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Home :: Archive :: 2000 :: November ::
Re: SER and H8
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 11.2173  Tuesday, 28 November 2000

[1]     From:   Jack Heller <
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        Date:   Monday, 27 Nov 2000 17:45:30 GMT
        Subj:   Re: SHK 11.2162 Re: SER and H8

[2]     From:   Drew Whitehead <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 28 Nov 2000 08:39:01 +1000
        Subj:   Re: SHK 11.2162 Re: SER and H8


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Jack Heller <
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 >
Date:           Monday, 27 Nov 2000 17:45:30 GMT
Subject: 11.2162 Re: SER and H8
Comment:        Re: SHK 11.2162 Re: SER and H8

I took a look at the SER website and four thoughts come to mind:

1. It seems that Macbeth is being used as a control text, one supposedly
written solely by Shakespeare for use in comparisons with possibly
collaborative texts. Macbeth is not a good choice for this purpose
because Thomas Middleton has been suggested as having a hand in the
play. Yes, I know that "having a hand" is vague, but I think critics are
still working on this question. Something of Macbeth (I'm not sure how
much) is supposed to appear in the collected works of Middleton next
year.

2. At the SER site, Shakespeare has been tested as an author of Dekker's
The Roaring Girl. The Roaring Girl was a collaborative play, Dekker and
Middleton, a point the SER site does not acknowledge.

3. If the problem with Henry VIII is ever resolved, I would like to see
more about the collaboration on Timon of Athens.

4. Is there really such a thing as drama that isn't collaborative?

Jack Heller

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Drew Whitehead <
 This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
 >
Date:           Tuesday, 28 Nov 2000 08:39:01 +1000
Subject: 11.2162 Re: SER and H8
Comment:        Re: SHK 11.2162 Re: SER and H8

To quote from the press release:

"Critically, SERbrainware learns by example . . .  it analyses both
structured and unstructured text from any media type and is trained by
people who show it how they would read and make decisions on the basis
of available information."

So is it the computer who is deciding who wrote what in Henry VIII or is
it those unnamed persons who have trained the machine how to classify
the text?  I would be interested to know which plays of Fletcher's were
chosen as a standard to base his work on.  Also, with reference to the
theories of Joseph Rudman, (Computers and the Humanities, 1997) to
perform any sort of computer analysis on a text when you don't have
access to the autograph manuscript will only lead to speculation and
error, as you do not know what has happened to the text between writing
and printing.  Personally I find the quest for authorship attribution
somewhat futile and irrelevant.  We know that the theatre practices of
the time were highly collaborative, we also know that the play was at
least 10 years old by the time it was printed in the first folio.  Given
that the play belonged to the King's men and that Fletcher was their
chief dramatist for most of those 10 years preceding the folio
publication, who know what changes the text underwent before Heminge and
Condell got a hold of it?  Shakespeare had a hand in the play, but then
so did Fletcher, that is enough for me.

Finally,

"All this is achieved with unprecedented speed.  "Following the
inputting of raw text examples of each play, the text of Henry VIII was
read, understood and classified in less than five minutes."

Read maybe, but understood?  I very much doubt that.
 

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