How It Works
Watch a preview of Play the Knave’s new interface and how to navigate it!

Before acting, players make design decisions about the Shakespeare scene they want to perform.

Plays and Scenes
Players choose a Shakespeare play from a list of options, which will include the following:

  • Antony and Cleopatra
  • As You Like It
  • Coriolanus
  • Hamlet
  • Henry IV Part 1
  • Henry V
  • Julius Caesar
  • King Lear  
  • Love’s Labour’s Lost
  • Macbeth
  • A Midsummer’s Night Dream
  • Much Ado About Nothing
  • Othello 
  • Richard III
  • Romeo and Juliet
  • The Taming of the Shrew
  • The Tempest
  • Titus Andronicus
  • The Merchant of Venice
After selecting the play, players decide on the scene they want to perform. The game offers a range of scenes from each play, including options for 1, 2, 3, or 4 players. Our team has identified and categorized each scene according to the number of characters with lines in that scene.

Script Difficulty Levels
Players choose their level of acting mastery, which will determine how fast the lines from Shakespeare’s script scroll on screen during gameplay.  The game offers two versions of the script for each scene:
At this novice-friendly level, Shakespeare’s text is scaled down to the bare minimum, providing just enough text so that players gain a clear understanding of a scene on a narrative level. The language is still Shakespeare’s, but without some of the most complex imagery.
This version of the script presents Shakespeare’s language in its full complexity, including complex imagery and unfamiliar words. The text is still edited somewhat to make for an enjoyable gameplay experience.

Players then decide on the kind of theater stage they want to use for their scene performance. Some are models of historic theaters that have been created by theater researchers. Others are models of actual theaters where Shakespeare is performed today.

Historic Stages
Queens’ College Cambridge Temporary Stage (ca. 1547-1640)

Courtesy of Shawn DeSouza-Coelho, Jennifer Roberts-Smith, Paul Stoesser and the SET Project (2015). Design adapted from Alan Nelson (1994).

The Rose Theatre (London, c. 1600)

Courtesy of Ortelia and Lazaros Kastanis.

Rose Theatre

Contemporary Stages
The Stratford Festival Stage (Stratford, Ontario)

Courtesy of the Stratford Festival.

Stratford Theatre

The Container Globe

Courtesy of Angus Vail.

globe theater

If you would like to have a model of your theater stage featured in the game, please contact us to learn more.


Avatars and Costumes
Next, players make casting and costuming decisions, choosing avatars to play each of the characters in the scene. The game offers four different historical settings (Ancient, Tudor, Modern and SciFi/Fantasy). Below are the avatars available in the current version of the game.

Ancient Avatars

Tudor Avatars
Tudor Man 1

Tudor Man 2

Tudor Man 3

Tudor Lord

Tudor Boy Commoner

Tudor Boy Rich

Tudor Lady (White Dress)

Tudor Lady (Red Dress)

Tudor Peasant Woman

Modern Avatars

Business Man 4

Business Man 5

Business Man 6

Business Man Old

Business Man Unkempt

Business Man Young

Business Woman 1

Business Woman 2

Business Woman 3

Business Woman 4

Business Woman 5

Business Woman 6

Modern businessman

Modern old man

Modern Casual Woman


SciFi/Fantasy Avatars
Faceless Robot
Sci-Fi Soldier Man
Sci-Fi Soldier Woman

If you have created a high quality 3D model of a human avatar that fits one of the settings above and would like to donate or license it for use in the game, please contact us to learn more about how your content can be featured.

Sound Effects and Music
Players may also choose from among a selection of different sound effects for their scene, including Tavern, Storm, Battle, and more.


Once all design decisions have been made, the screen transforms to show the players their designed stage. The players are then directed—through a voice-over and through subtitles on the screen—to come forward for casting. The Kinect camera matches each player’s body with one of the avatar characters that were selected for the scenes. Then the players are guided through a brief rehearsal, which allows players to practice moving their avatars and expressing themselves through gestures.

After some practice, it’s showtime! Shakespeare’s script lines—color-coded according to character—scroll karaoke-style on the top of the screen. The players read their lines with as much gusto as they can muster and gesture with their bodies to animate their avatars.

Recording and Sharing
The scene (players’ voices plus their avatar movements) is recorded while the scene is performed. When the game is over, the players either receive a link via email to the video they have produced (if scene is performed during an installation) or else can download the video to a computer drive (if the scene is performed at home or school). Then the video can be edited and/or shared in whatever way the players wish.


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