Make a Donation

Consider making a donation to support SHAKSPER.

Subscribe to Our Feeds

Current Postings RSS

Announcements RSS

Home :: Archive :: 1994 :: November ::
Authorship
Shakespeare Electronic Conference, Vol. 5, No. 945. Wednesday, 23 November 1994.
 
(1)     From:   Don Foster <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
        Date:   Monday, 21 Nov 1994 15:41:41 -0400 (EDT)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 5.0918  Authorship
 
(2)     From:   Edward Gero <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
        Date:   Tuesday, 22 Nov 1994 10:08:09 -0500 (EST)
        Subj:   [Authorship]
 
 
(1)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Don Foster <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
Date:           Monday, 21 Nov 1994 15:41:41 -0400 (EDT)
Subject: 5.0918  Authorship
Comment:        Re: SHK 5.0918  Authorship
 
I don't want to argue with or confuse him with facts.  This much, in reply to
his queries:
 
1. "He [Kathman] and Don Foster both make the surprising claim that a
chronological sequence for the plays and poems is 'wholly determined by [the]
statistical data'.  Now, I can allow for a bit of rhetorical exaggeration, but
this sort of statement verges on being seriously misleading ..."
 
REPLY:  the sequence as determined by SHAXICONis indeed wholly determined by
statistical distribution.  That doesn't, of course, mean that SHAXICON's
sequence is correct in every instance, and it certainly doesn't mean that the
actual historical sequence was statistically determined.  That the sequence
indicated by lexical distribution closely matches the sequence constructed
through traditional scholarship is a happy correspondence.
 
2. "To translate these patterns into a chronological sequence of plays requires
the assumption that the distribution-differentials for characters were caused
by the author memorising the speeches of certain characters in order to perform
them as an actor.  Surely you can see that (a) this is not the only possible
explanation for the existence of these distribution patterns, and (b) it *is*
dependent on your assuming that the author was an actor..."
 
REPLY: "Shakespeare" (by whatever name you choose to call him) tends to
remember and to re-use the rare-word vocabulary of one role in each play; this
does not prove that he acted the role, only that he remembered it (e.g., King
Henry in 1-2H4, Adam in AYL, the Ghost in HAM, Brabantio in OTH, Albany in LR).
I'm happy to entertain alternative explanations for this phenomenon.
 
3. "The fact that I don't have an alternative explanation ready to hand is
hardly surprising, and doesn't vitiate my criticism in any way."
 
REPLY:  Oh.
 
4. "Just one final point... It's this. Why do people assume that Shakespeare
must have been an actor in order to have been a great playwright?  It seems an
extraordinary assumption..."
 
REPLY: In the coming years, anyone with time to spare and loads of grant money
can create a similar database for other acting playwrights such as Armin,
Rowley, Barkstead, Field, and early Jonson. A similar pattern of lexical recall
may become evident in the texts of these other writers.  Or maybe not.  In any
case, it makes no difference to me whether these men, or Shakespeare for that
matter, are said to be "great" writers and/or "great" actors. SHAXICON makes no
assumptions about "greatness." If the data were to indicate that Shakespeare
remembered the lead role in each of his plays, one might be tempted to
conjecture that he was a talented actor, but the available evidence suggests
that Shakespeare the actor was, at best, mediocre.
 
(2)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Edward Gero <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
Date:           Tuesday, 22 Nov 1994 10:08:09 -0500 (EST)
Subject:        [Authorship]
 
BRAVO BRAD: Right on the money!  Not to mention the "oh no, being a theatre
practitioner [ACTOR], can't possibly yield extraordinary insight into
playwrighting" red herring.  Come on.  I tend to agree with the
tenure/funding/newjob/publication argument whole heartedly.
 
As an UNDERGRADUATE I spent an entire year studying the Marlovian case for
authorship.  It was a fascinating 19th sleuth adventure, but finally I rallied
to this solution:  Either the plays were written by Shakespeare, or another
playwright using the name Shakespeare.
 
What the hell IS the difference?  The real point is that the plays ARE and
ought to be DONE in the theatre.  The relevant question seems to me is: what
are our criteria for a WELL DONE production?
 
It is precisely because Shakespeare was also an actor, that he could understand
the process of creating the INNER EXPERIENCE necessary to rendering the text
'authentic' to a contemporaneous ear; the same problem that exists for us.  The
plays are plays designed to be performed.  To argue against the importance of
application of knowledge of the craft of acting is akin to suggesting that
Mozart or Beethovan's ability as players could not or would not assist in the
composing of a sonata or symphony. It is in the PERFORMANCE that these texts
come to life no matter who wrote them.
 
In the words of Prince Hal:
 
        I prithee speak, we will not trust our eyes
        Without our ears...
 
Edward Gero
 

©2011 Hardy Cook. All rights reserved.