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Home :: Archive :: 1998 :: February ::
Re: Funeral Elegy; SHAXICON
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 9.0099  Tuesday, 3 February 1998.

[1]     From:   Lisa Hopkins <
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        Date:   Monday, 2 Feb 1998 10:09:00 -0000
        Subj:   Funeral Elegy

[2]     From:   A. Kent Hieatt <
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        Date:   Monday, February 2, 1998
        Subj:   SHAXICON


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Lisa Hopkins <
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Date:           Monday, 2 Feb 1998 10:09:00 -0000
Subject:        Funeral Elegy

As well as the discussions listed by Bill Godshalk, there is also a note
by me in last summer's _Philological Quarterly_ (159-168) where I
suggest that a possible candidate for authorship of the Funeral Elegy
might be William Stradling, John Ford's cousin.

Lisa Hopkins
Sheffield Hallam University

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[2]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           A. Kent Hieatt <
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Date:           Monday, February 2, 1998
Subject:        SHAXICON

Where is Shaxicon?  And who has advance copies?  In 1993 Donald Foster
wrote me that he was on the point of making his then version
electronically available to everybody.  In 1995 he said
(http://www.bcpl.lib.md.us/\7Etross/ws/will.html) he was aiming for 1996
publication.  In his February 1996 _PMLA_ article on that funeral elegy,
Shaxicon was 'soon to be licensed for access on the World Wide Web,' and
much of the demonstration in that article depends on percentages derived
from it.   When is the reputation of _PMLA_ to be sustained by making
this most important source for his article available to those who can
check it?

The Web Site for Shaxicon is http://faculty.vassar.edu/\7Efoster/shax.
As of February 2 this year it hasn't been touched since February of last
year.  Back then we were given author's introduction, list of works
included with further details about _Romeo and Juliet_, and nothing
else.  Has _PMLA_ ever before published an article for which a vital
piece of supporting evidence like this one was not available even 24
months later?

The only people who have been in a position to check the percentages
that form a large part of the demonstration in the _PMLA_ article, and
that form the entire demonstration of his prior claims about which parts
Shakespeare himself played, are those to whom Foster has given earlier
versions of Shaxicon on disk.

After years of what I hoped was mutually enlightening correspondence
about 'rare word' research, Foster gave me successively versions 1.4 and
2.0, to be used in any fashion I desired, no strings attached.  I've
thanked him in print for this.  I used both versions profitably, but my
brother and co-worker, Charles W. Hieatt, became much more adept than I
through manipulating both versions intensively for his own research.
It's he who discovered that every one of Foster's calculations of these
percentages was incorrectly extracted from Shaxicon, because in
WordCruncher, the program on which Shaxicon was originally erected,
Foster had consistently started with the wrong half-screen in matching
two texts, a very easy mistake to make.

For instance, in _PMLA_ 111, (Feb. 1997),1090-91, Foster says that
because  Shakespeare 'studied' (i.e., probably acted) the Egeon role in
_Comedy of Errors_, his recall of Egeon words in his later writings was
much higher than his recall of other _Comedy of Errors_ words.  Of the
11.9 % _Comedy of Errors_ words in _Henry VIII_, says Foster, 22% come
from the Egeon role; and of the _Comedy of Errors_ words in _A Funeral
Elegy_ 40.5% come from the Egeon role.

But no, says Charles Hieatt (_PMLA_ 112 [May 1997], 429; this is the
'Forum' section, where Foster's reply, below, also appears).  The real
Egeon figure for _Henry VIII_ is 31.3%, not 22%, and the real Egeon
figure for _A Funeral Elegy_ is 35.7%, not 40.5%.  While the correct
figures are not far from Foster's in these two cases, in at least one
other case his figure is off by 12%.  And so it goes for all of Foster's
percentages, in his Elegy article and everywhere else: start on the
wrong side of the screen and you come up with Foster's percentages; but
go a step further, to the actual list of words and their repetitions
(lots of repetitions, because all the inflectional forms of a word are
included in one word, and repetitions are included in the percentages),
and you find something that corresponds, not to, say, _Henry VIII_ but
to _Errors_, and not to _Elegy_ but to _Errors_, as you can corroborate
by looking in Foster's general word list for the numbers of times a
given word is repeated in each work.

Whenever advance versions of Shaxicon went to others, Foster's
accompanying directions probably corresponded to the ones I received for
each version given to me: follow these directions and you'll end up
looking at the wrong word-list, as above. Q.E.D.--there is simply no way
out of it.

Foster's reply (434) needs to be quoted for flavor.  It is placed as far
away as possible from Charles Hieatt's contention (i.e., four letters to
reply to, Charles's being the first; the reply to Charles in fourth
place, after replies to the other three):

'Charles forgets that token:type and type:type distributions are of
increased significance, not decreased, if they converge on the same
character as a "remembered" role, as for Egeon.  Further study shows
also that repetitions in the source text (whether the poet is reading it
or rehearsing for the stage) tend to exert increased relative
"influence" on the dependent (newly written) text, since repeated words
are more likely to occur in the poet's new writing than are words that
appear once in the source.'

The best that I can make of this haze of words is: although the Foster
percentages are described as showing the percentage relationship of an
element in a later work to an element in an earlier work, it would be
awfully nice if, somehow, we could simply insert the element from the
earlier work without showing anything at all about the later work. -
The proper American response to this is 'Who're you kidding?'  The right
answer to this is: 'Everybody who doesn't know what we're talking
about.'

May I suggest that anyone else who has an advance version of Shaxicon
might try out the truth of some of the above and then write in.  I wish
you could write to _PMLA_ too.  Charles and I have shot our bolt there:
no surrebuttals permitted when you've written once.

I'm new to this conference, but have recently used Hardy Cook's
excellent search facility to great effect, employing the search-term
'funeral.'  If you need to know who I am, send the command GET SHAKS-63
BIOGRAFY, leaving the Subject line blank, to 
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 .
I'm about 13th in there.  I'm 77, and thus belong to the class of
Foster's debating opponents of whom he's recently said that you'll just
have to wait a little until they disappear.  I wish Don robust health
until, a little more than twenty years from now, he too enters his
seventies, and I hope as well that there will be no one around then to
say we just have to wait a little for the disappearance of Donald
Foster.  Maybe he'll give us Shaxicon tomorrow.

Kent Hieatt
 

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