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Home :: Archive :: 1996 :: March ::
Re: Funeral Elegy (and the Sonnets)
Shakespeare Electronic Conference, Vol. 7, No. 0202.  Wednesday, 13 March 1996.

(1)     From:   David Joseph Kathman <
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        Date:   Monday, 11 Mar 1996 22:44:56 +0
        Subj:   Re: SHK 7.0193  Re: Funeral Elegy

(2)     From:   Richard J Kennedy <
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        Date:   Monday, 11 Mar 1996 21:35:18 -0800
        Subj:   Funeral Elegy

(3)     From:   Richard J Kennedy <
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        Date:   Monday, 11 Mar 1996 22:31:52 -0800
        Subj:   Funeral Elegy

(4)     From:   Don Foster <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 13 Mar 1996 00:08:01 -0400 (EDT)
        Subj:   Funeral Elegy


(1)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           David Joseph Kathman <
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Date:           Monday, 11 Mar 1996 22:44:56 +0100
Subject: 7.0193  Re: Funeral Elegy
Comment:        Re: SHK 7.0193  Re: Funeral Elegy

Bill Godshalk writes:

>Dave has also sided with the scholars who want to date the sonnets in the
>seventeenth century, shortly before they were printed and published in 1609.
>For the sake of debate (the sonnets don't FEEL late to me because they seem
>related to plays like LLL and R&J), let's grant Dave a late dating of the
>sonnets -- circa 1609.

Well, this isn't quite accurate.  I don't think there's anybody out there who
believes that the Sonnets were all written in 1608 or 1609.  The position I
incline toward is that the Sonnets were written over a period of years, largely
around the turn of the century and a few years after, and that Shakespeare may
have written or revised some of them in preparation for the 1609 Quarto.  The
Sonnets as a whole have more vocabulary in common with *H5* and *Hamlet* than
with any of the early plays, despite the very different subject matter.  And
the all the "Shakespeare-roles" identified by SHAXICON up to Adam in *As You
Like It* influence the vocabulary of the Sonnets.

>The sonnets are then the closest non-dramatic poetry to FE (1612).  Only three
>or four years separates them, and they are both basically written in quatrains.
> As you recall, Shakespeare likes the three quatrain and a couplet structure
>for the sonnet, and FE is basically in quatrains.  And some scholars want to
>llink FE to the first 126 sonnets.
>
>So let's compare FE to the sonnets. Let's use the sonnets as a rational
>standard, and see how close they are in terms of style -- feminine endings,
>enjambement, elisions, and so on. I have no idea what the statistics are, but
>wouldn't this comparison make sense?

As I've just said, I wouldn't put the Sonnets as close to FE as you say -- more
like ten years than three or four.  I don't have all the numbers here, but in
feminine endings, as has been noted, the Sonnets overall are 7.7%, FE is 11.6%.
In run-on lines (enjambment), the Sonnets are about 17% (I don't have the
exact number), FE is 46% --- but Shakespeare increased his enjambment markedly
in the late plays (from 19% in *Ado* to 31% in *Lear* to 46% in *Tempest*).
Both the Sonnets and FE have the same number of relative clauses, roughly 13
per 1000 words.  FE has more hyphenated compound words than the Sonnets (101
per 20,000 words vs. 75), but both are well within Shakespeare's normal limits.
In terms of vocabulary, I believe that the Sonnets have more vocabulary in
common with FE, percentagewise, than any other text in Don Foster's
considerable text archive.

Dave Kathman

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PS: (Actually, upon checking I find that *A Lover's Complaint* has slightly
more vocabulary overlap with the Sonnets than does FE, but it's very close --
less than one word per 1000 difference.)

And on glancing through Don Foster's list of English elegies, I see there was
an "Elegy upon His Honoured Friend Mr. James Herrewyn", written by "J.
Godschalck" (p.309).  A relative, perhaps, Bill?

(2)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Richard J Kennedy <
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Date:           Monday, 11 Mar 1996 21:35:18 -0800
Subject:        Funeral Elegy

Don Foster says that his 6-page comment on his Funeral Elegy talks was an
"unpublished handout", and I was at fault for quoting from his remarks.  But
there IS no such thing as an "unpublished handout".  The multiple reproduction
and distribution of such material is fully copyright, published, and you'll
find that to be so by asking it of the U.S. Copyright Office, Washington D.C.
The laws on this will be sent free explaining all.  Such handouts are fully
copyrighted, and are free to those who would quote from such material.
Contrarywise, it is perhaps not unlawful, but it is certainly a breach of
professional etiquette to quote in a public forum from a private letter, and
Don Foster has done this, snatching a few lines of mine meant for his eyes
only, not for public display.  So much for that.

As to John Ford, I believe I respectfully asked if Shaxicon had been checked
against that poet.  I ask again--has it, and what are the results?   Might Ford
have written the Funeral Elegy?  He was a close friend of the Peter family, and
is the question out of the way?  No evasion is needed, nor should I be scoured
for asking.  Has Shaxicon worked the problem?

I am surprised to hear that "aesthetic impressions (as to FE) have scarcely any
evidential value".  I had always thought that it was so.  How does a poet last
for 400 years except for such impressions?  There was never any machine that
told us Shakespeare was good.  A machine wouldn't know, and we have all this
while been depending on our aesthetic impressions. Would Foster call this luck?
 Who's going to judge a poem but a human being?  Is that opinion worth nothing?
 Does Don Foster really want to say this?

And then onward to the ad hominen comments and belittling talk.  I am a
"co-religionist", joined in "nonsense" and "perverse disregard" for facts (no
examples given), and shrill besides, having nothing to offer the group but
"anti-Stratfordian static".  Is this civil discourse, consideration of
another's opinion, the sort of comment we'd expect from a scholar and a
gentleman?  I'll give Don Foster such respect and be happy to do so, if he'll
be so kind as to do the same for me.  Let us set aside our beliefs of the
other's stupidity, and suspicions of private motives, and set our study to the
subject at hand, fairly distributing our proofs, be they even subjective or
aesthetic. And I thank Don Foster not to disparage me further in this regard.

(3)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Richard J Kennedy <
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Date:           Monday, 11 Mar 1996 22:31:52 -0800
Subject:        Funeral Elegy

Bill Godshalk invites us to compare the Funeral Elegy with the Sonnets of
Shakespeare.

The word "of" is a weak word, very useful, butr not much for poetic expression,
lacking tension, emphasis, and so forth.  Worse yet, you wouldn't want to begin
a line with the feeble thing.

In the Funeral Elegy, 30 lines begin with "of".

In the first 578 lines of the Sonnets, 2 lines begin with "of".

I'm as sorry about it as Shakespeare probably was, but statistics are
statistics.

(4)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Don Foster <
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Date:           Wednesday, 13 Mar 1996 00:08:01 -0400 (EDT)
Subject:        Funeral Elegy

I share the disappointment of many readers with respect to the unembellished
literary style of "A Funeral Elegy." We can all recognize that the elegy lacks
the poetic exuberance of *Venus and Adonis,* or of the Sonnets, or of *The
Tempest*.  Many readers besides Mr. Kennedy have wished that Shakespeare had
written a different kind of poem, or had written this one "better."  But it
will take more than bold assertion or idle speculation for the attribution to
go away. Given the pervasive evidence of Shakespeare's hand in the poem, "A
Funeral Elegy" will have a place hereafter in the canon--though probably never
as a well-loved or greatly admired text. Forthcoming essays by Prof. Abrams and
myself make clear how decisively the case for Shakespeare's authorship has
changed since 1989; it will be better if I sign off on the SHAKSPER discussion
of FE until both of those essays are in print.  I am loath to quarrel with a
fellow SHAKSPERian, and regret having complained of Mr. Kennedy's recent posts.
At least we can agree that it was not Edward de Vere who wrote "A Funeral
Elegy" in 1612.  Nothing here worth a quarrel.

Don Foster
 

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