespeare.
    • "From Book to Screen: A Window on Renaissance Electronic Texts.", an article in the electronic journal Early Modern English Studies dealing with the kinds of issues facing those who are making electronic texts available in the world of scholarship, especially those designing electronic editions of Shakespeare
    • Four special editions of the electronic journal EMLS, edited or co-edited.
      1. Editor, with Ian Lancashire. "New Scholarship from Old Renaissance Dictionaries: Applications of the Early Modern English Dictionaries Database." EMLS Special Issue 1 (April 1997). <URL: http://purl.oclc.org/emls/si-01/si-01toc.html>.
      2. Editor. "The Internet Shakespeare Editions: Opportunities in a New Medium." EMLS Special Issue 2 (March 1998). <URL: http://purl.oclc.org/emls/03-3/03-3toc.html>.
      3. Editor, with Lisa Hopkins and R.G. Siemens. "Shakespeare on Screen." EMLS Studies 6.1, Special Issue 5 (May 2000). <URL: http://www.shu.ac.uk/emls/06-1/06-1toc.htm>. .
      4. Editor, with Eric Rasmussen. "Monitoring Electronic Shakespeares." Vol. 9.3, Special Issue 12 (January, 2004). <URL: http://www.shu.ac.uk/emls/09-3/09-3toc.htm>.
    • Article. "Afterword: Dressing Old Words New." EMLS. 3.3 (January, 1998). <URL: http://purl.oclc.org/emls/03-3/bestshak.html>
    • Article. "Introduction: A Booth at the Fair." EMLS 9.3, Special Issue 12 (January, 2004): 1.1-14 <URL: http://purl.oclc.org/emls/09-3/bestintr.htm>.
    • Book chapter. "Internet and CD ROM Resources." In Shakespeare: An Oxford Guide to Shakespeare, 2003
    • An article in the online/print journal Text/Technology. "Dehumanizing the Internet: The Control of Display," Computing in the Humanities Working Papers, 1998: http://www.epas.utoronto.ca:8080/epc/chwp/best/. Jointly published with TEXT Technology (8.1 [1998]), Wright State University
    • Three articles or chapters in forthcoming publications.
      1. "Standing in Rich Place: Electrifying the Multiple-Text Edition: Or, Every Text is Multiple." College Literature
      2. Book chapter. "'Forswearing Thin Potations': The Creation of Rich Texts Online." In Mind Technologies: Humanities Computing and the Canadian Academic Community. Ed. Ray Siemens. University of Calgary Press.
      3. Article. "'Is this a vision? is this a dream?': Finding new dimensions in Shakespeare's texts.' In Working Papers from the First and Second Canadian Symposium on Text Analysis Research. Eds. P. Liddell, M. Best, R.G. Siemens, and Barbara Bond. To appear in Text/Technology and Computing in the Humanities Working Papers.
    • Review article. "The Cambridge King Lear CD-ROM." EMLS. http://purl.oclc.org/emls/09-1/bestrev.html
    • Article. "The Text of Performance and the Performance of Text in the Electronic Edition." Computing in the Humanities 2002. 36:3 269-282. See http://www.kluweronline.com/issn/0010-4817.
    • Article. "Teaching Shakespeare to Judith: Gender Politics in Distance/Online Teaching." Working Papers on the Web. Issue on "Teaching Renaissance Texts." October, 2002. http://www.shu.ac.uk/wpw/renaissance/best.htm
    • Edited. Web site of peer-reviewed critical articles. "Shakespeare Around the Globe." Internet Shakespeare Editions, University of Victoria. http://web.UVic.CA/shakespeare/Library/Criticism/shakespearein/index.html
    • Chapter. "Copyright," in The Credibility of Electronic Publishing. Ed. Raymond Siemens, Michael Best and others. Study commissioned by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada, 2000. With Elizabeth Grove-White. http://web.mala.bc.ca/hssfc/Final/Credibility.htm
    • Contributing Editor, Shakespeare Newsletter:
      • "Plagiarize!" Shakespeare Newsletter. December, 2002.
      • "Summer Time is Festival Time." Shakespeare Newsletter, July, 2002.
      • "Appraising Shakespeare in the New Century." Shakespeare Newsletter, May, 2002.
      • "Of Spheres and Music." Shakespeare Newsletter, November, 2001.
      • "Highways and Byways." Shakespeare Newsletter, July, 2001.
      • "Electronic Shakespeares: A Better Mousetrap?" Shakespeare Newsletter, February, 2001.
  • Teaching

  • Item: he has developed two courses on Shakespeare to be taken without lectures. His students have developed some impressive Web pages as a result. The courses have been adopted by Athabasca University, Alberta, and the Open University of British Columbia.
  • See the page of links to course home pages
  • Conference papers

  • Item: he has been an active contributor to many conferences around the world, including these papers since 1997.
    • Paper. "Visibly Charactered": Binary Objects as Text in the Internet Shakespeare Editions." Renaissance Society of America, New York, April 2004. Also presented at COCH/COSH, Winnipeg, June.
    • Seminar paper. "Silver Currents: Bringing Shakespeare to (Computer) Screen." Shakespeare Association of America, New Orleans, March 2004. Invited paper. "A Most Rare Vision: the Internet Shakespeare Editions." Consortium for Computers in the Humanities, Halifax NS, May; also presented at the Association for Computing in the Humanities, Athens Georgia, June 2003.
    • Chair and organizer of session. "The Internet Shakespeare." Pacific Northwestern Renaissance Society, Nanaimo BC, May 2003.
    • Chair and organizer of session. "Monitoring Electronic Shakespeare." Shakespeare Association of America, Victoria BC, April 2003.
    • Invited Plenary. "Forswearing Thin Potations: The Creation of Rich Texts Online." Joint session of COCH/COSH and SSHRC. Toronto, May 2002.
    • Invited Plenary. "New Silk and Old Sack: Some Optimistic Musings on Editing and Reading Shakespeare in New Media." Australian and New Zealand Shakespeare Association. Launceston, Tasmania, February 2002.
    • Seminar paper. "Standing in Rich Place: Electrifying the Multiple-Text Edition: Or, Every Text is Multiple." Shakespeare Association of America, Minnesota, March 2002.
    • Invited presentation. "Good and Bad Web Design." Shakespeare Theatre Association of America, Washington, DC., January 2002.
    • Invited paper. "Beyond imagination: the Internet Shakespeare Editions as a case study in the creation of quality content on the Internet." New Media Conference, University of Victoria. February 2002.
    • Paper. "An Introductory Modular Course on Computing for Students in the Humanities." Conference on Humanities, Computing, Malaspina College, November 2001.
    • Paper. "Seeking Simplicity in Multiplicity: Exploring Spaces in the Electronic Text." Shakespeare Association of America, Miami. April 2001.
    • Session organized. "Globalising Shakespeare." International Shakespeare Association. Valencia,. April 2001.
    • Paper. "Dot Shakespeare: 'This [electronic] O.'" International Shakespeare Association. Valencia. April 2001.
    • Invited paper. "Managing Listservs in Online Teaching." Educational Technology Best Practices, University of Victoria. May 2000.
    • Invited Plenary, Canadian Association of Learned Journals (Edmonton, 2000), "What do Learned Journals, Bill Gates, and the Heavy-Metal Band Metallica Have in Common? Or, What's Mine Is Mine and What's Yours Is Yours: The Politics of Copyright on the Internet."
    • Software demonstration and discussion, COCH/COSH (Edmonton 2000): "Accents yet unknown: Discussion and demonstration of a software package that allows students to "block" a scene from a play, and submit it as an assignment."
    • Contributed a paper to a seminar at the Shakespeare Association of America (Montreal, 2000), "Teaching Shakespeare to Judith: Gender Politics in Distance / Online Teaching."
    • Contributed a paper to a joint session of COCH/COSH and ACCUTE, Sherbrooke, Québec (1999). "The Text of Performance and the Performance of Text in the Electronic Edition."
    • Invited Plenary, Pacific Northwest Renaissance Conference, Saskatoon (1999). "Back to the Future: Creating and Reading the Electronic Text."
    • Contributed a paper to a seminar on Shakespeare Theater History and the Web at the 1999 SAA meeting in San Fransisco, "A Mazèd World: Connecting, Selecting and Internetting Shakespeare Performances," available at http://web.uvic.ca/shakespeare/Annex/Articles/SAA1999/
    • Chaired and contributed to a session at the 1998 meeting of the Shakespeare Association of America (SAA) in Cleveland on Shakespeare and the electronic medium: "Dancing Chips: Computers and Shakespeare's Text."
    • Contributed a paper to the 1998 meeting of COCH in Ottawa: "Playing Many Parts: The Internet Shakespeare Editions as a Multiple Resource."
    • Presented a paper on Shakespeare and the Internet to the Australian and New Zealand Shakespeare Association in Brisbane in July 1998.
    • Chaired, and contributed to a session at the Canadian "Learneds" in Newfoundland (1997), for the Consortium of Computers in the Humanities (COCH) on the future of the Internet Shakespeare Editions.
    • Contributed a paper to the conference "Lives, Stories, Narratives" at Monash University, Melbourne (1997). "Documents or scripts? Personal letters as the performance of history."

Oh yes, and his two daughters insist that they be mentioned. Jacquie at the University of Ottawa, Assistant Professor of Political Science, and Kirsty at Murdoch University in Perth, Western Australia, in the Department of Communication. Gorgeous both, and (thank goodness) on email. His wife and Communications Director of the Internet Shakespeare Editions is Roberta Livingstone, and stepson Dan, who has a fine web-site where you can sample the authentic blues he performs across Canada.

[There is a rumour that either in a past life or in the next one he was/will be a wombat.]


Michael Best's Home Pages. Most recently updated January 10, 2007