The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 9.1190 Friday, 27 November 1998.
From: Kate Brookfield <
Date: Friday, 20 Nov 1998 18:25:15 -0000
Subject: 9.1033 Re: Park Honan's Sh.
Comment: Re: SHK 9.1033 Re: Park Honan's Sh.
From the article below printed in the Saturday Star (Toronto) it seems
that the book is co-authored with Foster. The Telegraph Report written
by Honan gave no mention of computerized studies or of Foster. Very
strange. I hope the article is not too long for this list.
By Steve Fabrar
SPECIAL TO THE STAR
A Computerized study of Shakespeare's works suggests the Bard was a ham
actor who took to the stage only in cameo roles that would not
challenge his limited abilities.
The details have emerged from a "textual analysis" carried out by
American academic Don Foster and Park Honan, emeritus professor of
literature at Leeds University in northern England. Foster previously
used the technique to identify Newsweek columnist Joe Klein as the
anonymous author of Primary Colors which charted President Bill
Clinton's 1992 election campaign.
Among the roles that Foster and Honan say Shakespeare played are the
King in Henry IV, Part I and II and Duncan in Macbeth. It is also likely
that the playwright was the first to deliver the immortal phrase,
"murder most foul," now a byword for melodramas and ham acting, while
playing the Ghost in Hamlet.
The analysis, which suggests that Shakespeare played up to 25 roles in
various play, is supported by various historical documents that also
hint at the Bard's acting roles.
While the quality of his plays written is beyond question, these new
techniques hint that he was content with roles that did not demand much
acting skills." says Honan, who used the research in his "Shakespeare: A
Life biography", published this month by Oxford University Press. The
textual analysis was set up to seek patterns in the language of
Shakespeare's works and, in particular, the appearance and subsequent
recurrence of certain rare words. Such recurrences, Foster and Honan
argue, indicate that Shakespeare had been obliged to memorize the
unusual words or phrases when he was playing the character who used
them. Since they were in his subconscious, they tended to reappear when
he wrote later plays.
Foster and Honan traced those words back through Shakespeare's works to
find their earliest occurrences and surmised that the characters who
spoke them had been portrayed by the Bard. Between 1591 and 1613,
Shakespeare wrote 39 plays 97 including Edward III, which Arden, the
official arbiter of playwrights' legacy, has recently attributed to him.
Taking acting parts in the plays often would allowed him to deliver a
performance's opening lines a ploy, according to Honan, that was
designed to ensure the playwright would be applauded for what amounted
to little more than a cameo role. It also would have made economic sense
to leave the tougher roles to the stars of the company including Richard
Burbage, John Heminges and Will Kempe who would be more likely to bring
in the crowds.
"We're coming up with a lot of brief parts in the opening scenes", says
Honan. Maybe the roles he did take were his way or taking a bow." While
many of the parts Shakespeare is believed to have taken for himself are
quite undramatic, such as Gower in Pericles, others involve delivering
moving speeches, as epitomized by Aaron's feelings for his illegitimate
child in Titus Andronicus.
Meanwhile, one of Britain's most respected Shakespearean directors,
remains skeptical. "Computers tend to tell you what you want them to,"
says Sir Peter Hall. "I should think it's more likely the parts he
played were the ones that nobody else would play, rather than ones he
wrote for himself."