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Home :: Archive :: 2003 :: June ::
Re: King John, Titus, Peele
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 14.1065  Tuesday, 3 June 2003

[1]     From:   Sean Lawrence <
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        Date:   Monday, 02 Jun 2003 15:02:09 -0300
        Subj:   Re: SHK 14.1020 Re: King John, Titus, Peele

[2]     From:   Graham Hall <
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        Date:   Monday, 02 Jun 2003 18:31:32 +0000
        Subj:   Boring little prick

[3]     From:   Roger Parisious <
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        Date:   Monday, 2 Jun 2003 16:58:41 -0700 (PDT)
        Subj:   Re: SHK 14.1051 Re: King John, Titus, Peele

From:           Sean Lawrence <
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Date:           Monday, 02 Jun 2003 15:02:09 -0300
Subject: 14.1020 Re: King John, Titus, Peele
Comment:        Re: SHK 14.1020 Re: King John, Titus, Peele

Ward Elliott writes,

>We believe that statistical evidence is no more circular than any other
>kind of evidence, and that we are much better with it than without it.
>For us the issue is not so much what the past has to say about the
>future as what the known past has to say about the unknown past.

On the contrary, the issue is the same.  The only way to show that your
tests not only show self-consistency between some of what Shakespeare
did write, but can reveal everything he could have written (to within
ratios expressed by many powers of ten) and therefore to that some plays
could not have been written by him, would be to test the tests
themselves against new data.

Hence, my analogy to choosing stocks.  Many people have designed
programmes that can, retrospectively, show which stocks were destined to
go up.  What they can't do is tell you whether the stocks are destined
to go up or down.  I am given to understand that it should even be
possible to design a programme that will itself produce a formula to
describe any existing set of data.  What it can't do is show where
stocks will go next, only propose a (complex) rule for where they've
gone so far.  I would suggest that there's little to show that you've
done anything other than produce a set of measures for 32 plays written
by Shakespeare, not a set of rules for everything he could write.

Testing each of the plays to each other goes some of the way to showing
that the tests are, at least, consistent.  You allude to doing so with
Hamlet and Julius Caesar.  Have you done so with every play in the core
group?  Better, have you had the tests carried out using a double-blind
technique, where those both designing and administering the tests are
forbidden from knowing what texts they're working with, so as to avoid
any prejudice?  The computer could, for instance, only make the counts
and reveal the final figures, not show any of the text, so that the
person running the programme doesn't know if he's testing an
acknowledged Shakespeare play or not.  Our bibliographical technician
would not, therefore, be tempted to weigh similarities more than

It's easy to show that Hamlet is identical to Hamlet, or even that a
group of "32 core Shakespeare plays" are very similar to themselves and
one another.  That they'd show the same statistical profile (or
whatever) as our hypothetical quarto of "Love's Labours Won" isn't
provable, not only for the banal reason that we don't have a copy, but
because there's no way to know whether the tests describe the set of
everything Shakespeare could write, or only a set of everything he is
generally acknowledged as having written.  The former is pretty much
tautological, whereas the latter could only be shown by tests that have
a proven ability to handle new data.

Returning to the sports analogy:

>What about the hockey analogy?  We don't claim to be hockey experts any
>more than we claim to be Shakespeare experts, but we like sports imagery
>too, and we draw a different and opposite lesson from it than Mr.
>Lawrence does. It's true that you can get silly conclusions from silly
>premises, with statistical evidence, just as you can without it, but we
>don't see how that precludes drawing non-silly statistical conclusions
>from non-silly premises.  Surely not even Mr. Lawrence believes that
>Canada's 50-year dry spell in the Olympics means that Canadians couldn't
>skate in those years.   More likely it means that they could skate so
>well that their best skaters were all pros in the NHL and couldn't
>compete at all in the Olympics till 1998.  Since then, Team Canada has
>been a Dream Team of superstar pros. In 1998, though heavily favored,
>they suffered some injuries and lost by one point on a shootout to the
>gold-winning Czech Republic in the semifinals.  In 2002 they beat the
>rest of the world's pros handily and broke the gold drought.

But this assumes that you know the reason for the statistical
situation.  It's akin to saying that Shakespeare was drunk or overworked
when he wrote certain plays and they shouldn't be counted as part of the
core group.  We don't know why Shakespeare may or may not have been
writing in his customary way during the composition of Titus (or
whatever), any more than the statistics themselves reflect the handicaps
affecting Team Canada, unless you've somehow taken this into account.

In fact, if you introduced this kind of evidence you would, I should
think, be seriously compromising the objectivity of your tests.

>Suppose we took a more authorship-related hockey hypothetical.  Three
>teams, the Flyers, the Oilers, and the Devils, are playing each other in
>generic jerseys and masks.  You've got a US$20 bet with your friends
>that you can guess which team is which, based solely on their style of
>play.  In Game One, Team A starts four fights and has four times as many
>penalties as Team B, which does its best to avoid fights.  In Game Two,
>team B forechecks aggressively throughout the game, flaunting its
>players' skill and speed, while Team C plays a cautious, stifling,
>boring neutral-zone trap again and again.   Before you guessed which
>team was which, would you want to hear from your statistician whether
>fights and penalties are more typical of the Flyers' style than of the
>Oilers'?   Or that the Oilers routinely and aggressively use the
>old-style double-forecheck while the Devils slavishly use the trap?  Or
>would you ignore the stats because they are "circular" and limited to
>known historical data which might not predict the future?  We would want
>to see the data, if accuracy were a serious concern, and we believe it
>would greatly improve our odds of guessing correctly that Team A was the
>Flyers, B the Oilers, and C the Devils.

Of course it would "improve our odds of guessing correctly".  It
wouldn't actually raise our guess above being a guess, however, nor
would it assure a profit.  Not being a gambling man, I'd just keep the
twenty bucks, buy some beer and enjoy the game, oblivious to who was
playing.  It's quite possible that Team A are all having marital
difficulties and taking it out on the ice.  Perhaps Team B has done its
best to goad them (by instigating affairs with their spouses, for
instance).  It's possible that Team B is avoiding fights precisely
because their coach realised that they're getting into too many and gave
them a stern talking-to before the game.  I can know their habits from
statistics, but I can't actually tell what they're going to do, which is
why the games are still worth watching.

>Ever since manufacturer Walter Camp, head of the New Haven Clock
>Company, introduced statistical productivity analysis to the Yale
>football team in the 1870's, and lost to Harvard only three times in the
>succeeding 32 years,  successful coaches have recognized that statistics
>are often the best, and sometimes the only way to guess the unknown from
>the known. Today no one relies on statistics more fervently than people
>who make their livelihood with sports-unless it's people who make their
>livelihood on the stock market.  Their players may or may not keep their
>stick on the ice, depending on what the stats say about the costs and
>benefits of high-sticking, but keeping their eye on the puck is the real
>name of the game, and statistics give them, as they give us, a much
>sharper way of doing it.  Anyone interested in testing authorship from
>internal evidence should learn from their example.

Yes, there are lots of sports statistics.  None of them have been shown
to accurately predict next year's Stanley Cup champion.  If they were,
the faculty hockey pool would be rather a pointless affair and, for that
matter, the stock exchange would probably cease to function.  In fact,
the people who do guess correctly are often the more empirical gamblers
or following a single, simple rule.  Even they eventually lose, if not
as often as the rest of us.  Your tests are right at least 32 times out
of however many plays Shakespeare actually wrote.  That would do any
gambler proud, but I shouldn't bet the family farm on the provenance of
the 33rd play.


From:           Graham Hall <
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Date:           Monday, 02 Jun 2003 18:31:32 +0000
Subject:        Boring little prick

First. The Antic Death says: The term "scientific" is creeping about the
list. Anyone using it to substantiate their argument probably
understands "clinical" to equate with "precision". Scoffing at them is
the only sensible response.

Second. "The testimony of Heminges and Condell is not reliable
evidence?" Questions (I think) Bob Grumman (14.1051). No, it isn't. As
I'm fed up pointing out.

I live with bread like you, etc.

Yours with a pin and a grin,
Graham Hall

From:           Roger Parisious <
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Date:           Monday, 2 Jun 2003 16:58:41 -0700 (PDT)
Subject: 14.1051 Re: King John, Titus, Peele
Comment:        Re: SHK 14.1051 Re: King John, Titus, Peele

As we seem to be nearing the end of this thread (at least for now)I
think one or two final points might be made. My first letter in this
forum, February 5, on the alleged Vickers discoveries (seemingly the
first discussion in the US) was simultaneous with the very first British
review which, according to the internet listings, came out in the same
twenty-four hour period. I had a particular reason for being interested
in the Vickers announcement for, as I wrote on HLAS on Feb.7:

I look at my own first list of collaborative Shakespeare authorship
attributions made at the age of fourteen. I see I have "Middleton"
against "Macbeth" and "Timon" and Peele against "Titus Andronicus" and
(a still highly unfashionable attribution) Tom Nashe against "Henry IV".
I am happy to still stand by them.

Of course, I also had Fletcher's name against "Henry VIII" and "Two
Noble Kinsman" and Wilkes's name against "Pericles", but then so have
most people, who are acquainted with these authors, during the last
hundred and thirty years. So these three latter attributions did not
require any perspicacity on the part of even a fourteen year old, who
had received his collected Shakespeare as an 8th birthday present, and
"The Fairie Queene, Book One" not long after.

I am happy to see that the very first name by which Mr. Vickers has
expanded his list (and I do not believe that it will be the last) is
Thomas Nashe, though in respect of a far earlier "Henry". The reason
that I chose to emphasize the later, still highly unfashionable,
attribution in my second communication is because it is the ONLY
posthumous Shakespearean authorship attribution remotely vouched for by
a contemporary (Fuller,c.l650) and has been readily available since
Chambers reprinted it in 1930 without comment.

It is at least interesting that Nashe himself left public comments on
the Talbot and Oldcastle scenes which, in some version, have since been
attributed to him.

The question immediately arises as to the anomaly that collaborative
matter is, according to Vickers (and now Elliot and Valenza) be found in
only one (now two) early works, but in four late works when the master
was at the height of his powers. Further as one of the largest and
oldest stock holders in a highly successful commercial concern, he was
in an excellent position to call his own bill of fare.

It is understandable that Shakespeare would be perspicacious enough to
give a break to Tom Middleton, one of the brightest coming talents of
the Jacobean theatre. But why would he next be reduced to collaboration
with brothel keeper George Wilkes, one of the most negligible writers of
his time?

At this point, it seemed relevant to introduce (by way of  response to
Mr. Lloyd's somewhat intemperate critique) Oliphant's attribution of a
post l607 "Julius Caesar" revision to Francis Beaumont. Why? Because on
Oliphant's attribution we move very neatly from Middleton to the
company's other best young talent Beaumont, to Beaumont's alter ego,
Fletcher on the passing of Beaumont.

"Pericles" is, on this construction, not a collaboration, but old
Shakespearean work (a mouldy tale) to which Wilke's dross has been
prefixed for lack of fair copy.

The same question-successive layers rather than collaboration-is raised,
as Grumman sensibly points out in respect to the Vickers division of
"Titus Andronicus" and again in relation to "Henry VIII" where
collaboration is rather more generally accepted.  I will only note in
passing, as was pointed out to me years ago by the great Marjorie Hope
Nicholson, of the four lords who arrest Wolsey in Act IV only two
correspond to the historical situation. The other two, including
Pembroke, arrested Francis Bacon only months before the Folio
publication. There has definitely been posthumous revision (however
slight) of this collaborative text.

Upon which note, I am content to rest.

Roger Parisious

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