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Home :: Archive :: 1995 :: June ::
Re: Shakespeare's Reading; Field; Q: On-line STC
Shakespeare Electronic Conference, Vol. 6, No. 0517.  Tuesday, 27 June 1995.
 
(1)     From:   Don Foster <
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        Date:   Monday, 26 Jun 1995 16:11:47 +0100
        Subj:   Shakespeare's reading
 
(2)     From:   Andrew Gurr <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 27 Jun 1995 12:33:15 +0100 (BST)
        Subj:   Shakespeare's Library
 
(3)     From:   Naomi Liebler <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 27 Jun 95 01:15:00 EST
        Subj:   RE: SHK 6.0513  Re: Field;
 
 
(1)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Don Foster <
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Date:           Monday, 26 Jun 1995 16:11:47 +0100
Subject:        Shakespeare's reading
 
re: Bob Leslie's query about the publications of Richard Field, and about
Shakespeare's reading:
 
The Appendix (vol. 3) of the revised *STC* will give you a complete listing of
Field's publications (or of any other stationer's booklist, 1475-1640).
 
On "Shakespeare's library": Although Shakespeare's library has not survived,
the electronic age is making it possible for us to track much of the poet's
reading (and, indeed, to check which other writers read Shakespearean texts).
There are two ways to track Shakespeare's reading, one using the OED, the other
using electronic archives; both require SHAXICON:
 
SHAXICON can be used to generate a list of words in Shakespearean text X that
appear nowhere else in the canon (i.e., words unique to text X), and another
list of words that appear in the canon nowhere *earlier* than text X. Take
*AYL* (A.D. 1599) as an example.  The "unique" words in *AYL* include
*abandoned* (ad.), *abruptly* (adv.), *allottery* (n.), and so on, through
*wrangling* (n.) and *wrastling* (n.) (the last of which appears in Fletcher's
assigned portion of *TNK*, but nowhere in canonical Shakespeare outside *AYL*.
Let's take this as our first checklist: canonical words unique to *AYL*.
 
Next let's take the words appearing in Shakespeare nowhere earlier than *AYL*,
thereby generating a word-list that will include *accoustrement* (n.),
*adoration* (n.), etc., through *to warp* (v.) and *whetstone* (n.).
 
We can now investigate whether Shakespeare in 1599 simply made up these words
off the top of his pate, or whether he borrowed many of them from some other
text.  It takes some manual labor, but one can collate both checklists against
two other kinds of resources: (1) the OED (preferably the OED on CD-rom) and
(2) archives of machine-readable texts (I've assembled my own archive, but you
can begin building yours from the Oxford Text Archive).
 
Let's begin with the OED.  One potential problem with the OED is that it
depends heavily on Shakespeare *as* a source of citations.  We may take
virtually any Renaissance text, and look up all of its unusual words in the
OED, only to discover that Shakespeare supplies more citations than any other
author.  This mad "method" has been used in the past to prove that Shakespeare
wrote texts that Shakespeare didn't write.  Finding a large number of
Shakespeare-citations in the OED for anonymous text Q doesn't mean that
Shakespeare wrote text Q: it only means that Shakespeare supplies more
citations for the OED than other authors.  But when one first isolates the
unique or first-time Shakespeare words for a bonified Shakespearean text, and
runs those words past the OED to look for previous citations, one effectively
eliminates Shakespeare as a source.
 
What one discovers by this method is that the OED yields a spotty but often
legible record of Shakespeare's reading.  Not surprisingly, Holinshed supplies
a disproportionate number of pre-Shakespeare citations for the Shakespeare
history plays, North's Plutarch for the Roman tragedies, and so on.
Non-narrative sources are indicated as well.  Using only the SHAXICON/OED
strategy, one might fairly conclude that the poet read Gerard's *Herbal* in
1597, Harsnet's *Declaration* in 1605, Dent's *Pathway to Heaven* in 1606, and
that he did a lot of thumbing through Cotgrave's French-English dictionary in
1611-12.  Moreover, by consulting two mutually exclusive word-lists, one has a
built-in cross-check:  if the same handful of texts seem to be supplying a
disproportionate number of the words that Shakespeare never uses elsewhere, or
never prior to writing text X, then we've got a strong presumption that
Shakespeare was reading those texts during or before his composition of text X.
 
One can perform the same kind of search using an archive of machine-readable
texts. Depnding on which and how many texts you've gathered into one archive,
one learns that Shakespeare read various texts by Greene, Spenser, Daniel,
Jonson, Marston, and Ford; that Ford in turn read Shakespeare; and so on.
 
This is a time-consuming labor, but it's one of many tasks that SHAXICON will
help to perform when SHAXICON is ready to perform (I'm shooting for 1996
publication).  In the meantime, hold your queries.  I'm pedaling as fast as I
can.
 
(2)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Andrew Gurr <
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Date:           Tuesday, 27 Jun 1995 12:33:15 +0100 (BST)
Subject:        Shakespeare's Library
 
Richard Field published a book at Xmas 1598 which has a piece about Henry V's
killing of the Agincourt prisoners. Since H5 was being written then, it
suggests some use by Shak. of Field's resources. See my edn. of H5, pp.235-7.
The book is Richard Crompton's Mansion of Magnanimitie. Andrew Gurr.
 
(3)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Naomi Liebler <
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Date:           Tuesday, 27 Jun 95 01:15:00 EST
Subject: 6.0513  Re: Field;
Comment:        RE: SHK 6.0513  Re: Field;
 
Bill Godshalk refers to an on-line access to the STC. Bill, can you tell us how
to get that access? Is it available only within certain university library LINK
systems or is there some public access available by e-mail, WWW, or telnet?
 
Thanks.
Naomi Liebler
 

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