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Home :: Archive :: 1996 :: May ::
Re: Funeral Elegy and Stylometry
Shakespeare Electronic Conference, Vol. 7, No. 0358.  Saturday, 11 May 1996.

(1)     From:   Leo Daugherty <
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        Date:   Thursday, 9 May 1996 00:07:23 GMT
        Subj:   Re: SHK 7.0352  Re: Texts; Funeral Elegy

(2)     From:   Richard J Kennedy <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 8 May 1996 19:20:48 -0700
        Subj:   Funeral Elegy

(3)     From:   Jonathan Hope <
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        Date:   Friday, 10 May 1996 15:46:57 GMT
        Subj:   Re: SHK 7.0335  Funeral Elegy


(1)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Leo Daugherty <
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Date:           Thursday, 9 May 1996 00:07:23 GMT
Subject: 7.0352  Re: Texts; Funeral Elegy
Comment:        Re: SHK 7.0352  Re: Texts; Funeral Elegy

Speaking as someone who believes (and who has said here on SHAKSPER) that
Shakespeare wrote FUNERAL ELEGY, and also as someone who has studied Ford's
LINE OF LIFE (and funeral elegy on Charles Blount/Mountjoy), I would caution
Richard Kennedy about concluding too much from the Shakespearean allusions/
echoes in Ford's work.  For example, using Mr. Kennedy's logic, we should
probably conclude the Ford also wrote Shakespeare's Sonnet 16 ("So should the
lines of life that life repair . . ."), giving the phrase a spin not even
brought out by Empson's famous polysemic analysis (in SEVEN TYPES OF
AMBIGUITY).

The truth is that John Ford knew Will Peter and was (self-evidently, judging
from his work as a whole) one of the first great Shakespeare fans. It is also
true that we have yet more to learn from Ford about Shakespeare, and some of it
from THE LINE OF LIFE, which has been barely studied at all. (I'm working on
it, but it's slow work.)

                                                  Leo Daugherty

(2)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Richard J Kennedy <
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Date:           Wednesday, 8 May 1996 19:20:48 -0700
Subject:        Funeral Elegy

One of Ford's biographers, M. Joan Sargeant ("John Ford" NY, (1966) doesn't
much care for "Fame's Memorial" (1606), finding it "very wearisome", and in a
"highly artificial style".

Such a critical judgment applies very well to the "Funeral Elegy"(1612), if we
take John Ford to be the poet of that as well. Sargeant also says that Ford's
"Christ's Bloody Sweat" (1613), "is of no great value, but it is better than
"Fames Memorial", though partly in the same style."

All three poems are of a bunch, I think, John Ford when he was 20 (FM), then 26
(FE) and a year later (CBS).  The last poem matches many lines with the Elegy,
and in all three there is a posing style, a lack of poetry, and the attitude of
John Ford quipped upon by a contemporary:

"Deep in a dump John Forde alone was got,
With folded arms and melancholy hat...."

(3)----------------------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Jonathan Hope <
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Date:           Friday, 10 May 1996 15:46:57 GMT
Subject: 7.0335  Funeral Elegy
Comment:        Re: SHK 7.0335  Funeral Elegy

Bill Godshalk asked me to be a bit more explicit about my reasons for being
sceptical of 'absolute' claims for authorship studies.  I'm very happy to do
this - and I don't in the least take it as a hostile question.  One of the
reasons authorship work on Shakespeare has such a dismal record is a failure to
engage with methodology, and an obsession with headline-grabbing results. I
wish people cared less about who wrote what, and more about how to find out who
wrote what (I think Foster's book is exemplary on this level).

To put it simply, I think that it is possible, for some texts, to prove that
author X could not have written the text.  I do not, however, think that it is
ever possible to prove that author Y *DID* write the text.

This follows from my understanding of how hypotheses are tested in science (and
as far as I am concerned, authorship studies are, or ought to be, science).  In
science you never prove that a hypothesis is 'true' by experiment:  you either
show that it is false; or show that your results would not falsify it.

In other words, hypotheses are either falsified, or they live to be tested
another day - when they could possibly be falsified, or replaced by another
more robust hypothesis.

To transfer this to authorship:  Edward III is an anonymous text.  I
hypothesise that the text was written by Shakespeare.  I test this hypothesis
by comparing Shakespeare's use of the auxiliary verb 'do' in his uncontested
works with the usage of the author(s) of Edward III.  There are two possible
outcomes:

       1.   The usage of auxiliary 'do' in Edward III is unlike that found in
any play by Shakespeare.  The hypothesis is falsified and I conclude that
Shakespeare did not write Edward III.

        2.   The usage of auxiliary 'do' in Edward III is like that found in
Shakespeare's plays.  In this case the hypothesis is not falsified, and I
conclude that Shakespeare *could* have written Edward III.

It seems to me that much stylometry slides over the modals that ought to
accompany unfalsified hypotheses.  Of course, if we test lots of hypotheses
about different linguistic features, and none are falsified, then we may
conclude that, of the names we know about, Shakespeare is the *best* candidate
for authorship - but this in not the same thing as *proving* that Shakespeare
did, in fact, write a play.

I may be misrepresenting science and stylometry here, but these are the
principles I use in my own work.

Jonathan Hope
Middlesex University
 

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