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Home :: Archive :: 1996 :: February ::
Re: Funeral Elegy
Shakespeare Electronic Conference, Vol. 7, No. 0130.  Tuesday, 20 February 1996.

(1)     From:   Richard J Kennedy <
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        Date:   Monday, 19 Feb 1996 12:16:42 -0800
        Subj:   Re: SHK 7.0127  Re: Funeral Elegy

(2)     From:   Gabriel Egan <
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        Date:   Monday, 19 Feb 1996 22:00:06 +0000
        Subj:   Re: SHK 7.0127 Re: Funeral Elegy

(3)     From:   David Joseph Kathman <
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        Date:   Monday, 19 Feb 1996 21:29:28 +0100
        Subj:   Re: SHK 7.0127  Re: Funeral Elegy


(1)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Richard J Kennedy <
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Date:           Monday, 19 Feb 1996 12:16:42 -0800
Subject: 7.0127  Re: Funeral Elegy
Comment:        Re: SHK 7.0127  Re: Funeral Elegy

Maybe that guy Coville, or whatever his name is, wrote Primary Colors.  I mean
Clinton's campaign manager.

(2)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Gabriel Egan <
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Date:           Monday, 19 Feb 1996 22:00:06 +0000
Subject: 7.0127 Re: Funeral Elegy
Comment:        Re: SHK 7.0127 Re: Funeral Elegy

If I understand SHAXICON correctly, Foster uses the evidence of rare-word
occurrence to calculate the likelihood that a given set of texts is by a single
author.

Funeral Elegy has stylistic features that are demonstrably unlike late
Shakespearean verse. There are 67 lines with feminine endings in the Elegy,
which works out at about 11.5 per cent of the poem. The average for verse in
the late Shakespearean plays is about 30 per cent, I believe.

How are we to weigh evidence derived from rare-word usage with evidence derived
from feminine ending usage?

Gabriel Egan

(3)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           David Joseph Kathman <
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Date:           Monday, 19 Feb 1996 21:29:28 +0100
Subject: 7.0127  Re: Funeral Elegy
Comment:        Re: SHK 7.0127  Re: Funeral Elegy

I don't have much to add to the latest set of postings on the Funeral Elegy;
we've all pretty much said our piece for now, though this certainly won't be
the last word on the subject.  A few observations, though.

Stephanie Hughes finds the Elegy lacking in the passion of even Shakespeare's
worst poetry; that's obviously a subjective judgement, on which people can and
will differ.  She also says that "Many lines don't scan.  Show me one thing we
know to be Shakespeare's that doesn't scan."  Actually, the scansion of the
elegy, and its prosody in general, is very similar to Shakespeare's, as Don
Foster shows on pp. 82-89 of his book.  "W.S. is a skilled metrician. His elegy
contains few irregular lines, and of these, none can be described as
unfortunate.  There are in the Elegy only two lines with an extra foot (122,
309), both of which are commensurate with Shakespeare's practice.  For example,
the elegist, in compiling a list of seventeen virtues that adorned William
Peter, inserts in his iambic verse a single line of hexameter (122), as does
Shakespeare in Timon's list of seventeen social goods (Tim. 4.1.15-21).  In
both cases the irregular line helps to vary the rhythm, breaking up the
potential monotony of a list." (*Elegy by W.S., p.88-89).

Richard Kennedy says that "I haven't heard that Chapman was a chum of Prince
Henry, or even knew the man."  Actually, Prince Henry was Chapman's patron, so
I would guess they had at least met; the printed dedication (to Henry Jones) of
Chapman's elegy begins, "The most unvaluable and dismayful loss of my most dear
and heroical Patron, Prince Henry, hath so stricken all my spirits to the
earth, that I will never more dare to look up to any greatness; but resolving
the little rest of my poor life to obscurity, and the shadow of his death,
prepare ever hereafter for the light of Heaven."

Both Hughes and Kennedy are perfectly within their rights not to believe that
Shakespeare wrote this poem, though we've only covered a tiny sliver of the
relevant arguments in this discussion.  Many people, and certainly not just
Oxfordians, find it very hard to imagine Shakespeare writing this piece of
relatively lame verse; Hughes and Kennedy have both ably expressed this
skeptical view.  However, I do think the Elegy and the arguments for ascribing
it to Shakespeare both deserve a closer look than many people have been giving
them, and that's what I've tried to do in this discussion. If we're going to
discuss the Elegy intelligently, we should at least have a decent idea of the
historical and literary context in which it was written, as well as the actual
nature of the arguments in its behalf (as opposed to watered-down newspaper
accounts).

As for Bill Godshalk:  his scenario for the publication of FE sounds as
reasonable as any other, though we need to be careful to keep our arguments
separate.  Whether or not Thorpe expected to make any money off FE doesn't
necessarily have anything to do with how he got the manuscript; I could easily
imagine a scenario where W.S. came to Thorpe with the manuscript, and Thorpe
published it as a normal money-making venture.  If W.S. was recognized (in at
least some circles) as William Shakespeare, that would be an obvious selling
point.  In any case, I think it's a good bet that Thorpe came by the manuscript
directly from the author.  Katherine Duncan-Jones has argued pretty
convincingly that Thorpe has gotten a bum rap from scholars and was actually a
very conscientious stationer:  most of the texts he worked from were very good
ones; in many cases there is evidence of authorial corrections during the press
run, and/or other evidence of direct approval of the publication by the author;
the same authors kept coming back to Thorpe.  Thorpe may not have been a "major
player" in terms of number of publications, but he was more significant in
terms of the quality of his publications.  I agree that we need to ground our
speculation in the best evidence we have; I think the best evidence indicates
that Thorpe probably got the manuscript of the Elegy directly from the author,
though whether the publication was private is a separate and less clear issue.

Dave Kathman

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