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Home :: Archive :: 1996 :: February ::
Re: Funeral Elegy
Shakespeare Electronic Conference, Vol. 7, No. 142. Wednesday, 28 February 1996.

(1)     From:   Porter Jamison <
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        Date:   Monday, 26 Feb 1996 21:32:20 -0800
        Subj:   Re: Funeral Elegy

(2)     From:   Richard J Kennedy <
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        Date:   Sunday, 25 Feb 1996 13:37:38 -0800
        Subj:   Funeral Elegy

(3)     From:   G. I. Egan <
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        Date:   Sunday, 25 Feb 1996 17:50:58 +0000 (GMT)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 7.0135 Re: Funeral Elegy

(4)     From:   W. L. Godshalk <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 27 Feb 1996 09:59:20 -0500 (EST)
        Subj:   FE


(1)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Porter Jamison <
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Date:           Monday, 26 Feb 1996 21:32:20 -0800
Subject:        Re: Funeral Elegy

What is known of the man who died?  Was he married in 1603?  Did he have
children?  If the answer to either of these is "no", then the poem wasn't
written in 1612 about this particular man...

I haven't had the chance to study and dissect the piece yet (which, I know,
makes me a johnny-come-lately among SHAKSPERians), but upon skimming the poem
lightly, it seems a number of words are used in ways Shakespeare doesn't use
them.  Has anyone else noticed this and done a study?

(2)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Richard J Kennedy <
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Date:           Sunday, 25 Feb 1996 13:37:38 -0800
Subject:        Funeral Elegy

Don Foster says we shouldn't expect too much poetry out of the Funeral Elegy,
nothing fancy like interesting imagery, original and well-wrought lines, for
the reason that the FE is written in "plain style."  The trouble is, there IS
no such thing as "plain style."  Foster made up the word to excuse the poem for
being such a drag.

Bill Godshalk says that it's worse than that.  He says what we're really into
is "micro-style", and we will discover thereby the Shakespearean lilt and
genius of the thing.  Micro-style is a brand new word also, coined to cover a
multitude of faults. I take it to be essentially the Shaxicon program, which is
something like a carrot-grater that judges poetry.

There is "plain song", but it always needs some verse to be sung. The Funeral
Elegy cannot be sung and can hardly be spoken aloud, according to the testimony
reported here of a group who has tried it out.  Micro-style we will have to
learn more about.  I'm told that it will make the Funeral Elegy more like
Shakespeare's other poems, which reminds me of Mark Twain's comment on Wagner's
music:

   "They tell me it's much better than it sounds."

(3)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           G. I. Egan <
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Date:           Sunday, 25 Feb 1996 17:50:58 +0000 (GMT)
Subject: 7.0135 Re: Funeral Elegy
Comment:        Re: SHK 7.0135 Re: Funeral Elegy

David Kathman argues that in order to make a valid comparison between the 11.5
per cent of lines in Funeral Elegy which have feminine endings and the 30 per
cent of late Shakespearean verse which has feminine endings

> you have to separate blank verse from
> rhymed verse, since the nature of rhyme (with its emphasis on the end of the
> line) tends to discourage feminine endings (with their unstressed final
> syllable).

This requires a model of the creative process in which some features are more
intended than others. What evidence is there that the decision to use rhyme
makes a poet less likely to use feminine endings? If you mean that it is harder
to find rhymes for feminine endings, so the poet avoids them, you are making an
assumption about the effort put into the creation. Every feminine ending in the
Elegy is rhymed, and all but one of these rhymes (line 507 with line 509) is
also a feminine rhyme, ie where the final two syllables rhyme (eg 'ambition'
with 'commission').

Kathman goes on to examine the proportion of feminine endings in the rhymed
verse in The Tempest:

> there are 23 feminine endings out of 142 rhymed lines (16.2
>percent); if we exclude the 12-line trochaic song of Juno and Ceres at
>4.1.106-117, in which every line is deliberately feminine for effect,we get 11
>of 130 feminine endings, or 8.5 percent.

If certain parts are excluded because "every line is deliberately feminine for
effect" you need to state your criteria for deciding what is not deliberate,
what is not 'an effect'. These unstated criteria define the limits of
stylometric analysis, do they not?

Gabriel Egan

(4)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           W. L. Godshalk <
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Date:           Tuesday, 27 Feb 1996 09:59:20 -0500 (EST)
Subject:        FE

If I haven't missed anything, no one has yet mentioned Richard Abrams' "In
Defense of W.S." in TLS 9 Feb. 1996, 25-26, and Stanley Wells' response in TLS
16 Feb. 1996, 17.  Abrams basically argues for Shakespeare's authorship, and
Wells points out some problems with that ascription.  Wells believes that "a
common feature of Shakespeare's late verse is the presence of the elided forms
'i'th' ' and 'o'th.' '"  He claims to have found "not a single one in the
poem."  Further,  Wells indicates that Shakespeare's use of feminine endings
dramatically increases to over 30 per cent in the late plays, and it's only
11.6 per cent in FE. Egan has already made that point here, but Kathman agues
that we should look only at non-dramatic poetry in this context.

But what context shall we accept?  I think it may be bad procedure to use
Shakespeare's late dramatic style for statistics on, say, enjambement, and
Shakespeare's (basically early) non-dramatic style for statistics on, say,
feminine endings and elision. In which of Shakespeare's "styles" is FE written?
I don't think we should use a different standard to judge each stylistic
particularity in FE.

Wells, following Foster, points out that Shakespeare's brother Gilbert "died
and was buried in Stratford during the period in which the elegy has to have
been written" (17).  Did Shakespeare neglect his brother and concentrate his
energies on a "friend"?  Maybe so.

Yours, Bill Godshalk
 

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