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Home :: Archive :: 2003 :: August ::
Whose Wood's These Are
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 14.1691  Wednesday, 27 August 2003

From:           Thomas Larque <
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Date:           Wednesday, 27 Aug 2003 11:08:12 +0100
Subject: 14.1672 Whose Wood's These Are
Comment:        Re: SHK 14.1672 Whose Wood's These Are

>Lord Gnome his man Hislop issues from his Private organ this week some
>interesting parallels within Wood's 'In Search of Shakespeare' and
>Schoenbaum's 'A Documentary Life'. A worry of all researchers is
>undoubtedly that of presenting the same sparse and battered material in
>fresh ways. Perhaps playwrights suffer similar agonies. Are there any
>examples of tired old tales being refreshed by genius? Do any names come
>to mind? Muse 'pon it.

For those unfamiliar with Lord Gnome, Ian Hislop, and other British
oddities, I should perhaps provide a translation of Graham Hall's gnomic
post.  The first sentence should really read something like:

"British satirical publication Private Eye (Real Editor - Ian Hislop;
Joke Proprietor - Lord Gnome) has caught Michael Wood copying rather too
closely Samuel Schoenbaum's 'A Documentary Life' for a passage in his
own 'In Search of Shakespeare' ".

The parallel passages which Private Eye provides are:

"The sequel is happy.  Eventually the Queen agreed to relieve 'this
towne twise afflicted and almost wasted by fire', and the Exchequer
reimbursed Quiney for his expenses in London.  The Quineys and the
Shakespeares continued on cordial terms, Richard's son Thomas marrying
Shakespeare's younger daughter, although it was not (as things turned
out) a fortunate union" - From "William Shakespeare: A Documentary Life"
by Professor Samuel Schoenbaum, published in 1975.

"The sequel to Quiney's visit was happy.  The queen agreed to relieve
'this town twice afflicted and almost wasted by fire' and the government
reimbursed Quiney for his expenses on his London trip.  The Quineys and
the Shakespeares stayed close: Richard's son Thomas would marry
William's daughter Judith - although the union was not, as it turned
out, a fortunate one".  From "In Search of Shakespeare" by Michael Wood,
published 2003.

Now, Graham Hall is far too busy in his own posting slapping his sides
and shouting "Fol-de-rol, nuncle!" for me to determine whether he is
being satirical and sarcastic when he tries to excuse Wood from the
plagiarism, but it seems fairly clear that if I did exactly this in a
University essay I would be - at the very least - reprimanded and marked
down for not handling my sources properly.  This is exactly the sort of
abuse that electronic plagiarism detection software is set up to
discover.

Far from seeking fresh ways to repackage sparse materials, Wood has
simply made a botch-up-job of a paraphrase of Schoenbaum's text without
thinking about the materials concerned for himself.  If Schoenbaum's
summation of this particular aspect of Shakespeare's life was so
masterly as to be irreplaceable, then Wood should simply have quoted
Schoenbaum directly and given him credit for his own work.  Otherwise
Wood could surely have found his own things to say about the
circumstances surrounding Quiney's trip and Judith's wedding.  Nobody
would have complained (or at least nobody should have done) if he had
even used the same historical citation as Schoenbaum (since
Shakespeare's biography is made up of a small number of identical
snippets from historical sources which must be used and re-used by his
biographers), as long as he didn't then borrow Schoenbaum's exact
responses and thinking about this historical material.

Unfortunately Wood seems to have crossed the line, if only for a
paragraph, between responding to his predecessors and shamelessly
borrowing from them in an unacceptable way.  In my opinion he deserves
his slap on the wrist, and is lucky to have it accompanied only by the
(occasionally spiteful) good humour of Private Eye.

Thomas Larque.

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