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Home :: Archive :: 1996 :: April ::
Re: Funeral Elegy
Shakespeare Electronic Conference, Vol. 7, No. 0323.  Tuesday, 30 April 1996.

(1)     From:   Jim Helfers <
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        Date:   Thursday, 25 Apr 1996 13:28:26 -0700 (MST)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 7.0301  Re: Funeral Elegy

(2)     From:   W. L. Godshalk <
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        Date:   Thursday, 25 Apr 1996 20:52:02 -0500 (EST)
        Subj:   As in FE

(3)     From:   Peter L. Groves <
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        Date:   Friday, 26 Apr 1996 15:01:56 GMT+1000
        Subj:   Re: SHK 7.0318  Re: Funeral Elegy

(4)     From:   W. L. Godshalk <
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        Date:   Saturday, 27 Apr 1996 22:00:08 -0500 (EST)
        Subj:   Harry Hill reading FE: A Soliloquy

(5)     From:   Charles Boyle <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 30 Apr 1996 11:21:05 -0500 (EST)
        Subj:   elegy

(6)     From:   Richard Kennedy <
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        Date:   Thursday, 25 Apr 1996 20:30:23 -0700
        Subj:   Funeral Elegy


(1)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Jim Helfers <
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Date:           Thursday, 25 Apr 1996 13:28:26 -0700 (MST)
Subject: 7.0301  Re: Funeral Elegy
Comment:        Re: SHK 7.0301  Re: Funeral Elegy

RE: Funeral Elegy

Sorry for the belated answer to Richard Kennedy's post of April 19th (SHAKSPER
7.0301, 21 April).  Having had my name taken in vain, so to speak, I was struck
with the irony of Mr. Kennedy's comments, since Donald Foster and David Kathman
had initially pointed out the work of the Shakespeare Clinic to me.  I sense
wheels within wheels in the Kennedy/Foster exchanges, so, with some trepidation
I enter this contested arena with some small scraps.

First, I believe that Elliott's program and SHAXICON really do very different
things.  The Shakespeare Clinic program concentrates on what I (perhaps idio-
syncratically) think of as "classical stylometry," the measurement of regular-
ly occurring stylistic features common to all writers.  As far as the Clinic's
conclusions about the Funeral Elegy are concerned, they strike me as ambig-
uous.  Their tests essentially specify a statistical range within an author's
style.  If stylistic markers in a tested sample fall outside the range of a
particular author, then the presumption is an alternate authorship.  Foster's
post on the tests and methods of the Clinic was, it seems to me, clear. He
questioned the validity of applying some of the stylistic tests; with the
questioned tests omitted, the FE falls statistically into the range of
Shakespeare's samples.

SHAXICON works in a different way.  Admittedly, the conclusions to be drawn
from manipulating this database rest on some assumptions: the main one is that
the person who wrote the plays also acted some parts in them (or at least knew
these parts better than the others, for whatever reason); another may be that
the Shakespeare who is listed as a sharer and player in the company is the one
who wrote the plays.  Even if those assumptions are not granted, there's still
the question of the statistically significant patterns of rare words revealed
by the data.  Notice that this is an entirely different tack from classical
stylometry, which surveys universal stylistic aspects instead of rare words.

On a further stylometric note:  on April 4 of this year, I heard a lecture by
Jonathan Hope of Middlesex University, entitled "'New' Works by Shakespeare?
Non-Lunatic Approaches to Authorship."  Initially, I was skeptical of his use
of traditional statistics, but I soon found that he has an interesting spin on
stylometry; he combines it with assumptions about patterns of historical
linguistic change to pick his contrastive pairs of syntactic items. His
sociolinguistic approach charts changes in syntactic usages.  It so happens
that a number of syntactic markers were undergoing rapid and significant
changes during the period of Shakespeare's career.  Such items as the use of
forms of the word "do" as an auxiliary, along with other items (doth vs. does,
Hath vs. has, ye vs. you) can be measured and charted on graphs of historical
language change.  Someone educated at a particular time would have the
syntactic habits peculiar to his generation.  (I'm not doing his analysis
justice for several reasons:  first, my notes on the talk are a bit sparse
after three weeks; second, he's publishing on this soon, and I promised not to
let out too much information).  To be brief -- Hope tested Shakespeare's use of
auxiliary "do" in his plays and verse, then checked the FE.  The pattern of
auxiliary "do" usage in FE falls within Shakespeare's range. Look for (I
believe) an article-length publication from him soon on this. He has already
written _The Authorship of Shakespeare's Plays: A Socio- Linguistic Study_.
Cambridge U., 1994.

Anyway, enough.  It's back to some feverish finals-week grading.

--Jim Helfers
  Grand Canyon University
  Phoenix, AZ

(2)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           W. L. Godshalk <
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Date:           Thursday, 25 Apr 1996 20:52:02 -0500 (EST)
Subject:        As in FE

Sometime ago Don Foster suggested that anyone who doubted Shakespeare's
authorship of FE should look at W.S.'s use of "as." As far as I can remember,
no one commented on that challenge on SHAKSPER.

Well, I thought I'd poke around and see what I could find in my spare time.
Acording to my count, FE the poem has 4577 words, 47 of which are ases. That's
a relative frequency of 10.26 ases per thousand words.  *The Tempest* has
according to the Oxford *Textual Companion* 12,812 words and 109 ases, or a
relative frequency 8.50 ases per thousand words.  *Cymbeline* has 22,878 words
and 257 ases, or a relative frequency of 11.23 ases per thousand words. The
Sonnets contain 17, 520 words and 120 ases, or a relative frequency of 6.84
ases per thousand words.  Marvin Spevack in *The Harvard Concordance to
Shakespeare* records a relative frequency of 6.88 ases per thousand words for
the whole canon. (I counted the "ases" at several websites.)

However, in terms of frequency, 10.26 seems a trifle high, but, taking
*Cymbeline* into account, I don't think it's extraordinarily out of line. So I
gather that Don was not talking about the relative frequency of ases in FE.

Yours, Bill Godshalk

(3)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Peter L. Groves <
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Date:           Friday, 26 Apr 1996 15:01:56 GMT+1000
Subject: 7.0318  Re: Funeral Elegy
Comment:        Re: SHK 7.0318  Re: Funeral Elegy

Richard Kennedy writes of the Funeral Elegy:

> If some sensible scholars with an ear for poetry
> (this seems to be the dividing line) can uncover some other possible
> writers of the Elegy, let them speak out.

Yes: this really *does* seem to be the dividing line, and it suggests a
connection between the Elegy discussion and the current controversy about the
quality and provenance of the Bad Quarto of *Hamlet*.  I suspect that a reader
who is happy to attribute the tedious flatulence of the *Elegy* to Shakespeare
might indeed not baulk at ascribing to him stuff like the following:

     To be, or not to be, I there's the point.
     To Die, to sleepe, is that all?  I all:
     No, to sleepe, to dreame, I mary there it goes,
     For in that dreame of death, when wee awake,
     And borne before an euerlasting Iudge,
     From whence no passenger euer retur'nd,
     The vndiscouered country, at whose sight
     The happy smile, and the accursed damn'd.
     But for this, the ioyfull hope of this,
     Whol'd beare the scornes and flattery of the world,
     Scorned by the right rich, the rich curssed of the poore?
                                                              (Q1 815-25)

     O imperious death!  How many Princes
     Has thou at one draft bloudily shot to death?
                                                             (Q1 2125-26)

     Content your selues, Ile shew to all, the ground,
     The first beginning of this Tragedy:
     Let there a scaffold be rearde vp in the market place,
     And let the State of the world be there:
     Where you shall heare such a sad story tolde,
     That neuer mortall man could more vnfolde.
                                                       (Q1 2130-35)

Presumably it is no co-incidence that these improbable ascriptions have become
academically respectable at a time when the very idea of specifically
*literary* value--the notion, for example, that in some objective sense
'Lycidas' is a better poem than FE--is widely regarded as a kind of ideological
swindle, a covert attempt to foist bourgeois humanist values onto unsuspecting
students.  If all texts are now democratically equal, then there is indeed no
reason why Shakespeare should not be held responsible for FE *and* the 1603
*Hamlet*, but as the Duke of Wellington said to a stranger who accosted him
with "Mr Jones, I believe": "If you believe that, you'll believe anything".

Peter Groves,
Department of English,
Monash University,

(4)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           W. L. Godshalk <
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Date:           Saturday, 27 Apr 1996 22:00:08 -0500 (EST)
Subject:        Harry Hill reading FE: A Soliloquy

Yesterday I got the tape of Harry Hill reading *The Funeral Elegy*, and I am
happily impressed.  Harry does an excellent interpretation. I followed the text
as he read, and it occurred to me that perhaps the poem is meant to be
performed.  Read as a dramatic meditation on death, the Elegy gains in power
and meaning.

Harry treats the poem as a kind of long soliloquy, moving from public to
private voice. I was quite taken by the dramatic qualities of the poem as read
by Harry, and if Shakespeare did write this poem, we might expect it to have
dramatic qualities that are essential unrealized in the study.  (I am, of
course, not putting this comment forward as an argument for attributing the
poem to Shakespeare.)

In any case, I strongly recommend Harry Hill's reading.  And after listening to
it, I have a new respect for the Elegy.

Yours, Bill

(5)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Charles Boyle <
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Date:           Tuesday, 30 Apr 1996 11:21:05 -0500 (EST)
Subject:        elegy

The Funeral Elegy has invited discussion on the still vexed issue of authorship
and that's always a healthy sign. In regard to the current problem, I find
parts of the Elegy that actually flow like good writing. And the fact that the
initials W.S. are attached to it may prove significant.

An earlier post touched on the same thing I had noticed after reading it. There
seem to be two voices. Sections, particularly towards the middle, read much
better than, for instance, the turgid opening.

Still I can't help finding the attempt to ascribe this verse, in its totality,
to the author who was already capable of writing the Sonnets, odd in its
insistence. So much work is still to be done. Has anyone yet compared this
elegy with The Phoenix and Turtle? How is the vast difference between the two
to be reconciled? How could the mature Shakespeare pass over the Elegy lines,
even as an editor, without correction? It's too far a fall.

Consider, however, that Thomas Thorpe published Shake-speares Sonnets (why
can't he ever get the name right?) - and again apparently without the author's
participation. Then the theoretical possibility that parts of this elegy might
represent the work of a very young Shakespeare, other parts added by a second
hand - John Ford? - for this occasion, becomes at least plausible. We have seen
two hands before in Shakespeare.

Perhaps Don Foster is on to something. Has Shaxicon examined the other
published writings of W.S.? The letters of William Stanley? And when will it
visit our old friend Edward De Vere? There are lines in the Funeral Elegy
almost as good as his early poetry.

Curiously,
Charles Boyle

(6)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Richard Kennedy <
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Date:           Thursday, 25 Apr 1996 20:30:23 -0700
Subject:        Funeral Elegy

The Funeral Elegy isn't such a bad poem, as elegies go.  I am getting over my
first shock that it might be included with Shakespeare's works, and can look at
it less passionately now.

It's faults are the faults of youth, the sincerity and righteousness, the
gathering of philosophy from books, and the cliches, simply show a young man
learning his trade.  He has not yet learned to frame his mind with words, but
he shows promise.  He has a flair, and courage, and like a brave subaltern
ventures out on sentences from which he has little hope of returning from the
lines unscarred.  But that's youth, and he's all right.  I guess you could say
his heart is in the right place.

What else might be known of W.S. is not a lot..  He was evidently a friend of
William Peter.  He was young (147-148), and of independent means (230-231), and
he wrote "in disguise" (208), and had himself suffered slander.  Much more
can't be known.

What can possibly be known of William Peter goes to this list: He evidently had
degrees from both Oxford and Cambridge (301-302), and might have been a
Catholic (320).  He had a private fortune (305-308), and his father was dead
(68).  He was a "youth" (197) and a gentleman (430), and died where he was born
(131).  He was a writer (238), and you might suppose that he was famous
(200-203; 227, 243, 429-430), but suffered scandal and malice in his days (much
of this).

Some of these items above might be debateable.  Those who have read the Funeral
Elegy will want to correct me, and I will be glad to know more of W.S. and
William Peter insofar as we can puzzle some information out of the poem.
 

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