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Home :: Archive :: 2008 :: February ::
Shakespeare's Style
The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 19.0143  Friday, 29 February 2008

[1] 	From:	David Basch <
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	Date:	Thursday, 21 Feb 2008 11:50:09 -0500
	Subj:	Re: SHK 19.0113 Shakespeare's Style

[2] 	From:	Jim Carroll <
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	Date:	Wednesday, 27 Feb 2008 18:56:11 -0500
	Subj:	Re: SHK 19.0138 Shakespeare's Style


[1]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:		David Basch <
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Date:		Thursday, 21 Feb 2008 11:50:09 -0500
Subject: 19.0113 Shakespeare's Style
Comment:	Re: SHK 19.0113 Shakespeare's Style

Concerning the discussions of the use of stylometric means of 
determining authorship, I must comment that these obviously are not 
always conclusive.  For example, Donald Foster's attempt to use such 
techniques to identify a "Funeral Elegy" as authored by Shakespeare's 
turned out to be dead wrong.

Stylometry is clearly not at the diagnostic level of DNA and its use, 
effective enough to reveal a writer of the caliber of Joe Klein, should 
be taken with a grain of salt, considered of interest but not 
definitive.  Authors whose works are marked by great complexity that 
include communication through such things as tone, meaning, and wide 
allusion simply cannot be boiled down to numbers.

This seems to be the case for the use of stylometric techniques for 
identifying "A Louvers complaint" (ALC). Such methods are too mechanical 
and crude to take account of the intangibles of style and meaning for 
which only human sensibility is adequate.

I do not consider myself an expert on such stylistic things, but my 
readings of ALC make me impressed by its vocabulary, which the writer 
manages to admirably integrate into his fluid lines, a skill and 
capacity that seem worthy of a Shakespeare. Besides, the poem is 
by-lined by Shakespeare. Hence skeptics about the poet's authorship are 
impugning Thomas Thorpe's character and accepting what is only 
speculation that Shakespeare had nothing to do with this publication.

No doubt, Brian Vickers brought forward evidence of the existence in ALC 
of parallel elements in the verse lines of his proposed candidate for 
authorship. But even this must be taken with great caution since others 
have reported how many themes in the Sonnets are commentaries and 
"parodies" of the lines and themes of earlier sonneteers and no one 
claims that these others wrote the Sonnets.

David Basch

[2]-----------------------------------------------------------------
From:		Jim Carroll <
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Date:		Wednesday, 27 Feb 2008 18:56:11 -0500
Subject: 19.0138 Shakespeare's Style
Comment:	Re: SHK 19.0138 Shakespeare's Style

In making attributions, commentators often overlook those things in 
Shakespeare which are commonplaces in his own style, not just his use of 
particular words but his use of imagery and the particular diction he 
uses in a given context. Most attributionists seem to make the same 
mistake: they make a list of things that one text has in common with one 
author, while ignoring the same attributes in other authors. Peele has 
been thought to be the writer of 1.1 Titus Andronicus, but much of 1.1 
Titus is consistent with Shakespeare elsewhere. For example, Peele's 
writing is characterized in part by a rather simple-minded verse style, 
which, among other things, uses too much consonantal echo:

Peele, Battle of Alcazar

Why, boy, is Amurath's Bassa such a bug,
That he is marked to do this doughty deed?

Villain, what dreadful sound of death and flight
Is this, wherewith thou dost afflict our ears?
But if there be no safety to abide
The favour, fortune, and success of war,
Away in haste, roll on, my chariot wheels,
Restless till I be safely set in shade

Now war begins his rage and ruthless reign,
And Nemesis, with bloody whip in hand,
Thunders for vengeance on this Negro-Moor.
Nor may the silence of the speechless night,
Divine architect of murders and misdeeds,
Of tragedies and tragic tyrannies,
**********

Titus has far fewer instances of excessive consonantal echo, but even 
that which is there is consistent with Shakespeare's practice elsewhere: 
however, if you wanted to, you could claim that this passage in Titus 
1.1 has affinities with Peele's writing:

Titus
Clear up, fair Queen, that cloudy countenance;
Though chance of war hath wrought this change of cheer,

"Countenance" was in fact one of early Shakespeare's favorite words, 
appearing 8 times in Taming of the Shrew alone. The word "countenance" 
seemed more often than not to associate itself in Shakespeare's mind 
with other words that began with hard "c" or "k" and also with the "ch" 
dipthong, as these examples show:

1H4
carded his state,
Mingled his royalty with capering fools,
Had his great name profaned with their scorns
And gave his countenance, against his name,
To laugh at gibing boys and stand the push
Of every beardless vain comparative,
Grew a companion to the common streets,

TofS
Your fellow Tranio here, to save my life,
Puts my apparel and my countenance on,
And I for my escape have put on his;
For in a quarrel since I came ashore
I kill'd a man and fear I was descried:
Wait you on him, I charge you, as becomes,

Lay hands on the villain: I believe a' means to
cozen somebody in this city under my countenance.

2H6
A sort of naughty persons, lewdly bent,
Under the countenance and confederacy
Of Lady Eleanor,

R3
Well, Suffolk, thou shalt not see me blush
Nor change my countenance for this arrest:

1H6
and let men say we be men of good government,
being governed, as the sea is, by our noble and
chaste mistress the moon, under whose countenance we steal.

MAAN
Which I will do with confirm'd countenance.

AYLI
And therefore put I on the countenance
Of stern commandment.

WT
Go then; and with a countenance as clear
As friendship wears at feasts, keep with Bohemia
And with your queen.

The king hath on him such a countenance
As he had lost some province and a region
Loved as he loves himself: even now I met him
With customary compliment; when he,
Wafting his eyes to the contrary and falling
A lip of much contempt, speeds from me and
So leaves me to consider what is breeding
That changeth thus his manners.

Cym
But keep that countenance still. My husband's hand!
That drug-damn'd Italy hath out-craftied him,

Ham
Ay, sir, that soaks up the king's countenance, his
rewards, his authorities. But such officers do the
king best service in the end: he keeps them,

Cor
I looked upon him o'
Wednesday half an hour together: has such a
confirmed countenance. I saw him run after a gilded
butterfly: and when he caught it, he let it go
again; and after it again; and over and over he
comes, and again; catched it again;

The moral of the story, I suppose, is that it is too easy to claim thing 
"Shakespearean" or "not Shakespearean" with incomplete sets of comparisons.

Jim Carroll

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