Alexa, to be or not to be? Amazon’s smart assistant has learnt to speak Shakespearean and can now recite popular lines, soliloquies and insults

  • Alexa can now say a Shakespearean insult, sonnet, soliloquy limerick and more
  • Amazon has released the update to mark Shakespeare Day on Friday (April 23)
  • Research also shows a lack of knowledge about origin of Shakespearean phrases

Amazon’s digital assistant Alexa has learnt to speak recite lines from the works of William Shakespeare, to mark his official day of celebration on Friday (April 23). 

Users can ask Alexa to ‘speak like Shakespeare’ for a variety of responses, as well as ask to recite a Shakespearean sonnet and soliloquy and even a famous insult. 

When asked to recite a Shakespearean insult, Alexa may reply, ‘The rankest compound of villainous smell that ever offended nostril’ from The Merry Wives of Windsor. 

The digital assistant may also reply, ‘You starveling, you eel-skin, you dried neat’s-tongue, you bull’s-pizzle, you stock-fish’ from Henry IV, Part 1.  

Alexa powers the company’s Echo speakers, including the spherical fourth generation Echo released last autumn.  

Get into the spirit of Shakespeare Day 2021 like this chap in an Amazon promotional image. Alexa has learnt to speak Shakespearean and can now recite popular lines, soliloquies and insults. Shakespeare Day lands on April 23 – the date celebrated as his birthday, and also his deathday

ALEXA, TO BE OR NOT TO BE? 

Ask Alexa on World Shakespeare Day:

– ‘Alexa, speak like Shakespeare’ 

– ‘Alexa, tell me a Shakespearean insult’ 

– ‘Alexa, Romeo, Romeo, wherefore art thou Romeo?’ 

– ‘Alexa, to be or not to be?’ 

– ‘Alexa, recite a Shakespearean Sonnet’ 

-‘Recite a Shakespearean Soliloquy’ •

– ‘Tell me a Shakespearean limerick’ 

Some of the other commands users can direct at Alexa include ‘speak like Shakespeare’ and ‘recite a Shakespearean soliloquy’, which have to be preceded by the activation word ‘Alexa’.  

According to results from Amazon research revealed today, Brits use an average of 83 Shakespearean phrases a month. 

The study of 2,000 Brits was conducted by Perspectus Global on behalf of Amazon Alexa during April this year.  

‘To be or not to be’, ‘where for out thou Romeo’ and ‘all that glitters is not gold’ are just a few of the recognisable phrases coined by Shakespeare. 

Amazon found 43 per cent of Brits admit to not knowing that the famous term ‘fair play’ was coined by Shakespeare.

‘Fair play’ was used in several of his plays, including The Tempest, when the character Miranda says: ‘Yes, for a score of kingdoms you should wrangle, And I would call it, fair play.’

The research also found 40 per cent of Brits don’t know ‘for goodness sake’ and 39 per cent don’t know ‘what’s done is done’ are derived from his plays.   

‘For goodness sake’ from Henry VIII is the phrase used most by Brits, amounting to 120 times a year, the research found, with ‘fair play’ and ‘what’s done is done’, spoken by Lady Macbeth, close behind.

Despite lines from the playwright shaping the phrases we use today, 34 per cent admitted to struggling to understand the works of Shakespeare, while 47 per cent said they hadn’t read any Shakespeare since finishing their education. 

Shakespeare Day lands on April 23 every year as it was the date of his death in 1616 aged 52, from a cause that has never been established. 

April 23 is also the supposed date of his birth in 1564 – although whether or not he was ever actually born on that day is a fact lost to history. 

The English playwright, poet, and actor William Shakespeare, portrayed here in an illustration taken from Meyers Lexicon, is widely believed to have been the greatest dramatist of all time

Shakespeare Birthplace Trust believes April 23 is a good estimate for his birthday, however.  

It explains on its website: ‘Shakespeare’s baptism is recorded in the Parish Register at Holy Trinity Church, Stratford-upon-Avon on Wednesday 26 April 1564. 

‘Baptisms typically took place within three days of a new arrival, and parents were instructed by the Prayer Book to ensure that their children were baptised no later than the first Sunday after birth. 

‘This means that it’s unlikely that Shakespeare was born any earlier than the previous Sunday, 23 April. 

‘Given that three days would be a reasonable interval between birth and baptism, 23 April has therefore come to be celebrated as his birthday.’ 

ALEXA, TO BE OR NOT TO BE? AMAZON DEVICES POWERED BY THE DIGITAL ASSISTANT 

Last September, Amazon released new Alexa-powered Echo smart speakers, with an entirely new spherical design and and improved audio. 

The new fourth-generation Echo range switched from the original cylindrical design of the Echo range and hockey-puck design of the Echo Dot range. 

Amazon Echo has switched from its original hockey puck shape to a more fetching orb shape. Pictured, Echo Dot (4th generation)

The new range has a bright LED light ring at the base of the sphere that reflects off of surfaces ‘for added visibility’, a 3.0-inch woofer, dual-firing tweeters, and Dolby processing to deliver better stereo sound.   

The new Echo is currently priced at £80 and the smaller Echo Dot from £50, while a kids’ version of the Echo Dot is also available featuring a panda or tiger design.

Alternatively, users can opt for the Echo Show range – its devices that combine a camera and a screen with a smart speaker that’s powered by Alexa.

Amazon is currently offering its Echo Show 8 smart display for £100 and Echo Show 10, with a larger screen, for £240. 

Since the Echo range was kicked off in 2014, it has birthed a huge range of different devices – some of which are still to be released.  

Echo Frames – Alexa-powered smart glasses with tiny microphones built into the frame, which are available ‘on invitation’ by the company and are also yet to get a full release.   

On its unveiling, UK writer Sam Jordison called the high-tech specs a piece of ‘terrifying spyware’ and a threat to privacy, by allowing Alexa to hear and record the most personal conversations within earshot.   

In in September 2019, Amazon announced the Echo Loop smart ring for users to speak into their hand, which is yet to get a full release. 

Also announced on the same day were Echo Frames – Alexa-powered smart glasses with tiny microphones built into the frame. 

On its unveiling, UK writer Sam Jordison called the high-tech specs a piece of ‘terrifying spyware’ and a threat to privacy, by allowing Alexa to hear and record the most personal conversations within earshot.  

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