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Home :: Archive :: 2006 :: September ::
Once More
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 17.0853  Thursday, 28 September 2006

From: 		Al Magary <
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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 
'Literary Fingerprint'

PhysOrg.com (from University of Massachusetts-Amherst), September 27, 2006

http://www.physorg.com/news78593028.html

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, 
Kinney says.

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 
sole authorship.|

* 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, 
Bartholomew Fair.

Source: University of Massachusetts Amherst

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