Alexa Celebrates Shakespeare’s Birthday by Learning His Poems and Insults
Alexa has learned to speak like William Shakespeare in honor of the Bard’s 457th birthday. For Shakespeare Day 2021, Amazon added lines from his plays and poems, including some of his wittier insults.
Wherefore Art Thou Alexa
Alexa channels Shakespeare when asked to speak like the playwright, responding with a random phrase from his plays. The voice assistant completes a couple of the most famous lines directly as well. If asked, “Alexa, Romeo, Romeo, wherefore art thou Romeo?” or “Alexa, to be or not to be?” the AI will follow up with the next few lines from those monologues. Beyond the plays, Alexa also has a collection of sonnets, soliloquies and insults to share with users. The AI even takes a stab at an original poem about Shakespeare, albeit in limerick form.
Amazon revealed some survey research on how Shakespeare’s ear for a turn of phrase continues to influence how people speak centuries later. In Britain, people use a phrase coined by Shakespeare 83 times a month on average. The most frequently used Shakespearean term is “for goodness’ sake,” with the Henry the Eighth line used by British people about 120 times a year followed by The Tempest term “fair play,” and Lady Macbeth’s line “what’s done is done.” That doesn’t mean people are aware of the Elizabethan origins, however. Amazon’s survey reported 40% didn’t know “for goodness’ sake” is from Shakespeare and 43% and 39% not knowing that “fair play” and “what’s done is done” are original Shakespeare lines, respectively. That may also be why about a third of British people say they have trouble understanding the plays, and almost half saying they haven’t glanced at any of his writing since graduating from school. Perhaps Alexa will reawaken some interest in Shakespeare’s works since it was meant to be performed, not read.
“Shakespearean language is a work of art and there are many phrases that we still use today,” Alexa UK & Ireland Country Manager Dennis Stansbury said. “Alexa is always learning and we hope that this update helps customers not only learn more about the history of the English language but brings some joy.”
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