Make a Donation

Consider making a donation to support SHAKSPER.

Subscribe to Our Feeds

Current Postings RSS

Announcements RSS

Home :: Archive :: 1996 :: March ::
Re: Funeral Elegy (and the Sonnets)
Shakespeare Electronic Conference, Vol. 7, No. 0205.  Thursday, 14 March 1996.

(1)     From:   Don Foster <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
        Date:   Wednesday, 13 Mar 1996 19:42:05 -0400 (EDT)
        Subj:   Funeral Elegy (and the Sonnets)

(2)     From:   Richard J Kennedy <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
        Date:   Wednesday, 13 Mar 1996 14:37:24 -0800
        Subj:   Funeral Elegy

(3)     From:   Michael Skovmand <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
        Date:   Thursday, 14 Mar 1996 09:39:47 MET
        Subj:   Re: SHK 7.0202  Re: Funeral Elegy (and the Sonnets)


(1)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Don Foster <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
Date:           Wednesday, 13 Mar 1996 19:42:05 -0400 (EDT)
Subject:        Funeral Elegy (and the Sonnets)

Just when I say that I'll try to avoid arguing with Richard Kennedy, he again
bites his own foot.  He writes:

>The word "of" is a weak word, very useful, but 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.

The reason that FE has a high percentage of "Of" (1 per 20 lines) will be
perfectly obvious to most SHAKSPERians: The verse is highly enjambed.  Only a
few English poets living in 1612--all London playwrights--sustain a rate of
enjambment as high as that found in FE--and ALL of those poets have a high
percentage of lines beginning with "Of." As Shakespeare's rate of enjambment
rockets upward from 1606 to 1613, so does his frequency of lines beginning with
"Of."  If there were not about 30 lines beginning with "Of" in the Elegy, it
would constitute evidence *against* Shakespeare's authorship.  For example: of
the first 250 lines of Henry VIII (from I.i.1 to I.ii.25, which everyone agrees
are by Shakespeare), 11 begin with "Of" (1 per 23 lines); of the first 250
pentameter lines of TNK (from I.i.26 to II.i.42), 10 begin with "Of" (1 per 25
lines).  And yet both of these are conversational texts, with discontinuous
speeches--so that many more lines must begin a new sentence than in the
continuous quatrains of a poem like FE. Adjusted for differences between
dramatic and nondramatic texts, or between blank verse and continuous
quatrains, we should expect to find about 1 line out of 30 beginning with "Of"
in Sh's portion of H8 and TNK, 1 line out of 20 beginning with "Of" in a poem
by Shakespeare written in 1612.  Lines beginning with "Of" are somewhat *more*
frequent than expected in the opening scenes of H8 and TNK, right on the money
for FE. Once again, Mr. Kennedy has spoken without first checking his facts.
This is, however, the last time that I will respond to his posts.  It is good
for Shakespeare studies, and for critical reception of the Funeral Elegy, when
Mr. Kennedy performs the role of gadfly, but I have no wish to continue
swinging at him.  I wish Mr. Kennedy all deserved success in the months ahead
as he seeks to gain an audience for his views.

Don Foster

(2)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Richard J Kennedy <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
Date:           Wednesday, 13 Mar 1996 14:37:24 -0800
Subject:        Funeral Elegy

The comparison of the Funeral Elegy with the Sonnets seems to be a good idea.
To make the chore a bit easier, I've been toting up some items using the whole
578 lines of the Elegy and the first 578 lines of the Sonnets -- which goes 2
lines into sonnet 42. That seems as representative a chunk as any, and fair
enough to the task, seeing as I have no computer program to sic on these
selections.  My counting may be off 2 or 3 either way, but the counting was
done by hand and the tally differences are large enough that a small error
might be excused.

Lines ending with a colon:                      Elegy 10, Sonnets 55

Words with 4 or more syllables:                 Elegy 73, Sonnets 15

The use of ellipses:                            Elegy 8, Sonnets NONE

Total of full-stopped sentences:                Elegy 79, Sonnets 107

Lines carried over w/o punctuation:             Elegy 289, Sonnets 77

Lines beginning with "of":                      Elegy 30, Sonnets 2

Lines with punctuation within:                  Elegy 212, Sonnets 108

Use of question marks:                          Elegy 6, Sonnets 19

Of course you might take 578 lines of the Sonnets from back to front, or select
from the middle, but this seems a good sample, and the differences are quite
easy to see, as well as it is obvious that Richard Abrams is wrong when he
writes in the Shakespeare Newsletter: "Judged by his largely unconscious
linguistic preferences, W.S.'s style seems virtually indistinguishable from
Shakespeare's."

(3)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Michael Skovmand <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
Date:           Thursday, 14 Mar 1996 09:39:47 MET
Subject: 7.0202  Re: Funeral Elegy (and the Sonnets)
Comment:        Re: SHK 7.0202  Re: Funeral Elegy (and the Sonnets)

I must take issue with the Kathman/Godshalk *radicality* of uncertainty as to
the dating of the sonnets : sonnets 138 and 144 appeared in the miscellany *The
Passionate Pilgrim* in 1599, with only a few insignificant variations in
spelling! And these two, IMHO, are among his most sophisticated and *mature*
sonnets, thematically and stylistically. Shakespeare, in other words, was fully
developed as a sonneteer by 1599. Doesn't this make any dating game involving
FE and the sonnets highly problematic?

Michael Skovmand
U. of Aarhus
Denmark
 

©2011 Hardy Cook. All rights reserved.