The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 17.0853 Thursday, 28 September 2006
Date: Wednesday, 27 Sep 2006 23:17:55 -0700
Subject: Once more into the lab, dear friends, once more...
Computerized Analysis Helps Researchers Define Shakespeare's Work Using
PhysOrg.com (from University of Massachusetts-Amherst), September 27, 2006
A team of researchers that includes scholars from the University of
Massachusetts Amherst is using computerized analysis of the writing of
William Shakespeare to dispel lingering doubts about his authorship of
many works and to trace the outlines of his total body of compositions.
Using a method called computational stylistics, the researchers count
the frequency of common words, and rare words, to detect Shakespeare's
writing style, producing his distinct and unmistakable "literary
fingerprint" that can be used to determine if and when there have been
collaborations and what exactly Shakespeare wrote. The Shakespeare
"fingerprint" also provides strong evidence that he, and not other
authors, wrote the works generally believed to be his, because each of
the other authors has a unique literary "fingerprint" that is different.
For example, Arthur F. Kinney, director of the Massachusetts Center for
Renaissance Studies at UMass Amherst, and one of the lead researchers
says, using this method, "I have now proven that Shakespeare is
part-author of Arden of Faversham. They guessed that in the 19th century
but no one would believe it in the 20th century. Now we know." The
methodology will now be used to look into whether Shakespeare revised
King Lear or whether he was in the habit of having other authors revise
his original works.
The research team is led by Kinney and Hugh Craig director of the Centre
for Linguistic Stylistics at the University of Newcastle in Australia.
Craig says computers allow researchers to develop a database of
Shakespeare's works in old spelling and a database of the other major
playwrights of his time and their works. Comparing the individual
"fingerprints" reveals who wrote a particular work as well as cases
where there are collaborations.
Kinney says now that Shakespeare's "fingerprint" has been defined by the
team, it can now be applied to a large body of works where authorship is
unknown or questioned. "I think this will be the next turn in
Shakespeare studies." Kinney says.
The team is currently writing a book to be titled, "By Me, William
Shakespeare" which will contain the first round of findings. The archive
they have created will be made public after publication in early 2007,
Other initial findings that were made public this summer by UMass
Amherst graduate students working on the project include:
* Philip Palmer at last demonstrated that Shakespeare had nothing to do
with the writing of Edmund Ironside, although a recent edition gives him
* Kevin Petersen noted that although people think Shakespeare was
influenced by Montaigne's skepticism in his work from Richard II through
Hamlet to The Tempest, and was the source of his skepticism in parts of
many of his plays, in fact there is no indication of any Montaigne - in
French or in the popular English translation.
* Timothy Watt at last proved that Hand D in the manuscript of a play
called The Book of Sir Thomas More is Shakespeare's own handwriting and
so extends examples of his writing past the seven signatures which alone
have been attributed to him.
* Youngjin Chung and K. C. Elliott report that stage properties, such as
coins and cups, are associated with particular genres, so that comedies
can be distinguished from tragedies, and playwrights writing for a genre
had a specific list of props to use and write to.
* Graham Christian has shown that Shakespeare's most unusual play, The
Merry Wives of Windsor, heavily influenced a later play by Ben Jonson,
Source: University of Massachusetts Amherst
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