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Home :: Archive :: 2002 :: July ::
Re: Attributing Masterworks
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 13.1698  Thursday, 25 July 2002

[1]     From:   Ward Elliott <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 24 Jul 2002 10:37:47 -0700
        Subj:   RE: SHK 13.1687 Re: Attributing Masterworks

[2]     From:   Elliott H. Stone <
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        Date:   Wednesday, 24 Jul 2002 18:24:58 EDT
        Subj:   Re: SHK 13.1676 Re: Attributing Masterworks


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Ward Elliott <
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Date:           Wednesday, 24 Jul 2002 10:37:47 -0700
Subject: 13.1687 Re: Attributing Masterworks
Comment:        RE: SHK 13.1687 Re: Attributing Masterworks

Was Shakespeare in the habit of parodies?  Yes, in the plays he would
lampoon Welshmen, Scotsmen, etc. for the crowd. But a parody of whole,
long, dull poem by one of his own imitators, and signed "W.S."?  "Funny"
is not the first word that comes to mind for the Elegy.  And "fun" is
not the first word that comes to mind for writing it. It would be as
much fun as eating a quart of library paste.  Who would the crowd be to
applaud such a feat, far less to pay for it?  Sounds far fetched to me.

The other thing that sounds far-fetched is the implicit notion that, if
Shakespeare did want to parody Ford, he would have done it with modern
stylometric measurements in mind. Can you imagine Shakespeare counting
Ford's enclitic and proclitic microphrases, or even knowing what the
words meant?  Or that he figured out in advance the 33 tests we would
use with our computers hundreds of years later, and find a way of making
it look 790 trillion times more like Ford than Shakespeare?  If so,
maybe we should chalk one up for the folks who think he was really
Francis Bacon or Rob Valenza.

I am not a heavy-duty numbers person and have never been comfortable
with outsized numbers like 790 trillion; more important, my
mathematician colleague Valenza, the brains of the Claremont Shakespeare
Clinic, has shied away from them in the past.  But not for this one.  If
our tests are good, the odds of common authorship of the Canon and the
Elegy are far worse than those of winning the Irish Sweepstakes.

There is a recording of the Elegy.  I haven't heard it, but people say
it sounds wonderful. On the other hand, I can think of actors who could
make the telephone book sound wonderful.

Why is there such a flurry of strained efforts to recover the Elegy for
Shakespeare after Don Foster has admitted it's by Ford?  Is it that good
after all, or do we think Shakespeare needs to be taken down a peg?

Ward Elliott

[Editor

 

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