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Home :: Archive :: 2004 :: September ::
Eric Sams / Edward III
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 15.1778  Wednesday, 29 September 2004

[1]     From:   Kristen McDermott <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 28 Sep 2004 10:12:47 -0400
        Subj:   RE: SHK 15.1764 Eric Sams / Edward III

[2]     From:   Michael Egan <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 28 Sep 2004 05:50:04 -1000
        Subj:   Re: SHK 15.1764 Eric Sams / Edward III

[3]     From:   Ward Elliott <
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        Date:   Tuesday, 28 Sep 2004 19:05:24 -0700
        Subj:   RE: SHK 15.1755 Eric Sams / Edward III


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Kristen McDermott <
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Date:           Tuesday, 28 Sep 2004 10:12:47 -0400
Subject: 15.1764 Eric Sams / Edward III
Comment:        RE: SHK 15.1764 Eric Sams / Edward III

The editors of the Norton Shakespeare are apparently also interested in
this question; they are currently surveying instructors for suggestions
regarding the second edition, and one of the questions is whether we
would like to see Edward III included.

Kristen McDermott
Central Michigan University

[2]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Michael Egan <
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Date:           Tuesday, 28 Sep 2004 05:50:04 -1000
Subject: 15.1764 Eric Sams / Edward III
Comment:        Re: SHK 15.1764 Eric Sams / Edward III

Widespread or generally are hard to define in this context, but Edward
III appears in the 1997 Riverside, one of the standard Collected Works,
and in The Cambridge Shakespeare, ed. Melchiori. Sams' edition is
published by Yale U.P., a respected press.

I think Jonathan Hope needs to be more specific when he speaks of Sams'
'cavalier approach to evidence.' I find Sams thorough and detailed.

--Michael Egan

[3]-------------------------------------------------------------
From:           Ward Elliott <
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Date:           Tuesday, 28 Sep 2004 19:05:24 -0700
Subject: 15.1755 Eric Sams / Edward III
Comment:        RE: SHK 15.1755 Eric Sams / Edward III

Eric Sams was a person of extraordinary creativity and insight.  He
could see things that others missed, and there are few who knew him who
do not sorely miss him.  But I'm not sure the same can be said of his
ascription of Edward III to Shakespeare.  Rob Valenza and I have not yet
written up our article on Edward III, but we have enough information on
it to believe that Eric, and others who have thought that that play was
"genuinely by the Bard and not a collaboration" were mistaken.  Of 29
plays in our core Shakespeare baseline, only 7 have as many as two
Shakespeare rejections in 48 tests; none have more.  Edward III has 13
Shakespeare rejections.  The odds of this happening by chance are
billions of times lower than the odds for Shakespeare's own core
boundary outliers.  It seems to us a very unlikely ascription.

We are also skeptical that Shakespeare could have written even the
scenes sometimes speculatively ascribed to him as a collaborator --
1.02, 2.01, 2.02, and 4.04 - but for these the evidence is much less
conclusive.  We tested 82 Shakespeare baseline blocks of roughly 3,000
words, comparable to 2.01, with 3,607 words.  Only 4 (5%) had more than
one rejection in 13 to 15 tests.   2.01 - that is, Act 2, Scene 1 -- had
two rejections and was about six times less likely to have tested that
way by chance than Shakespeare's profile-boundary blocks.

We tested 140 1,500-word Shakespeare blocks, roughly the same length as
1.02, 2.02, and 4.04, and found only 5 (4%) with more than one rejection
in 11-13 tests.  2.02 and 4.04 have two rejections each, five times less
likely than Shakespeare's boundary blocks.  1.02 has just one rejection
and can't be eliminated as Shakespeare by our tests - but it is by no
means confirmed as Shakespeare's.  For comparison, we got about 12%
false positives for 1,500-word blocks, none for 3,000-word blocks.

A bit of light aggregation would further lower the Shakespeare odds for
these supposedly "Shakespeare" blocks.  The odds of one block getting
two rejections, as we have seen, are five or six time lower than for
Shakespeare's boundary block.  The odds of two blocks getting four
rejections, or three blocks getting five, or four blocks getting seven,
are far lower, but it would take consultation with Valenza to get the
proper numbers, and he is currently busy on something else.  Heavy
aggregation of all the blocks of Edw3 would produce something like the
extravagantly long odds we calculated for the whole play, far lower than
the odds of getting hit by lightning.  Taken scene by "Shakespeare"
scene, Edw3, as Macdonald Jackson put it, is a tough nut to crack.  Each
scene separately looks improbable though hardly impossible.  My guess is
that all the Shakespeare scenes together would look much less probable.
  But the play as a whole is not at all a tough nut to crack.  It has
far too many rejections to be a solo Shakespeare ascription.

Shaksper members who would like a closer look our methods are welcome to
view the Powerpoint slides we presented at a "Who Wrote Shakespeare?"
conference this June at the University of Tennessee Law School.  The
conference, and our analysis, was focused more on the Earl of Oxford
than is suitable for Shaksper, but the methods and analytical rules we
used - clean baseline, block-and-profile, negative evidence, and
comparative odds -- are essentially the same for any ascription
question.  The full, dense version, with charts and appendices, will
appear in the fall issue of the Tennessee Law Review and should
eventually be at least partially accessible through Lexis-Nexis.
For those who can't wait, a brief summary of the conference can be found
at http://www.mckenna.edu/news/cmcmagazine/2004summer/ as "The
Shakespeare Files."  Our slide show can be found at
http://govt.claremontmckenna.edu/welliott/UTconference/.  The material
on calculating authorship odds is new.  We also have a chapter on A
Lover's Complaint in Brian Boyd, ed.,  Words That Count: Essays on Early
Modern Authorship in Honor of MacDonald P. Jackson, University of
Delaware Press, 2004, which we believe is now out.  Eventually we hope
to have all our methods and findings conveniently available in a book in
preparation, Shakespeare by the Numbers.  In the meantime, Edw3 seems to
us an improbable Shakespeare ascription.

Ward Elliott

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